Got a Question?

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I have received a lot of questions about our domestic adoption, which have been great, so I’m going to recap some of those here, just in case others are curious! I’ll also talk a bit about coming home and what that’s going to be like. Got a question? Feel free to ask it and I’ll do my best to answer.

How do I describe this (meaning adoption) to my children?
I don’t know if there’s a perfect answer to this question, but here’s what I’ve told my kids, and the same basic grown-up version for adults:

Murphy has a tummy mommy, and her tummy mommy isn’t able to take care of Murphy. So they picked Courtney and Drew to be Murphy’s mommy and daddy. They all went to court together and signed papers to make it official, so now Murphy is a part of their family.

So what happened to her family?
I totally understand this question. It’s hard for us to imagine a situation where we choose adoption for a biological child. So please don’t be offended when I say, “That’s Murphy’s story to tell, if she chooses to do so, one day.” We respect her birth family’s history, and we don’t want to blab to the world what happened to cause this situation. So no, I won’t tell you what happened. Just know that there was a need, and due to that need, we stepped forward to be Murphy’s parents.

She doesn’t look American. Where is she from?
You’re right, she doesn’t look American, but she is! Her family lives in Arkansas. They moved here a long time ago from the Marshall Islands (in the Pacific Ocean) so that’s why she looks the way she does.

So what’s the deal with Ethiopia? Is that still happening?
Yep. Still happening. Long wait. But I have faith that our son is still there and that he will be a part of our family one day.

You’ve posted about all that bonding and attachment and stuff. But she’s a newborn, so are you still doing that?
Yes, we are. Bonding is important, regardless of the age a child enters into his or her new home. It will absolutely look a little different because she is a newborn and will attach to us, but it’s just as important that we feel attached to her. Read this article for more information. And if I seem a little hesitant to have everyone out there hold her, you’ll know why. But I promise you’ll have your turn!

Happy Birthday, Murphy!

Apologies for not posting since March 27th. Our house has been busy, busy, busy! For a quick recap, we decided, after much prayer, to pursue a domestic adoption while waiting for our Ethiopia adoption (you can read more about that here). In a short amount of time, we matched with a birth family, and on April 9 we got the news that we were having a girl!

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It’s Another Girl!

We found out in one phone call that not only were we having a girl, but our birth mom had already begun progressing and that we were looking at her arrival before the original May 4 due date. What ensued was a massive speed-up on baby preparation for our household, knowing that the call could happen at any moment.

On Tuesday, April 22, we got that call. Well, it wasn’t actually a call. It was an email from our attorney: “WE HAVE A BABY! BORN IN ER. 5 min after arrival. Call me – am home without your file getting dressed. Yay!”

I had just left for work and glanced down at my phone before leaving the neighborhood. As tears quickly worked their way down my face, I called Drew. “She’s here! She’s here! I’m turning around the car. Be home soon!” Poor Drew – he could hardly understand me. And as I hung up the phone, a sob bubbled up deep within me as I uttered out loud, “We have a baby. A daughter.”

I cannot tell you the emotions that hit me within that one instant. As I pulled into the driveway, I raced up the garage stairs and into Drew’s arms. I yelled for our girls to come quick, and as Meredith came running into our room she said, “Why are you back Mommy? Did you get the call? Is she born?”

My oldest – precious girl. She had been on pins and needles waiting for this call, just like I had been. My favorite part of the morning was circling together as a family to pray before the mad rush to finish packing began. That pause – that brief time spent thanking God and praying for everyone involved – helped me settle my day into what was to come.

We quickly packed up the van, dropped the girls off, and started the long journey to Northwest Arkansas. What a joy it was, calling family members and emailing friends to let them know of our daughter’s birth!

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Earlier that morning, our precious birth mom barely had time to arrive to the ER before delivering Murphy. She was checked by a nurse, and as the nurse ran to get a doctor, she delivered our daughter with no time for pain meds and not even medical staff to assist with the delivery. Talk about one tough woman!

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As we arrived at the hospital that evening, my palms began sweating and my heart raced as we walked down the hallway towards our birth mother’s room. What would she be like? How would she feel about us?

The moment when our birth mom handed Murphy to me. No words can describe this moment!

Our birth mom had just handed Murphy to me. Speechless, precious moment.

I should have put my fears and worries to rest, because she was absolutely lovely. We spent a day and a half together in the hospital, feeding Murphy together (and changing MANY diapers), sharing meals, talking about our faith, and praying together. We were able to meet her family, talk about our family, take pictures together, laugh at Drew together (because, hey, he was the only guy in the room. We had to poke fun at someone!), and all in all, simply spend time together.

