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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ethiopia Trip #1: Travel

We left DFW on Wednesday, January 11 and returned on Saturday, January 21.  We spent a total of 37 hours on 4 different planes over the span of about 3 and a half days.  Here's how it went...

We awoke EARLY Wednesday morning to catch an early flight to DC.  I actually overslept by about 45 minutes (how did I not hear my alarm go off??!!), but I had built some flexibility into my schedule, so it wasn't that much of a crisis.

The flight from DFW to DC was fairly uneventful.  There weren't many people on the flight, so there was plenty of room to spread out. 

When we arrived in DC it was rainy and cold, so we caught our hotel's shuttle and went straight there.  Due to the weather, we ended up just hanging out at the hotel all day.  That night we took a taxi to a restaurant to meet our friends who live in the DC area.  Rob paid the driver with our credit card and then we went in the restaurant for dinner.  About 10 minutes later, we saw the cab driver come into the restaurant looking around (presumably for us).  Rob eventually went over to meet him and the guy said our credit card was denied.  Rob was pretty furious with the credit card company because we had called to let them know we would be traveling to DC and then to Addis.  Rob paid the guy in cash and then proceeded to call the credit card company.  They informed him that they never even received an attempt from the cabbie to charge our card.  So, apparently, at least certain cab drivers in DC prefer cash and will lie to you about your card.  Beware!

The next morning we took the hotel shuttle to the airport and there was an Ethiopian woman in the shuttle with us.  I. could. not. stop. crying.  We got to the airport and checked in at the Ethiopian Airlines desk.  We were surrounded by Ethiopians.  Once again, I. could. not. stop. crying.  We found a Chipotle by our gate where we ate breakfast.  There was a family who looked like they were returning from Ethiopia with 3 kids.  The toddler SCREAMED for Mommy the entire time she was in the bathroom.  And I lost it.  I sat there and sobbed at the breakfast table.  I just couldn't get over the fact that we were FINALLY doing what we had waited SO LONG to do!  I think I had really suppressed a lot of emotion during the process and once we were on our way, it all just spilled out. 

Not long after breakfast, we were at the gate and boarding the plane!

There was an empty seat between us on this flight too, so we had plenty of room.  This made us VERY happy :-)

The 14 hour flight to Addis was good!  They served us super cute snacks:

I couldn't sleep at all, but Rob was able to get some sleep:

We got to eat dinner, which I thought was really good (Rob says it was edible):

We were really impressed by the flight attendants.  First of all, I think they're the classiest ladies in the sky.  And second of all, they are SUPER efficient with the dinner service.  There are 4 of them for each section, and they get it done QUICKLY.  (I had to hurry to take the picture because they were moving so fast.  Seriously.)

At some point we ate breakfast.  Again very good (or edible - depending on who you ask):

The rest of the time, I watched tv shows and movies of my choice on my own personal screen:

Another thing that was pretty cool was that we could check on the progress of our flight at any time:

There were also games you could play.  At least some of them were set up so you could compete with other passengers on the plane.  We didn't do any of that, but the other family who went to court with us did and had tons of fun with it :-)

After 14 hours we landed in Addis!  We were literally the last people off the plane.  One of the things I thought was fun because I rarely experience this in the US is that we actually walked down stairs, out onto the tarmac and got on a bus that took us to the terminal.  The bus was ridiculously slow and I'm pretty sure we could have walked to the terminal quicker :-)

Because we were the last people off the plane, we were also the last people in the visa line.

We waited in that line for an hour.  And the thing was that the line really wasn't THAT long, it just moved REALLY slowly.  I figured out by the time it was our turn why:  There are 2 people who issue your visa.  One person actually takes your passport and completes the visa; the other person takes your money and records your information on a log - by hand - using 2 pieces of carbon paper to keep a receipt.  For each person who goes through the line, the receipt guy has to take the 2 pieces of carbon paper out of the book, and then place each piece exactly where it needs to go for the next person.  And everything is done by hand - there are no computers here (as there are throughout the rest of the airport).  So, lesson learned:  you don't want to be the last people off the plane because you'll be at the back of the visa line.  Be warned!

Once we got through the visa line, we went and got our bags off the carousel.  The next sequence of events is a blur to me.  A porter grabbed our bags (even though I thought the plan was to say NO to the porters), and then we were running to follow the porter, a man who I guess was an airport employee asked to see our checked bag tickets because I guess they try to make sure you're not stealing luggage, and then somehow we were able to get through without our bags being x-rayed (I don't know how - I don't understand Amharic and it all happened in about 5 seconds), and then we were walking down the hall toward a mass of waving, smiling, Ethiopians.  We had no idea which one of them was our driver, so we just kept walking until we saw a man in the back with a sign that said GLADNEY.  We waved to him and met him on the other side of the crowd.  He shook our hands and handed Rob the phone and said it was Anbes (Gladney in-country director in charge of various things, including visiting families), Anbes said he would meet us at the guest house, and then we were out the door, heading to the van.  The WHOLE time, our porter was talking to Rob.  I never heard what he said, but I COULD hear what Rob was saying, "I'll pay you when we get to the car."  "No, I only have birr (Ethiopian currency)."  "When we get to the car, I'll pay you."  Over and over again.  I was trying not to laugh :-)

We quickly loaded our bags in the van and jumped in.  AS SOON as the van door was shut, a woman threw herself up against the glass.  This is forever etched in my memory.  Her arms were up against the window.  One arm ended at the elbow, and the other did too, but it had some fingers growing out of it.  And she wanted food - or money - I don't know which.  I was just shocked.  I KNEW to expect beggars, but I did NOT expect them at the airport.  It was a really rough beginning to what turned out to be a wonderful and incredibly difficult trip.

I will tell you about our time in Addis in future posts, but I wanted to get the travel out of the way in one post.

Overall, the trip home was not nearly as awesome as the trip to Addis.  The flight from Addis to DC was longer (17 hours).  1 hour of that was sitting on the runway in Rome while we re-fueled and switched out the crew.  This flight was much more crowded than the flight out there, so there was someone sitting between Rob and me.  The food was TERRIBLE - like inedible.  In 17 hours I ate 2 rolls, a pack of crackers and a container of fruit cocktail.  Next time I will DEFINITELY be taking snacks for the plane.  Also, I COULD NOT get enough water, so between not eating well, not drinking enough and not getting enough sleep, I felt sick and miserable.  About hour 14 or 15, I looked at Rob with tears in my eyes and said, "I don't know if I can do this with a baby."  It was bad.  As we got off the plane, all I could think was, "I canNOT get on another plane today." 

Fortunately, our friends picked us up from the airport in DC, took us their place to shower and change, and then out to lunch.  By the time we actually had to get on the flight to DFW, I was feeling better and slept the entire 3 hours back home.

It took us almost a week to get over the jet lag when we got home.  We didn't really experience much jet lag in Addis at all, but the week after we got home was painful.  I'm glad next time I won't have to rush back to work and will (hopefully) have some family here to help with Lottie. 

If you've stuck with this loooong post, then good for you, here's some cuteness as a reward for your endurance: