Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name...

***I've been "trying" to blog about our daily adventures while in Ethiopia adopting our daughter. We not only saw the sights, but there were several emotional moments on our trip. I thought I would share an emotional moment with you today.***

When we started this adoption journey nearly 3 years ago, we had no idea the emotional effect it would have on us. Everyone warns you that its quite the roller coaster, but I naively thought, I'm tough enough to handle anything for the sake of a child.

Hmmm, I guess God had a lot to teach me...and He was more than happy to.

See, adoption is not for the faint of heart. It is a special calling that God gives you just as He calls some to ministry, missions, elder care, youth ministry, an office job, health care. The list could go on and on. There are so many jobs, gifts, ministries that I just know I could not do, and I wouldn't even want to try. But some people are just called and can do it without blinking an eye.

Adoption is our calling.

When we started in August 2010, we had envisioned ourselves bringing home a bouncing baby girl. I had pictured it in my mind over and over, just like the Baby Story episodes on tv where they bring home their new child and everyone is waiting at the airport and everyone just weeps (including me, on my couch, with my bowl of ice cream, blubbering like an idiot).

As with the excitement of anyone expecting a baby, we listed off all the baby names we could think of possibly naming our child.

Aria, London, Malia, Sunday...

Ok, I was naming off baby names and Nick was looking at me in horror like "Are you kidding me right now?" I couldn't understand why he did not, still does not, like these perfectly beautiful names. I'm still in love with Aria and London, but that is something I will bring up with the next adoption...

Again, Nick is looking at me in horror saying, "Are you kidding me right now?"

So after all was said and done, we had settled on the name Aselah. It is the name of a city in Ethiopia that Nick had found on a map, and because it was different (I like different, if you couldn't tell) and he had some input, I enthusiastically agreed (ok, maybe not enthusiastically, I was still really holding on to London).

After my mom's passing, I knew I wanted to use her middle name, Sue, as a tribute to her life. My mom was everything to me and I wanted my legacy to be a reflection of hers.

So we anxiously began waiting for Aselah Sue Kellerstrass.

And waiting.

And waiting.

And then we found HER! A beautiful 7 year old girl with a smile that lights up her face. One of the most beautiful children I've ever seen, waving at the camera with the greatest delight of having her picture taken.

And I thought, "That is my child. I have to have her in my life. She is my daughter."

I knew instantly that she was meant to be in my family. We had waiting for over a year on the referral list for a 0-2 year old girl, moved our age from 0-4 then 0-6 and had been watching the Waiting Child list for several months with no luck.

And one day, there she was...a waiting child. Waiting for us.

A waiting child is typically an older child, which is not in an age range that people are looking to adopt from or may have a physical illness that requires special attention. "This little girl, Tarikua, is perfectly healthy, a little bit shy at first, but can hold her own ground when playing games" is what the agency told us.

I told Nick that I really thought she was ours. He, of course, was busy at work and wasn't really able to make such a life altering decision at the moment, but I was insistent. I'm pretty good at getting what I want. But Nick was going to take this slowly because, let's face it, it is a HUGE decision that will affect the course of our lives forever. One bad decision could potentially lead to a constant battle within the family unit for years. We've seen families struggle with adopting older children and to not take this decision seriously could have tragic results.

But within a few hours, Nick had studied her photo, spoken to the adoption agency, and most importantly, PRAYED over and over about this little girl, Tarikua. And suddenly, he knew too. This little girl was meant to be a Kellerstrass.

And we accepted the referral!

We got a whole file worth of paperwork on little Tarikua to poor over and make sure everything was 100% ok with us. Her health records, her social evaluation, her birth story. Anything that could help us make an informed decision about whether or not this child would be a good fit in our family.

One thing I noticed was all the different spellings and pronunciations we seemed to get from the same agency about the same girl. We were initially told her name was Tarequa (Ta-ree-qua). But we also got paperwork that said Tarike (Ta-ree-kay). So we weren't exactly sure what her name technically was.