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First official family shot – all we need now are our other two daughters (and son from Ethiopia – one day)

Having that time together, from one mom to another, was priceless. The day of her birth, my devotional that morning was about not compulsively planning every moment. I feel like I lived that out in the time that I spent with the birth mom.

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Relying on God from one minute to the next, I chose to focus on embracing this opportunity by taking each moment as it came, and I am forever blessed by putting my compulsive planning to the side for a few days. I pray I can continue some of that ‘living in the moment’ when I come home. I think I’m a better mom and wife when I’m not worrying about planning each second of the day.

Courtney

Puffy eyes, make-up cried off… yep, it was an emotional day.

As we wrap up this trip in Arkansas, awaiting our court date, God continues to give me the strength to get through each day. Life with a newborn in a hotel room isn’t ideal, away from all family and friends, but I’m so incredibly grateful for saying YES to this life-changing opportunity. We’ve gotten all sorts of questions, ranging from a flat-out, “Why?” to “Well you’re a better person than I am. I don’t think I could do that.”

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It’s simple, really. When God presses something on your heart, you say yes. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always make sense, but the blessing received from saying yes far outweighs all the other stuff. Yes, this is going to be difficult. But isn’t it awesome that God has already gone before us, and that by leaning on Him, we’ll get through it, one day at a time? Knowing that I don’t have to be self-reliant is what gives me peace.

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Thank you, so much, for all the prayers. Definitely keep ‘em coming. We’re going to need it! Next up – I’m going to tackle some common questions I’ve gotten in the past couple weeks. Stay tuned!

In Him,
Courtney

Ethiopia Adoption + Domestic Adoption = Our New Family

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Surprise! I’m going to have a baby, due May 4th. Now before you say, “Wait a minute. I’ve seen you around town and that is impossible. I’ve seen you 5 weeks out from a due date before – let’s face it, you look massive at that point – and you’re most definitely not pregnant right now.” And that’s because….

We’re doing another adoption! Domestically. And we turned in our paperwork and got ready to settle in for the wait (because, you know, we wait like a CHAMP – waiting is old hat for us). Paperwork arrived to our attorney’s office Wednesday, March 12th. And then we got THE CALL on Monday, March 17th. As in, last week. And by that, I mean we didn’t even get a chance to catch our breath from shipping off our paperwork.

Y’all, God has been involved in this from the start, and He’s proven it to me every step of the way. I absolutely love it, and it gives me such confirmation that we made the right decision (so much to share on this, but that will have to be another post for another day). We’ve got 5 weeks (or so) before the due date, so we’re moving as fast as we can to prepare for this new little life (newest member of the swagger wagon club? Check).

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If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know that we have been in a long wait to adopt from Ethiopia, and that we still have a loooooooong (and I do mean LONG) way to go. This Friday will mark 18 months since our paperwork was shipped over to Ethiopia and we got officially “in line” for a referral. Unofficially, we began the process almost two years ago. God continues to reaffirm in our home, over and over again, that we are on this path for a reason, and that we are to stay in the Ethiopia program. Remember this post, when I let you know that we had decided to let our paperwork expire? Well, that never set easy with me, and in late January (after our fast for Ethiopia adoptions), I told Drew that I felt we had made the wrong decision. So we prayed about it, contacted our social worker, and in a flurry of visits and such, updated our home study and fingerprints so we would maintain our standing.

So we’ve got our updated home study, updated papers and updated background check. Everything is current, and the visit with our social worker went perfectly.

NOW, let me take you briefly back to last May (just stay with me, here, we’re almost there!). Drew and I had the opportunity to attend CAFO’s Orphan Summit, and following that amazing experience, we decided to commit ourselves to praying about expanding our family in addition to our Ethiopian adoption. We decided to be intentional about this prayer, and we also decided we weren’t going to rush it.

That date when we decided to start praying about this? May 4, 2013. Our baby’s due date: May 4, 2014.

There are so many more stories to tell from this past week and I can’t wait to share them. Yes, our family knows this decision is crazy, and yes, we understand that the road ahead won’t be easy. But as I bring those worries to God, He keeps pushing them away, and reminding me to focus on what He has planned for our family. I am so incredibly grateful that in spite of my screw-ups, my second-guessing and my selfish tendencies, God steps in and gives this grace.

Thank you for sharing in our excitement! More posts with more details to come soon, I promise.

Blessings,
Courtney

TRUST. . . no matter what

Melkam Gena, which means “Merry Christmas” in Amharic, one of the main languages of Ethiopia! Today was Ethiopia’s Christmas, and it was such a joy to see adoptive families post pictures with their children eating Ethiopian food and celebrating our Savior. I am so incredibly grateful to those who made it home this year with their children, safe and sound.

