Sunday, October 16, 2011

the moment we'd been waiting for...

It will forever be embedded in my mind and in my heart.  The moment we saw our boys and hugged them close for the first time...

How do I describe what is was like?  How do you describe the moment where you look into the eyes of the child(ren) who will be yours forever?  The child you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God ordained for your family.  The child you have dreamed about and longed to meet. The child who is putting their whole life in your hands.  The child who looks at you hoping beyond hope that they are acceptable to you and that you will love them like they were birthed from you.  Well, you can't.  You just can not describe it.  It's a moment that has to be felt, has to be experienced, but I will do the best I can to take you to that moment with me.

After 24 hours + of travel by plane and bus, we were in Offinso (Ghana).  We had been told we would be picked up at the bus stop,  then taken to a hotel to  rest for the night and then meet the boys in the morning. (Ha! Like I would have been able to sleep!!)  But when we were met at the bus stop, the orphanage director told us we would drop off our bags and then go to meet the boys.

WHAT!!!  I about hyper ventilated thinking in just minutes we would be hugging our boys.  I could hardly contain myself.  We stopped at the hotel, dropped our bags and I attempted to make myself look like I hadn't been travelling for 24 hours, but it was no use.  Somehow I didn't think it would make a whole lot of difference to the boys.  I grabbed my camera and the photo book we made for them and off we went!

It was about 8 o' clock at night, but pitch black, so as we pulled up we chuckled a bit because we couldn't see a whole lot. We saw the outline of two young boys with beautiful skin that blended with the night, the smiling whites of their eyes and two huge smiles with gorgeous white teeth.  There was one street lamp with limited light which helped a little. 

As I think back to the moment of seeing them through the car window, and watching them move to the car as we were climbing out of the back seat, I can only cry.  There was so much emotion wrapped up in that moment for all of us.  The boys just looked at us with the biggest grins. The younger one, Attah, with a bit of apprehension mixed in, but yet both invited our hugs, wrapping their arms around us.  All I could think was, "They are beautiful. They are precious. They are ours. And we are blessed. Beyond measure."

We said our hellos and introduced ourselves~ how surreal is that?  "Hi.  I'm Tammi.  I'm your mom."  Wow. Wow! It was...indescribable.

At that instant, I had a flashback to a moment in the hospital with the birth of our son~ fresh little bundle, laid on my chest.  I remember looking at his eyes blinking from the bright light and watching him trying to focus on my face and take it all in. I remember saying "Hello, sweet boy.  I'm your mommy" and bonding instantly. 

And then I was brought back to the present moment, in Africa. Two boys looking intently at me, focusing on my face, trying to take it all in.  Introducing myself as their mom and bonding instantly.  The circumstances so different, yet so much the same.  It was amazing.

We knew they were so anxious to see their new brother and sisters, so we quickly brought out the photo book our kids had designed for them.  Here they are looking at it, so intently studying their siblings' faces. It was precious. ( I love the look of pride on Chad's face here)

Next we went inside Mary's home (she's the orphanage director) for a meal.  The boys came in with us and we took a few pictures...

Kadre on the left with a big smile.  Attah (on the right) was getting used to the flash and all that was happening :) 

but it didn't take long...

(and in case you're wondering~ that little pumpkin who snuck in the picture is Michael. He lives in the States now)

Here they are holding hand print signs that our kids made for them and we had laminated...

and this was a little later as they were showing off their new family. Kadre is sitting down with the book, pointing out who's who!

That night we left and felt completely in awe of the way God orchestrates our lives. We were reminded of the scripture from Psalm 68:6 that says, "God sets the lonely in families."  We felt so grateful that God had chosen our family for these boys and these boys for our family. I don't think we could have slept had we not been up for 24 + hours. :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Father to the Fatherless

The question came from a little voice behind me as we sat in the parking lot of McD's in a small Kentucky town...

The kids were awake after a drive through the night as we had just stopped for breakfast.  We were returning home from vacation in Florida.  Still in their jammies, with pillows and toys tucked around them, Chad and I shared with them that early that morning, their Nana (Chad's mom), had died and was now with Jesus.

