A sparrow when I'm broken, and eagle when I fly.....

Welcome to my world. I am an ordinary wife and mom who has been extraordinarily blessed by an amazing husband and house full of beautiful children. My prayer is that you will be somehow blessed by our family's story. It is a tale of God's grace and forgiveness...His loving kindness and patience with us His children as we strive & struggle everyday to bless His name with our lives

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Top Of The Mountain: Part Three

First thing Thursday morning we drove out to visit Gezehegn again. Oh my how we love that boy already. He was a little more leery of Mike today but just melted into my arms like we had known each other always. I can not describe how wonderful it felt to cuddle him. Down Syndrome people especially DS children were invented by God to be the world’s best huggers. Since Jonathan died I have regularly burst into tears at the sight of any DS boys. It is just a vivid reminder that Jonnie isn’t here and won’t ever be that age doing those things I see other DS kids doing. I didn’t feel that way with Gezehegn. Holding him felt like I’d come home. I know holding Gezehegn wasn’t a substitute for holding Jonathan, but it sure did ease up the aching empty feeling in my arms since April when Jonathan died. Mike and I were still numb about losing Edelawit though it helped to see how God was giving us Gezehegn. We spent two hours playing with Gezehegn before we had to leave. We got to meet Belay, Gladney’s Ethiopian director. What a nice man he was. You can tell he really loves all the kids and works hard for the very best for them. He gave us his full support to adopt Gezehegn. We assured him we would be pursuing Gezehegn’s adoption as soon as possible after our current adoption.

We had our taxi driver take us back to the Ritmo guest house so we could meet with Gail and Merrily. They were wonderful and supportive about what happened with Edelawit. They planned to visit KM to speak with the Sisters there about Edelawit and her brother. Gail assured us they would close the current file on Edelawit and reopen a new file as a sib set after they processed the brother Yared. Gail felt Edeawit and Yared would be matched to another family before we would be able to adopt again after this adoption. The good news was that Gail and Merrily seemed to feel all was not lost for Edelawit and her brother being adopted at some future date…even if it wasn’t to us. I had envisioned yesterday Edelawit never being able to be adopted by anyone and wasting away from AIDS in some lonely place; never the hope of a family and long term medical care. I still cried some about the whole sad thing but managed to hold it together for the most part in front of Gail and Merrily. Gail wanted us to choose another child to add to Assefa and said it wouldn’t stall his adoption. We said we just wanted to get him home and not take any chances of complicating his adoption. We didn’t say anything about Gezehegn because we didn’t want to do anything to disrupt the timeline to bring our baby home.

Mike and I later visited our baby boy at AHOPE. Assefa is so sweet. I just kept praying hard there while at AHOPE and trying not to cry with worry. I could tell Assefa had a very poor suck-swallow-breath rhythm. He spit up a lot and I could see he had reflux. His lungs were really wheezy though I didn’t have a stethoscope. I had been trying to talk to caregivers all week about changing from his fast flow nipple and also having him upright for 20 minutes after feeding. I knew I wasn’t getting through to them. Then the AHOPE director came to us in the baby room and said the doctor was there. I took Assefa into medical office while the AHOPE pediatrician talked to staff person about adjusting his ARV meds (for HIV+) for his current weight. I pulled up Assefa’s shirt where you could see him retracting (working too hard) his chest as he breathed. The doctor listened to his chest and said “yes, his lungs are full”. The doctor pronounced he had reactive airway disease and put him on antibiotics. He also agreed he needed a slow flow nipple for bottle and should be kept upright after feeding. I was so relieved! Here I was so concerned about our baby and I felt helpless to convey it all to the staff. God had worked it all out for the doctor to come for the routine exam while Mike and I were there! First I thought maybe Gail had asked the doctor to come after I had shared with her Assefa was really wheezy. But no, it was the Lord God who timed the doctor’s monthly visit for that day and that time when we were there. I may feel helpless and truly be helpless on my own but my Father works everything out! I don’t want to ever forget I can do no good things on my own, but only with my Father’s help will anything be accomplished.

