Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the Far Side of Poplar Pond

Yesterday Lottie and I had the great privilege of attending a book signing with some (relatively) new friends. Our friends had heard of a new children's book, On the Far Side of Poplar Pond, and invited us to go with them to meet the author and illustrator.  Before going, I found the author's page on Facebook and quickly read up on the book.  Amazon says:
Tina Turtle needs a home. The Duck family has more love that they long to share. Watch and see how God brings these lovable animals together as a family in a unique way through the gift of adoption.
Read together with your children and explore how families are created not because you look the same but because God perfectly orchestrates families.
Sounded good to me!  Lottie loves books and we always love a good book about adoption. Can I be honest, though?  I was really assuming it would be like most of our other adoption books, which are pretty much just about a child who needs a mother, and a mother who wants a child to love.  They find each other and live happily ever after.  They're good books, and there's certainly nothing wrong with them, but On the Far Side of Poplar Pond is different.

After we got our book signed, I sat down with Lottie to read it.  After a couple of pages, I decided we needed to read it later because I was starting to get very emotional.  I decided to pick it up again today and read it to Lottie before nap time   Whew!  Friends, I practically sobbed through the whole dang thing.  And you know what that means?  It's really, really good.

Adoption is explained very clearly and succinctly, in addition to including the birth mother throughout the story.  I have found that other adoption books reference the birth mother, but she's more of a secondary character.  And maybe for some families, that's how adoption really is; but for other families, the birth mother plays just as important a role as the adoptive parents and the child, so I really appreciated Mama Turtle's role in the book.

Secondly, the theology of adoption is very well integrated and clearly explained in the book. Not only does the story make clear that God is the One who cares for Tina Turtle, hears Mama Turtle's and the Duck Family's prayers and places Tina Turtle in the Duck Family, but it completely spells out why Christians find adoption so natural and desirable:
"Once we believe in Him and His son, Jesus, as our Savior, He adopts us too.  He gives us everything He has, and we are forever a part of His family." 
Amen and Amen!

Finally, one of the things Rob noticed about all of our other adoption books is that Daddy is nowhere to be found.  Mama wants a baby.  Mama waits and waits and waits for a baby. Baby needs a mama.  Baby finds a mama.  But where in the world is Daddy?  It may be a minor point, but I LOVE that this book includes the Daddy!  And not only is he present (and not a secondary character), but he leads his Duck Family well!
"Every night when the moon was high, Mama and Daddy spoke to God, who provided it all.  It sometimes made Mama cry, her heart full of joy, as Daddy would try to find the words to say thank you to God for putting their family together in the way that was best of all!"
Now maybe you understand why I wept through the whole book?  I'm kicking myself now for only buying one copy because I feel like every family I know should have this book!  Of course it's great for adoptive families, but it's also great for any family who wants to explain adoption to their kids.  So, for you people who are reading this, go - RIGHT NOW - to Amazon and buy this for your family.  Buy it for your friends, buy it for as many people as you know.  Here's the link:

Buy it, read it, love it, and then tell everyone you know about it!

P.S.  OH!  I almost forgot!  As a bonus, the author is a Gladney mom :-)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Searching for Treasure

I've struggled with keeping this blog up-to-date lately because I've been struggling through a (sort of) new journey the Lord has me on.  While I wanted to share the journey, I didn't think this was the place to do it, so I've started a new blog.  Searching for Treasure ( is a place where I hope to share my story - past, present and (eventually) future, and if you are interested, I would love for you to follow along and join in the conversation!  I'm hoping to continue to update this blog from time to time because Lord knows I need somewhere to share videos of our sassy girl :-)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Six Months Home

Gosh, six months.  It seems so surreal to type that.  In some ways it feels like we've only been home about a month, and in other ways it feels as if we've been a family forever.  Our love for each other grows day by day and I finally feel as if we're "normal" (whatever that means!).