So we went to the expert. Our friends' 13 year old son who is from Ethiopia, grew up there until he was 12, and speaks fluent Amharic.

Bereket said her name was Tarikua (Tear-uh-kwa), which means "My History". I thought, "What a cool meaning for this child's name. She, at the young age of 7, has experienced more love and more in life than I have in all of my 32 years. Her history is her story and is uniquely hers, and it's something that I want to live on in her for the rest of her life."

So there we had it. Tarikua Sue Kellerstrass. A beautiful name for a beautiful girl with a beautiful spirit.


People seem to have a hard time pronouncing her name, and we've had people ask if we are going to keep her name the way it is. We've struggled over that one. I mean, when you have to repeat the name 3 or 4 times to someone before they say it correctly, it gets embarrassing, and you feel like you have to defend it. We thought about changing it, but then we remembered...this is who she is. She has been Tarikua for 7 years. There is a pride in a person's name and this is the only thing that has remained constant in her life for those 7 years. To take away her home, everything she has known AND change her name just seemed like too much.

Yes, we are keeping her name.

Tarikua Sue was Tarikua Sue until the Tuesday afternoon that we sat in the IAN office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We were getting our run down of how court works, what they will ask us and what to expect. We had been told by other adopting families to ask the staff to see her personal file.

They brought the file over and as we were perusing it, in this office in Ethiopia where the sounds of the city are coming in the office. Where we had been immersed in the culture, the people, the life, the sounds, the tastes, the REALITY of it all, suddenly I could see Tarikua's story through her mother's eyes.

We are not allowed to share her story publicly, out of respect to her privacy, but I will say her mother passed away when Tarikua was a small child.

Suddenly I was thrown into my mom's hospital room during the last moment's of her life. I remembered my mother's concerns as she lay on her death bed, that we would all forget her and that life would just go on as if she never existed. That we would forget everything that she meant to us and how our entire lives were a product of her influence.

And then I saw Tarikua's mother, who too was on her death bed. As a mother myself, I could imagine the worries and fears going through her mind as she knew her last seconds in this life were coming to an end. How, as a mother, could you leave peacefully knowing that your young child would be left alone in this cold, cruel world with no one to look after her. There is nothing you can do to stop death from happening, but I can imagine doing everything you possibly could to claw your way out of going towards "the white light".

I was in tears in the adoption office. Never had her mom's story became so clear to me, never had her story been so personal, so heartbreakingly real to me. I had to hold back the sobs that were starting to overtake me.

My heart just breaks for Melkame.

That is her mother's name. A beautiful Ethiopian name, which means "Happy". A woman whose tragic ending makes for a beautiful beginning for us. Adoption is born from tragedy, but is an example of God's redeeming love and grace. I will never take Melkame's place, nor do I have any desire to. I simply want to be a continuation of her legacy, to raise Tarikua in a way that would make her proud and give her the peace that her daughter is going to be loved and treasured.

In that office, in that moment, I knew that my mother's legacy is in me. That I am a daughter that leaves behind her story and helps keep her memory alive. I may not have her name, but I have her hopes, her dreams, her loves, her hates. I am my mother's memory.

And Tarikua is Melkame's. I cannot, do not, want to take away Melkame's legacy. I want Tarikua to carry her story and to have pride in her mother's life and to know her mother loved her far beyond what she could imagine.

I decided my mother's legacy lives on through her 5 children. I know my legacy lives on through my children, and I want Melkame's legacy to live on through her child. And because of that I'd like to introduce our fourth child...

Tarikua Melkame Kellerstrass meaning "My Happy History" and a Happy History she has.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Hi, Mom" Is The Most Beautiful Sentence

Day #2 started off really well, just like yesterday. We started our day at 9:00 a.m. (In Ethiopia, that means 9:45, everything is very laid back). The Addis View Hotel driver took us to the IAN offices to have a debriefing for court. Court will be on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. We were able to look through her file and discover a little more information on her. (***For the protection of her privacy, we are not allowed to share this information on a public media site, but would love to share all about our little girl with you in person!)

