Thursday, September 26, 2013

Desert Days

Well, hello there blogosphere.  It's been awhile.  It is time, I guess, to get back to it.  If you could see my unpublished list of blog posts, you would know that I've tried (several times) to write, over the past couple of months.  There have been many half completed attempts, some now deleted, some sitting half finished and unpublished.  I just couldn't do it, I couldn't finish.  I couldn't do it because the very simple and honest truth is that I have been sad.  Is it ok to admit that here?  I hope so.  Sometimes it is easier to admit that you are struggling in retrospect.  After you've conquered it and moved on, to say "hey, I was struggling there, but good news!  I'm better now!"  Maybe I was waiting for that time to come, or maybe I was just operating under the whole "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" principle.  I don't know.  But either way, I'm working to write now in the hopes that organizing some of this on paper( screen?) will organize it in my head as well.

Our adoption these days is at a standstill.  To recap, we received referrals last November for two little boys, an infant and a 2 year old.  We lost the referral for the infant in May.  Our adoption of the two-year-old little boy is sadly stuck.  He is in need of a document from the local courts.  It is a document that they have repeatedly promised to release "next week", but so far have not done so.  He is from a particularly difficult region, where these documents are hard to come by.  And while we wait on the courts to process this document, he sits and waits in an orphanage, as far as we know, unaware of us or how desperately we want him.  This is frustrating, and infuriating, and heartbreaking.  The Ethiopian courts are currently closed for the rainy season.  They are expected to reopen in early October.   We realized this week that all our immigration paperwork on the US side will expire again in February, and that unless things begin to move fairly quickly, we will likely need to redo our paperwork/fingerprinting...again.  Sigh.  We have been sad, and frustrated, and feeling very much alone.  We've spent more than our fair share of time asking "why?".  I am on a ferris wheel of emotion that cycles between angry and sad and hopeful and resolved.  Then back to angry and they cycle begins once again.  I'm starting to realize that's just par for the course at this point, and working to find appropriate channels to funnel the negative emotions through when it is their time to come.

The good news is that in the midst of these dark desert days, there have actually been many moments of grace, and hope, and sparks of pure joy.  At times it has been hard to see them through the lens of sadness that darkens and distorts the vibrance of life.  But they have most definitely been there.  And these are the moments in these dry days of waiting that must be amplified.  Because in the silence, in the waiting, still we can know You are good.  So in that spirit, here are a few of the highlights of the past several months:

You might remember the twin teenage girls that lived with us this summer.  They had graduated from foster care and were in need of a home and some help finding jobs and permanent housing.   They spent their summer in our home, working toward these goals.  I'm so happy to report that the girls now have their own apartment.  They have held jobs these past three months and are working hard to build a home for the baby that one of them is about to give birth to.  (Any day now!!)  They have come so far.  We are crazy proud of them.  They still have many challenges ahead, but I'm confident that they will find their way.  It is truly exciting to see how God is moving in their lives.  They are family now, we love them.  We had lunch today at the restaurant where they work.  We overheard one of the twins tell another waitress "I'll take that table.  That's my family."  We love that.  And we feel so honored to be a part of their lives.
Here is a proud mama moment of the girls with their keys to their very first apartment on lease-signing day:

Shortly after we moved the girls into their apartment we went to visit family in New Jersey.  We had an amazing time.  Jena had missed her cousins like crazy, and the three of them were inseperable throughout the trip.  We had the best EVER Ethiopian food in Montclair (Mesob) and saw the sights in NYC.

We took a little road trip down to Guthrie, Oklahoma to meet up with my brother, Josh, and his wife, Anna, to attend the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover.  It was an amazing outdoor music festival in a hayfield in the small town of Guthrie.  (While Guthrie has a population of 10,000, there were 30,000 in attendance for GOTR, so the town was pretty much over-run with indie-loving music fanatics.)  Like most outdoor music festivals, attendance was a bit of an adventure in and of itself, with a sprinkling of some really great bands mixed in to add to the fun.  Anna and I are lovers of indie, so this concert was right up our alley.

The Stopover was headlined by one of my favorite bands, Mumford & Sons.  Their album, Babel, came out about the same time that we received our referrals last November.  On it was a song entitled "I will wait".  Yeah.  Can you think of a more appropriate adoption theme song for us?  Jena loves a good kitchen dance party to this song.  We have listened to and belted out this song on many occasions during the past 10 months.  We've sung it happy, we've sung it sad.  I've sung it alone in the car through gritted teeth and tears.  And on this night we got to sing it live with the band.

I will wait 

I will wait for you

Here's a sad, shaky little clip of it.  Ignore the "Woo's!"  I'm blaming those entirely on Anna.  :)

This past weekend we were able to attend an Ethiopian New Year Celebration here in Wichita.  They held it downtown at the beautiful Exploration Place.  We had a great time with some very kind Ethiopian families, and many of the families from our local Ethiopia adoption group.  They had a fashion show of Ethiopian clothing, traditional Ethiopian dancers, and delicious Ethiopian food.  It was really great, and really hard all at the same time.  I hadn't forseen how difficult it would be to be the only adoptive family there that was still in process.  While it was so fun to watch all those little Ethiopians running around, I have to admit that it was also painful.  We want our children home.  There were some tearful moments in the bathroom.  But there were also joyful moments, and in the end I'm glad we went.

So to finish out my long overdue blog post, I'd like to leave you with a song.  It is a song by Mumford & Sons called, The Ghosts that We Knew, that we had the pleasure of hearing live in Guthrie.  (You might need to be on a pc to view the video below).  This song is very personal to me.  It has been one of the most honest prayers of my broken heart these long months of waiting.   In those moments where the future seems uncertain, and the clouds of doubt and darkness threaten to block out the joy, there is this:  He has promised that We will be alright.  And we will, all of us, be alright...