Earlier that week, she had suffered a massive stroke and the Dr's didn't think she would make it.  But no matter how well prepared you are with that knowledge, you are never prepared for the moment you get the news.  My husband had lost his Dad just over 3 years ago and this was just too soon.

We grieved together for some time and then I heard it, asked with the deepest sincerity weighted with sadness...

"Daddy, are you an orphan?"  

The reality of that question socked me in the gut and I lost it.  In my mind I could visualize the moment just days away when my husband, now an orphaned man, would meet our orphan sons.  I push it out of my mind, because it was just too heavy. I would go back to it later.

The car was silent as four young hearts waited for an answer.  As I was trying to regain composure to answer the question, I heard Chad starting to speak.  He beautifully answered them about how he was adopted into my family, and how God adopts us into His.

As the conversation continued, I was struck by the weight of several things (besides the loss of a dear mom/nana):
     ~ the grief I felt for my husband who had lost both his parents in 3.5 years
     ~the knowledge that our kids got it and that orphans truly are on their hearts
     ~that my husband who has just been orphaned, is days away from meeting his orphan sons as our trip to   Africa quickly approaches

And suddenly, gratefulness washes over me.  Gratefulness for a man who, in the midst of his own grief, presses forward to meet his new sons.  Gratefulness for my parents who are still living and have a vital role in my life and the lives of our children.  Gratefulness for my sweet kids and the gift that they have in a loving Daddy here on earth.  But most importantly, for the gift of adoption that we have been given if we accept it.  The gift of eternal life and adoption into God's family. And gratefulness for so so much more.

The picture of the first meeting flashes back into my mind.  This time, I choose to really look.  God gives me the image of two divine hands cupped around two sets of families as they meet for the first time and joins them as one.  The events that have occurred days before, begin to knit their hearts as they share a common bond of loss.  Before the beginning of time, these days were ordained for us.  And I am at peace.  Reminded once again, there is no need to fear or worry, as He (the great I AM!) is the ONE that goes before, He will not fail nor abandon us. (Deut. 31:8 my paraphrase)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

and then, there were two!

I'm skipping ahead of some blog posts that need to be written, because I wanted to share some news.  Last week, we dropped our agency because after a year and a half of waiting, they had done virtually nothing with the adoption.  We thought it was the government, red tape, etc., but found out they simply weren't doing their job.  Once we dropped them, things started moving like crazy!! I can't wait to share that post with you!  But today, I am jumping ahead to share some news that we just can't keep quiet any longer!

Kadiri has a brother!!

Yep, we were shocked!  Remember from a previous post that we wanted an only child, so we chose him?  Well, God had other plans!  Our agency didn't give us the correct information, so last week, when a new friend, Carrie,  (cool story to share soon) called the orphanage on our behalf to inquire about Kadiri, she found out about the brother.  Carrie then called us and said that the Director wanted to know if we wanted to adopt Kadiri, or Kadiri and his little brother!!

Oh. my. OH MY!!

Let me go back a few days:

April 17  (Sunday)
I posted this on facebook:
dear friends: we would be grateful if you would pray with us over the next couple of days for wisdom and a clear sign of direction from God concerning our adoption. (we know God has called us to adopt, and believe it is a particular child, but we have been at a standstill for quite sometime and are asking God's clarity and direction in our current situation). thank you ♥

Minutes after that, my friend Jenny "introduced" me to a friend of hers on facebook.  I met Heidi Weimer and fell in love with her story and ministry. Her blog is called "We have room" (gets ya right there, doesn't it??) and they have 11 children, more than half of which are adopted!  You can find it here .
After reading it, God pierced my heart with the idea of adopting another child. I felt this was very strange as we didn't even have this adoption completed.

The next day was Monday (April 18), and it so "happened" that I had a Dr's appointment 2 1/2 hours away. (check up with my specialist from my auto-immune disease)  Chad was going with me, so we had a lot of time to talk.  I started telling him about Heidi and her family.  He listened, then looked at me and said, "Are you trying to tell me something?"  I was looking straight ahead and said, "Well, just that I think it might be cool to adopt another child someday that is also from Ghana."  As I said that, I looked at him out of the corner of my eye to gauge his reaction.  He smiled and said, "Okay, I could see that someday."  And so, I tucked that away, not realizing the issue would resurface in three days with a decision to be made!!