My trip to Ethiopia in 2005 to adopt Tigist and Meseret from Layla and Berhanu from KM , we stayed at the Yilma Hotel. Hope and Michael came with me that trip and lodging for the six of us was cheaper at the Yilma than staying at the Ritmo guest house. The Yilma was nice that trip though we didn’t meet up with other adoptive families which can be fun. I had a built in translator with Hope around so we traveled all over the city in cabs and buses. The nicest thing about the Yilma was the restaurant downstairs. Great food and great prices. We all loved breakfast there and that is where I fell in love with steel cut oats for breakfast (they make it with sweetened condensed milk and it is scrumptious) Anyway, I wanted to take Mike there to eat as he’d never been before. We had the restaurant to ourselves and he had a nice juicy steak and I had the Yilma “fir fir” I remembered so fondly from 2005. The best part of dinner was they had Diet Coke there! We both miss that when we travel outside America. Of course only the U.S. puts the word “die” in our drinks (“Die”t Coke). In Ethiopia like many places in the world it’s called Coca Cola Light. Same thing and boy was it good after not tasting it for 10 days.

We were sitting in the Yilma restaurant eating a nice meal and drinking lukewarm diet coke and chasing it with Ethiopian beer. We felt sad about Edelawit, happy about seeing Assefa’s doctor. We felt happy about God leading us to Gezehegn, sad that it would take so long to get him home. We figured it could take three months to get Assefa home and then another 6-9 mos at least to adopt Gezehegn. Then maybe …maybe, maybe we’d be able to adopt Edelawit and her brother Yared. As we were sitting there trying to do justice to our meal, Gail called. Mike was talking to her and then he handed the cell phone to me. Guess what!? Gail had been at a U.S. embassy meeting that afternoon. One of the few other agencies’ staff she knows happens to be Gladney’s. Ryan saw her and approached her and told her about Gezehegn. I had email Ryan when Edelawit’s case blew all to pieces, so he knew about that. Gail and Ryan and Belay talked and decided that Gladney would release Gezehegn to AAI and he could be added to Assefa’s case to be adopted at the same time! NEVER did we dream God would work that one out! I remember thinking the last few days…”God this one is hard, I KNOW You are ALWAYS good. Nothing is impossible for YOU. You can work this out.” And He did! Mike and I both were crying with surprise and joy after Gail’s phone call. We just sat there at the Yilma, floating up to the ceiling with awe and wonder and GRATEFULNESS that our loving Father was working all these things out better than we could have ever imagined.

Friday morning we visited Gezehegn one last time and I wept when we left. Sad to be leaving him for the several more months before he could come home, but thrilled and still amazed his case would be added to Assefa’s. We arranged with Gail and Ryan for Gezehegn to be moved in the next few days into AAI's care, either Wanna or Opportunity House. We stopped at Opportunity House (AAI's special needs home)to tell director Tigist that our new guy Gezehegn may be coming there. We visited Layla to pick up mail to bring home to the states and met up with volunteer Ivy escorting a medical group we'd met on the flight from DC to Addis. They said "so, you are the legendary Fesers?". Too funny. I was sort of secretly pleased they looked more exhausted than we did after two weeks in Ethiopia. We packed up our bags and then spent our last few hours in Addis holding and loving on Assefa at AHOPE before heading for airport and home.

Leaving that night Mike and I knew God had taken us to the top of the mountain. It's a wonderful and exhilarating place up high like that. Basking in His Grace and Glory and Good Gifts. It was made all that much higher and breathtaking because of our wanderings in the deep valley of the shadow of death this past year. Rosh Hashana we'd celebrated the creation of the world on this planet's birthday as we met our new tiny baby boy Assefa and our precious little girl Edelawit. We remembered it was six months since Jonathan breathed his last breath as we first laid eyes on our new son Gezehegn. We lost Edelawit (for now) and found out Gezehegn could come home sooner with Assefa. That long hard mule ride and hike up the mountain in Lalibela was a lesson for us. There were times I thought I would surely die from lack of oxegen scaling that mountain. There have surely been times I have thought (and wished!) I would die in my grief for Jonathan. But oh how the Lord's light and glory can consume and burn off all that fear and suffering. I wouldn't change a thing. Not a single thing. After all, who am I to think I could have chosen a way any better? His reality far exceeds my wildest dreams. I trust HIM and how He chooses because He is so brilliant and worthy of anything my unworthy self could offer up to Him.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Top Of The Mountain : Part Two