So give me hope in the darkness, that I will see the light
Cause Oh it gave me such a fright.
And I will hold, as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright

Monday, July 15, 2013


...and if you spend yourself on the behalf of the hungry 
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the Noonday.
Isaiah 58:10

This past weekend my sweet friend, Nikki, hosted a Noonday trunk show to support our adoption.  I've known about Noonday for awhile, it's pretty well known in international adoption circles.  In sharing in  my journey (and our mutual love of all things Jen Hatmaker) Nikki recently came across it too.  We'd both been drooling over their catalog for several weeks when Nikki decided that she wanted to host a trunk show.  When she learned that Noonday parties are often used to support adoptions (It's founder is an adoptive mother), she generously changed the focus of the party so that a portion of the proceeds support the Kirk Family adoption.  Nikki is my best friend from high school.  Ever the Lucy to my Ethel, we've found ourselves in a ridiculous number of very silly escapades.  Our husbands regularly eye roll at the things we cook up.  She is uniquely and unapologetically  "Nikki", there is no one like her, and I love her for that.  She is a champion of forgiveness, and a lover of the light.  I am better for knowing her.  

Holly, myself, & Nikki

The party itself was a lot of fun.  I was humbled by all the people who took time to support us by coming to the party or by ordering online. During the trunk show we heard about Noonday and their mission to partner with artisans in impoverished countries to provide a pathway out of poverty.  We met Holly, our Noonday Ambassador, and heard how she got involved with this company because of a desire to "do something" about extreme poverty and the orphan crisis.  (See that "Stuck" bracelet on her right hand in the photo?  It's the same one I wear everyday on my right hand.  It turns out we were at the same showing!  I love that she's still wearing it in support of families like us!)  We heard the stories of some of the lives that have been changed because of Noonday.  Obviously, I have an interest in Ethiopia.  I looked up the story of the Ethiopian artisans early on and instantly fell in love.  I had been telling this story to everyone I knew before the party, and it was this story that Holly chose to tell during the party.  For those who weren't there, or who haven't seen me lately, let me paraphrase it:

There is a mountain range in Ethiopia outside of the capital of Addis Ababa, called the Entoto Mountains.  There are streams that flow through these mountains that have long been thought to have healing properties.  Individuals with HIV/AIDS have, in desperation, flocked to these streams, outcast from family and friends, in a last ditch effort to achieve restoration and health.  A small group of people, recognizing the overwhelming need, created an outreach program in the Entoto mountains.  They created social programs to improve access to medications.  Through Noonday, they also created a way for these people to have a sustainable income.  Now here is the part of the story that I love.  They collect artillery shells from the local farmers scattered from old wars and conflicts.  They take these shells and melt them down to create beads for beautiful jewelry.  Just. Amazing.  From the ugliness of war to the beauty of a new life.  From the purpose of ending lives to the purpose of extending them through life giving HIV medication.  From destruction to salvation.  Redemption.  Beauty from Ashes.

I purchased a couple of these Ethiopian pieces for myself.  They will remind me of the beauty from ashes in my own life, of the miracle of God's redemption, and of the way he's taking this world and making beautiful things out of dust.

You can find out more about Noonday here. 

On the adoption front, there isn't a lot to report.  We are still waiting for our local MOWA letter before we can move forward.  Our son is one of many waiting to have MOWA letters released from this area.  It is likely that our new infant referral will come from this group of children in the same orphanage in Awassa waiting for their paperwork.  So our new referral will probably come at the same time that we hear of progress on our older boy.  They continue to say any day now.  We've been hearing that for awhile.  Friends have been asking me how they can pray more specifically.  This week we've been praying that the local MOWA officials' hearts would be burdened with the task of releasing this group of children.  That they would feel intensely that it needs to be done.  That they would be haunted with urgency until the task is completed.  But until then...we continue to wait.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


It's harvest time in Kansas.  Usually we think of harvest and it's metaphors in the fall.  But Kansas is wheat country, and around here the big harvest is usually in June.  We live what I like to call "country adjacent."  Though we live in a suburban neighborhood, the wheat fields are all around us, and I've been trapped behind a slow moving combine plodding down the street in front of me on numerous occasions.  It is a part of the culture here.  When I worked in a medical clinic in a nearby rural Kansas town,our clinic appointments would come to a stand still during harvest.  We'd keep suture kits out and ready, because we'd see plenty of harvest injuries, but not much else.  Our local newspaper ran this  as the front page story this week.  They took photo submissions for collections titled "Wheat Harvests" and "Wheat Harvest Memories".  Harvest excitement is palpable.

photo credit: Kansas Ag Network

In the midst of this massive harvest going on around us, these two non-farmers are fumbling around trying desperately to plant some seed. Many of you know that about a month ago we moved two 18 year old young ladies (identical twin sisters) into our home.  They had been in foster care and had aged out.  Because of a complicated number of issues, they had become homeless, and the place that they had been temporarily staying was no longer appropriate.  So we heard their story one day, met them two days later, and they moved in two days after that.  Just like that.
How is it going, you ask?  Well...

Some days it looks like this:

I feel like I want to be John Stamos in this scenario. Just...don't ask.  It might have something to do with that feathered and fabulous hair.  :)

(As a side note, you should know that I can sing that entire theme song.  Actually, I can sing the theme song to most sitcoms.   I am somewhat of a sitcom theme song savant.  For real.  It's a gift.  Want some WKRP in Cinncinati? it.  Want some Family Ties?  Sang it to my husband yesterday.  Want the theme song to the original Bob Newhart show?  Well, there aren't words to that, but I can hum it to you.  But I digress...)  :)

Some days recently it has felt more like this:

I'm obviously Tom Cruise in this scenario.  You know...the one hanging on by "a very thin thread."