As many of my friends on Facebook know (along with the majority of the adoptive community) Ethiopia has been in deep discussion over the past couple of weeks concerning the state of intercountry adoptions. The day after our Christmas, a story was published stating that Ethiopia’s adoption program may shut down altogether, and I worked hard to remain calm and reminded myself that it could all just be a rumor. However, it seems as though there are many people within the Ethiopian government who would like that to happen. Reforming the current process has been brought up, and others have mentioned that even with reform, they would like the eventual goal to be a full intercountry adoption shutdown.

Needless to say, stories have been flying rampant, to the point where I had to physically step away from the computer. With each story and subsequent comment I read, the thought of ever seeing Micah grew further and further away. I cannot rehash my feelings from those days – the emotions get the best of me and it’s just too dang hard to face that possibility. I also want everyone to know that I believe in family preservation and reunification when at all possible. Adoption isn’t always the answer, as much as we may want it to be, but sometimes it is the only answer available to children. I believe there just has to be an answer better than shutting down intercountry adoptions. Yes, there is great room for improvement, but keeping kids in institutions instead of families can’t be the solution.

I’m writing tonight because our adoption agency has organized a three-day fast focused solely on Ethiopia. Fasting is new to me, I have to be honest with you. Fasting can also take on different forms; it doesn’t always have to focus on food. I ventured into the fasting realm before my mission trip to Ethiopia this fall. I gave up television the 40 days leading up to the trip, which sounds funny, I know, but fasting from TV made me spend time focusing my attention on becoming spiritually ready for what I was about to experience. I really believe that fast prepared me for the trip, and God worked heavily on my heart in the time leading up to it.

You can read more about the fast that has been organized here.

Drew and I talked about what we could do as husband and wife during this fasting period, and we’ve decided to fast from food Thursday evening to Friday evening. Others are giving up specific meals or food or even non-food (like TV). I humbly ask you to prayerfully consider joining us in this time of fasting and praying. Even if you are unable to fast, it would mean so much to me if you could offer up prayers during this time.

We are so fortunate to be surrounded by a great support network of family and friends, and yet throughout it all, my mind continues to go back to the children in Ethiopia who don’t have that network reaching out to them. They see short-term missionaries who color pictures with them, offer a hug, and then depart the next week. They have nannies, the large majority of them incredibly compassionate, who give all they can but yet it doesn’t replace what a family can offer.

God continues to lay on my heart the word TRUST. When I become overwhelmed with one worry after another through this process, God reminds me that He doesn’t ask me for all of the answers. I must trust Him to supply those answers, when the time comes.

If you choose to join in prayer, here are some specific ways to help guide you:
– Praying for Ethiopian government officials to be convicted of the need children have to grow up in a family and for international adoptions to remain open;
– Praying for advocates in Ethiopia and around the world to speak up on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children;
– Praying for an end to any corruption, deceit, inappropriate work regarding adoption;
– Praying for prospective adoptive families who are anxiously awaiting news of the Ethiopian government’s decision; and
– Praying for wisdom and guidance for our agency staff as we seek to respond wisely to whatever news we hear from Ethiopian officials.

Thank you, as always, for your support and love,
Courtney
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Sometimes it’s hard to see the moon.

Tonight on the way home from church, the girls were admiring the beautiful moon. It isn’t quite full, and there is a haze around it, giving it a peaceful glow. There are a lot of tall trees on the way home, so my youngest remarked several times, “Mommy, I can’t see the moon! I can’t SEE it!”

To which I would respond, “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

Today, I needed to be reminded of this, and God chose to give me that moment to remind me that He is with me through it all, even when I don’t feel like I can see Him. 

I had a great conversation earlier with our social worker. She is so kind and understanding – I feel so comfortable talking with her and I am grateful that she is so real with me. In international adoptions, you must have current paperwork in order to accept a referral. Some of this paperwork expires, and you pay to renew it. Our federal fingerprints with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), for example, is one document we must update, along with our home study. Updating these items costs money, and with Ethiopian adoptions slowing down, we are anticipating having to update these documents most definitely more than once.

Knowing all of this, and after talking through everything with our social worker, Drew and I decided to simply let these items expire. We won’t “lose” our place in line, nor will we be penalized by USCIS, and as we begin to move up the list and get closer to the top, we will update all the necessary documents.

Sounds pretty cut and dry, right? No big deal…it’s just some papers in our dossier that need to be updated.

So then why am I such an emotional wreck today after making that decision?

