Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From Ashes to Africa

 From Ashes to Africa by Josh and Amy Bottomly

So my brother Erik had told me about this book a couple of months ago (by the way, he and his wife are also adopting from Ethiopia! Check out their blog too!).  I finally ordered a copy on Amazon last week, and got it in the mail a few days later.

On Thursday we travelled down to South Carolina for a photo shoot and also to visit my parents.  I thought the 7 hours on the road would be a perfect time to read this book.  I decided to read it aloud so Wes could experience it with me.  First of all, let me emphasize how much I dislike reading out loud.  I DO NOT LIKE IT.  Your mouth gets all dry, you have to cough because of the dryness, and it's simply exhausting.  But I REALLY wanted Wes to enjoy it with me, so I manned up and read aloud anyways.

As I read through the pages, I felt like I was reading our own story.  It is about a couple who experience a dreadful first year of marriage.  That was Wes and I. (Really, it was more like two years of dreadfulness, but for the first year, I didn't really realize it.)  After their first difficult year, they decided that they would work on strengthening their marriage before they had children.  Once things were healthy in their marriage they got on the "trying" track for children.  After a year of trying they were still not pregnant, and then they went on to fertility testing.  After a lot of emotional trauma, they eventually decided to adopt from Ethiopia.  

Their story of adoption is beautiful, and I read the entire book in just a few hours.  As I read through the pages, there were times when I couldn't even get words out, because I was crying.  From reading about Amy's heartache of not being able to have children, to meeting their little boy for the first time, to meeting his birth mother....it was all so overwhelming.  But as I read, my excitement grew.  I am letting myself feel more and more as each day passes.  I feel excited and I'm actually saying, "I can't wait!" when it comes to our adoption of a baby from Ethiopia.  Everything is seeming more and more real.

I highly recommend you read this book.  For many of us, it reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles.  It reminds us that no matter what we go through, God has got us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Norwegian Nostalgia...

 *The view from the mountain where Wes proposed to me nearly 7 years ago.  Overlooking downtown Bergen, Norway.

So my mother is from Bergen, Norway.   My two brothers and I spent most of our childhood summers there visiting with our Bestemor and Bestefar (Grandmother and Grandfather in Norwegian).  I don't think I ever realized how special this was when I was a little girl.  I knew that I loved our times there, and my grandparents were probably the best you could get.  Our days were always filled with playing out in the streets (it's a VERY safe place to live), eating piles of shrimp, getting bags filled with salty, black licorice, playing cards, and visiting the fish market in downtown Bergen.  We loved it.  We grew up with Norwegian traditions, like joining hands and circling the Christmas tree as we sang Norwegian Christmas carols.  As children, my mother (we call her Mamma...not Mom....not Mama....Mamma) would read us stories from Norwegian children's books (all in Norwegian, of course).  It was all normal for us.

It was not a very diverse culture, though.  Most people have a certain image that comes to mind when they think of your typical Norwegian.  It usually involves someone rather tall, white, blond, and blue eyes (please don't say we are like the Swedish Chef!  We are not Swedish! haha).  Well, that is pretty typical, but there are also brown eyes and brown hair too (such as my grandparents....who knows how my mom turned out with blond hair???).  But as for any other mixture of ethnicities, you just didn't see it that much when I was growing up.  I have one distinct memory from my childhood when we went grocery shopping one time, and I saw a woman with dark skin, completely covered from head to toe with a burka.  She stood out to me, because you just didn't see that too often around there.  But she was not the norm, and more than likely, not Norwegian.

Fast forward about 13 years...my grandmother had just passed away, and my whole family traveled to Bergen for the funeral.  We went to a little grocery store, and the young girl at the check out counter looked Asian.  As I asked her a question, she responded in a beautifully pure, Bergen accent.  I tried not to look too surprised as she handed me my change, but on the inside I was blown away.  It blew my cultural contextualization out of the water!  In the States, we are such a melting pot of culture and race, that nothing is surprising.  But to the little girl within, whose version of Norway was filled with white faces, standing there at that check out counter left me mesmerized.  I wanted to stand there longer, and here her speak more, because I was fascinated by the words coming out of this girl's mouth.  It reminded me of the time I was in Mexico, and this little boy from a remote village asked me if there was sun where I lived.  He asked this because my skin was so pale.  It was beautifully innocent and made me smile.  And in that little grocery store, I was a little girl again, in awe of this person who didn't look Norwegian to me, but sounded Norwegian. 