And in rare but frustrating instances it has looked more like this:

Not sure which one of the nameless fighters I am in the scenario.  But I know I'm not Chuck Norris.  There's only one Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch.  HE decides what time it is.  And Chuck Norris died 20 years ago; death just hasn't had the courage to tell him yet.  Chuck Norris counted to infinity...twice.  Chuck Norris took out two stones with one bird.   :)  Ok, enough with the Chuck Norris jokes.  :)

My point is that the girls aren't perfect.  And neither am I.  So we fumble through together some times.  If I'm not careful, I'm tempted to compare who I was at 18, and the decisions I made at 18, to the girls and their choices. But this is incredibly unfair.  Our life experiences to that point were night and day different.  A more fair comparison would be to imagine what I would have been like at 18 had I been through what they have.  I'm quite sure I would not have fared so well.

On those occasions where they make progress, I'm crazy proud of them.  And they ARE making progress.  Bonds of trust and friendship are slow to form, but we are finding our way.  I try to make a point of telling them that I believe in them, on good days as well as tough days.  Because I DO believe in them.  And it's important that they know someone does.  Every day.  No matter what their actions and attitudes are.  Before you give me too much credit here, you should also know that my attitude isn't always what it should be.  I get frustrated, and anxious, and angry more than I should.  But we're all working through it together.

I once read a quote that said,
"You come to find love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly."

We are all sadly imperfect, but working hard to see each other through the eyes of grace.    

Farmers will tell you that a wet and messy spring brings about a fruitful summer.  Well, my spring was certainly wet and messy, as we lost the referral for a child that we'd spent 7 months thinking was going be ours.  But now,  as we work to plant our metaphorical seed the best way we know how, we look ahead with excitement to the promise of harvest.

p.s.  If you are looking for an adoption are we.  Sadly no movement in our case.  We are perpetually told "next week".  It's going to be done "next week".  Always, "next week."  Eventually one of these "next weeks" it has to happen, right?  I sure hope so.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The hard one to write

I've sat down to write this blog at least four times in the past week.  Each time, I've closed it out and walked away.  Not for the reasons you might think.  This is a sad segment of our adoption journey, and we have a lot of complicated feelings about it.  But being overcome with emotion was not the reason.  Sometimes you just get worn out by your own drama.  Sometimes you get tired of telling the story of one more way things fell apart.  The truth is that among the many things I'm feeling right now, the one thing inside my head that's shouting at me the loudest is this:  I'm exhausted.  Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, even physically, just beat.  But since this is an effort to document the good, the bad, the exasperating, of our true story, here it is:  The story of how we lost our referral for our infant boy.

We were on our way last week to our first Wichita Ethiopia Families get-together when we stopped to grab some food.  I checked my email from my phone as we waited in the drive-through line.  (If you've been around me in the past 6 months, you know that I am obsessive about checking my email.  This is because updates can come at any time, day or night, and I'm always so anxious for updates.)  In my inbox I found an email that said "Updates".  When I opened it I was shocked to find an email from our local coordinator, and also the director of the agency letting us know that we had now lost the referral for the younger boy.  He was no longer adoptable.  (The reasons he is no longer adoptable are another sad story.  One we are praying will eventually have a happy ending.  I'm not sure if it's appropriate to share those details here.)  In my shock I blurted it out to Wes in the seat next to me, not even thinking about the 6 year old little girl behind me in the car, who heard the statement as well.   And as Wes and I sat there open-mouthed in a state of shock, it was Jena's heart that immediately began to grieve.  The tears came quickly.

And then we didn't know what to do.  Do we continue on to this adoption get-together?  Meet all these new people for the first time with red eyes and tear stains?  Do we bring Jena along in this, or go home and try to re-group?  In the end we decided that if there was anyone in the world that would understand our complicated feelings, it was this group of Ethiopia adoption families.  There were to be quite a few other kids there, and nothing cheers the heart of an only-child faster than a big group of children.  So we continued on, having learned this new information just 10 minutes before we arrived at a party to celebrate Ethiopian adoption.  And it was a good decision.  Women I barely knew, and some that I had just met, held me and hugged me when I broke down trying to relay the story.  There was an understanding that existed there that we wouldn't have gotten anywhere else.  And Jena did have a wonderful time.  She made many new friends, and was quickly cheered by all the company.

We revisited the subject, briefly, again at bedtime prayers.  The tears began to flow once again.  She asked us not to take down any of the pictures of him that we have around our house.  "I want to be able to remember him", she told us.  I'm thankful for her sensitive heart that can so furiously grieve the loss of a brother half a world away, who doesn't look like her, or know she exists, and who, in fact, she's never even met.   There will be a time for acceptance, and that time hasn't come yet for her.  But grief is a process, and I know it will take her some time.

For Wes and I, I can tell you that the emotion of the ordeal is a lot like the emotion of a miscarriage.  It's grieving that unrealized potential.  It's being so close to having something, dreaming about it, planning for it, and then watching it all slip right through your fingers.  Except that I don't have the closure of a change in my body.  With one email, that's it, he's gone.

Our agency plans to eventually provide us with a new infant referral.  I think we want that, but it is really hard to wrap our minds around right now.  We've spent the past 6 months falling in love with this little boy.  He feels irreplaceable.  He IS irreplaceable.

Further complicating our feelings is the fact that we don't feel great about the way in which we lost the referral.   We know that this child's future is uncertain, and he is a little boy that the three of us will wonder about for the rest of our lives.  I've made attempts through a couple of different avenues to see if there is any way that we can help to improve his situation as he remains in Ethiopia, so far with little success.  The increased scrutiny on International Adoptions makes any contact on our part with him or his family grey area at best.

So this is where the self-doubt could set in.  This entire process has been an uphill battle for us.  Nothing so far has fallen perfectly into place.  If we aren't careful, we start to wonder if we've misunderstood the calling.  Is this what you want from us, God?  Why is it so hard?  So painful?