The meeting lasted about 30 minutes and then we were able to go back to the care center and see Tarikua! When we pulled up and I jumped out of the van, I heard a little voice yell "Hi, mom!" I looked up and Tarikua was hanging out the window waving at me! It was the most precious thing and my heart just melted.

She had me at hello.

We went into the care center and were greeted by all the little kids, who were enthralled by the zippers on my purse. Tarikua came downstairs and gave us big hugs and kisses, a much different response than yesterday. She took us by the hand and led us upstairs to her room. She showed us her bed and told us all her friends names.

At first, there was a language barrier and we kind of looked at each other like....uhhhhh...what do we do?

But then we got out the iPhones, and nobody can resist The Apple. We showed Tarikua the photos on Nick's phone and this turned into about an hour of showing her her family in photos and videos. She was starting to put two and two together, like who her brothers and sister are. We sat there on her bed surrounded by all the other girls laughing at silly pictures of Wrigley, watching videos of Owen roller skating, and learning the relationships between the kids.

Soon it was time for everyone to eat lunch. Nick and I sat on the floor while the kids ate. Injera and lamb were for lunch today. There were 4 nannies downstairs taking care of the kids. All the kids are so cute and so well behaved! They all sit in their chairs nicely and quietly. There is no arguing or grabbing or whining or asking for more. They patiently wait for their food to come. And afterwards they all clear their plates.

When Tarikua was done eating, she came and sat on Nick's lap. A minute later, a little boy, probably 2 years old, came over crying because he had gotten in trouble and wanted Nick to console him. It was very cute. They we asked Tarikua if she wanted to play again and she took our hands and led us upstairs. This time we played clapping games and sang some songs. Tarikua seems comfortable and happy with us now.

Then it was time to leave for the day. She gave us kisses and hugs, and I even got a kiss on the lips! I love this girl so incredibly much. Nick and I are completely smitten and can hardly wait for the minute we get to see her again! We are so blessed she is our daughter. Thank you Lord for allowing us to be her mommy and daddy!

After we got back to the Addis View, Joel was there to pick us up. He decided to take us to Entoto Mountain today. The ride up was crazy. It was up the mountain side with no guard rails and there were people everywhere going every which way. Entoto Mountain is the site of the first Ethiopian Orthodox church. It is also the site of the first Emperor's (Emperor Milinik) castle. Joel took us through the Emperor's museum, which was filled with royal clothing and artifacts from the Emperor's reign in the 1890's. It was very cool.

The we saw the first Orthodox church of Ethiopia, which was just a small round hut. Down the lane was a castle that consisted of three small buildings: the living quarters, the bedrooms, and the guest rooms. It was not what you or I would expect a castle to be.

Entoto mountain is said to have Holy Water on it that can heal the sick and elderly. Many people come to Entoto Mountain to drink the water so they will be healed. Some elderly people will come to live and pray on the mountain until they die. We saw both types of people living in small tents built on the side of the mountain waiting for healing.

After Entoto, we headed back down the mountain to a restaurant, Lucy, named after the oldest known discovered human bone. The food was really good and we got to spend time with Joel learning more about him. (Joel became a close personal friend during our trip, almost like a brother to us!).

Then we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest while it rained and stormed outside.

After our little rest, we headed down to the Addis Cafe for a machiatto (best ever!) and some dinner. We ordered a cheeseburger each and some french fries. When they brought the food out, we were shocked to find HUGE burgers (enough to feed two) and french fries PLUS the ones we ordered because we didn't know they came with the burgers. Needless to say, we didn't even eat 1/4 of the food and our total bill? $11.11!

