Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nope, negative, nuh huh.

Not today.  Today's not our embassy submission date.  It is confirmed.  We have been notified that they are still collecting post court documents for our little guy and will notify us when they have all been collected.  Praying next week ... December, 28 WILL be our day.  Perhaps 5 weeks will be our time.  

One picture says so much

I love this picture .. and all the things it says.
Yes, my sweet boy, that is YOUR bed!  Mommy can't wait to tuck you in each night, kiss you and hug you and pray over you.  One day, my sweet boy, you will be home ... and you will NEVER go to bed without these things.  One day soon.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweet sentiments

Today was a good day!  How could it not be when a Momma receives two beautiful messages AND photos of her son 8,000 miles away.  It is GOOD ... HE is good!

My first sweet sentiment came from a fellow adopting Momma who is at the transitional home right now. The sweetest part of this note is that it was unexpected.  I didn't even ask for this sweet family to bless me ... and yet, they did!  I tell ya, it's the little things you do that can brighten a day ... and today, Margaret brightened mine!  This is what she sent me ... allll the way from Ethiopia.  Margaret, thank you for being Jesus to me today.  Your note was like his personal hug!  Thank you Thank you!

Today we did care packages.  Our court date is tomorrow and are doing much with the family Mowen and Tara delivered your care package today.  (I also follow you blog).  Anyway, the point of this email is to tell you that your son Z, Levi, is simply precious.  He took a liking to my husband and sat with him for some time reading books and drawing.  He was so excited about his care package as well.  He carried it around with him everywhere he went, emptied it and put it back together several times.  He went through the photo album with my husband and pointed at people.  He loved, loved the stickers as well.  He wore about two whole packages by the end of the afternoon.  He has a sweet smile and very warm spirit  and my husband says was making faces and just overall very friendly.  My husband says he was quite impressed with his language skills as well- one of the books was animals and he knew them all, even butterfly, which is not a typical one. :) 
We just wanted to share this with you to make you smile. 
 May your embassy date come quickly, but until then, may it be stories like this that make the wait a bit easier. 

The second sweet sentiment came from fellow adopting Momma, Tara.  We had sent a care package with her for our Zebene and a photo release.  We were also blessed to have met her two boys while we were in country with Zebene.  I got to help give them her care packages she sent with another family and take some pictures of her sweeties.  Today, she more than re-payed that favor.
First, I got a sweet sweet note in my in-box.  THEN ... this afternoon, a slew of e-mails began arriving with pictures.  Tara did such an awesome job with pictures that my in-box actually went over quota and began bouncing them back to her.  We successfully got 12 of the pictures she sent ... but seriously ... there are MORE!  
This was our note from Tara;

We loved loved loved your son! He is a doll! He loved posing for pictures and made my job easy! I took tons!! We are about to go to Traditional Dinner, But I will try to email them when I get home if I get your email. He said Mom and Dad at your photos and loved looking at each one. He got excited about Ashenafi's picture in there too. About an hour later I saw him on the porch 
looking at your bag again, so sweet!

Indeed, the America World adoption community is the best and today, I was on the receiving end of some awesome blessings.  Thank you ladies for making this Momma smile.  Now, how about some pictures to make YOU smile!

I'm not about to put my goodies down.  No way, uh uh.  
Do you like my stickers?

Yes, that is my family and they ADORE ME!

I love how he is pointing out Canyon and Ashenafi.  

I cannot get enough of those eyes and that smile!  COME ON EMBASSY!

Monday, December 19, 2011

His time ... His sovereignty.

As I write the title of this post, I do so with a big ol' gritting of the teeth.  *grin and bare it* SIGH!   I try to smile through it.  I know it is true.  His timing, it's sovereign.  He knows every day.  He knows every detail.  He knows the why's, the how's and the WHEN's.  So we trust ... even if sometimes trust comes with a big  small two year old tantrum first.

So, this morning I e-mailed our travel coordinator for our adoption (our agency) as I have become aware that the Embassy is requesting a birth parent interview from EVERY birth parent that is involved in a case.  This is us.  This is a part of our story.  Our little boy's birth Mom is alive and well and yes, a very much a part of this story.  So this will indeed effect us.

We are currently waiting to be "Submitted".  It can only be done on Wednesdays and most recently it is taking around 4 weeks from the passing of court to make that happen.  A slew of paperwork must be gathered and like all good things ... that takes time.  So we hope.  We pray that THIS week is our week for that ... Wednesday will be 4 weeks ... even if they did send us an e-mail that said they projected our family to be submitted the 28th.  THIS Wednesday is the 4 week mark and so I pray that THIS Wednesday is OUR day!

BUT ... unlike what we had known about the Embassy having "10 days to provide clearance", we now know will take longer for our case as, indeed, our Zebene's birth mother will need to be interviewed.  And yes, once again ... that means time.  Time to be arranged in the Embassy's schedule.  Time for her to travel 12 hours up.  Time for the interview.  Time for Embassy to respond.  Time. Time. Time.

So today, this is what Kristin projected out as the "time".   I will try and not kick the walls and scream and hit like a two year old.  As I am trying to teach my six year old "Self Control"and I will need to remind myself that I am the role model - DARN IT!

As I type, I am in the middle of baking Christmas goodies and preparing my kids for a ski trip gift from their Grandparents.  All those things are wonderful gifts to us this year.  We have so much to be thankful for.  And well, we rest in knowing that our biggest *GIFT* is yet to come ... Zebene's arrival home - 2012!!!  Who should be so lucky to have the best Christmas gift to come!  Who should be so lucky  blessed that he thought we were worthy.  We are!  And so ... we wait on HIM to say when!

Merry Christmas! I anticipate within 2 weeks of being submitted, the embassy will email us and your family requesting a birth parent interview. They are currently filling up about 1-2 weeks out from the date of the request, so you can potentially expect a birth parent interview to occur for your family 2-4 weeks after being submitted.
Yes, Z, like that ... gritting of teeth ... you got the face.  Grin and bare it!

I know ... I am supposed to look like this.  Our JOY cometh in the morning!  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Perspective ... it IS a beautiful thing!

So now that he's "ours", I would love to share a little more of our story.  I have been wanting to get some of this down on paper (um, er, blog) so that when I am old and grey I can re-tell my beautiful boy all about the story that the Lord was writing - long before we knew he was busy writing it.   I don't want to forget the places along the way that I had come to learn were the fingerprints of God.

July 27 2010,  we set out to adopt a little person from Ethiopia.  At that time, we weren't sure if it would be a boy or a girl but we knew that it was a child somewhere between 3 and 4.  It didn't take long though that it was decided it was a boy ... something about 3 kids yelling brother and naming him from the backseat of the car might have been a clue.  To add, I had had several dreams where I saw the same little  boy ... in a blue sweater.   It all seemed to make sense to us and so there you go,  
it's a boy!

The paperwork process began and off we went walking confidently into the financing portion of our adoption.  We had a plan and a way until about ... oh ... 6 whole weeks into the process and Doug lost $5,000 out of his monthly income.  Yep, there it went, the confidence and the finances - all in one dark day.