On Thursday (April 21), when we heard the news, we spent a few hours in shock, but yet knowing that God had ordained the days previous.

One of the things that struck me on Heidi's site, were these words: "My life is not my own."  Every time I came up with my own excuses as to why this wouldn't work, God popped that phrase in my mind. I knew this was the prayer He wanted me to seek Him on:

Lord, if I truly say I am Your follower, if I truly believe that you are Sovereign God, then I need to release my plans to you. I need to release my control.  To release what "makes sense" to me.  If my heart is truly Yours, then so is my life.  If my life is truly yours, then, I need to live like my life is not my own.  So, Lord, I want your will.

After prayers, discussion and a little freaking out ;)  we made the decision to pursue both.  So, soon, we will have two more added to our four.  Kadiri (age 11) and his brother Ata, who is 6!

Am I nervous? Scared? Excited? Overwhelmed? At peace? Yes!  Do I know how this will all work out?  No.  We don't even have a vehicle that we can all fit in!  We live in a 3 bedroom, bath and a half that we need to sell and find a home that will fit our family better.  Finances?  Do I serve a God of the IMPOSSIBLE??? YES! A resounding yes!  I am not expecting it to be easy, but I do know that God will be there, and has already prepared the way.

Will you follow along and watch as God works the impossible?  Will you join us in praying home our boys? Oh, I started crying as I'm writing this.  What an honor.  What an honor to be a mom  to two precious boys who long to belong.

here we go... ( big smile)

meet kadiri!

I'd love to introduce you to our son...

The first information we received on him was that he was healthy, 10 years old, and was doing well in school.  After deciding to pursue him, the agency sent us this info:

His best subjects are "Science" and "English Language"
At the last terminal examination held in December 2009, he placed as 4TH. in a class of 26 students.  He does not know what professional he wants to be in future but he wants to study some aspect of science.

He is very healthy and athletic.  He is a strong and enthusiastic soccer player on the soccer team at the orphanage.
He is also a dedicated Christian who never misses going to church on Sundays.   He loves to sing and worship the Creator.
He is a handsome young man who respects himself and all others.  He gets reciprocal respect from everyone.
He has a promising and satisfactory academic performance.
Mary (the director) states further that he is very supportive of the adoption of Kadiri and would highly recommend him to any family that is interested in adopting him.

I already had a bond with him, but after reading this, God began to knit Chad's heart with his.   You see, Chad is a Chemist!  Also at the time of this info, he was coaching our son's soccer team!  Ethan loves soccer and has played since he was little.  English is his other favorite subject?  That just made me smile.  Don't you love how God works?  His heart is for the orphan. He is placing Kadiri in a family who will naturally be able to encourage his dreams!  Our God delights in the details!

I love that Kadiri already has knowledge of our Saviour and loves to sing to him.  I think of the precious children from his orphanage in church every week, singing out their hearts to our Lord.  Can you picture it?  Precious.

(read the newest post for the latest update~ some big news! just click on "newer" or go to the top and click on the title - waiting here, hearts there- to find it)

Monday, April 25, 2011

october 13, 2009. a day that would change our lives. forever. (part 3)

Junk mail, delete. Junk mail, delete. Junk mail, delete. Next I opened up an email from an agency of a child that "matched" our profile. We wanted to adopt a boy from Africa who was 9 or 10 years old. We also wanted him to be an only child, as we had 4 children already, and were just looking to adopt one.

When I saw his picture, my heart skipped a beat and I knew he was to be our son. It was the strangest, yet most peaceful feeling. I had looked at hundreds of pictures of waiting children, and had been moved by their faces, but never like this. I wanted to shout it out and call everyone, post it on facebook and tell the cashier at the supermarket that day! ;) But there was something almost sacred about "finding" our child that led me to ponder it in my heart. My thoughts went to Mary when she was told the news that she was carrying the Messiah. Scripture tells us that she pondered too.