In these times of questions, when answers seem scarce the thing that I'm learning will heal me, the thing that seems vital, is to give thanks.  Because "Eucharisteo always, always, precedes the miracle." (Thanks Ann.)  So in that spirit, here are some things we are thankful for:

First:  Because of our ultimately failed attempt to adopt him, this child has spent a good part of his early life in one of the best facilities for orphans in Ethiopia, our agency's foster care.  (Seriously, I keep hearing how quality it is, and how amazing the nannies are.)  Away from parents, he wouldn't have gotten that kind of care anywhere else.  

Next:  I'm thankful that this child now has a group of people in America who will be praying for him and thinking about him for years to come.  This is a child that Wes, Jena and I will wonder about, think about, and pray for the rest of our lives.  In fact, the Kirk/Randels/Eddleman families will continue to think about and pray for this child.

Next: I'm thankful that God can redeem the sad and uncertain parts of this child's future.  I'm believing for him that this will happen. 

Next: I'm thankful that my daughter has the capacity for a giant kind of love that stretches across continents, and cultures, and colors of skin.  I'm thankful that she was so capable of this big love, that she now grieves his loss, as we all do.

Next: I'm thankful for an amazing support system of family, old friends, and new friends.  I'm thankful for a well-timed visit from one of my closest friends, the one who understands failed adoptions, and the longing for motherhood...because she's lived it too.  I'm thankful for a new friend who is forging this messy uncharted territory of international adoption with me, and the ways that feeling like you aren't doing it alone seems to make such a difference.    

Lastly: I'm thankful for the peace that's washing over us.  That when friends ask us how we're coping, I can say: "We are processing, but (emphatically) we are ok."

And so giving thanks for these many blessings, we press on.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Watch your back, Spielberg

We had a great time hosting the showing of the documentary "Stuck" this weekend.  Some great friends and family came out and gave up their Friday night to watch it.  We are well aware that most who came were there as a sign of support and solidarity to us personally, and we just can't tell you how much that means to us.  Before the showing of the film, we played this little mini-movie about us which we made this week.  It tells a little of our story.  My public, (i.e. my grandma) has been asking to see it, so here it is.  :)

No new updates on the boys.  It's been about 10 weeks since we've seen anything on the baby.  We were supposed to have some movement last week on the older boy, but haven't heard yet if that happened or not. Since no news has generally meant bad news, I'm guessing not.  Praying for good news and updates for both this week...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

She Decided for Art

I am one of those weird people who will frame words.  And I mean this in the literal sense.  If you look closely, scattered around my house are framed bits of poetry, song lyrics, and prose.  I purchased a print of a painting I love for my husband at Valentines Day and, of course, couldn’t resist copying poetry up and down the back of it before it was placed lovingly into it’s frame.  Because I believe that if a picture is worth a thousand words, the right words, put together in a thoughtful way are worth at least a thousand pictures. 

I recently came across this piece by Ann Voskamp.  She is the author of One Thousand Gifts, and writes a wonderful blog,  Her work is poetry, really.  Poetry in the modern disguise of a 21 century blog.  If you aren’t following her already…you should be.  This piece so resonated with me that I placed it here, next to my bed. 

It's a reminder for me to decide for art.  To make my life art.  To seek out the beautiful.  Because when you're really looking for it, you'll find that He's placed little reminders all around you.  It felt right to repost it here in this week leading up to Mother’s Day.  It's a piece she titled "How to make a Home".  Enjoy.

How to Make a Home

Sometimes in the middle of the night, her hip would graze his and his arm would find her waist and she would lay awake in the middle of their life.
She didn’t know what would come next and how it all would unfold, but that new mercies always would.
He made it simple. Raising, teaching, the children, wasn’t.
And the meals she always had to keep figuring out, and the laundry that toppled over, and the floors that kept growing mess. The way her mind and heart would wander, crumble at the edges, and she would reach for steadying in her Maker. The way she’d get lost– and remember to breathe. But this, this making of a family, it was not a calling to dismiss but a calling to make disciples.
A calling, that which keeps calling you and you never stop listening for, that is what a calling is, the way He keeps speaking: “This is the way, walk in it.”
So she made soup and matched socks. She scrubbed out the tub. She awoke: One always gets to decide what is mindless work and what is soulful work.
She would decide.
She decided for art, to make her life artShe would make it all art — it all would be art, worship, a gift back. It all would preach Gospel.
And he, he too had these simple ways that steadied her, there in the dark, always in her dark. The way that he talked and moved his hands and worked and held her: he knew how to keep it simple.
Just keep the focus simply on Christ — Walk Forward. Keep company with Christ. Love always. Bend low.
In the midst of everything that went wrong, that was all. They would see everything as the ugly beautiful –  because Christ is redeeming everything.
She would light candles. She would murmur thanks.
She would touch him often and gently.
And there would be that:
The best place to make a home is in the state of amazing grace.

~Ann Voskamp 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Front Row Seats

So this week...yowza...hard...just hard.  It was this week that we really sensed there were some major problems with our cases, and it was this week that we got all that confirmed.  At one point during this week we thought neither of our adoptions were going to happen.  Then we found out some of the things we thought were terrible might not be as bad as we thought.  And that some things we thought were probably fine, were more complicated than we had guessed.  But the short of it is that, sadly, both of our referrals have major complications.

So the gut reaction that springs from me immediately is "why?"  Why does it feel like we have to fight every step of the way?  Couldn't there be one thing in this process, just one thing, that goes easier than planned?  (Maybe God is saving those things for end of the process.  One can hope, right?)  And so we've had our moments of grief, and anger, and second guessing, and questions.

And then we remember to breathe.  And to pray.  To look out, and around at the "beautiful things".  (Thanks Erica)  To give thanks for what we have.  To give thanks for the hope that these sweet boys will eventually make their way home.  Then friends and family come out of the woodwork ready and willing to let us lean on them.  Strangers tell us beautiful stories of redemption.  Our adoption community embraces us, gives us much needed understanding, and reminds us we're not alone.  And we regain focus.  We regain our resolve.  