So, there I sat at church on a Sunday morning in September in tears.  Sobbing my way through worship I realized I was so mad.  Mad and confused!  Why in the world had we heard the Lord say "go" ... and if we really even did, why would this happen now?  I couldn't wrap my head around the why's of it all.  Those moments felt so overwhelming ... like the grief you encounter during a horrible loss ... which didn't make sense to me at all.  I couldn't figure out his timing ... but just kept telling Doug that I knew he had said "NOW".    Doug agreed ... and so we kept walking.

That next Friday night, two friends arrived at our door.  They had a proposal for us ... they wanted to help us put together a garage sale to help us raise some of the funds we needed for the journey that lay ahead.  I remember sitting on the couch bewildered.  We barely even really "knew" this couple.  Sure, we had run in somewhat the same crowd at church at one time but that was so long ago.  I sat listening to this precious couple tell us how they wanted to serve and help US and yet I couldn't figure out really, what had prompted their hearts!

That week, on September 11 2010, I wrote this post!  And during that week the Lord gave me this scripture;

"I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers".  Isaiah 65:24

Little did I know just how relevant that scripture was ... not just for me, but for my son.  It was that week, on September 22 2010 that our Zebene was taken by his birth Mom to the orphanage.  On that day, he became an orphan ... and on that day - September 22, 2010, we also turned in all our paperwork to our social worker so we could begin the home study portion of our process.  We were still waking this journey!  
It wasn't just our needs he was considering.  He didn't just show up in our finances through the heart of sweet friends.  No, all the while, a beautiful young woman was making the hardest decision of our her life and he was busy going to work getting a family 1/2 way around the world ready to bring him HOME ... heartache and all ... we were walking through each door!  

Fast forward some months ... 7 of them.    On May 24, 2010 I blogged about how the Lord was preparing our hearts for our little boy.   On that day I wrote this post.  On that day I wrote these words

Last night I had the most vivid dream of our referral moment and the moment I saw your face.  My heart must be well prepared and perhaps the day will soon come indeed.  We will only know when he shows us his hand and his timing.   Though it doesn't feel perfect, we know it is.

I wanted you to know though, Levi, as you look back at your journey that each and every night we prayed for you and your arrival home.  We dreamt of you, talked of you and included thoughts of you in all of our preparations and plans.  Yesterday during nap time your big sister Maliah was crying.  It was an intense set of emotions she was going through and without prompting she said "I miss my Levi and want him home".  You are talked of often and I believe in our hearts, you have been born.  Watching the swell of emotions from your 5 year old sister reminds me of this truth.

Though we can't see the Lord at work in this story, we know he is.  Much like each day, we can't see our breathe or the wind in the air ... it is there.  So is his presence and his hand in your story.  We may not see it now, in this moment what he is up to ... but I think our spirit does.  He is preparing a place for you ...

On that very day, May 24 2010, our little boy was being brought from the Shalom Children's Hope Orphanage to the Transitional Home of our adoption agency where he would be prepared and readied for his new family.  Yes, on that day ... the Lord really was preparing a place for you, Zebene, and along with that place, he was preparing our hearts!  

And most recently, the Lord showed us just how hard the enemy is at work to try and assure that you would not come home.  But we know what the Lord says ... If our God is with us, then what can stand against us?  

As I recently wrote about it,  here, our travels to get to you was less than easy.  75 LOOONG hours full of one trial after another.  I will never forget after about 48 hours of chaos, Dakota telling me that "Jesus's angels and the enemy's Demons were fighting for us ... but that that was o.k., because we KNEW who would win".   Boy, did I ever need that reminder in that moment.  It was those words that bought me the next 24 hours.  

As we were on our last plane and arriving in Ethiopia, I wrote that post above.  Of course, you can imagine how drained both emotionally and physically we were in those moments.  We were sure we would never make it to Africa.  As our plane was landing I remember looking down and seeing my blue eyed beauty in tears.  Tears!  I asked her what was wrong thinking that something had happened and she shook her head and then through broken words began to explain that she was overcome with joy.  Her tears, were tears of JOY!   She had seen us WIN!  

I wrote that post and received many different comments and reflections from some of you.  Mostly encouragement from those who read on.  Bewilderment from others who couldn't believe we had made it through such an ordeal ... in one piece and still had smiles on our faces.   I know,  I was just as bewildered.  That alone is a finger print of God I shouldn't forget.  
But there was one comment that has always left me puzzled.  The one comment that seemed to work hard to set me into my place ... telling me that I should stop and consider just how much our little boy had been through.  The tone of the comment letting me know that somehow, they didn't appreciate my reflection of my 75 hours and that they thought in some way I had never stopped and considered the loss, grief and trials my own son had encountered to get to this place.  I suppose seeing my hours as simple, nagging complaints.  The comment told me that I didn't need to ever understand why I had missed two days with my boy ... and ended by telling me "perspective was a beautiful thing".

But alas, so much of what you said was wrong ... and yet,  so much was right.  First, I have always wanted to comment on your comment that would suggest that we have never considered the loss, grief and trials our son had to encounter to find his way into our lives.  Are you kidding me???  I live this ... daily!  This aint our first disco.  We live daily the reality of what brokenness does in a child.  We have not only considered it ... but we have are learning with each day how to live it!  Secondly, you are so so right too!  You see, perspective is a beautiful thing!!  In the 75 hours that we were encountering travel hell, we learned that our precious boys birth Mom was traveling 12 hours North and giving her consent to a judge to allow for this adoption to take place.  We didn't have to ever know that ... but the Lord sure did want us to.  I suppose he thought you were right ...  perspective is beautiful! 

 You see, we knew all along that our chaos was spiritual warfare, and we were pretty sure what we were battling ... but now we know WHY we were battling it!  It was everything that the enemy could do to keep us from making it to Ethiopia.  It was everything he could do to discourage us, because he KNEW if we did arrive, that the way was being paved for our little boy to be placed without reservation into our lives.  OUR LIVES ... the lives of a family who would most assuredly tell him THIS story ... the story of a redeemer that had been answering his prayers even before their was a need for them.  A story about a redeemer who had begun to grow a child in our heart, long before we had ever seen his face.  A story of a redeemer who had come to take our precious boys ashes and turn them into HIS beauty!  A story that we will most certainly tell him the rest of his precious days!  

So, there you have it ... Perspective!  You are right!  It is such a beautiful thing ... and even more beautiful, when you see the fingerprints of God sprinkled through it.  

Our journey continues ... he is still writing this great story!  

Friday, December 9, 2011

What now brown Cow ... what's next?

Many have asked what happens now?  I know it seems so hard to understand that we went half way around the world, passed court and yet did not come home with our son.  Welcome to adoption where things don't always "make sense".  Faith!

So what now?  We are currently waiting on the US side to clear our Zebene to come home.  After we passed court, the judge wrote a court decree that is compiled with a bunch of other paperwork.  The infamous MOWCYA approval letter, original birth certificate, passport and another round of medical tests must be completed on Zebene to be submitted to our embassy for approval.  This approval gives us the much needed clearance to come for our "interview" and get his VISA to come home.  Rounding up all these things can take anywhere between 2 and 5 weeks.  Our agency "guestimates" that ours should be submitted on December 28.  We (our agency) can only submit files on Wednesdays so that means if our paperwork is ready on a Thursday, we have to wait until the next Wednesday to be submitted.  UGH. I know.