I'm sure this girl's parents could have been Korean, and moved to Norway when she was quite young or before she was born, and she grew up speaking Norwegian.  But I also know that much of Scandinavia has been adopting internationally for quite some time, and it is not unlikely that this young girl was part of this.  And now Norway is becoming more than just tall, blond vikings....It is becoming it's own mixture of a beautifully diverse people.  Probably not quite to the extent of the United States, but significant none-the-less.

So perhaps this post is not really about adoption, and maybe it's just a shout-out to my Norwegian peeps across the ocean who are going through the same bumpy adoption ride.  But I was feeling a bit nostalgic today, remembering beautiful Norway and childhood summers.  Heija Norge!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beautiful World...

Okay, so this is not an adoption update.  I was actually checking out a fellow blogger's most recent post, and saw this insanely cute trailer for a movie called, "Babies".  I LOVE IT!!!  It follows the lives of four babies from four different countries, from "first breath to first steps."  The cinematography looks breathtaking.  I am very excited to see this one.  Enjoy!

BABIES:Movie Trailer - Funny video clips are a click away

*Oh, and just because I can, here's an update.  I am working on our Ethiopia Dossier, and not too far off (a week or two) from completing it.  Yes!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Starting All Over Again...

So today I received our new instruction booklet for our Ethiopian Dossier.  Yay (she says sarcastically and unenthusiastically, with a sigh).  Yeah, I have to order new birth certificates (I had ordered extras for our Nepal dossier, but apparently those decided to disappear), get new blood tests, new references, and a new burst of energy (among other things).  I thought I might be overwhelmed by all this, but I think I'm okay.  Somehow, this dossier doesn't seem nearly as daunting as I thought it would be.  Yes, it can get a little annoying at times.  For instance, I can't tell you how flustered some notaries get when I tell them that they have to write out the entire date (i.e. March 15, 2010 instead of 3/15/10), or that I need their commission expiration to be at least 14-18 months out.  And now I'm going to have to tell everyone that everything has to be written in BLUE ink.  So now I will have to go through the explanations all over again, and inevitably, someone will write something incorrectly, or use the wrong ink color, and then I will have to have it redone.  But so goes the international adoption train.  Everyone says that this ride is really hard, but when you first start, you hope that you might be the exception to the rule.  It's kind of like when you are a freshman in college.  You feel like you know everything, but after a couple of years, you realize you know very little.  Now that we've been on this bumpy ride for a while, we realize that is is really really hard.  Not much easy about it.  But everyone says it's worth it, so I'm going to focus on that.

The picture I attached to this post makes me chuckle.  I mean, do they really have to put a picture of a guy stressed out by paperwork on the front cover of our dossier guidelines?  We already know it's stressful.  Couldn't they have just put a nice restful beach scene on there?  Something that will increase our serenity and not our stress.  Ah, the irony of it all....

I also wanted to say thank you to all of you who commented on last Friday's blog.
It was really encouraging to have people support our decision, because it was such a difficult decision to make.  I struggled with a little bit of guilt as we made the switch, but now I am truly getting more and more excited to bring little Liam or Eliana home (those are some of the names we are working on right now....well, those are names we've had for a long time...we'll see if we use them).  Thank you all for your continual love and support.  It truly means SO much.

(And for those of you who have gone private on your blogs, would you mind sending me an invitation?  I would LOVE to keep up with everyone on Nepal route also. )  

Friday, March 12, 2010

Big Changes on the Horizon...