Back in June, when I had my big ole’ cry fest, I knew our wait was going to drastically increase. I knew it; my head knew it; I talked about knowing it. But I think up until today, I still hadn’t fully accepted that fact. And here I am again, facing it. 

In the grand scheme of things, is this a big deal? No. Is it going to change our referral? No. But sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me, and that can be tough. I am so grateful for a God who gives out grace by the bucketful, because sometimes I need a ton of it (like today).

So many of my devotionals lately have centered around focusing on just a few steps in front of you, instead of being overwhelmed by the whole maze. I obviously have continued refining and pruning to do in this area as I train myself to leave the outcome to Him, and just reach my hands out to let Him lead me. Even on the days when I can’t see what’s coming around the bend.

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My oldest gave this to me tonight and said, “Mommy, put this in Micah’s box to give to him one day.”

 

I remind myself that this isn’t about me. It’s about God, and it’s about following Him no matter where the path may lead. In addition to praying for Micah and his birth family, I pray for discernment in not getting off the path, and that if I do get off the path, God will nudge me back in the right direction.

Thank you for your prayers and encouraging words – I know I stumble over these explanations and all the feelings, but they are much appreciated.

Blessings,
Courtney

A Quick Update

Hi y’all, tired of me posting almost every day yet? No worries, I’m sure it will slow down soon enough.

I wanted to give a quick update on the adoption front. As you all know, when we started this process we were approved by our social worker for a boy, 0-2 years of age. It was something we felt comfortable in getting approved for, and we’ve stayed with that for a year now.

But God does funny things when you begin to feel comfortable. He weighs on your heart, ands implores you to dig deeper. Our family has been doing that, and we had decided that no decision would be made until after I returned from Ethiopia.

When I got back, our conversation was brief, but important, for our family. Seems God had been talking to both my husband and I about the same exact thing.

After talking with our social worker, we are now approved for a boy, 0-5 years of age! I am sure you have questions, so in my effort to keep this short, here are a couple comments:

Does this change your wait time?
Wellllll, not really. Our agency states that the wait time has grown for anyone requesting a child up to roughly 5 or 6 years of age. And we feel peace with that right now.

But you moved up on the wait list, right?
Yes, you are right. As I have said in posts before, the families keep an unofficial wait list, which means we may be around these numbers I’m about to post. For the infant/toddler range, we are anywhere from 43 to 70ish. But those numbers have not moved at all in the last few months. In the 4 to 5 year-old range, we are right around number 13.

How do your girls feel about it?
We were so blessed to host the His Little Feet orphans choir last month and by doing so, it really opened our eyes to life with a child who isn’t a baby when he comes home to his forever family. And our girls feel comfortable with that. They are ready for him to come home!

Overall, I have completely given up trying to figure out the timing of all this. It is not something even remotely in my control; I am simply called to say yes, and then wait to see what happens next. We will definitely keep you updated if the list starts moving again with referrals, but I think it is safe to say that for now, we still have a couple years-ish. And who knows what God will do in the meantime? I am excited just thinking about the possibilities!

Please still pray for our team. Re-entry has been rough on all, as expected. I am still allowing myself that time to process everything I experienced, and I know God will put on my heart what our family should do next.

Blessings,
Courtney

Parting Thoughts

The title of this post is misleading. It sounds like the blog is going away, but I promise it’s not! Before the last plane lands and the last team member greets their family, I wanted to try and get a few thoughts written down.

For those of you reading this who are going to come into contact with members of our team in the coming days and weeks, I am sure you will ask something to the effect of, “So how was your trip?”

First of all, thank you for asking. Thank you for following along with us, and praying us through the trip. With that said, please forgive us if we don’t have adequate words to explain the magnitude of what we witnessed and experienced while in Ethiopia. I am sure words will be tough to come by. We’ve discussed amongst our group: how do you try and describe this?

Today, I don’t have the answer. Tomorrow, I’m pretty sure I won’t have an answer. I will stumble over my words. I know it is going to take time to process my thoughts and feelings about this trip. I thank God for granting me that time so He can mold this trip and give guidance to my thoughts and emotions. What does God want me to do with these experiences? I don’t know, but I trust that when He is ready, He will reveal it.

If I could humbly ask for prayers for our team, I would ask that you pray for our re-entry. Before I left, a dear friend brought up re-entry, stating that she was already praying for my heart when I returned, knowing it would be a difficult time for me. I know our entire team would appreciate those prayers, and I thank you for adding us to your prayer lists.

There is a song that I cannot for the life of me remember the title of (jet lag is already settling in), but a line out of it is, “Why don’t you break my heart ’til it moves my hands and feet.” Hearing that song, I pray that I am forever changed by this trip, and that I won’t forget what I witnessed.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)