We ended our night on a little walk up and down the street a couple times and to a market where we bought some berberi. It was a very fun, educational and relaxing day!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Blog I Was Supposed To Do While Away...

So I promised a blog update every night from the heart of Ethiopia...

It didn't happen.

But not because I didn't want it to. The Wi-Fi in Addis Ababa was scarce, to say the least, if non-existent. We were told our hotel had it, but it never worked. And we were guaranteed that it would work at the Hilton, but again it managed to escape our digital devices.

I think it was God's way of saying, "PUT DOWN THE PHONES! Immerse yourself in your daughter's culture! Enjoy the beauty of the people, the city, and the history!" And if there is one thing I have learned from this entire adoption journey is the God is ALWAYS RIGHT! And I am grateful for the lack of distraction.

We had the most AMAZING trip. Nick and I's lives were changed by Ethiopia. We not only welcomed a new child into our family, but also became a part of Ethiopia. Ethiopia will forever be who we are now, and we fell in love with our new culture.

Luckily, I was smart enough to blog the old fashioned way...in a journal. I wasn't able to update you all each night of our trip, but now I will share my journal with you, each night at a time to help you all experience what we experienced. Enjoy!

May 5, 2013
"We've arrived! After 16 hours of flights and two countries later, we have found ourselves at the Addis View Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! The journey here was remarkably smooth and could not have gone any better. We took off from O'Hare Airport and flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul, Turkey. The flight was long (12 hours!) but it went alot faster than I thought it would. Once in Istanbul, we had a one hour layover until our next flight. It's interesting to see that every airport has everything in their language plus English, which really helps us American travelers who only speak English.

We found our gate for our second flight and could instantly spot the Ethiopian people heading home. They are all so beautiful. It's hard for me not to stare. The women are all so distinctly beautiful and flawless in their skin tone and features. They have the best hair ever! And it's completely opposite of my stick straight, fine hair. So many of the women resembled Tarikua, it was incredible, and it made me even more excited to meet her. The most noticeable thing was how friendly they were to everyone. They smiled at every passenger boarding the plane with us.

We boarded our second flight and made way for the 4.5 hour flight to the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. When we arrived in Addis, it was much what I expected from an airport in Africa: simple, starch, and small. We first had to go through customs, where the lady asked me if was REALLY me in the passport photo. I've lost 15 lbs since the beginning of the year and I guess the customs agent could not tell it was still me from the photo. Luckily, she let us go through without any other problem, but I never thought of weight loss as an issue until that moment.

After customs and exchanging our money ($1 = 18 Birr, making $1000 = 18,000 Birr or in other words, a large stack of cash), we got our luggage and headed out to the city of 4 million people. I'm not going to lie, it's daunting to be the only white people who speak your language walking into a crowd of Africans who speak in a tongue you don't know. It's easy to feel threatened and out of control. Truthfully, I sort of wanted to turn around and head back to the airport and catch a flight back home.

But we didn't, we pressed ahead one step at a time. Our driver met us and took us to his van. The first thing that hit me was the strong stench of exhaust. Already tired and overwhelmed, the smell nearly knocked me over. After we loaded the van, we instantly saw the driving situation here. It's each man for himself. There are cars everywhere (and it's 2 am, mind you) and people walking each and every way. There appears to be no rules of the road, but somehow it seems to work. We drove through the city at 2 a.m. on Easter morning and there were people EVERYWHERE, dressed in traditional white garb. Easter celebrations begin at midnight after a 2 month fast of no meat. So the celebration was just beginning!

We passed by the largest Orthodox church, which was the most ornate, beautiful complex I've ever seen. It was surrounded by people sleeping around it, waiting and watching the beginning of Easter. We arrived at the hotel and with great relief found a beautiful, huge room waiting for us. I fell right to sleep and slept like a baby for hours.

At about 9:00 we got a surprise phone call from Yared (a staff member of our adoption agency)...we are going to meet Tarikua today!!! More to come...

