Six Years Ago Today…

The last leg was O’Hare to Grand Rapids.  She was sleeping when we boarded the tiniest of planes for the last thirty minute flight before she would meet her forever family.  My sister, Shannon joined me during the second trip to Ethiopia to pick up Ava from her transitional home and spend five days waiting for the proper paperwork to allow us clearance to travel home. Shannon was already taking her place as an exceptional Aunt who would form a deep connection to her niece. Our time,  the three of us in a hotel in Ethiopia was spent fighting complete sleep deprivation and frequent meltdowns and crack ups. Ava cried frequently as she was beginning to bond with us and we were struggling to feed her and understand her patterns of sleep.  Someday there will be so many stories to tell about trying to find clean water for bottles and our outing when Aunt Shannon became trapped in a car with her screaming niece during heavy Ethiopian rains. Our first days with Ava and the other adoptive families in a hotel were hard but we shared so many laughs as we were beginning to nurture and protect our dear children.

We exited the plane and took our first steps onto land, in Grand Rapids, her second and forever home. She was cozily sleeping, wrapped and attached to me. The sense of victory and relief was overwhelming as we walked the hallway leading to the arrival gate where we could finally see friends and family. Miss Ava, asleep and so peaceful would land into hundreds of arms, those who would love her fiercely and deeply, grateful that she was home.

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Meeting our daughter for the first time… forever etched in my mind was her smile just seconds after they placed her in our arms.

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The before Ava Strobel clan. Look how young everyone looked.

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One month home.

Six years has flown by and watching Ava grow has been one of our greatest treasures. She is confident, kind, nurturing, sensitive and deeply rooted to God in a way I cannot explain. Ava has surprised us on so many levels and continues to thrive fully aware and proud of her heritage but also so connected to her brothers and us as parents.  Ava is a sassy singer, belting out lines and songs from every musical her brothers have been a part of.  Ava is strong and witty and quickly becoming a true negotiator just like her bestie and brother, Owen. This child takes life by storm not wanting to miss a thing and almost always brave and willing to take on a new challenge.  Now six years home she has mastered reading and her two wheel bike this summer and rocked out her kindergarten year filled with pride that she is becoming fluent in Spanish.

 

 

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six months… priceless!

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Adoption of course is bittersweet and there will forever be a hole in my heart for the woman and the family that was not able to raise her. I grieve with her and long to tell her that the precious one she could not raise is loved and thriving. While I will likely never have such an opportunity,  I do know that I can raise Ava to feel empowered by women throughout the world who are forced to make extremely  painful decisions every day. They are not selfish women but instead selfless women, often trapped in circumstances we may not ever understand.  I want her to know that her birth mother was a strong and selfless woman who carried her for nine months and into this world. Adoption has taught me not to judge and question but to love with open eyes. Love wins.  God has carried Ava and continues to work through our family to teach us ways to provide for and nurture her. Ava is a beautiful work of His powerful redeeming grace.

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Peace and grace on the journey!

 

Help me help her {everyone deserves a family…}

To know her is to know I must speak up and out on her behalf.  This new year I am believing that perhaps somebody will see or hear her sweet plea and know she is the child they have waited to parent and love.  As a support person for the Bethany Operation Forever Family Program and Michigan’s waiting youth,  I have been honored to spend time getting to know Tiffany. She is a sweet somewhat shy strawberry blonde young lady who has been waiting five years for a family she can call her own. I want to introduce you to Tiffany and hope that perhaps you or someone you know might feel as I do, that she is worthy and so deserving of a family. Here she is:

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Tiffany is seventeen years old and in 10th grade. I would say she is shy but funny with a dry wit and charm. She can be reserved but also playful after getting to know people well.   She loves nature and being out in the woods. On Christmas day we had the honor of hosting Tiffany for the day and we spent a couple of hours on a long walk exploring in the woods. She longs for a parent who could spend more time with her outdoors. She enjoys crafts and discussions about God and where she sees God in her life story both past and present. The conversations we have shared in just a few short months are meaningful and heartfelt and I know Tiffany has so many dreams and desires as she prays for a family to choose her. The more time we spend with Tiffany as her support people the more we all agree that Tiffany would really thrive in a  small family where one or more parents could spend one on one time teaching, sharing and pouring in.

Here is Tiffany’s MARE listing: It’s here you can learn more about who she is but I must warn you that she is far more than this listing can begin to capture in so many wonderful ways… http://www.mare.org/ForFamilies/ViewWaitingChildren/tabid/93/view/Detail/Default.aspx?id=10182

SO DID YOU KNOW…

Adoption from the foster care system is free. Becoming licensed to adopt is also free and includes a home study along with background checks and training. The process generally only takes several months.  If Tiffany were adopted she would receive free medical care and free college tuition within the state of Michigan and she is eligible for monthly support. Not sure how many of us really understand the US foster care  or adoption process so ask away should you have more questions. I am always learning too.

Tiffany has a team of people who know and support her and any and all of us are available for questions. Maybe you would like to learn more about fostering or domestic adoption. We can help. A big eye opener for me has been getting to know both the hope and fears of the children on the verge of aging out when he or she turns 18. Knowing a child like Tiffany will eventually age out of the foster care system without a family or legal support person to call her very own,  is not acceptable. I believe that someone would benefit from loving and nurturing Tiffany as much as she would benefit from a strong and consistent adult or family in her life.