Once that is submitted, the Embassy has 10 days to respond to our case and can do one of 3 things;
1.)  Find his case "Clearly Approvable" and clear us for an interview and travel.  We will then organize and set our "Interview appointment" which happens in country and travel to bring him HOME!
2.)  Request additional evidence to which our agency would need to track down those items and then we await the Embassy to approve.
3.)  Send our case to the USCIS in Nairobi, Kenya for a complete investigation which would mean a lengthy delay ... most often, months!

So, can you take a guess which door we are praying for!  Clearly ... not hard to decide.

It is our prayer and hope that we are frantically organizing travel and details for a January Embassy date.  That is our prayer this Christmas.  Will you join us in that prayer?

In the meantime, I am trying to figure out how you do Christmas with all that's on our hearts.  I mean, how do you travel twice in a year to a place where you have seen so many children without the basic necessities of life and then come home and shop away to fill stockings and more without thinking and reconciling what you have experienced and the truth of all the things we really don't need?  How do you reconcile that your 3 children have always had Santa bring them goodies each year and yet next year, your child from Ethiopia may stop and wonder where Santa was in his life ... I mean, all those cute TV shows talk about Santa taking goodies to kids all around the world who have been "nice"?  Did Santa just forget him?  It's just something that is rattling around in my heart.  Even if he never asks ... you better believe my other kids will.  And well, what if they don't either ... is that a free kitchen pass to not stop and really take a deeper look at the way we do things?  And really, truthfully, we don't make a fuss out of Santa to begin with since we do try to keep our kids perspective on the truth of Christmas ... a celebration of the King of Kings birth.   But 11 years ago, the only way I knew to celebrate Christmas was the one that most Americans celebrate.  The one with a big fat man who brings you gifts of tidings and joy when you have a been a "good little girl" all year.  Anything different didn't sound like "Christmas" to me.  And it's not wrong ... their are many believers who follow suite and do the same.  Their is the argument that it brings children joy and it is fun to make believe - that isn't wrong or bad.  It doesn't mean they don't and can't know the true meaning of the holiday.  I am not saying that is the case.  But in the end, I wonder (for us) what Jesus would think that we have overshadowed his day in the attempts to keep "tradition" and make things "Fun" in light of all he showed us this year about who he really is ... ?    11 years later and 11 years deeper into my faith, I find my heart taking a moment to re-examen the choices we have made and wonder what Christmas would be like if our joy was wrapped up in the beautiful and simple story of a baby born in a manger who came to save the world.   Isn't that enough?  Would that be enough?

If he was enough for us ... shouldn't he be enough for my kids too?  If a manger, full of animals, with a feed box was good enough that night for the King of Kings ... then why do we believe we deserve anything better?  Why do we believe that HE isn't enough joy each Christmas?

I am just wondering.  I am just pondering.  I'll let you know if I come to a conclusion.  As for this Christmas, we have set out stockings and the "Elf" of Elf on the shelf has arrived.  My kids do love the joy of looking for him each day.  And that's fun.  We also have enjoyed sitting around the table, drinking hot coco and reflecting on a baby who came to save the world.  We have discussed and pondered what Mary must have thought that day when an angel appeared before her.  My kids have come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, Angels don't look like what we think they do ... because if they did, then why would each time an angel appear before someone, would their meeting begin with "Do not fear"?  We have pondered why their were no rooms available that night and there was no place more deserving and comfortable for the birth of the Savior.   We have talked about that perhaps, Jesus, who came into a home with little was showing us that if it was enough for him .... it should be enough for us!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We made it home after that long and brutal travel itinerary.  6 hours in LA surely felt like a lifetime.  When you are so close to home and yet so so far.  At that point, we were 29 hours into travels and our bodies were saying "NO MORE!".  This was especially true for my blondie.  As we sat in the airport, she quickly fell off to sleep.  Within a few hours I awoke her to see if she needed to use the restroom.  She said she did and we began walking to the nearest one.  It was then that I realized that my darling daughter was yes, SLEEP WALKING!  From the time she dozed off into her first nap until about 15 minutes from San Antonio touch down, my girl slept.  Perhaps not to the nearest onlooker ... but oh, she was sleeping ... and talking ... and walking ... and saying oh so many WEIRD and crazy things.  It was bizarre!

Since arrival home it seems she also has had the hardest time.  We arrived home on Saturday night (Sunday morning) at 12:45am.  By Sunday morning she was sick on the couch with a girgly tummy and vomiting.  I started her on an antibiotic I had for stomach dysentary that afternoon.  Monday morning she was still sick but by the afternoon she was starting to perk up.  Tuesday she was great and begged to go to school ... we obliged.  The rest of the week she did great though she was still very tired each afternoon and seemed to have little appetite.

Friday night I joined my folks for dinner out.  They had planned to take the kids back to their house while I attended a CD release function for a sweet friend.  Dakota at dinner complained of a tummy ache and her coloring began to disappear.  She nibbled on a tortilla

Monday, November 28, 2011

Zebene Levi Martine ... a little debut

Thought I'd put together a little video of our journey thus far.  It's nothing fancy ... we'll do that one later.  But for now, I think you can get a good look at our boy here.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Almost home...

Here we sit. Again. We are almost home now after 25 plus hours of traveling. One more layover in LA, one more flight to go. But we definitely all left a huge part of ourselves back in Ethiopia. As we were heading to our flight in Ethiopia Canyon informed us he didn't want to leave. He held back tears of sadness. Just as Ethiopia did to me and just as I hoped ....Africa stole a part of each of us. My kids have grown and changed so much. I have watched them laugh, love and live beyond themselves. They get it! They now have faces to marry with the statistics we all throw out about the orphan crisis. They have walked the halls of orphanages, smiled and loved children who to much of the world are forgotten. And while they were doing it ... They saw Jesus in each of them. (see Matthew... Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me) This was my greatest prayer. No dollar amount or travel glitches can measure what I saw in my kids faces as they became the living Gospel ... Sharing truth of his love by simply being him wrapped up in tennis shoes and a smile! Worth it!!! We also laughed much and grew a ton as a family. Travel trials, meeting our brother and son, court fiasco and pressures, loving on kids, fellowshiping with other families and taking in a new culture are all a part of what the Lord has used in 10 short days to show us a little more of him but also a little more about ourselves. Growth is often hard ... But so good! We also come home with a better idea of what to expect upon our arrival home with Z. Lots of transitions are to come ... But we cannot wait to start the process! I will talk more about that soon. Thank you for praying. Keep them up! We are hoping our paperwork will be submitted to the embassy soon and that we will be granted a quick approval so we can return for our embassy interview and bring our little guy HOME!!! Until then, we rest in the knowledge that he is loved by the one who can love him best!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye is never easy!