To speak to some of the specifics:  Our older boy is from a region in Ethiopia known as the SNNPR.  (Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Republic)  This is a Southern region in Ethiopia.  There have been some big issues with this region over the past 2 years, because of new local regulations.  I've seen the word "unadoptable" thrown around online as applied to children from this region.  The good news we learned is that a change in personnel of the local government has improved the outlook for prospective adopted children from this region.  Our agency is hopeful that movement on his case will take place soon.  ("Soon" is such a subjective word, isn't it?  But I digress.)  We're still dreadfully behind, and there are MANY hurdles yet to be jumped, but we'll take any forward movement at this point.

Our younger boy's case looks to be the more difficult one at this point.  Wes and I have discussed what parts of this we should make public, and it's tough.  The stories of the boys' birth families are their stories, not ours.  While we're ok sharing OUR story publicly, we feel like we should allow the boys to decide how what is known of their birth families should be shared.  We try not to say too much about them publicly.  So to that end, I'll say this:  Issues with his birth family have caused a change in the way his case is categorized.  It means re-doing most of his paperwork.  He's likely still adoptable, it hasn't changed the fact that he's currently sitting in an orphanage, but it will take many more steps to accomplish this.  I'll also say this:  his biological family, specifically his biological mother, could use your prayers.  She's often in my thoughts these days.  I've been painfully aware from the beginning of this process that her deep pain and my great joy will coexist in a single event.   I believe with all my heart that adoption is a beautiful example of God's redemption in difficult situations.  And my heart breaks for her.

Our agency has offered to put our cases through the courts separately so that if one boy moves through the legal system more quickly, we could get him home sooner.  We agreed to this.  It means four (at least) trips to Ethiopia instead of two, but we don't want to wait a day longer for either one than we have to.

They've also offered us new referrals which we, of course, declined.  We've seen their faces.  How could we go on knowing we didn't do everything in our power to see them into loving homes?  (Our adoption coordinator actually told us "I know you won't want to do this, but I am supposed to offer it."  :)  Can I just say we love her?  She's been publicly and privately praying for us over these past few weeks, doing everything she can to annoy people into giving us information.  So thankful we have her advocating for us.)

The boys' room is officially complete, ready and waiting for them to come home.   Wes and I often wander in there from time to time during the day.  It stays very neat right now.  I think of how much I wish there were little boys here to mess it up.  I find myself in there most nights before bed, praying over them.  Because their days are our nights, I'm likely catching them just as they start their day.  That's how I like to think of it, anyway.  I hope that when they look back on this blog later in life they will see the ways they were loved before we were officially in their lives to show them.

A friend, and fellow Ethiopia adoption mom recently told me this of her adoption journey:

"I almost miss the tension of that season of waiting.  It made us so aware of the beauty of God--It almost felt like we had a front row seat to what God was doing."  

It's a way of living we are working hard to embrace.  To see every challenge as an opportunity for God to work.  To live each day on the verge of a miracle.
And so we sit.  Here on the edge of our front row seats.  Desperate and excited to see what God is doing.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Both Ends Burning

Last weekend we were able to get away for a quick trip up to Kansas City.  We went to see the STUCK documentary created by Both Ends Burning.  Here is the trailer for the movie:

We were deeply moved and challenged by the film.  It was a pretty emotional experience for everyone who was there.  There were many scenes from orphanages in Ethiopia.  It's hard for most people see children struggling to survive in institutional settings.   But knowing your own children are there right now, at this very moment.  Well, it's almost unbearable.

The film sheds light on problems with the American government, particularly the State Department, for what it calls political apathy towards international adoption.  

The film is making it's way across the country, collecting signatures to present to Congress and the President at the Step Forward for Orphans March in Washington D.C. in May.  The petition simply asks our leaders to remove barriers to International Adoption, and support international adoption as an important option for those children worldwide living outside of parental care.  Your average American is not aware of the precarious position that international adoption finds itself in, or the sharp decline that we've seen in recent years.  We bought a copy of the film and would like to show it here in Wichita.  More details on that soon.  

And now for my two cents and a soapbox.  :)  Here's why I believe you should care about international adoption.  The number of orphans worldwide is sitting somewhere between 10 million and 147 million depending on how you're counting.  That's a wide range, but either way a very, very big number.  At the height of international adoption, which was around 2007, only about 19,000 children were adopted into the United States.  Drop.  in.  the. bucket.  (The number of children adopted into the United States has decreased by more than 50% in the past 5 years.)  This is barely a dent in the millions of children living outside of parental care.  Obviously, international adoption is not THE solution to our orphan crisis.  But here's why I believe it is a critical component.  It's because I believe that adopting these children into the United States will help to improve the lives of those orphans left behind.

Melissa Faye Greene in her book There's No Me Without You, says it like this:

Adoption rescues few. Adoption illuminates by example: these few once-loved children…have been offered a second chance…like young ambassadors, they instruct us. From them, we gain impressions about what their age-mates must be like, the ones living and dying by the millions, without parents… For every orphan turning up in a northern-hemisphere household—winning the spelling bee, winning the cross country race, joining the Boy Scouts, learning to rollerblade, playing the trumpet of the violin----ten thousand children remain behind alone.

These adopted children become little "ambassadors".  Caring for our children, knowing them, seeing the beauty of their lives, will help us to actively care about the ones still orphaned in Africa and elsewhere in the world.  

Now let me lay some scripture on you:

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27

Not everyone is called to adoption.  And that's ok.  But, as believers, every one of us is called to care for orphans.  (You can find a list of the many ways you can care for orphans here.)  

So there's my not-all-that-articulate two cents on why the preservation of international adoption matters so much.   :)  (**Steps down from soapbox.)

Also while in Kansas City we got the chance to eat at the Blue Nile Cafe.  This is an Ethiopian restaurant in City Market. We'd had Ethiopian food before, but we'd never been to the Blue Nile.

The food was delish!  We loved it.  We brought home some injera (the spongy Ethiopian bread that serves as your utensil) so that we can make our own Ethiopian feast soon.  Stay tuned...