According to this site, you were supposed to have a completed home study before you inquired, but I couldn't help myself! I emailed the agency that represented him to ask about him further.

I showed my husband, Chad, the picture later that day, but knew he wasn't quite at the place where I was with the idea of adopting. I didn't say that this was our son (lol), but just that I was interested in this little boy. Immediately I could tell that he wasn't ready for that, so I knew I needed to let it go. He wanted to adopt, just not this soon. I knew deep in my heart that if this was to be our son, that God would hold him for us until we could.

So, I prayed. If there is one thing that I have learned in our 15 years of marriage, is that I know how to manipulate and get my way with my man. Horrible? Yes. But true. (Anyone out there with me here?) I've also learned that that is a sin that I have to put to death. So. I prayed some more. I wasn't going to manipulate. If we were going to adopt, we both had to be in this 150%. I knew if it was God's will and the timing was right, that God would change his heart or mine. Weeks went by and I continued to pray for God's will, and for our son in Africa. I continued to feel at peace that we were to adopt and God knew which child.

During this time, Chad and I had various conversations about adoption. On a date night, we went to see The Blind Side. What we didn't know was that it was a moving story about adoption! We still laugh about it as Chad asked if I planned that. If I had known, I certainly would have tried!! ;) Anyway, that led to a deeper discussion which Chad shared that he was ready. I wanted to immediately call and find out if "our" child was still available. I was dying, but knew it was all in God's hands. Later that night :) I emailed the organization. The next day, I received an email that although several people had inquired, no one followed through and he was still needing a home. And that was all it took... (coming next: meet Kadiri!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the number one question (part 2)

"What led you to adopt?" We often get asked this question. Although it may sound cliche~ God did.

We had always thought that four would be the perfect number of kids. However, through various avenues, God started to work on our hearts and so we thought one day, when our kids were older, we'd adopt a sibling set.

Time went by, and we were immersed more and more into the global orphan crisis. We both read "The Hole in our Gospel" and God used that book to bring about some major changes in our families life. One of those being to search out the answer to this question: "What does God want our family to do in response to the orphan crisis?" After reading that book, and studying scripture, we knew we had a mandate to do something. We knew that if we wanted to be in sync with God's heartbeat, then we had to get involved. For His heart is for the orphan, the widow, the least of these.

So, we took the scary step and began to pray about our responsibility as a family. We told the kids that we needed to know what God wanted us to do to help orphans and we wanted them to pray too! And boy did they! There were many ways that we started to get involved: sponsoring a child, giving money to organizations, donating to others who were adopting and supporting them. Even giving back with our businesses. But God continued to call for more.

God began to press the idea of adopting on our hearts. We kept pushing it aside with our excuses, but He kept bringing it back. He has a way of doing that! It was at the times when I was open and consistent in my walk with Him that He was speaking. Because, well, I was listening. It was easy to get busy and just not really hear His voice.

Finally, we decided to take a first step. We sent for some information from some adoption agencies. Next step, we attended a meeting with a local agency. We started to consider a domestic adoption. After talking with our kids (ages 12, 10, 8, & 3 at the time), they were totally up for it. We all decided a boy, close to our sons age (he was 10) would be perfect.

But one road after another kept closing. We began looking at waiting lists and started to look a bit at international adoption... (next: october 13, 2009. a day that would change our lives. forever.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It all began with a little boy (part 1)

"Mommy, I want a brovah." (brother) Our 3 year old, Ethan, told me after his second sister was born. We laughed about it and told him, maybe someday!

When he was 6, I was pregnant again, and he said he was going to pray for a brother. We had a discussion about the fact that God had already chosen what was best for us, and that might be another sister. He didn't seem too enthused with that answer. Months went by, and sure enough, it was another sister. :)

After Elliana was born, we felt our family was complete, but Ethan was not convinced!

"Mommy, can I pray for a brother?"
"Well, umm, we're not planning on having any more children, Eth."
"Okay, but can I still pray for one?" (how do you answer that??)

Three years later the prayers of a little boy were beginning to be answered... (next: the number one question)