Saying goodbye is never easy, but when you are leaving your 3.5 year old for an unknown amount of time ... It is horrible. Our last day with Z was fun but hard. He is a shy little guy and yet we have seen a small windows into a a big personality waiting to be uncovered. The week went so fast with him and the reality is, he really doesn't understand much of what is going on ... Including, who are these forenge's that keep showing up and smothering me in hugs. The older children, however, are an entirely different story. Today I watched as the children gathered around Yonas and were inquiring when their families were coming. For some, the news was bright ... Parents were coming and coming soon. But I also watched as one little girl sat in tears and asked why she didn't yet have a family. I watched as Yonas told her that soon God would bring her one. My heart ached and a lump filled my throat. We adore our Z and would love to say that he was broken when we left but the reality is, he is still too young to get it and too young to understand this process. Sure, he will soon understand what a family is ... But not yet. Saying goodbye was torture for us ... But honestly, I am actually relieved that he doesn't know yet what he is missing. How much harder it has been to watch those families with older kids who do get it. Words cannot describe their sadness. We wait anxiously to return so we can begin to grow as a family and watch in wonder as our Z blooms over time. But today ... Today I watched children we did understand what it means to not have a family. I watched what being chosen feels and looks like. I also saw what it looks like when you are not chosen. If I can send one plea, it would be to ask if that family is you. Is God calling you to a older child? There are many who hope so! The kids are beautiful and full of joy! They are created in his image and yurning to be loved by a family. I will say that I am so impressed by our transitional home. The Nanny's love the kids and the home is well cared for but yet, it is still not a family!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We have a SON!  It is official.  It seems the enemy is working overtime on this assignment but once again, he is defeated!

We returned to court the next day at 9:00.  We recognized many faces in the crowd as others who had also been turned away the day prior.  We had been told on that day that the judge was frustrated that people were talking.  This day, the room was absolutely silent.  Every once in a while you would see a group begin to emerge as the talkers, however, another agency rep. that my kids lovingly nicknamed "Officer Bob" would go and tell them of the previous days mishaps.  Quickly they would quiet.

After 2 plus hours of waiting we heard the name Shalom ... our orphanage.  Our rep. went in only to return with a shaking head.  We waited and waited and waited with little word of what was happening.  By 11:30 I was beginning to grow weary and disheartened.  The room was still very full and we knew the court closed without apology at 12.  We then found out that one of the files from our group of 2 had "misplaced".  We did not know which one it was, only that they could not locate it.  Our agency rep disappeared for some time.  The room began to empty and we soon found ourselves the only families waiting court with exception to one other family.  Low and behold, it seems our files had been filed under theirs and vice versa.  Once our files were safely recovered we entered the judge's court.  We found a soft spoken, well dressed, beautiful woman.  She asked us a stream of questions and then we heard from her lips "it is approved, Zebene is yours".  I could hardly believe my ears.  As I stood up, I was in disbelief.  I turned to our rep and asked "we are approved, he is ours".  Smiling, he shook his head and said "yes yes".

Both us and the other family we had grown to love, the Borges, emerged from the court as new parents again.  We were all in tears.  All the waiting and heartache and 75 hours of travel quickly became a distant memory ... Zebene Levi Martine was OFFICIALLY an orphan no more!  We have a son!

The past few days have been busy busy since.  We have enjoyed some time at another orphanage today (AHope), an orphanage for HIV+ children only.  We held babies and the kids passed out goodies.  We brought donations of crocs and visited with their program director.

Zebene is a hilarious little guy.  We have learned that he isn't a crowds man and would rather rome freely on his own.  Each day we arrive he is shy and reserved but will find one of us (Doug and I) and reach up to be held.  We love that!  I can't wait to tell him one day how whenever he would see a picture of us, he would call us a forenge (white person/foreigner).  It makes me laugh.  The Nanny's and our guides will correct him and tell him "Mommy, Daddy", and he will give his little nod of the chin and raise his eyebrows as if to say "yes" ... and soon will follow with his own version "Mommy, Daddy Forenge".

There are some points of the day that he will get very animated.  I think in those moments we see a window into his real personality.  Today, we are pretty sure he was telling Doug just how he felt about something.  He was very verbal about something while we were playing on the slide.  He had the kids and I laughing so hard.  We need to get it on video so that perhaps Yonas or Job, our guides can tell us what he is saying ... then again, do we want to know?

We know we have a long road ahead with bonding and attachment.  Communicating is harder than I had expected although I did learn today what "shint" is.  Yep, pee pee.  Got that all important point down.  I am certain that might be one of the important ones.  I think when I arrive home, I will be doing some heavy Amharic studying.

We sure love this little guy though.  He is truly a gift.  Thank you so much for praying us through court.  You know though, your assignment is far from over.  We still have embassy to clear so we can bring him home.

Well, it is getting very late here.  I know all you really want to see are pictures so I will try and post a few.  I have a few with some animated faces of our Z with his Daddy that I can't wait to post when I get home.  I haven't loaded them yet though.  But, I guess this is the big reveal.  Meet our son ..

Zebene Levi Martine

Dakota made a special friend.  I can't show her face or say her name yet as they are awaiting word that they passed court.  But let's just say, language didn't get in the way of an amazing little new friendship.  

The Borges family.  We adored this family!  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 3 and 4 ... But no court!

Hello from Ethiopia! Sorry for no posts lately, however just as everything is is the Internet. Day 3 and 4 with Z went great! We are learning more and more about our little guy. He loves his Meccena (cars). He also loves books and pointing to the pictures and telling us what he sees. I have learned he can say duck, elephant, cat, fish, count to 20, sing a precious ABC song and more. While playing a game of UNO with some of the older kids, he also pointed to the number 3 and told us what it was. He has a cautious spirit and becomes afraid of things easily. Heights don't appear to be his thing. For example, he will only climb part ways up the slide and the pauses and turns around. It is as if he is trying to find his courage. we learned when he doesn't want to do something he will shrug his little left shoulder and out his face towards it. Yes is a raise of the eyes (as all Ethiopians), he will give you 5 when you ask and well, has a smile that will light up the room! I have gotten a few sweet hugs and moments. When we arrived yesterday, he looked around at the kids and Doug with a little hesitancy and then walked to me and put out his hands to be picked up. It ended in some good cuddles. Today Doug got him in his lap listening to music (which he loves) and he sat there for a long time nestled in with him. We got to see his bed and Nanny's which was good. The older kids were all precious! I would love to put a plug for the beautiful older kids. They are precious!!!! Doug and Canyon have stirred up quite a few games of soccer. Went to court today. I was a nervous wreck. After we arrived I learned that Z's mom gave her consent four days ago. I was relieved to know that had been done but also sad we wouldn't meet her today as her court day was supposed to be with ours after her original date didn't take place. We waited for some time and then it seems for whatever reason we don't know or understand, the judgge got upset and canceled all courts. We stood outside for 2 hours in hopes of our director getting favor, but it didn't happen. They are saying we will try again tomorrow. Welcome to Africa. We are having a great time though. My kids have been amazing!!!! I can't tell you how many times they have brought me to tears. Giving a homeless man their water, making new and precious friends at the transitional home, buying things from street kids and having conversations with them and looking as though feel right at home. It has been life changing for sure! Canyon bought a soccer ball from someone one the street. He took it to the TH to play with it and it got torn up. He responded by saying that he'd only bought the ball to help the man and bless the kids. He had no intention of bringing it home. Love! If you notice this is one big paragraph, my apoologies! My iPad makes my posts weird. I also can't upload pics except on Doug's computer. Please be praying on Tuesday night your time (wednesday for us) for court. We feel the spiritual storm around us and are asking for prayers to see our way through it. It gets harder each day to leave my boy behind. Every time the van drives away, I watch I tears as they walk him down the road to his current home. Yesterday, he turned back and waved... I about lost it!! Friday will be tough, but it will be even tougher if we still lack passing court. I know many of you are living this too. So thankful we can pray one another throughout it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 2 - getting to know you