Our baby is growing up quickly!  She wants to be a big girl so badly that I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to give her the independence she craves, while actually training her how to do things well.  Here are some of her current milestones and interests:

  • All but 2 of her 16 teeth have cut through the gums and are quickly coming in.  The other 2 are so close, so it's just a matter of time before they're in too.
  • She feeds herself pretty well with a fork or spoon, but gets bored easily and would prefer I help her after a few minutes.
  • She drinks her milk out of a cup with a straw.
  • She talks all. the. time!  Most of it we don't understand, but she says "puppy," "Mommy," "Daddy," "uh-oh," "hi," and "bye bye" very clearly.  Then there are LOTS more words that Rob and I understand in context, even if no one else understands.
  • She loves, loves, loves baby dolls and stuffed animals and would sleep with her crib FULL of her "friends", as I like to call them.  As it is, she sleeps with 5 or 6 each night.  Also, if it is an animal which could possibly resemble a dog, she calls it "puppy."
  • She also loves her books.  The current favorite is Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop.  She can say some version of at least one of the words on every page, so we often "read" it together :-)
  • She has taken a recent interest in pushing things around the house.  Most things in our house don't have wheels, but that doesn't stop her!  Last weekend we finally bought her a little grocery cart with some play fruits and veggies.  She loves it, but I still find her pushing other non-wheeled items around the house.
  • She's not too picky of an eater, but she still doesn't eat as many things as I would like.  And she doesn't like most things mixed together, so I find myself thinking of ways to deconstruct what we're having for dinner so that we're not eating dry chicken, pasta and rice every night.
I think that's about it!  We had a really great, laid back summer.  We visited my family at the beginning of June, then went to the beach at the end of the month.  Rob's mom visited in July, and his sister visited in August, so it was nice to spend time with family and friends who don't live around here.  Otherwise, we stay busy with play dates and spending time at home.  It's definitely the most laid back my life has ever been, but I'm enjoying this season.  I know it won't be like this much longer, so I'm savoring every moment.

Since I haven't shared many photos lately, I put together a little video of some photos from June through yesterday.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Note to Self

Dear Future Me,

I wanted to drop you a note to remind you of some things that you are bound to forget.  It seems every week I am reminding you, and every week you forget.  So here it is: 

When Lottie is not doing the thing you want her to do, or is doing exactly the thing you would like her not to be doing, just take a deep breath and relax.  This is not going to last forever.

For example, take today:  You sat there with her at lunch and watched her ASK you for milk during lunch, and then chug away the milk like it was going out of style.  This compared to a week ago when she was mourning the loss of the bottle and HATING drinking milk from a sippy cup - especially at meal time.  Remember that day that you both had to just stop lunch - 3 times - and prayerfully ask Jesus to help you both?  Remembered how you wondered if you were doing the right thing and if she would ever drink milk again?  The bad stuff never lasts forever.  

And let's don't forget the sleep:  For about six weeks, she woke up most nights for usually about 2 hours.  Oh sure, once or twice it was only about 30 minutes, but there was that one time she was up for 4 hours.  (Blessedly that was Rob's night to get up with her, but we both know it could have easily been you instead.)  But now?  For the last month-ish, Lottie has been sleeping about 12 hours at night, 2 hours during the day, and now... she likes to take her time waking up, doesn't wake up crying and even LIKES to play in her bed for a little while!  Remember when you seriously wondered if you would ever sleep through the night again?  Yeah, me too.  And look where we are now!

But this is really what it comes down to:  When you grumble wish away this phase, you miss all the good stuff too.  And there is SO MUCH good stuff right now.  Remember the other day when we just thought through all the snapshots of perfection in your mind?  Like...

When Lottie thought it was hilarious that you didn't want her to lick your foot, so she kept trying to do it all the more.  And just when you thought she'd forgotten about it, she ran up, licked your foot, then ran away, giving Dada a high-five in the process?  Perfection.

And the other day when you were at the pool and she snuggled up to you and said, "Ah la la" for the first time unprompted?  You will never ever forget how sweet her version of "I love you" sounded.

And how she's gotten so kissy lately?  She kisses you all the time unprompted.  Of course, she kisses everything else too - like the sofa and her shoe, but let's not focus on that.

And how much she has begun to love her baby dolls and stuffed animals?  How she tucks them under her arm and just pats them the whole time?  And she often snuggles up to you or Rob and pats you too.

These days are so good.  Don't wish them away for "better" days.  The truth is, they may be better in some ways, but not necessarily in others, so don't rush it.  Soak up every moment because they are all such a gift.