Wednesday before we went out to the Gladney homes we’d made a quick visit to KM. We had been told Edelawit’s birth father would show up that morning but he wasn’t there so we just hung out with our darling little girl for awhile in her classroom. The other kids are all twice her size. She sits in the front near the teacher and seems to love the whole thing. She watches intently as the class is drilled on their letters (English). As all the children sing the Kindergarten songs Edelawit lays her head down on the desk.. She just watches but never speaks. We gave her a photo of us and a photo of her and she clutches those as she shyly glances at us sitting on the bench at the side of the room. At times she seems happy to see us and at times she is petrified of us. She is so precious.

As we drove out of the city to the east edge of Addis I commented to Mike how very much Ethiopia is a land of extreme contrasts. There’s the lushness of beautiful gardens next to open sewers. Beautiful homes with landscaped acres are enclosed with high walls topped with barbed wire. Absolutely gorgeous people (the most beautiful examples of physical perfection in human beings) walking past maimed and crippled beggars on the street.

After meeting Gezehegn on Wednesday morning we visited AHOPE to spend time with Assefa before heading back to KM. We’d arranged to be back to KM at 4:00 that afternoon to meet Edelawit’s birth father...hopefully. We’d found out the day before that he was alive, and to us this was good news. Often times the child report you get on children you’re adopting is inaccurate. The orphanage and agency goes on information given by those friends or relatives who bring the child to orphanage. Edelawit’s records said both parents were dead and she had no siblings. We knew how priceless it would be for her that we could meet her birth father and get photos and exchange information. Having a living birth parent is a good thing always!! We assumed that her file could be easily changed to reflect a living father who was relinquishing her due to his health issues.

At KM we saw no one… so we visited the baby rooms where I managed to have a run in with a group of Europeans who were “baby shopping”. Mind you I have made promises to Mike not to engage anymore in arguments with guys in uniforms carrying machine guns…but I’ve made no promises about being nice too prejudiced ignorant baby shoppers looking for “bright” (fair skinned) babies.

We were loving on Edelawit and the other kidlets in the 3-6 year old group when we sensed a stirring of trouble in the air. I think God mut have placed a cloud of His mercy around us. For the most part we were sailing though the battles raging around us without understanding what was happening. All of a sudden we found ourselves amidst of quite the drama. . Edelawit’s birth father never showed up that day. At one point a Sister (nun) said “her brother is here”. I said “you mean her father’s brother?” No, it was Edelawit;s brother. This was the very first real hint we had that things may not work out with Edelawit and us. There is a law (a good and righteous one) in Ethiopian courts now that a child must be adopted with bio siblings. We met Edelawit’s brother, a very nice boy age 11 yr named Yared. Then we were introduced to aunts, uncles and cousins. There were those in charge pressuring us to let it be….not ask questions…The aunts and uncles were being questioned. How could this be? A bio brother? They said they must be lying to get him adopted too? (but of course it was her brother, she looks exactly like him!) The aunts and uncles were threatened and cross-examined because they had lied in affidavits to court saying Edelawit’s parents were dead and no living siblings. Oh how we wished we spoke Amharic then! Edelawit was crying and brother Yared looked so scared. It was heartbreaking. There is a lot I could say but we have chosen to keep this blog public and I must be wise with my words. We did find out that Yared her brother visits her at KM every week. Her birth father used to visit once a month. There is total of nine siblings, but supposedly only Yared is “full blood sibling” and needing to be adopted with Edelawit. Finally, it all was sinking in…all of Edelawit’s paperwork had been falsified. There now was crowd of people who knew…there was no way AAI our agency could submit her file to court let alone the U.S. embassy for her visa to U.S. It was sinking in that there were serious road blocks to us adopting Edelawit! Our parting words as we left KM were “We can not be a party to this kind of deceit. God would not honor this” and “You know us! We will do the right thing. We will be back for Edelawit and her brother as soon as we are allowed”. The reply to that was that her file could not be resubmitted to court with a different story as that would say to court that the first file was all lies. I wept in the taxi all the way back to the Ritmo quest house. Mike and I were reeling. Later that evening we finally reached Gail our AAI in country agency staff and told her the situation. We arranged to meet with her and Merrily (agency director who happened to be there in Addis) the next morning. Mike and I knew we would not be soon if ever bringing home the little girl we had come to love as our daughter.