Today, being Sunday, we awoke and had the pleasure of attending the International Evangelical Church here in Addis.  It was awesome to see so many nations gathered in one place for worship.  I imagine that that was a mere small window into what it will be like in heaven as we worship in one accord.  Beautiful faces of many nations.  You can imagine my surprise then when the worship team began to sing "All praise to God", which is a song from my dearest friends Billy and Cindy Foote.  I wept.  I know their heart for the nations and I know how excited that they would be to know their songs have made it to Ethiopia.

From there, we went to lunch was delicious.  Of course, the best part of every meal is the fellowship with the other families.  We are blessed by precious families in our midst ... precious families with precious kids!

From there we went to the Transitional Home to see our Z.  When we arrived he was nowhere to be found.  We soon found out that he was out seeing a children's Exhibition and having a picnic with the social worker/staff from the older children's transitional home.  Though we were sad he wasn't yet there, to know they do such amazing things with our kids is refreshing.

Our awesome guides went looking for him and he arrived about an hour later.  I could tell he'd been having a good time.  He was also wearing an outfit we had sent him in a care package.  Love it!
He came in and was again unsure of us.  That only lasted a few minutes though as he quickly went to work playing ball and kicking us the blow up beach ball that we had on hand.

He loves to giggle and his smile is radiant.  His eyes are amazingly beautiful and expressive.
For times sake ... as we are about to leave to go to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, I wanted to post a few things we learned about our little boy today.

  1.  He is assertive.  He kept telling us "Umptuh" as he would reach for toys.  I asked Yonas our guide and he said that meant "bring it" ... in other words - give it to me.
  2. He can count .. in english .. I know to four at least
  3. He tells us "kwoss" when he wants the ball.  We soon learned that is the Amharic word for it.  duh!!
  4. He doesn't like help and is like any other 3 year old "I do it myself" ... only his eyes and his twist of the shoulders tell us so.
  5. He loves stickers
The highlight for me today was at one point when Doug was acting like he was going to get Z.  He was doing tickle fingers and saying "I'm gonna get you".  Z turned to me, put his hands up (asking me to hold him).  I grabbed him up in my arms and he held on tight like a little monkey.  As I ran away with him he giggled in delight.  
Every moment counts!  

While I can't show you photos yet our boy, I'll put a few in here of the kids.  They are doing AMAZING!  Canyon is quite in his element and has LOVED playing with the older kids at the transitional home.  Both them and he have quite the soccer skills and language is no barrier when it comes to "futball".  Dakota is doing awesome too.  She stays right by Z's side and is always telling him in English what things are.  Super fun watching my kids thrive and come alive here in Ethiopia.

Shopping at the "post office"

Having fun.  There is our boy ... 

I ran into a boy I met in February in the "post office" (shopping area).  His name is Tesfay.  We both recognized one another  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Metcha Day