Present Me

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

And the Story Continues

I really could go on an on about how well Lottie is doing.  She has attached to Rob and me very well and continues to do so.  She is happy most of the time; she is constantly learning new things.  Last week after observing that she seemed to like taking all of her toys to one location, I decided to see if I could teach her how to clean up.  I started singing the "Clean Up" song, and she very quickly caught on.  Now it's one of her favorite things to do - and if you know me, you know how MUCH this makes me happy :-)

Many times a day, I look at her and have to remind myself that everything in her life is still pretty new.  I have to REMIND myself of that because she has adjusted (and is still adjusting) SO WELL.  Here's just one example:

Books spread out, one shoe on, completely engrossed in "Follow That Bird"

But the difficult side of Lottie adjusting so well is that she feels completely comfortable to start testing the boundaries.  Actually, I think it's so difficult because it caught me completely off guard!  I really was not prepared for her to start pushing boundaries at 14 months old, 2 months home.   And let me tell you:  She can be so sweet, but she is head-strong, stubborn and strong willed.  (What, those are all synonyms?  OK.  She's still all of those things.)  After realizing what was happening, Rob and I decided to set the boundaries and stick to them.  One of these was requiring her to sign "please" when there was something she wanted.  This is completely different from something she needs.  She doesn't have to ask "please" for meals, snuggles, or any other need; she only has to ask "please" for things she wants - like playing with my comb while I'm drying my hair, or a sip of my soda - things she can totally do without.  We started it over the weekend, but yesterday was my first day at home alone with her.  Did I mention how strong willed she is?  She absolutely REFUSED to sign "please" for any of her wants.  This resulted in several tantrums, and although I stuck to my guns, I was completely wiped out by the end of the day - and so incredibly sad and frustrated that she refused to simply sign "please" for the things she wanted. 

I went to my first session of this Bible Study feeling completely defeated.  But, thankfully, the Lord knew what I needed.  The main question from the first session was something like, "Can you describe a time where you shook your fist at God?"  Why yes, yes, I can!  It still brings me pain to think about it.  When Rob and I decided to start our family the conventional way and failed miserably, I got SO MAD at God.  I don't think I literally shook my fist at Him, but I certainly did in my heart.  I was so angry at Him because I felt like since He wasn't giving me what I wanted, it felt as if He didn't love me.  And I struggled with that for months.  I'm so thankful He was patient and loving with me for all of those months as He led me to the end of my plans and showed me His plans for us to adopt.  Through that process, He has blessed me - and continues to bless me - more than I could have ever imagined.  And as I drove home thinking about it, He showed me that Lottie and I are exactly the same - completely stubborn and strong willed.  We think we should get whatever we want the minute we ask for it (or demand it).  And oh the fits we pitch when we don't get what we want right away.  I love that girl more and more each day, bless her little wicked heart. 

And so today, as I continued to enforce the boundaries and required her to sign "please" for the things she wanted, I was able to do it with more love and empathy than I ever thought possible.  And guess what?  She didn't refuse every single time today!  I mean, there were a few times that she did refuse, but there were a few times that she actually signed "please"!  Oh, I'm so thankful that even though she's stubborn, she's so smart and learns quickly.  It breaks my heart to think of the life she might have to live if she insisted on learning every lesson the hard way.  And that, my friends, has begun to fuel a lot of my prayers for her.

This afternoon as I was reflecting on all of this, it hit me that the Lord is STILL using that time of infertility to teach me. I don't often understand WHY the Lord allows things to happen, but I love it when I can look back on a difficult season and see how He used it for good.  And today I can see that had I not gone through that time, I'm not sure I would have been able to empathize with what Lottie is going through now.  So He used my infertility to not only lead us to adoption, but He also used my response to that infertility to allow me to more compassionately parent the child He led us to adopt.  Amazing.  And not at all surprising :-)

I don't often have the chance to get pictures of my strong-willed child in action, but I did find a few.  These make me laugh...

Post-meltdown.  Mad at Dada because he wouldn't let her stuff her mouth full of apple

Notice the tear-stained cheeks?

Once again, trying to stuff the entire apple in her mouth

And this one just made me laugh.  I had gated off the kitchen after I told her 3 times to stop playing in the trash.  A little while later I turned around and saw this had been thrown over the gate:

"Since I can't come in there to play, will you please come out and play with me?"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Two Months Home

Two months.  Goodness.  I had so many hopes of keeping the blog updated, but let me just tell you: Being a first time mom to an adopted toddler is exhausting.  It's wonderful, don't get me wrong.  But exhausting, nonetheless.  We've been home nearly two months and only now do I feel like I'm finally starting to get my footing.  I'm sure that will change, though.  There have been a couple of other times over the last couple of months that I felt like I started to get my footing and then everything went crazy and I lost it all over again :-)