(Later that day)
Yared was coming at noon so we got dressed in Easter clothes and went downstairs to check out the area. It's intimidating walking around and everyone staring at you. The houses are all crumbling stone and drywall with corrugated metal roofs. Everywhere we drove there were people, animals: goats, donkeys, dogs, etc. walking in the street. Yared arrived and took us to see Tarikua!

We got to the Care Center, which is in a new building, in a newly developed part of the city. There are large gates surrounding the center. The nanny let us in and we were immediately led into the courtyard, which led to the dining room. The kids were all starting to gather for an Easter celebration lunch. They had the coffee ceremony all set up and lamb cut up for the Easter dinner. As we walked in, the kids started gathering around us to shake our hands and say "Selam". They were very polite and sweet.

I noticed instantly that Tarikua was not in the room. I looked over to the stairs and before I could see her face, I saw her hair. She came downstairs with a pep in her step and a smile on her face, but as soon as everyone turned to her and said "Tarikua!" and Nick walked over to her, she froze.

I think it hit her then that these strange people were here for her. She was pretty timid towards us, but she gave Nick a hug and then me a hug. I kissed her cheek and told her we were her "annot" (mother) and "addot" (father)."
She smiled at me. She told me she was 7 and I told her, her outfit was beautiful and her hair and bracelets were pretty. She took pictures with us and let us cuddle her. We told her our names and she said "Nick" when I pointed to him.

It was time for them to eat, so she sat down with the other children. Yared took us on a tour of the care center. Second floor was the play room and boys room. The boys had made paper ring chains and hung balloons in their room for Easter. On the third floor was the girls' room (also decorated) and the infant room. We visited with the infants for a while and they were adorable!

Yared led us back downstairs to say goodbye to Tarikua. We gave her hugs again and she kind of ignored us :)

We then had the special treat to celebrate a traditional Ethiopian Easter dinner and coffee ceremony at the Yared's home! Yared has a beautiful home and was so gracious to invite us to experience the culture first hand. His two sons were dressed in little green suits, and they were so adorable and very sweet. They gave us handshakes and hugs to welcome us in their home.

We sat down for a dinner of injera (a spongy bread used to pick up food rather than a fork), Doro Watt (my favorite! chicken cooked in a spicy sauce with Berberi spice), and Tibbs (lamb). The night before that very lamb was grazing in Yared's grassy area before they slaughtered it themselves.

We were not in "Kansas" anymore!

After dinner, we were treated to a coffee ceremony. If you didn't know, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and coffee is Ethiopia's biggest export. Of all the coffee I drink, Ethiopia by far is my favorite bean. A coffee ceremony consists of roasting the beans over a small fire in the home and then everyone smells the roasted beans and then they make coffee with it. It's all very ceremonial and beautiful and it was one of my favorite parts of the dinner. And it tasted AMAZING!

By this time is was 3 or 4:00 in the afternoon and I felt like we had had a pretty full, culturally eye opening day, but it wasn't going to end there. There were two other men from IAN who we had shared the day with, George and Monty. They had the great idea to go to The Stadium and watch the Ethiopia vs. Egypt soccer game, which is a big match up in Ethiopia. Nick, of course, heard soccer and was sold.

Our plan was to head to The Stadium and purchase tickets when we got there. The Stadium was sold out and there were people everywhere on the street. As soon as people could see we were trying to buy tickets, they started to surround us. I was getting a little nervous because we were shoulder to shoulder with all these men who were taller than me trying to get us to buy their tickets. The cops were getting angry at the gathering crowd and started swinging their billy clubs at the people. The mob kept getting larger as more people were interested in the "forenjis" (foreigners).

We had no luck getting tickets, which I was pretty relieved about, and decided to watch the game at a hotel. On our way out we saw a group of people who had climbed the stadium lights and were watching the game from about 4 stories up on the lights.