Just like we’d talked about that morning in the taxi…Ethiopia a land of extreme contrasts…our day had been one of extreme contrasts….the soaring joy and thankfulness of meeting Gezehegn and knowing he was to be ours….and the crushing grief of losing Edelawit and the panicked worry of what would happen to her?! One thing we knew as He had taught us time and time again. He (Yahweh) is always good. He knew all this long before we ever imagined it happening. Though we were heart broken about what looked to be us losing Edelawit , we rejoiced in His goodness at bringing this whole situation to light. We knew we could trust Edelawit to Yahweh’s care. We still were absorbing His great goodness and grace in leading us to Gezehegn. I never went to sleep this night. It was a night of tears and pleading, praising and worship. He gave Mike and I perfect peace and joy in HIM. Nothing else mattered too much.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Top Of The Mountain: Part One

The recurring theme that continued to play out on our trip to Ethiopia was God taking us to the top of the mountain. Literally we did climb a mountain in Lalibela. That mountain top was simply a physical illustration of the heights we soared as we basked in our Father’s great love and grace to us on our adventure in Ethiopia. You may have wondered just when I was going to post travel stories? I do want to share more travel details but not in this post. Since we arrived home six days ago I have been wrestling with just how to share what happened in Ethiopia. I don’t feel like I can do the story justice but can’t wait any longer to tell you the great things the Lord has done for us.

We couldn’t wait to meet our new children once there in Addis. We were away from them the few days we spent in Lalibela, but other than that we visited each of them daily. Assefa at AHOPE, Edelawit at KM (Kidane Mehret) and also visiting other orphanages as time allowed. Assefa is a tiny thing still. We found ourselves spending hours just watching him sleep. When awake we delighted to catch his baby smiles and carry on long conversations with our own silliness and his soft cooing. As the only little baby at AHOPE he is adored and doted on by the staff. I was happy they were so willing to share him with his new mom and dad!

Across town we’d go visit Edelawit. We were surprised by her loveliness. Her photos of course had been darling, but in person we found her beautiful, really stunning. She is very shy and timid though. She seems to be such a frightened little girl. Our hearts just broke for her. As we found out more about how sick she had been and how far she still as to go in her recovery, it just made us want to desperately get her home as soon as possible. She is not 2-3 years as we thought but rather 4-5 years old. She doesn’t really speak, walks haltingly, and can’t climb stairs by herself. But a year ago when she came to KM they thought she would die. She spent months just staring out at the world with blank eyes. She has come a long way and we can thank the care at KM for that. Edelawit seemed close to a few special caregivers. Mostly she was scared to death of us, but would at times feel comfortable enough to play and sit by us, even on our laps once in awhile. Then something would spook her and she would become hysterical, screaming inconsolably so hard she vomited. Poor, poor little girl!