There's so much I would like to say to catch you up, but it would take too long to tell you every single detail.  But for now, here it is in a nutshell:

  • As you know, not only did the Lord allow us to be with our daughter on her birthday, He allowed us to arrive home the DAY BEFORE her birthday so that we could celebrate with all of our family!
  • Before we took placement, we were able to travel to Gondar, Lottie's birthplace, to see the hospital where she was born, the orphanage where she first lived and the countryside where her birth family lives.  Again, for the sake of brevity (and privacy), I'll say that the Lord gave us immeasurably more than we could have asked or imagined on that trip.  So much of what I struggled through while I grieved her story was resolved and the Lord gave us gift upon gift.
  • The day we took placement of Lottie was pretty hard for the little munchkin.  Due to circumstances, we went to the foster care center and picked her up, instead of them bringing her to us at the guest house.  She didn't cry when we left and was fine in the car, but seemed on high alert, looking around the entire ride, wondering where we were going.  The first hour at the guest house we played with her, but she kept shaking her head back and forth, as if by shaking her head enough, we would go away and she would be back home.  It breaks my heart to think about that now.  BUT, after about an hour, she began to smile and laugh and continued to warm up to us more and more.
  • The first three weeks she was with us, she slept 12 hours straight at night.  Over the last several weeks, she's begun waking up more and more at night, and now it's every night - at least once. I just keep telling myself it's a phase and she needs quality snuggle time.  But I'm not going to lie: getting up at night - sometimes multiple times a night - is rough.  Although, I think I may actually be adjusting to it!
  • We took placement one week before we came home.  We didn't really plan it that way, it just kind of worked out, but one thing I know is that I'm SO GLAD it worked out that way!  It took her a week of going places with us before she relaxed and wasn't on high alert the whole time.  I really can't imagine what it would have been like to try to bring her home after only a few days.
  • She did very well on the flights.  She fell asleep towards the end of our flight from Addis to Dubai and then slept most of the time in the Dubai airport.  She slept the first several hours of our flight from Dubai to Dallas and then woke up at her normal time.  She was awake for about an hour, but seemed to be teething, so I gave her some Advil for the first time.  Guess what?  Advil makes my child REALLY sleepy, so she slept another 5 hours!!  She was awake for about the last 3 hours of the flight, and by then we were ALL ready to be home.  But she hardly fussed at all on the flight and a few other passengers commented about how well she did.
  • Lottie continues to attach more and more to us and each week I see progress.  Because she's home with me all day, by the end of the week she usually prefers me over Rob, and he has to work a little harder for her affections.  But then by the end of the weekend, she's all about her Dada!
  • For a solid 2 weeks, we all had sinus infections.  It was miserable.  And nobody slept.  It was bad.  But thankfully, we're all healthy again and I hope to stay that way for a while. 
  • We've been to church only twice.  We took a month off to focus on getting to know each other and figuring out what it looked like to be a family before we introduced a lot of new people and situations into our lifestyle.  The first time we went to church we were in worship all of 15 minutes, and then just walked around and talked to people the rest of the time.  This week I went to the nursery with Lottie and she did great.  I even stepped out for about 5 minutes to use the restroom and the ladies said she whimpered when I left, but was fine.  One of the things that made me happy was that she did NOT like me showing too much attention to any of the other kids.  Her looks and actions indicated, "this is MY mama - NOT yours!"  So that's good.  She's "owning" me... in a good way :-)
  • Our little toddler is walking now!  When we took placement, she could pull herself up and stand on her own, but that was it.  Little by little, she would take a couple of steps and fall down.  Then a couple of weeks ago she started taking more and more steps at a time, and now she's walking about 90% of the time!
  • So many people have asked us questions regarding language.  We learned a handful of words in Amharic - words like, Good Job, Stop, Thank You, Come - and some others I can't remember off the top of my head.  Very quickly however (within a couple of weeks), she seemed to respond much better to English than Amharic, so we phased it out and hardly ever speak to her in Amharic any more (which actually is a bit sad to me.  I hate that she's missing that.)  She says Mama, Dada, Bye Bye, Hi and tried to say Chicken a couple of weeks ago!  Rob said today he thinks she tried to put together a little sentence.  I was taking a nap when she woke up from her nap and she was cuddling with Rob and looked up at him and said, "Mama Bye Bye."  He brought her in the bedroom and showed her that I was sleeping and said "Mama didn't go bye bye, she's just taking a nap."  That seemed to satisfy her.  Then after I woke up, we were talking to her about our trip to Nashville to see my side of the family on Friday and were trying to teach her to say "Lolli" and Poppy".  She said "La" and then "woof".  Apparently, she doesn't quite understand the distinction between "Poppy" and "puppy" :-).  We got a good laugh out of that one!
So overall, things are going well.  We're all healthy and happy and loving being a family.  And for all the time you've now spent reading our update, enjoy some pictures of our first couple of months as a family.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Lottie Mastewal's Room