It was a pretty incredible day and a head first jump into Ethiopia. The highlight for sure being our sweet baby girl and I can't wait to see her tomorrow!!!"

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"Travel to Ethiopia Eve"

I can hardly believe it's here! I'd be lying if I said there was never a thought that this day might not ever arrive. If you followed our emotional journey, you know my faith has been tested on every level. As I look back on the past 2.5 years, where of course hindsight is 20/20, I can see where God had the most perfect plan that I myself could have never imagined. There were times when I couldn't see Him anywhere but then realized He had walked ahead of us to prepare the way. Times where I felt like we were walking in the dark without an ounce of light, only to find that He was behind pushing me when I was utterly afraid to move. When I felt like each obstacle and trial He put us through was entirely too much, He stood by me, held me and said "No, my child, it's just what you need to prepare you for the ultimate adventure I have for you." A mommy to 4 amazing children! So here we are, two and a half years into our adoption journey, at the eve of our trip to Ethiopia. Tomorrow night we will fly 12 hours to Istanbul, Turkey and another 6 hours to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where our beautiful, little girl is waiting. The moment we saw her smile light up her face, we fell in love. We've been blessed to receive pictures, photos, and personality updates from all the other families in our agency. And they all say the same thing: she's gorgeous, so sweet, loves to cuddle, has amazing hair, and has a killer smile. We cannot wait to meet her!!! We will arrive on Sunday morning and get to meet Miss T the next day. We will get 2 hours a day to visit and get to know her. Our adoption court date is Wednesday and until that time we cannot tell her that we are her mommy and daddy. The hope, obviously, is to pass court that day and when you wake up Wednesday morning we will have already posted a picture of our newest family member. I cannot wait to introduce her to you!!! I hope to update everyday on our blog, to tell you and show you all the adventures we have planned. This is a chapter in our lives we will never forget, and praise the Lord, He will continue to walk with us every step of the way!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Surprise Under the Christmas Tree

Two weeks ago, I sat down and wrote this post, "I started this blog to share my love for Christ and the joy of His call in our lives. Little did I know the spiritual journey I was embarking on. Many dark, empty days were looming in the mere moments following the first letter I typed. The first few entries I wrote were full of excitement and praise, and my feelings dripped with overwhelming love for my Savior. But as the months went by and the trials became more painful and difficult to wade through, my words became fewer and my entries further and further apart, and the praise was harder to find on my lips. I'm a work in progress...never perfect, never close. Numerous words of anger, bitter tears, and screaming my rage at God, turned to defiance, rebellion, and utter silence to the God I once completely claimed as my victory. It's almost December 1st. Two year and a half years after our adoption journey began and still we wait. Our hope for our baby girl, Aselah, ended in May. Our expectation for 5 year old Kalekidan, was ripped away in August. We are the top of the waiting list. The most accessible age group. Special Needs accepted. Silence. God, where is this child You promised? The one we said we would make our own according to Your word in James? I am at a fork in the road. Our paperwork is expiring and all needs to be updated. Our finances are dwindling. My patience is growing thin. Do we continue on the path we felt laid out by God, but where we see doors constantly closing? Or stop and wait on Him?" That was 2 weeks ago. I never posted it. Nick and I were struggling with what direction we would go and we prayed hard that God would show up and show us the way. The following Sunday, Pastor Tim was speaking over the Sovereignty of God. How He is in control over the good and the bad. It was such a powerful message and helped me realize that it's not necessarily going to be easy but it needs to be all for His glory. We felt convicted to continue to move forward. It was more of chasing the paper trail, making trips to Chicago and Springfield for re-fingerprinting and certifying paperwork. Its time consuming, unexciting work, but has to be done to keep your file up to date. I called our adoption agency on Thursday afternoon to update her on our document status and heard the same phrase, "We don't have any children yet." I wasn't surprised. I would have been surprised to hear different. I told her that was fine, and we would continue to wait. Friday morning I went online to look at the waiting children for our agency. I look quite often and have never found a situation that fits our own. But this morning was different... The first child listed was a 6 year old girl. Just being curious, I clicked on her picture. This smiling little girl waving at the camera captured my heart in an instant. She was beautiful and you could just feel the joy in her smile. I immediately texted Nick and told him to look at her profile. We called the agency to get more information about this little girl called TA. We discovered that she is a 6 year old girl who was orphaned at the age of 1, due to the death of her mother. She fit every requirement we had for our adoption. I was in love. Nick was in love. This precious girl was our daughter. On Friday afternoon, Nick and I accepted the referral of our fourth child. We are so excited to announce the addition of Kellerstrass baby #4, Tarekua...more details to come!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Carried for A Thousand Miles...