We met our boy! What a day. I am not sure I can put it into words and I so wished I could share pictures but not yet. pray for that passing court! As we stood waiting for him to come through the doors and on to the porch, I thought I was going to loose it. But within seconds I saw a precious little boy come walking down a hall and on to the porch of the Transitional Home. Grabbing Job, our guides hand, he walked straight to us. As we knelt down he went right to Doug and stood solemnly quiet. Job began to tell him something and he listened intently with his eyes focused on the family who was taking pictures for us nearby. I slowly reached up and took his hand and just simply held it. What a brave boy! We moved over to a grassy area and got out a toy car. That was a big hit for sure. For a while he stood examining his car with little emotion on his face. He worked very hard to keep his eyes from meeting mine. I can only imagine what he must be thinking. After a bit, I caressed his back and tickled him a bit. It wasn't long and he flashed his first smile our way. I knew we had break through. We blew up a beach ball and began to toss it around to one another. Soon it became a game that he joined in. Taking turns he tossed it to each of us ... His choice, us in the middle. Before I knew it, we had full giggles and smiles and then we heard it "daddy". Melt our hearts! He has stolen our hearts. The day went beautifully and we couldn't be more pleased. He is so full of joy. And well, Maliah might have a run for her money in the curiosity department. Pipa, we have some work to do on a few broken child locks. I have a sneaky suspicion he will be into everything. A few things about Z we learned 1. He has the greatest smile 2. he has the most expressive eyes 3. he loves my iPhone and in particular music and turning it up and down. 4. He can point to pictures of some animals and tell you the names in English; elephant, fish, monkey, duck. 5. When I asked him "what is this" - pointing to his car- he told me the word for car in Amharic. 6. He loves to touch and explore. 7. He loves to throw balls. 8. He is cuddly to hug 9. They shaved his beautiful hair. Boo! His recent pics it had gotten long. 10. He has a sweet voice. Tomorrow, we get to see him again in the afternoon after church and lunch. It can't come soon enough!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Planes, trains, automobiles ...0h my!!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!!!!!! We are now officially in the air on our last flight into Addis.  We were supposed to be arriving on the night of the 16, however, we entered travel hell from the moment we stepped foot into the first airport.  72 hours later, two deplaning journeys, two Tarmac stand stills and 3 hotels ( with no sleep), 4 bus rides, two airport taxi's and and 27 hours in Germany  ... We should be arriving in 3 or so hours.   It will be 8:30 pm on the 18th when we arrive ... 11:30 am our time the same day.  That actually would make it 73- count them - 73 hours of traveling now.  It seems crazy to even type that! Though it would take me a full 73 hours of retelling  the story to allow you the full  pleasure of our entire experience, I will work to hit the highest points of our "joys" along the way. 1.  We boarded our first flight, were just set to take off and the captain came on to say that Houston was grounded due to storms.  0ur first hint of rough skies ahead. 2. Sat two hours in the airport and reboarded the plane once Houston cleared us to travel.  Reboarded and headed out on a Tarmac and just as we were set to depart, the captain informs us Houston is again closed.  We sit ... 1.5 hours - this time on a very hot plane, on the runway,  as we had pulled far away from the terminal. 3. Upon Houston arrival, our plane has no place to "park" so we sit again - 1 hour. 4. We missed connecting flights- all of them that would go out to Frankfurt that night we  miss.   There was no one to be found to help us through Lufthansa to see about new flights.  Apparently, from experience ... The only way to find a Lufthansa rep is to go to Germany, their hub, where you can't find anything else.   After 4.5 hours of chaos, working to find our bags and re-booking flights,  we head to a hotel for the night.  We get there and eat dinner at 10:00 pm. 5. Hotel stay 1. Houston - we sleep a little restless ... But thankful we do sleep. We awake and pray that his mercies are indeed new each morning.   6. 4:10 the next day we depart for Frankfurt, but not before we sit on the Tarmac for an extra hour. This time, a coyote on the runway.  I can't even make this up ... But we lift off and we now officially are headed international.  So thankful! 7. Flight goes well - praise!  We arrive in Frankfurt at 8:55 am on the 17 - now one day after we were supposed to have arrived in Africa.  My heart aches - I should have met "Z" by now.   8.  We went to a hotel upon arrival as we had a 14 hour layover.  Praise!  We got our first 5 hours sleep in 2 days.  Our time it is the middle of the night remember.   9. We arrive back at the airport at 4:30 pm for a 10:35 pm departure.  Remember, we don't want to take any risks.  We sit and enjoy a dinner - first real food since pizza in Houston.   10.  Ethiopia finally opens the ticket counter at 8, we are excited and are one of the first in line.  We soon discover we are nowhere in their booking system.  We literally were never re-booked as we had both confirmed and had been told.  It is way too confusing and long to explain, however, after complete panic, some tears on my part and one awesome German Lufthansa ticket lady arguing on our behalf, they finally issue us tickets.  Joy and praises abound.  Dakota declares that Jesus"s angels and the devils demons are fighting over us.  She declares in truth that the Lord always wins. 11. We get on the flight and get settled.  The plane taxi's on to the runway.  By this time it is after 10:45 pm.  We sit for a while and a few minutes after 11:00 the captain comes on to say that we have passed the 11:00 pm air curfew in Germany by ONE - ONE - let me say that again so you can feel our pain - ONE minute.  He says they now need the Gov't to give a release for us to take off. 12. We WAIT.  An hour goes by 13. The captain informs us that we are denied release into the air space  - we must deplane and go out in the morning.  Words cannot describe the frustration and confusion. 14. Ethiopia airlines shuffles 300 passengers off the plane and on to buses.  We are transported to the closest airport - 30 minutes away.  It is now 1:30am.  We have also had the pleausure of seeing just how cold it is in Germany as we await our bus outside - in the cold. 15. We arrive at a hotel and wait in a line with our new closest 300 friends for a room assignment.  This finally happens around 2:30am. During this time I visit with the captain who tells us that this law justvwent into effect on November 1 .... And every night since, this has happened.  Mental note - don't fly through Franfurt. 16. We take naps ( well, the kids do)  and get up for a pick up by the buses of 6:30 am.  As we go downstairs, we are told the flight time is moved later - we will now leave the hotel at 8:30am.  - and should depart at 10:40 am. 17.  We sit. Again.  We haven't eaten in hours. We are exhausted.  Did I mention that we are in Germany? Our TV experience to fill our time tells us so. 18. Finally the buses come and we head back to the airport.  We are shuffled like cattle back through security, go back through passport entry and finally board a plane at 10:30 am. 19. We sit for two hours on that runway before we depart.  At this point, I still couldn't believe we would actually see the "friendly skies".  You know,  we have learned that not only is it not over until the fat lady sings ... But it isn't over until your feet have touched the ground in your destination place.  Anything- I mean, anything can happen!  I am now sitting here on this last flight with 3 hours to go.  I am sitting here and amazed that we have come through so much and still have our heads in tact.  I am amazed that my two kids have traveled this hell without one complaint or tear.  And well, I will be honest ... While I know you will tell me that it is "all in his timing" or that "he is sovereign", I will never understand this trip.  I will never understand why he allowed us to miss two full days  in Africa.  Why his plan included missing two days with my son I have yet to meet.  Why my kids were drug through the ringer and a living hell.   Yes, we know it is true .... But unless you have lived this.  Unless you have walked this out.... You will never know how hard a pill that is to swallow. So, we pray now we have guides on the other end who are as anxious to meet us at the airport as we are them.  We pray that the rest of the trip can be far less eventful. Remember that I had called in some prayer warriors during my "help wanted" post.  Well, you have officially been called into overtime!  There is a battle in the heavenlies .... We you intercede? Oh did I mention the poor baby that was 2 rows ahead if us on our 10 hour flight from Houston to Frankfurt?  She screamed - I mean screamed for 7 of the 10 hours.  She had just finally fallen to sleep when the attendants came and took her bassinet away.  That poor mama still had to get to India.  Praying her next flight was more peaceful for everyone's sake.   Sorry this is so long. Update, we have arrived at our guest house. Exhausted bit thankful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

houston, we have a problem!

The eager beavers we are, we arrived 3 hours early for our flight in San Antonio going to Houston. We didn' t want issues or delay. Better to arrive early than late. Got through security, ate some lunch and waited to board. 1:00 arrived and we boarded. Two very eager and excited kids plus two anxious parents, We were off .... Or were we? Just as we were about to leave, the engines shut down and the captain came on "Houston has a problem, a storm is coming and they have grounded all flights". Uh oh. The captain said they would be deplaning alllll of us. It would be 2 hours at least. I knew then we were in for a haul. We only had 1.5 hours in Houston before our flight to Germany left. 3 hours in Frankfurt for our flight to Ethiopia. That sounds like funny math to me. We sat ... And then were boarded again 2 hours later. Here we went, de ja vu! Or would we? Once boarded a second time, the engines came on and we taxi'd away for lift off. Or would we? Here came the captain again ... Houston is once again grounded only this time, we were stuck ... Literally, in the back of the plane with no AC. Oh my gosh it was HOT! Seriously, we entered hell. From there, it was like a remake of Steve Martin's planes, trains and automobiles. 1 we missed our flights 2 we couldn't locate bags 3 we ran from terminal to terminal with no help. 4 we finally were directed to the right helper 5 we now were stuck in Houston for a whole day 6 spent $ for a cart that wouldn't dispense from the holder 7 ten hours later, arrived in a hotel ... 3 hours from home. Um yes, we could have driven this 3 times by now. We now depart at 4:10 this afternoon. A full day later. It gets better.... We will have 13, yes 13 hour layover in Frankfurt and 2 days later than original planned, we will arrive in Addis. I think all in all we' ll be traveling around 67 hours from our original time we left. That is some serious travel hell. We are thankful for a hotel. No, they didn't comp or help. But thankful. Thankful that we WILL get there ... someday. Thankful our kids are doing great. thankful we got some sleep last night. Thankful that we have you praying. thankful his mercies are new each morning. Thankful that awaiting us is a beautiful little boy! PS sorry for typos... Doing this on an iPad. signing off from Houston and thankful that un a few long days and several planes later... That WILL say Addis Ababba! Love to all

Saturday, November 12, 2011

9 and sharing her journey

Aaaaah, it's quiet.  The only sound in my house is the worship music I have on to settle my heart and direct my thoughts.  How I successfully got 2 entire hours in my house ALONE on a Saturday could only be described as a sweet romance from the one who loves me best.   He hears your prayers.  Thank you!