In a crazy, God-ordained answer to prayer, we are leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow!  AND....  we will be home BEFORE Lottie Mastewal turns 1!!!  I am still reeling from the way He blesses and answers prayer.

You would think I might have TONS to do before we leave (TOMORROW!), and that I wouldn't have time for blogging - and you would be right!  But I wanted to get the blog post about her room done before we brought her home.  For the sake of time, this will be mostly pictures and not so much explanation.

The rocker/recliner was originally my great-grandmother's.  So glad we could have it re-upholstered and use it in Lottie's room!

All of the photos above the crib were taken on our first trip to Ethiopia.  We purchased the yellow fabric for the blanket at the ALERT Hospital in Addis.

This was Rob's childhood table that he painted for Lottie.  Chairs are from IKEA.

The dresser, as well as the coral side table were purchased from RetroChic Restorations.  LOVE them!  If you live in the DFW area, I would HIGHLY recommend them!

The lamps were originally brass, from my Grandmother's house.  My brother-in-law had them electroplated in alternating brushed and polished nickel.

We first found this ACRYLIC chandelier at Home Depot, but were able to score it for a MUCH better price on eBay!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


We received the email this morning from the Embassy that we've been waiting for! We are cleared to go back to Ethiopia to bring home Lottie Mastewal! We could not be more ecstatic. We are hoping to leave next Tuesday or Wednesday, but it may be tough to get tickets, so please pray for us. If we can get tickets, it's looking like we will either be home or headed home on Lottie Mastewal's birthday. What an amazing answer to prayer! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ethiopia Trip #1: Day 3

Our third day in Ethiopia was Sunday and our friend, Bonnie, had invited us to go to the International Evangelical Church with her.  The pastor introduced himself to us before the service started and it turned out he was from Azle, TX.  SMALL world!!  It was an AMAZING morning of worship.  The message, the music, the overall experience.  I think I cried through most of it.  We didn't have our camera with us on Sunday, either, but fortunately Bonnie had hers so we have at least one photo to document the day:

After church we went to lunch at Avanti, a VERY nice restaurant.  I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Addis.

After lunch we took Bonnie and the kids back to their guest house, and then had a lazy afternoon hanging out with the other families who were at BJoe.  We loved our stay at BJoe.  The best part was the hospitality of the staff.  By the end of the week they felt like family.  And of course, the rooms were very clean and nice. 

And the grounds - because of the weather, everything is green and lush. Just gorgeous!

Later that evening we walked to a restaurant a block or two from BJoe called, Cloud 9.  It was in a small-ish mall, so we walked around and looked in the stores for a while before we headed back to BJoe. 

On our way back to BJoe, we ran into the "tissue boys."  We had been warned about these boys.  They sell individual boxes of tissues that they carry around in a shoe box lid.  However, they're really looking to pick your pockets by pressing the lid into your waist as a distraction.  When they approached us, they initially asked for food.  Rob had some granola bars on him, so he gave them each one.  Then they started asking for money.  Rob told them NO, and they immediately focused on our friends.  The sad thing is that they weren't even any good at it.  The one kid looked directly at my friend's pocket, and then went toward her with the tissues.  They also knew what they were up to, so they just kept saying NO, trying to keep their distance and eventually they left us alone.  At the time I thought it was funny and slightly annoying, but I got to thinking about those boys the next day.  I asked our driver about them.  Did they have families, or were they street kids?  Street kids.  And I immediately became so sad.  They have no choice.  It's steal or die.  Living in America all of my life, I had no real concept of what extreme poverty looks like.  I will share more of our experiences in future posts, but that experience really helped me begin to see that there was so much more to poverty than I had ever even imagined.

We slept well that night, knowing we would be seeing Lottie Mastewal again the next day.