"No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:4-6 Three years to the date, Nick and I announced to our family and friends our desire to answer the call to adopt a beautiful baby girl from Ethiopia. We were excited and ready to face the challenges and roller coaster that we heard adoption could bring knowing that at the end, we would have another child to call our own. Two months later we got the call that changed our view of life forever...my mom was sick with leukemia. For the next 3 months our nights and weekends were spent in the hospital watching my Beautiful mother wither from a strong, intelligent woman to skin and bones who couldn't even use her hands to feed herself. I would never in a million years wish for anyone to see the sights I saw in that cancer ward. I will forever be scarred by the memories of those last months. Sometimes it's a like a nightmare playing over and over in my mind. The last day. The last hours. The last moments. The last breath. No one should ever have to experience the pain of losing a loved one. It's an ocean of pain that drags you under and holds you there until you cannot breathe. You get a wave of relief where you can finally suck in enough air just to be dragged right back down again. And so it goes, over and over and over, until finally you're too weak to cry anymore. Shortly after my moms passing, Ethiopia started making changes to their adoption policies. In an attempt to protect the children from child trafficking and unethical adoptions they were processing fewer adoptions. Rumors began that the country was moving towards closing down adoptions all together. That in itself was a constant up and down of emotions. The wait time kept getting longer and longer... Emotionally drained. Physically exhausted and spiritually lost. My faith faltered and my hope faded. Doubt moved in. God had failed. He didn't show up. And He didn't care. If no one was truly looking out for my best interests then I would look out for myself. Life on your own is hopeless. There is no peace. No joy. No reason to live. In May, we decided to leave our adoption agency for another one that was smaller with shorter wait times. We were able to find a waiting child and there was a 4-6 month timeline to bring her home. Our goal was to get her home by Christmas this year, and we were so excited! Our sweet little girl's name is Kalekidan and she was completely abandoned and living in a government orphanage with little supervision. We instantly fell in love and dreamed about life with our little Kalli Sue. My summer consisted of updating all the previously completed paperwork that had expired. At the same time, God began doing a work in my life and restoration of my faith was returning. Over and over, I was hearing how God is good. And only good. His will may not be our will but it's not to hurt us, it's to protect us. I was realizing that through it all, God was walking with us. In the days and months when I felt God wasn't there and couldn't possibly care, I realized He was carrying me. When I cried out into darkness without a sense of response, he was whispering promises in my ears. He never left me, He held me in my pain. He carried me when I couldn't possibly move forward on my own. He never left my side. Today we got the devastating call...Kalekidan's paperwork could not be completed and the police could no longer move forward in their investigation. Kalekidan would not ever be adoptable by us or any other family for that matter. An abandoned child with no hope of ever having a family. I waited for the pity party to begin and so far my heart is filled with peace. My God is good and only good. I believe He has Kalekidans best interests in mind and that He loves her. I believe He will be her family and her home. I believe He will provide for our family when it is His time. we don't know what our next plan of attack will be. Honestly, we are uncertain which direction we will take, but we know God's will and desire is for us to abide in Him and take comfort in Him. That He is in control of our lives, and we are in no better place than His arms. And in this we will find refuge. "After all You are constant. After all You are only good. After all You are sovereign. Not for a moment did you forsake me. Not for a moment will You forsake me"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Epic Fail

One of the greatest blessings this world can offer is the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. It's a lesson I've been relearning each year of my life and during each trial. This past year, my relationship with Christ and my belief in His character has also caused the greatest strife in my life.