Everyone is waiting.   All of us who are in the Nepal adoption process are waiting.  I keep checking the 15 or so Nepal adoption blogs to see if any movements are being made in Nepal, but it seems like a blogger's drought out there.  No posts in the last 2 or 3 weeks.  The only thing people have mentioned is the U.S. Department of State's statement to families adopting from Nepal.  You can read their statement HERE.  This statement basically encourages families to consider changing countries "due to grave concerns about the reliability of Nepal’s adoption system and the accuracy of the information in children’s official files."  Ironically, we received this statement the day after Wes had spoken with our agency, and they assured us again that they felt everything was fine with the Nepal adoption process.  Of course, that was hours before the U.S. issued that statement.  That very night (after we received notice of the concerns about the Nepal program), we stayed up until about 2:30 in the morning, talking about everything.  We discussed all of our options, our fears, concerns...everything.  And that is pretty much how the rest of the week has been also.  Should we change programs?  If we DO change programs, would we be acting out of fear?  Is it just because the grass always seems greener on the other side?  What do we do?!

Well, we have come to a decision, but it has not been any easy one.  I have said all along that I do not want circumstances to dictate God's leading in our lives.  Just because there are concerns and issues with the adoption process in Nepal, does not mean that God can't work miracles, and bring children home to their forever families.  But at the same time, I realize that I don't have to be a superhero and stick everything out until the bitter end.  I have struggled with the idea of switching countries, because I didn't want the switch to be born out of fear of circumstances in Nepal.  Well, after a lot of prayer, hours upon hours of taking every thought captive, and numerous conversations with our agency, we have decided to change programs to Ethiopia.  

I know this may come as a surprise to many, but we feel that God has given us the go ahead.  One of the things that really solidified it for me, was Wes.  Before we decided to adopt at all, Wes had it in his head that we had to have a biological child first.  He was waiting for God to create a miracle of pregnancy, and then after that first child, we would adopt.  Well, God really changed his heart at one point, and Wes realized that there was no reason that a biological child had to come first, and that is when we got started on the track to adopt.  In the same way, he said he he had it in his head that we had to adopt from Nepal first.  But he quickly realized, that this was not the case.  We have been saying all along that we would adopt from Ethiopia after Nepal.  Well, it looks like Ethiopia will come first, and perhaps Nepal will be second.  

I have debated with myself over and over again about whether or not I should write this post right now, mainly because I know there are other families adopting from Nepal that read this blog.  I DON'T want our changing programs to be a stumbling block for anyone else.  I don't want it to discourage anyone else in adopting from Nepal, or continuing their process to adopt from Nepal.  In writing all this, I am not saying that I believe the Nepal program will fail.  I only desire to be open about what we are going through personally.  

Wes and I are both 32 years old.  Over the last 5 years, we have tried to bring children into our home in every way possible.  It seems with every method we have tried, we have hit a road block.  I don't know why, but that is the way it has been.  It has been frustrating, to say the least, and very painful at times.  But we still move forward.  We still press on.

And as we start the process with Ethiopia, we know that it carries it's own load of possible obstacles.  Yesterday, the very day we made the decision to switch countries, we found out that Ethiopia is almost certainly going to make families make two trips now, instead of the one.  This means a lot more money, possibly more time, and it also means that we would have to leave our son or daughter in Ethiopia for several more months, after we have already met him or her.  I can't even imagine how painful that would be!  And believe, me, it just felt like our desire to adopt a child (from ANYwhere) was laughing in my face yesterday.  I mean, seriously....could this process BE any more difficult.  The irony of it all is beyond me.  

But, I continue to trust that God's plans for us are good.  I continue to trust in His love for us.  Even though everything around me seems to say, "Quit trying to be parents!", we continue to fight for what the devil doesn't want:  To see an orphan be an orphan no more, and to see two childless individuals be childless no more.  God's heart for adoption is clear, and no enemy can destroy that, no matter how hard they may try.

So pray for us as we make this transition.  I feel scared, nervous, and excited all at the same time.  I literally know hardly anything about Ethiopia, except for what I have read over the last few days.  So now Wes and I have to learn all over again.  Our hearts are being steered in a different direction, but with the same goal.  Pray that we would not be dismayed, but only encouraged by a Father who loves us without condition, and knows what's best for His children.

And I leave a video of and Ethiopian Gotcha Day for your viewing enjoyment.  These always make me cry.