Ethiopia Trip #1: Day 2

After a really great night's sleep on Friday night, we awoke to nice showers and french toast for breakfast. 

Our good friend, Bonnie, was in Ethiopia with her kids, waiting until she could bring them home, so we went to visit her at her guest house.  We hung out with her for a little while, and then walked a few blocks to a restaurant for lunch.  Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera with us, so I have NO PICTURES of our time together :-( 

After lunch we walked a few more blocks to a roadside stand to do some souvenir shopping.  Bonnie's husband had posted a box of Obama pens on Facebook a couple of weeks earlier and we thought it would be fun to get some for our family.  This is the picture I'd seen on Facebook:

This looks like a store, right??  Bonnie told us she thought she remembered where they were sold, so we followed her.  We crossed the street (oh yes, we walked across an Addis street!!) to what looked like just a sidewalk with some corrugated metal on the side of it - sort of like you might see around here when there are buildings under construction.  Then I noticed that Bonnie was actually peering into openings in the metal.  When I looked closer, I realized that they were tiny little roadside stands.  And I mean tiny.  Like there was a shelf on one wall - maybe two, and barely enough room for a man to stand in there.  When Bonnie finally located the correct stand, it sold pens and gum.  That's all.  There were a few different kinds of pens to choose from, but of course we were looking for the Obama pens.  The man running the stand was SO nice.  For all of the pens we bought - between us and Bonnie, it was about a dozen - he took each one and tested it out to make sure it worked before he sold it to us.  Then, he grabbed a rubber band to put around the bundle, but asked Rob if he could do it, pointing out the fact that he only had one arm.  That little side trip was about the biggest adventure of our time in Addis, but we have such fond memories of it :-)

Later that afternoon we went back to BJoe and then out to dinner that night with the other family who was there for court. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Our file was submitted to the Embassy today!  It will probably take about a month, or so, for us to clear, but of course we're praying that it's sooner.  Regardless, I will very likely make sure I'm with Lottie on her birthday.  Please pray that the Lord would give us wisdom as we try to plan.

Yesterday we received some updated photos from our agency.  Enjoy!!

Monday, February 13, 2012


I have a confession:  For most of my life, I have not been so great at prayer.  I have struggled to have a daily time of prayer, and I have not interceded for others on a regular basis.  My prayers have usually been pretty vague, simply asking the Lord's will to be done in certain situations. 

But all of that began to change last year.  I'm not really sure how or when it started, but I remember one day reading The Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8, and feeling convicted that I needed to pray morning and night for an end to the hold on referrals and MOWCYA opinions.  It was also then that I began praying for specific families.  Every day. Morning and night.  For the first time in my life, I was praying pretty specifically, and on a daily basis. 

Over time, the Lord began to answer those prayers.  One by one, families began receiving their MOWCYA opinions and bringing their children home; and families started receiving referrals again.  And I felt SO BLESSED that the Lord allowed me to be a part of what He was doing! 

So I just continued to pray.  I began to pay even more attention to the families ahead of us in the process, and would pray for them daily by name.  Over the last several months, I have been blessed to see people I now consider friends receive referrals, travel for court, pass court, be submitted to the Embassy, have their file forwarded to USCIS, receive a Request for Evidence, and finally be able to bring their children home.  It has certainly been a rough ride for many of my friends, but I have felt so blessed to be able to intercede on their behalf.

Let me be clear on this:  I don't think prayer changes God's mind.  Often it changes me, instead.  But my experience in praying for so many friends over the last year has helped me trust even more in His timing and Sovereignty.  And more than anything, when the things I've been asking for actually happen, I know immediately that it was the Lord's work.  So often in the past, when good things would happen, I wouldn't even think to thank the Lord for them because He wasn't really even on my radar.  Through prayer, I have learned to thank Him even for the small things because I now see how He's at work all of the time.

That's why back in October I began asking every day that He would give us our referral.  I didn't ask that He would give it to us "soon," but that day.  For about a month I prayed each day that that would be the day we got our referral.  The day it occurred to me to ask that, I started not to ask.  For so long I believed that God didn't want to give me the things I asked for because He wanted to teach me some other lesson, instead.  And while sometimes that's true, I realized that day that it also kept me for asking for things I knew He delighted in giving me.  So that October day, I began asking for our referral each day.  And then on November 23, after asking every day for about a month, we got the call.  And immediately I knew it was a gift from Him.  It didn't just happen because it was bound to happen one day.  It was a gift from the God who delights in giving good gifts to His children in His perfect timing.