Lastly, we got a sad update on our case yesterday.  We DO NOT have our MOWA letters for either boy.  (These are recommendation letters from a government agency in Ethiopia that are required to obtain a court date.)  We were previously told that we did have them, but that was apparently a misunderstanding in the long game of "telephone" that we play to get information relayed from Ethiopia.   We are pretty badly delayed at this point.  We've been told that there is no problem, but for whatever reason, things are moving very slowly.  It's disappointing and very discouraging, but we aren't giving up on our boys.  

We got these bracelets at the Stuck viewing.  

You'll be seeing a lot of these over the next few months since Wes and I decided we will continue to wear them as a reminder of the determination and tenacity of the families featured in the film.  And we will keep them on until our boys, our family, gets unstuck.  But for now we wait...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A letter from Jena

My sweet Jena was reading my blog over my shoulder this week and asked if she could contribute.  "I want to write something on your blog!" she told me.  So she decided that she'd like to write a letter to her brothers and place it on the blog.  This is Jena's letter, as dictated to me.

Dear E & J,

I love you.  I want you to come home soon.  Even though you haven't seen us yet, you know we are here.  You are the best little brothers.  I love you.  I will show you all the toys you have gotten while you are gone.  You will like to see your new home.  You will really like it.  You'll like your bedroom because you will get to sleep next door to me.  You will like it when you get here, I know you will because this is such a good home for us.  I will play with you a lot when you get home.  You will see everyone in your family and you will play with me.  And you will like to play with mommy and daddy and Carly and Taylor.  You will like Carly and Taylor.  They are cute doggies.  They will give you lots of kisses when you come home.  We are praying for you here at home.  You will be surprised when we come to you.  We've been praying everyday for a long time.  We wish you could get home sometime this month.  You will like having a new family.  You will get to watch movies with me when you come home.  You'll have lots of new things to do.  I am excited to come see you.  It will be really fun, and you will think it's fun too, I know you will.  Mommy and me will do bedtime stories with you and mommy will sing a song to you while I read a book to you.  You will like all the things you have when you come.  When you see our house you will be super surprised.  You don't know what it looks like yet.  I will teach you how to do the abc's and do our language.  I will also teach you how to read really good like me.  I will teach you how to play soccer with me.  And someday when you get my age, you might play soccer like me.
We can't wait to see you.  We love you.


Love that kid.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Frozen: An Update

We haven't gotten pictures or updates on our youngest boy in about six weeks.  Last week we learned that the reason for this was because he had been moved out of foster care and back to the orphanage.  This was so that some important local court documents and paperwork could be completed in the city where he came from.  (Both boys are actually from the same part of the country, Awassa.)  We found out those documents had been finally completed (MOWA letters), and we were ecstatic.  I had thought we'd have a court date any day now!  But I quickly found out that there had been a change in the Ethiopian court system (one of many along our way) that now requires the biological family's court date to be COMPLETED before scheduling the court date for the adoptive family.  Our boys also come from a part of the country whose local courts move notoriously slow.  This means at least another month, two months, or more, of waiting just for a court date.  With the two trips that we have to make and the time that must pass between the two trips, I began to realize that it is looking less and less likely that we'll be able to bring our babies home before the youngest's first birthday.  (This is a child who was three months old at the time of our referral.)  And you could say that I did not take this news well.  Just.  So.  Tired.  Of waiting.

We had an ice storm the day after I got this update on our case.  All around, our world was covered in a hard, frozen, but frankly, beautiful layer of ice.  It happened to be April 9, the five month anniversary of our referrals.  So through icy cold weather, I ventured out to see a friend of mine.  Not just any friend, but one of the wisest, most intuitive people I know.  Someone who has been a mentor to me through these rough waters of the past few years.  I poured my heart out to her.  Through my tears I shared how frustrated I was at this process.  How it feels like we get delays at every turn.  How I didn't understand why this keeps happening.  How heartbroken I was to be still waiting to see their faces.  How I want to get these kids to a home where they can be loved, where I know that they are safe.   She listened quietly as I sobbed my way through my own personal pity party.  

When I came to the end of it, she smiled.  "How appropriate that I see you today," she said as she began to gesture out the window.  "You are just like this weather, aren't you?  You're so ready to blossom, but you're frozen."  

She encouraged me put myself into motion.  "Don't wallow."  She said.  "You need to move, so that you can thaw out.  Be in motion."  

(Yes, she is my own personal Yoda.  ...with better syntax.)  :)

So I came home, grabbed my camera and headed outside to snap a few pictures so that I could remember this day when I was given the gift of my emotions perfectly mirrored in the weather, and of the poetry and wisdom that is my friend, Kali.  

Immediately, I set about the work of being in motion.  I became overwhelmed with the need to create.  So I started with art.  I made this simple little painting for the boys' room:

Then I finished up these small rag quilts to take and leave with the boys in Ethiopia on our first trip.  They are small and soft with lots of fun texture.  Very tactile.  The fun thing is that I've made dozens of these for baby showers over the years.  I finally got to make them for my own babies!

Then I made two of these little quilts for the boys' beds here at home.   Look mom, I can applique!

Then I found this old burlap Ethiopian coffee sack on ebay.  (Amazing what you'll find when you search for "Ethiopia".)  Here's what it looked like before.  

I cut it apart and turned it into this cute little pillow.  Appropriate, right?  

And as I put myself furiously into motion, Kali was right.  I began to thaw.  Peace and healing began to settle over me once again.  We will wait.  We will wait longer.  As long as it takes for our beautiful boys to make their way home, we'll be here waiting.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Living in beautiful places

Last year my husband, Wes, and I were able to spend a few days on the coast of Maine celebrating our anniversary.  I mean, just wow.  It was just ridiculously breathtaking.  The ocean is always a wonder to these two life-long Kansans, but this place was particularly special.  There is something about the brutal rocky cliffs and the wild crashing waves, that power and fury, that is absolutely awe inspiring.