Among the orphanages we had been visiting were the children’s home run by Gladney adoption agency. Right before we left for Ethiopia we found out about a little Down Syndrome toddler named Gezehegn in their care. We hooked up with their in country staff on Wednesday. We were very impressed with Ryan and later when we met Belay. Their children’s home are far from the center of Addis to the farthest east side of the city. It was a long drive (about an hour) but worth it. It was so nice to be away from the dust and smog. The homes are beautiful with grass in the yards and stop signs in the streets (first I’ve ever seen in Ethiopia). Ryan gave a full blown tour and we met dozens of gorgeous babies including some with special needs I will be advocating for. I can not begin to describe what it was like when we finally met Gezehegn. We fell instantly head over heals and over the moon in love. I had known somehow when we first heard about him that he would be our son someday. Mike knew it the second he laid eyes on him and Gezehegn looked up at Mike and said “hi”. Ryan asked us before he had to leave if we wanted him. “YES!!” We knew and Gladney knew we would have to wait until we got Assefa and Edelawit home to adopt Gezehegn. We were floored and thrilled to pieces they were willing to wait for us and allow us to pursue this cutie! We made plans to visit him every day of our remaining time in Ethiopia.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back in Addis with the kids!

Lalibela was AWESOME!! We saw the top of the world. No regrets about making the trip. I will never forget that place. I did manage to get a bit of altitude sickness so you can pray for strength for me. I hear it lasts just a few days and I just need to rest and drink a lot of water.

Phone and internet access have been extremely challenging. We are unable to hook our laptop up anywhere so can’t send photos. Never know when or if we can get access so I am writing a detailed travel journal to share once home.

We got back from Lalibela yesterday afternoon (Monday) and hired a driver straight away to take us to little AHOPE to see baby Assefa again. All the children there are lovely! I want the waiting parents to know that Mike and I are taking our duties very seriously meet your waiting children. I lost my notebook with names of kids to see but the staff is very helpful when I ask about any names I may have forgotten. It is an honor to meet your children, give them a love and pray for them. Today we hired a driver for whole day and will be visiting KM, Layla/Wanna and Little AHOPE again. As time allows we will be at Opportunity and big AHOPE. The only agenda we have our remaining 4 days is seeing kids...yours and ours!

It is so wonderful to have the opportunity to meet and spend time with baby Assefa when he is still so small. He is a beautiful baby and very much loved at AHOPE. I can tell it will cause much grief to a few wonderful caregivers when he leaves after his adoption. But they are ever so gracious to us and are happy he has a family. There is a new little girl at little AHOPE that I am sure will have a new family soon. She has fallen in love with Mike and him with her. She is the sparkliest little girl we have ever met!

I am so excited to see Edelawit today at KM. She is so timid at times but also smiles a smile that lights up the room. Her little friends (and children-to-be of my email friends) crowd around us for loves and goldfish crackers. Having a camera that you can show them their photos after you take it is a nifty invention. We found out Edelawit has a living father and we may be able to meet with him. Edelawit was seriously ill when she arrived at KM over a year ago. Some doubted she would survive. I met a volunteer that spent a lot of time with her her first year here. It is heartbreaking to hear how sick and empty she was. But she has come alive this last year and walks and talks and plays with other kids now. She is at least fours years old but maybe weighs 20 lbs and is size 2, but she was wearing size 12 months pants when I met her. We owe the nuns and staff at KM much for bringing her this far. We are so grateful for both her and Assefa. It is mind boggling always that the Lord loves us enough to bless us again with precious children. We just pray they are home soon!**

**heard that AAI has 50 cases for court once as it opens this week. 10 cases a week...we may have our court case for the kids in November. Travel then most likely after the first of year...but we can pray for miracle right? Sooner is always better

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Message From Ethiopia!

This is Julee’s sister, Katie, surrogate blogging. Internet and phone access have been tricky, but Julee got a quick email to us yesterday with news that they are safe and sound in Ethiopia. Best of all she writes, “Met the kids today. They are wonderful!!! Way cuter than ever imagined.” It chokes me up to think of Assefa and Edelawit in Mommy and Daddy’s arms. God is soooooo good!!!

Thanks for your prayers for the whole family. Kayla says things are going well on the home front- very peaceful!

Mike and Julee should be visiting Lalibella now. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Lalibella was the capitol city during the middle ages when Ethiopians sought shelter in the central highlands, living for almost a thousand years in isolation. King Lalibella directed the building/carving of many churches hewn out of the stone ground. Priests and pilgrims still worship in these amazing structures, though Lalibella is now an isolated village rather than a thriving metropolis.

Hoping for more news (maybe a personal blog entry?) on Monday.