Very shortly after receiving our referral, it occurred to me that I should ask the Lord to show us His favor and allow us to bring Lottie home by her first birthday (April 6).  I knew it was a bit of a long shot, but I felt like He gave me permission to keep asking until He said "No."  Just five and a half weeks after receiving our referral (not the average 8 weeks), we received a call from our caseworker, telling us that our court date was 17 days away (not the average 30 days).  Although we didn't pass court on our first court date, we did pass about a month sooner than the average.  And so, here we are, 2 weeks after passing court, seven and a half weeks until Lottie's first birthday, and our file has not yet been submitted to the Embassy.  I have no idea if it's realistic to hope that we can bring Lottie home by her first birthday, but since I have not yet heard the Lord say "No", I will continue to ask. 

And so I present you with an opportunity to pray too.  In the past, I have been very hesitant to share prayer requests because I wanted to be self-sufficient.  But I've begun to realize how selfish it actually is for those who truly want to pray.  I have benefited so much by being able to pray for others that it only seems fitting that you have the opportunity to be involved in what the Lord is doing in our lives by praying for our situation.  So, if you'd like, please join us in asking the Lord to show us favor and allow us to bring Lottie Mastewal home by her first birthday.  He may say, "No," and if so, that will not shatter our faith.  But He may just say, "Yes."  Either way, He is moving in our adoption and working it out in His timing.  It is a blessing to us to know that people are praying with us and for us - and I think it will be a blessing to you too to pray as you watch His plans unfold.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ethiopia Trip #1: Day 1

By the time we made our way through the craziness of the airport, and to BJoe Guest House, it was about 10:30. 

We got to spend some time with a friend of ours who actually lives here in Fort Worth, but was in Addis FINALLY bringing her son home.  We chatted for a while and waited for Anbes, one of Gladney's in-country representatives.  He arrived about 11:30, asked us how our trip was and asked if we wanted to go to the foster care center.  I said, "To meet our daughter?!"  Anbes replied, "Sure!"  So we changed clothes, waited a few minutes for our driver to get there, and then we were on our way to meet Lottie Mastewal for the first time!

I was operating on NO sleep, so my memories of that day are pretty hazy, but the thing I remember so clearly about the drive out to the foster care center (it's about a 20-30 minute drive) was just that EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY in Addis were jumbled together.  You know how here in America we have nice parts of town, bad parts of town, and middle class parts of town?  In Addis you have the poorest of the poor walking down the same streets as the wealthy.  They are building McMansions right next to the town dump.  In the same street you are driving down in your car, there will be horses, or herds of goats.  There's new construction everywhere!  So much of it was sensory overload, and my sleep-deprived brain had a hard time taking it all in and processing it all.

We got to the foster care centers, which are houses in a neighborhood outside of town. 

We followed Anbes upstairs, and as we walked into the room, a caregiver was taking Lottie Mastewal out of her crib, and sat her on the floor.  Because we knew we weren't there to bond, we just sat there on the floor and played with her for a while before I even tried to pick her up.  She is such a happy little girl.  She loved playing with us - especially her Daddy!  I had a bottle of water with me, and had also taken the lens cap off the camera.  Lottie and the other little boy in her room were FASCINATED with those two things.  It was like we had brought them the most amazing toys they'd ever seen!  I wish I could show you pictures of the little boy with the water bottle because he was in HEAVEN! (But we can't since he doesn't have a family yet.) 

Over the course of our visits, we got to know the caregivers better each time. Most of them don't speak much English, but as we got braver with our Amharic, they got braver with their English.  Each of the children in the foster care houses have a primary caregiver that they call "special mothers."  We fell in love with Lottie Mastewal's special mother, K.  On this day, she asked if we would take pictures of her with Mastewal, and bring them to her when we return next time.  Here are the two of them together.  So sweet :-)

We stayed there about an hour, and then headed to lunch at a restaurant called Top View.  It had gorgeous outdoor seating and really amazing views of the city.  We had an awesome pasta lunch, but the thing I remember the most is that I could hardly keep my eyes open and I just wanted to lay my head down on the table and go to sleep.

We went back to BJoe and hung out with another family who had been to court that week and was headed home that night.  I hardly remember much of that because I was so tired.  I finally crashed at 4:00 that afternoon and slept through the night.