We were out on a boat one day doing a coastal tour of lighthouses.  Our guide drew our attention to some amazing private houses built into the cliffs.  As you can imagine, the houses themselves were magnificent, but when you include the amazing ocean views from these private homes, describing them as "idyllic" would be an understatement.  The guide also pointed out some empty concrete slabs among the houses along the coast.  He explained that these were foundations of houses that had been completely destroyed by hurricanes through the years.  They had simply slipped off the cliff into the depths of the ocean below when met with the mighty waves and punishing winds of a hurricane.   Many of the houses had been rebuilt on the same site, but a few of the homeowners had rebuilt farther back from the cliff, diminishing their views, but increasing their home's chance for survival in the occasional hurricane.   And in that boat Wes and I had a conversation about the fact that the most beautiful places to live were so often the most dangerous places to live.

My dreams over the past several weeks have been filled with these beautiful dangerous places.  I dream of open air houses built on stilts hundreds of feet in the air.  I dream of houses built into rocky mountain cliffs with sharp drop offs.  I dream of glass bottomed houses built into the middle of a raging ocean.  And in my dreams I'm in love with these places, and terrified to be there all at the same time.  Yesterday I was alone with Wes in the car, both of us deeply lost in thought.  I suddenly burst out, "It's a metaphor."  Wes is, by now, used to the fact that I often start him in the middle of a conversation that I've been having in my head for some time.  So he patiently asked me, "what's a metaphor?"
"For life.  For living." I said.  "The most beautiful places to live are often some of the most risky."

It's how I've come to think of this adoption process.  We are adopting two beautiful children who I've never met.  I don't know what their strengths and weaknesses are, or what challenges we will face as we work to become a family.  It's risky.  But it's oh so beautiful.  And I believe the beauty is worth the risk.

This week I came across the story of an adoptive family whose house slid off the proverbial cliff.  (Actually I heard about several, because in the same way that people love to tell pregnant women horror birth stories, people love to tell prospective adoptive moms horror adoption stories.)  But this particular story was earth-shattering to me because this was a family I had followed closely.  I don't know them personally, but I had read many of the things they had written a few years ago and they had been influential in our decision to adopt from Ethiopia.  I don't know any of the details of what they went through, but it's safe to say that somewhere along the way, something went horribly wrong.   And for a time, it was terrifying for me.

In the late stages of pregnancy, every woman is filled with questions, and self doubt.  There is worry about the child and what they will be like, about your new life and what it will be like.  Worries that you won't be up to the challenges.  I can tell you that the final stages of adoption are no different.  Worries and self-doubt are constantly sneaking into my thoughts.  And I wrestle these thoughts around, and up, and down, and inside, and out.
And I come back to this one. simple. conclusion.  God has called us to this beautiful place.  Is there risk?  Yes.  There are no guarantees in life.  But in the end I'd rather live in this beautiful place that God has called us to, than to sit back afraid and stagnant in the ordinary.   And like my recent dreams, I'm so excited to be here, but not completely without fear.  I'm well aware of all the things that could go wrong.  But rejoicing in the fact that there's so much more that could go beautifully right!

And that family I was writing of earlier?  The one whose house fell off the cliff?  They are rebuilding their house.  Finding the peace, and healing, and redemption, and grace that only the reckless raging fury of God's love can provide.

Again, I'll close with a wonderful passage from Jesus Calling:

If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing ME work through you. When I gave you MY spirit, I empowered you to live beyond your own natural ability and strength. That’s why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you. The issue is not your strength but MINE, which is limitless. By walking close to ME, you can accomplish MY purpose in MY strength. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A time for everything and everything in it's time

"Hey Nancy, when are you guys going to Ethiopia?"  I hear this several times a day.  Which is awesome.  Because people care enough about us, and our boys, and our process to keep asking and stay interested in our long haul.  But several times a day I have to give the same sad response.  "We don't know yet."   We are still waiting for a court date.  We are quickly coming up on month 5 since receiving our referrals.  

We learned a couple of weeks ago that we do not yet have MOWYA letters on either boy.  (MOWYA is a social sevices-like government agency in Ethiopia that must issue a positive opinion to the court on each adoption case before a court date can be scheduled.)  Talk about disappointed.  This threw me into a several days long deep discouragement.  I'm tired.  I'm tired of waiting.  I feel like I've paid my dues here in the waiting game.   So I wallowed in my self pity and frustration for several days.

But this week has been brighter.  Many friends have noticed my withdrawal and reached out to lend me much needed encouragement and support.  I've been able to connect with several other adoptive moms, both who have their kids, and who are still waiting like me.  (Talk about amazing women, wow.  What an honor to be included in this group.)  And so we press on.

We did get some good news yesterday in the form of an update on our oldest boy.  He had not yet been moved to the foster care home, and was still in the orphanage.  We got word that they should have openings in foster care next week and that they should be able to move him in.  Woohoo!  I have no idea what the care is like in the orphanage.  But I've been told by several different people that our agency's transitional home (foster care) is one of the best ones in the city.  So I'm anxious to get our big boy to a place where I know the standard of care is superb.  (And to have him join his brother!)

Today we saw the travel doc.  Jena panicked at the thought of getting shots and changed her mind about going to Ethiopia at all.  And yet, mean mommy and daddy were unmoved.  She was very relieved to learn once we got there that she only needed one vaccination, and the doctor was going to order an oral vaccine for her.  And with that she's once again fully on board to make the trip.  :)  Wes and I were not so lucky, and we needed two shots in addition to the oral vaccine.  Jena was our photographer and snapped some fun pictures.

 Actually it was no big deal.  We're not really what you'd call needle shy around here.  :)

I'll leave you with this devotional that I read today from Jesus Calling.  It was something I needed to hear.  Maybe you need to hear it too.