I should be packing.  I should be doing a lot of things.  But the one thing that I couldn't get out of my head was the absolute sweetest and most precious writing that my 9 year old did this past week at school.  Her teacher stopped me in the hall during conferences to let me know that Dakota talked all the time of her new brother, "Z" and her up and coming trip to meet him.  She shared that Dakota had moved her to tears this week with something she had written.  In fact, she (her teacher) read it to every single one of the 4th grade classes!  That thrilled Dakota for sure!  Could it be that my 9 year old, in her own way, is sharing the heart of her Father for the fatherless.  Indeed, my beauty, even in her public school is getting to share the second Gospel ... Adoption ... in a very real and tangible way.   What a better way to share the heart of adoption than allowing them to live a little of the journey with her through her writings and by giving them a window into the adventure as she talks all about it.

I will put a picture of her writing but just in case you can't read all the words, I will put them here.

The first one has 3 separate pictures and sentences.  They read:

"Z's eyes searches frantically for us as soon as we left the orphanage.  I didn't want to leave at all, but I knew I had to.  When we left Z he was as scared as a wild horse when we left the orphanage"
Gulp.  Yeah, that one brought me to my knees.  She gets it ... even sweet Dakota knows how hard the good bye will be for all of us.

"Z's eyes were searching frantically as we pulled out toys for him out of my backpack.  As soon as we gave him the toys, he was as happy as a piece of candy".  
OK, so Candy doesn't really have feelings ... but I imagine if it did, I suspect it would be pretty darn happy.

"Z's face lit up like the fourth of July as soon as he stepped foot in America with his family.  All his friends and family couldn't believe he was finally home.  We were so happy!!!!!!!!!  Z was as happy as a dog with a bone."
Hmmm, mmmm, baby girl, you are so right.  That day will be better than the most beautiful fire work display.  I love that you compared that day to 4th of July ... freedom, a new birth, a celebration, hope ... a holiday honoring the red/white and blue and a country with promise.  How appropriate since Z will also become a citizen on that day.  I am holding on to this one, Dakota ... and dreaming with you of the day to come!  When we step off that plane after trip #2 .... YOU, my beautiful girl will be there to welcome home the brother you already met.  He will be looking for you and I am certain, as happy as a dog with a bone because he has finally found you!

The next assignment she had drawn all the members of her family.  The 6th and final box was "Z".  She had to use descriptive words and sentences to describe our hair which were all HILARIOUS!  "Z"s cracked me up though...

"Z"s hair is like curly string on a present.  He is having a celebration on his head."

Yeah, o.k. that is too cute for words.  What a perfect description of his beautiful curly locks.  My boy is a constant party.  This should be fun!  

*note that I had to blurr each time Dakota used "Z"'s full name.  We have to do this until he is officially "ours"*

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

update and a prayer

We received "Z"'s monthly update for October last week.  I've been so busy I hadn't had a chance to write about it.  Every time we receive pictures or an update, I fall more and more in love with this precious boy that I have only met through pictures and a few short minutes of video.  He is adorable!
He is described as happy, active, loveable and playful.  It says he "loves to dance when he feels free or when adults are not supervising"  HA.  It also says he is "very active to touch things".  Maliah officially has a partner in crime!  It says he is not afraid of anything that the Nanny's know of.  He is disciplined with time outs and responds well to that discipline.  And lastly, when I asked what made him laugh it said "Playing with him, dancing and music".   I have a LIVE WIRE!

I think I'll bask in those details a while.  It's so much more enjoyable than the other gazillion things in my head is filled with.

While I can't share details of my son's case ... the Lord knows them.  With that, I am asking for prayers for November 11 (the night of November 10).  It's a big day in the life of our soon to be little boy.  Please pray the Lord would work out every detail.  He knows them ... it's his plan.

This time next week we'll be Ethiopia bound.  It still feels unreal with the exception to the large piles of "Stuff" beginning to accumulate in corners of "Z"'s room.  A bunch of "Stuff" that must travel.  Pinch me.

Thank you is not enough for the prayers I have received this week.  I was sent the most beautiful prayer from a true warrior last night - at just the right time, no doubt!  I am putting it here ... because one day, when I look back at these journals, I want to see how the Lord answered all these prayers - and then some!  He started, by bringing me amazing new friends!  Thank you.

Father God,
Be their rock. Be their fortress. Be their deliver.
May Cristie and her entire family know that underneath the everlasting arms of an eternal God is their refuge and He will thrust out
the enemy from before them, and say "Destroy!" Then they shall dwell in safely in a land of flowing water, rivers, springs and an abundance of grain and blessings from Heaven.
Heavenly Father, rain on your dry lands. Rain where your living water is so desperately needed for life. Rain so that there is clean water and fresh water where there is none.
Father God, bless the Martini's with supernatural health, pockets of rest and open spaces on their calendar. Free them from all unnecessary errands, duties and obligations.
Help them discern what is distraction and grant them clarity of focus and keen minds.
Bless little "Z" with an awareness and stirring desire for them that upon being united, it will feel to all like "a longing fulfilled."
I ask right now on their behalf, that they receive abundant favor and that everything will pass through and keep moving without hiccup or delay. I ask that the purposes of heaven birthed in their hearts will be loosed in fullness over their family, their travels and "Z."
I ask that those things that would hinder, prevent, delay or cause anything to dishearten them, be bound in the name of Jesus.
Release your Angels LORD to secure the way, watch over the path, watch over them and "Z" and be ever present and near for the entirety of this journey.
Father, we ask that you give the people of the world, the type of compassion and love for your children that this family represents.
We tend to feel like we are so separated sometimes and detached from other countries and other crises, when it fact we couldn't
be more connected -- and we need to be connected to the larger Kingdom picture. Give us all a heart to pray for and help the
world. Give us Your eyes and ears to hear their cry and Your spirit to say, "I will," and Your feet and hands that "go..."
Bless sweet Maliah with courage and time that passes like sand through the hour glass - so quickly when we're not looking.
Bless Dakota and Canyon's hearts with the preparation needed for this glimpse into another culture and part of the world that they
will be able to respond to it and embrace it with the assuredness of Your presence and the absence of fear.
Give Cristie and Doug wisdom and discernment throughout the entire journey and the peace that You too are, "looking after the details."
May they feel increasingly filled with the fullness of Your spirit, the Word of Life and the power reserved for the pure in heart.
You are an awesome God, LORD.
Let all the little grievances, aggravations and irritations fade and fall away at the sound of Your great name: JESUS.
In sincere love, with thanksgiving for Your Son and this precious family and their purpose,

Monday, November 7, 2011

Crocs for Coffee - A WINNER!

WE have a WINNER and 100 reasons to say THANK YOU! 
 We have officially wrapped up our Crocs for Coffee campaign.  
Pause the music at the bottom of the website (scroll wayyy down)
THEN .. watch and see who wins!  

 to all of you who was so generous to donate crocs!!
I can't wait to deliver these and to meet many of the precious children who will receive these!  
Truly AWESOME!    

I am now trying to figure out how I'll pack the almost 100 pairs.  
HEHE ... sorry Doug that we'll have little room for clothes.  