Because when you accept Jesus, you also accept the spiritual battle that is being waged for your soul.

Satan is the Master Deceptor, and he wants nothing more than to take the joy and redemption from your walk with Christ. Satan wants to destroy this gift you've been given and turn you back to a child of darkness.

And he's been playing hard with me.

For a year now, he's been whispering the most evil lies into my ear, and in my doubt and sadness, I've believed him. It's an ugly truth and one that has kept me from sharing my thoughts, feelings, and journey with all of you. But by Grace, I'm seeing my failure.

I'm realizing some of the misconceptions I have about God based on my own human perceptions and "satanic convictions". My mom's two year battle with breast cancer, leukemia, and all the complications and near death experiences caused by this disasterous disease drew me closer to God like never before. The nurses and doctors were calling her their "Miracle Girl", but we all knew who performed the miracle. Her life and story was a testimony to so many people, it was hard not to stand up on a table and shout...


But the night that she died, it was a shock and huge slap in the face.

I remember being with her during her last few hours and my entire family crying out to God with eager anticipation for His next miracle. We knew He was using her story for His glory, and I was confident that He was going to step in and wow us all.

When my mom took her last breath, I was confused. I may have even looked around with questions on my face, I don't remember, but I clearly remember thinking, "He missed it. He came too late. He failed."

As so I've been wrestling with this mentality and doubt all year.

I'm a control freak and I've always struggled with trusting people with responsibility, relationships, and my feelings because I fear they will fail me. But I've always been taught that God will never fail us. The agony in losing that hope overtook me and I put up a wall between God and I.

If no one can be trusted to put my good first then I will trust the only one who is looking out for me and my desires...myself.

My other misconception of God has truly been a lifelong battle to overcome. I can honestly say, I'm still there yet. To me God is distant. He sits on a throne up in the sky moving people around like chess pieces. The little things in life are not a concern for Him...

BUT if we sin He is right there to knock our pieces over.

To me God is about discipline. I put Him in a box that only I can understand. I don't "get" unconditional love. I'm a "do-er", a hardworker. Everything I own, I work for. I take pride in my clean home, my well fed family, my servant heart. I worry that if my kids are acting out or a hair is out of place, then no one would want to associate with my out of control famiy, or that I am failing my husband.

I am Martha, and I earn your love and approval by my actions and talents.

At the same time, I'm completely insecure and need a lot of reassurance of one's love, so I work even harder to earn it. I know if I fail, then I've disappointed someone and somehow that truth is unbearable for me to live with.

But with God, relationships don't work this way. I can't earn my way to Him, I can't earn His approval.

I already have it.

He already loves me.


I just can't wrap my head around it. I've "done" nothing to deserve it, and if anything, I deserve the wrath and punishment I feel should be coming. I know I've disappointed Him with my life. So I see the bad things in my life as my punishment.

So here I am today at a fork in the road. Where will I choose to head this day forward?

Our pastor, Tim Harkness, has been in an amazing series and he spoke right to my heart the past few weeks. His message, along with some convicting worship, opened my eyes to some of these false convictions I've been allowing to capture my thoughts.

Will I allow my personal grief and misconceptions of Christ to make my heart cold or will I trust that He knows if a sparrow falls to the ground, and the number of hairs on my head, or more importantly that my mom's life coming to an end was a part of His greater plan and not a mistake.

Will I believe that He never fails and sees all. Will I learn to understand, as Pastor Tim said, "What I DO is not 'to be loved'. I AM LOVED!"

I still have a lot to learn and process, but I believe God will help me find my way back to trusting Him.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6,7