Stop Trying to work things out before their times have come.  Accept the limitations of living one day at a time.  When something comes to your attention, ask Me whether or not it is part of today's agenda.  If it isn't, release it into My care and go on about today's duties.  When you follow this practice, there will be a beautiful simplicity about your life: a time for everything, and everything in it's time.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Much love to new friends

In recent weeks I've gotten to meet and chat with several other adoptive families to Ethiopia who live in the midwest.  A couple of them are even using the same agency as us.  We call them "agency-mates".  :)  We wanted to give a quick shout-out to some of those new friends and tell you about some exciting ways you can help two awesome families on their journey to little ones in Ethiopia.

First, the Ogden Family.  

You can read more out their journey here.  They are just one state over from us in Missouri (but we're not holding that against them.)  :)  They are fundraising for their adoption expenses with these great t-shirts.  Here are the Kirks modeling them.  :)

You can find out how to order them on the link above.  Super cute.  We get lots of complements on them when we wear them. 

Next, the Haude Family.  

They've just begun their adoption process to Ethiopia.  You can read more about the Haude family here.  They are close by in Hillsboro, Kansas.  They are fundraising their adoption with coffee!  Did you know Ethiopia is known for its amazing coffee?  It's true!  You can find yummy Ethiopian coffee, as well as varieties from around the world AND support an amazing family on their journey to their children in Ethiopia.  Win-Win!  Get your delicious coffee here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


It's been 4 long months since we first saw the faces of our sweet boys.  (In pictures only, of course.)  I like to call it our winter of waiting.  In reality our wait has extended through several winters, but this is the winter of knowing who they are while we wait.  We were told court dates were coming in an average of 2-4 months after referrals to our agency.  So now we're in overtime.  Getting a bit more impatient every day, I think.

Last week was a particularly rough week for our patience.  We got word that our littlest one in Ethiopia had pneumonia.  We knew he was being treated, but had very little other information.  It was the first time since our referral came that I started to really get antsy.  I just wanted to be with him.  I wanted to look at him and decide for myself how sick he was.  I had a dozen questions I wanted answered and no way to get them answered.  It was a long week of waiting, and praying, and tears, and putting our little one in the Father's hands.  Several friends told me "I don't know how your standing it."  Trust me, if there were another choice besides "standing it"  I'd be doing it.   Thankfully we found out this week in our update that he has improved and is doing much better.  I thought the urgency would ease up a bit for me with this news, but it hasn't.

He also got a haircut.  Which is so stinking cute, but something I had unexpected emotions about.  Because I didn't give him his first haircut.  I didn't get to tuck his freshly trimmed off curls into a baby book to keep for all posterity.  I didn't expect to feel sad about that, but I guess I do.

Jena is beyond excited about bringing her brothers home.  She wore a t-shirt with Africa on it to school on Friday and told everyone she knew about her brothers.  She told me that many of the other first graders don't understand what adoption is, but she's doing her best to explain it.  She told me the other day that she was "too excited" about getting her brothers.  When I asked her to explain what "too excited" meant, she told me that she was "so excited that it hurts".  That she just felt like she couldn't wait any longer for them to get here.  So precious.  I know she feels it just like we do.  Someone once told me that a great side effect of adoption is that your biological children become beautiful people in the process too.  I'm excited to see what God has in store for that little beauty.

So here we are, still waiting.  And all of us so excited it hurts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Language Study

Awhile back I ordered a book called Amharic for Adoptive Families.  It's a great little book with common phrases needed to speak Amharic, the official Ethiopian language, to small children adopted from Ethiopia.  Today it arrived in the mail.  It looks like this:  

The phrases are set up as flash cards to practice.  Here's a sample of the inside.  Pretty cute.

It also comes with a handy little cd to help hear and practice the phrases.  We were excited to try out the cd and get started.  But our experience with the cd went a little something like this:

Pop cd into player
Big smiles all around
Phrases start to play
Big Smiles fade
Wes: "We're screwed"
Nancy: "No joke"

Amharic is hard, friends!  So we decided Jena has the best shot at learning this stuff, so we are now trying to expose her to as much as she will tolerate.  :)   I do think the book will come in handy, and we're giving it our best shot.  

I put together the monstrosity known as a double stroller tonight.  I actually got it weeks ago thanks to a donation from my sweet friend Nikki to use as a trade in, but just got around to taking it out of the box tonight.  I started with this:

Taylor was skeptical that I could complete this in a timely manner.

But he stuck with me...

And we got it done in under 20 minutes.  Jena took it for a few laps around the house.  We're all pretty pumped about putting our stroller monstrosity to use!

Monday, February 25, 2013


I recently came across an exciting new documentary called "Stuck" put out by the Both Ends Burning Campaign.   Both Ends Burning is an organization which exists to support the culture of adoption and to help facilitate changes in the current adoption system.  Stuck is movie about international adoption.  Here is the trailer for the documentary.

They are touring the country, showing the movie and collecting signatures for the Step Forward for Orphans March that will take place in Washington D.C. in May.  You can find out more on their website  The Kirks are hoping to make a trip to the showing nearest us if we can make it happen with Wes's crazy work schedule.

It's a complex issue, international adoption.  We all want to safeguard children.  We all want adoptions that are ethical.  But it does feel like it is politics and bureaucracy that seem to be getting in the way.  (I'm looking at you, Russia).  There has to be a way to ensure that adoptions are ethical AND process them in a timely manner.  I like the point that the documentary makes about what happened in Haiti just after the earthquake.  We were able to bring several thousand kids over to the US is a relatively short period of time.  It was done because the kids were thought to be in crisis after the earthquake.  But orphans all over the world are already in a crisis situation every day that they sit in orphanages unnecessarily.  I realize that adoption alone isn't the solution for our orphan crisis.  But for those children who do have waiting families through adoption, why not work on the process so that children aren't spending years alone in orphanages while their family wades through endless red tape to bring them home?