To my winner; You get to choose between one of the 6 gift boxes from Ground to Cup Coffee.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Because inquiring minds want to know

Recently, I have had a few of the same questions from several people so I thought I'd try and take a few minutes to answer a few of those;

1.)  Who is "Z" ... and "Levi".
Yes, I have thoroughly confused you - my apologies!  Welcome to my head. HAHA. 
 "Levi" is "Z".  HUH?  Well, simply put ... we named our son before we "knew" who he was.  He didn't yet have a face, a birth date or a name.  At the time, we were awaiting our "Referral" (a match to a child).   After several weeks of the kids calling him "him" and "it" and "brother" and being totally confused, we decided as a family to name him.  It also made a way for us to pray for him and to speak of him as a real child ... because he was, we just didn't know at the time WHICH child but we are certain, the Lord knew that "Z" was Levi ... and so it's all good.   We chose the name Levi for many reasons to which you can find in some blog posts along the way.  We held that name loosely knowing he would be older and he might not want to let go of his name.  We also might love his name.  So ... guess what?  As destiny had it, we DID love his name.  When we received his referral and his NAME, we loved it from the first moment and well, so did everyone whom we have been able to share his whole name with.  With that, we have decided to name him "Z" Levi Martine.  And well, something inside me thinks there is something very important about his name given by his birth Mother who had him for quite a long time.  

2.)  Um, so is "Z" really the name?
No.  "Z" is what we call him on any public site as we are not allowed to share his name, picture and details of "who" he is until we pass court.  His name BEGINS with a "Z".

3.)  So, will you bring him home on this trip?
Unfortunately, No, we won't.  On this trip we will go to court and stand before a judge and acknowledge that we want to adopt "Z".  We will have to leave him there in Ethiopia and come home without him.  Once we do pass court, our papers will be submitted by our agency to the US Embassy where we will await them to "Clear" his case and issue a visa interview date.  Once we have secured that, we will go back to Ethiopia, have that interview with the Embassy in Addis Ababa and bring him home!

4.)  What is the timeline or when do you expect him home?
Man that is a loaded question.  First, we have to pass court on November 22.  That's our first hurdle.  It's not a small one either.  50% of cases fail court the first time.  Why you ask?  Well, that too is a loaded question.  To pass court, a family must have an approval letter from MOWCYA (the ministry of woman's, children's and youth affairs).  This letter is not written until the day of court for a family and is often missing from the file so no letter, no pass!  Sometimes, the judge will also fail a family's case if a judge sees that they would like more information on a case.  So, there are 2 scenarios.  1.)  We pass on the 22 and come home knowing "Z" is now officially our son (and you get to officially know his name and his face).  2.)  We fail court, come home and wait for the judge to issue our case a NEW court date.  We don't return for subsequent court dates, because we have done our part.  We simply await a passing one once all items are secured and cleared.
Once we do pass court, our case is then submitted to our embassy by our agency.  This can take a few weeks as they have to go back to that same ministry, MOWCYA, for another document and gather a few other items.  They said that usually takes around 2 weeks or so.  But, Embassy paperwork can only be submitted on Wednesdays for our agency so they have to wait until the next available Wed. when they have all items in order.  Once they do submit, the embassy has 10 days to review our case and give us an answer.  Here we go again, they can 1.)  find our case "Clearly Approvable" and we then proceed forth with "Embassy clearance" and receive that embassy interview date (where we travel back and bring him HOME) or 2.)  Embassy may require more information, additional documentation, or their own investigation.  This timeline is unknown.  It can take only a few extra days or several more  months.  
SO ... obviously, we're praying for that "Clearly Approvable" case and what's behind DOOR 1 in all situations.  Our agency says that typically, a family will travel back for their embassy date anytime between 5 and 12 weeks after passing court.  That's the "average" for families that they see.  

Do you see now why my stomach is in knots.  Our journey ahead is a loaded one ... full of possible twists and turns.  Thankfully, no matter what bump is in the road, we have the Lord paving a highway for us.  

5.)  Can you tell me his story?  What made him an orphan?
Well, first of all ... I can't legally share any of those details until we pass court.  But, also ... we will not be sharing much of "Z"s story as it is not OUR story to share.  We can share with you that "Z"'s birth Mom was with him for quite some time.  She is still alive and simply could no longer care for him.  Someday, "Z" might want to share the details of his story ... but respectfully, we'll let him take that stage.  

AND YES .... even this far into our journey, get this question LOTS!  

6.)  Why did you choose Ethiopia when their are so many children in the states?
I'm always amazed by this question.  My first response would be ... because He called us there.  He told us we had a son there.  We listened and obeyed.  
But, you are right .. in fact, their are 520,000 children in the foster care system in our country.  That's a lot!  TOO MANY!  I hope and pray that their are families who will step up and empty that system.  In fact, if you are one of those families interested ... I'd love to get you in touch with some awesome agencies who can help you in that endeavor.   I am a HUGE supporter of foster/domestic adoption.  We simply were not called to be that family(right now).   No, after much prayer ... the Lord led us to the "ends of the earth".   Just before Jesus left this earth, he told the disciples to be his witness in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to "the ends of the earth".  (Acts 1).  To be his witness, we are to tell those in all of those places of who he was and what he did.  We are to be Jesus to them!  Well, when I read about who Jesus was ... I see that he loved and cared for "the least of these".   When no one else would, he sat with the leper, associated with prostitutes and the downcast of the society.  Jesus loved the unlovable.  I also see that he mandated us to care for the orphan.  And of course,  Jesus also told us to take the Gospel to the world because well, we all need to be adopted ... we were all once orphans!!  He didn't say to stop in Judea when doing these things ... nope, he included the "ends of the earth" in his commands of these things.   
 Our family, through much prayer knows with great assurance that he called us to international adoption (and other means of caring for those internationally - sponsorship etc.).  As a friend once said, just because ... he did.  

Oh,  I could bog you down with a gazillion statistics that validate our decision for us in our minds.  Ethiopia is about twice the size of Texas with over 4.6 MILLION orphans.  While I don't want to downplay the need in our country, that is about 9 times the number of orphans than here.  In our country, EVERY child is given the opportunity of an education.  In Ethiopia, that isn't the case.  A family must pay for a child to attend school.  This is a luxury and 50% of children will never attend school and of those who do, 88% will never attend secondary school.  In our country, a child in the foster care system is given health care and medical insurance and .... drum roll ... a paid for college education.  Look it up, it's true!  Now, I will say, many don't utilize that but it's true - they have the chance! 
 In Ethiopia, the statistics is daunting on medical care.  The doctor to children ratio is 1 to 24,000.  And no, they are not being insured and provided with play therapy, speech therapy and doctors visits along the way.  So, while I am your BIGGEST cheer leader if you are one of those families the Lord has called to Judea and Samaria, I hope you will be mine and cheer me on that we were called to "the ends of the earth".  
And if that doesn't convince you,  did you know all children are children of God's.  He created them all and I am certain he would think that all of them should have families to love them and care for them!  He doesn't see a border, why should we?  My daughter was birthed in China.  My son in Ethiopia.  They are Chinese and Ethiopian.  That doesn't define them though ... that's just where the Lord began their story.  
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