Is God nudging you? Do you know someone who might know someone who should meet Tiffany? Maybe you have an idea of how you can be of help to children like Tiffany waiting on the miracle of a family. If so let’s talk. Adoption, foster care,  sponsorship and mentorship all mean so much to me personally and to my family.   The more we actively get involved in the lives of children in need the more convicted we are that every children deserves a champion to call his or her own.

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Please know that I have been granted permission to create this post and share this information from both Tiffany and her team. My hope is that you might do the same. Please share this within your family. Share within your church or wherever you believe together we could find this young lady a family of her own. Join me in trusting that God sets the lonely in families.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to provide you a hope and a future.  

Peace in the new year ahead,

-Melanie

On the eve of five years home… {The Best Yes}

I remember so clearly grappling with how we would do it and what it would look like. I can vividly recall the questions people asked, “What about your family?  I mean what if it messes up the family you already have?”   It is amazing to look back on the roadblocks and see God’s hand and voice through it all. I mean there is nothing like it… adoption. Everything in the beginning screams choice and selection until you really get onboard and discover that you have no power in the process in spite of all the initial selections and choices.  There were so many spirtual hoops to navigate. It was quite the mess of emotions before during and after we said yes to the nudgings and I thank God every day that He walked us through the questions, challenges, redirects and doubts. Our life as a family would not be the same without the spirit, trust and awareness that adoption and the arrival of our daughter brought to our family.

I see and hear God so often in the comments of my children. Since the time our boys were very little they would comment on needing a little sister and there were several times our now 15 year old boy would stop doing whatever he was doing, look up and say, “Mom we need a sister. You have always said you would love a girl in our family and I think I am delivering a message from God that we should have a sister.” What on earth? Those words coming from a then six year old sure caused my ears to perk up in a hurry. Afterall, who am I to stand in the way of a message God needed to deliver? Those comments came often and were always goose bump moments.

Lots of crazy stuff happened prior to walking the adoption road and like many of us we were often a mess parenting three little boys within six years.  There were questions and doubts yet we did our level best to listen and act over and over again, one foot and one document signed and stamped after another.  We still live that way today as parents, carefully discerning and putting one foot in front of another day after day.  Fast forward to yesterday and the conversation I shared with our daughter, so perfectly and wonderfully meant to be.

We were up north truly in God’s country. For you Michiganders we were at a darling little camp on Lake Arbutus in Traverse City. Our 13 year old was invited to be an extara in a film written and directed by people we were eager to get to know. We said yes and early in the morning set out on a three hours drive north or adventure as we called it. It was just Carter and Ava and myself which in always dreamy, quality time spent with a few of my kiddos at a time really pouring in.

The day was soggy and very cold, at least 20 degrees colder than normal even for northern Michigan. We zipped up and set out to find Carter and the cast down on the beach shooting several scenes in spite of the weather. While on set Ava opened a bottle of water. Hours later we were headed into the lodge for a break from the wind and the rain when Ava spotted a huge muddy puddle. She raced ahead and stopped dead in her tracks. As I approached she said,

“Mommy, is this the kind of dirty water people in Ethiopia have to drink?” I was stunned. She is five.

“Yes,” I said. People in many places in the world drink whatever water they can find and many times it is very dirty.”

She held up her tattered water bottle and said, “But we have clean water.” I fought back tears.

“Yes Ava, I said. And that is why it is so important not to waste it right?”

 

The next day we arrive home all ready for a hot shower.  While I am helping her condition her mop of hair she says,

“Momma I have an idea.”

“Yes baby,”  I say.

“What if we could make our clean water run down into the pipes and it could go all the way to Ethiopia? Then they could have clean water.”

“Oh Ava,” I say. “I love your idea. You really are thinking about these things aren’t you?  Maybe someday you could go back to Ethiopia or wherever in the world and help with clean water projects. Smart people are always needed to care about others.”

“Maybe Momma,” she mumbles with the water pouring over her little head to rinse her hair and face.

“I want to do what you do Momma. I want to help people.”

Be still my heart. She sees. She knows and she gets it.

From there we moved into an evening of watching her brother play high school soccer, complete with our village of friends, a beautiful pediatric cancer research fundraiser, treats at the concession and a quiet moment after we all returned home when she sweetly shared her ideas with her adoring big brothers.

These are the moments where I feel God lovingly surround and encourage me.  It’s amazing the people plucked from the arms of defeat, destitution or despair only to be redeemed, wrapped in His perfect light and grace often for a grand or educational  purpose.  Sweet Ava is a light, a lamp unto others showing them that miracles are possible and that all throughout the world we need people to say yes. What is your best yes? It can be big or small but where are you saying yes to another? Where are you pouring in when you plate feels full? Who still needs you?  If God calls you He will equip you and what I have come to understand best is that there is almost always the most delicious fruit that comes from the journey no matter the road or the hardship.

Thank you God for the gift of all children everywhere who have so much to teach us. Thank you for the gifts of awareness. So many live a life filled with suffering even in a time of plenty and they need our voice and our community to rise up. Help us to be those who act on behalf of the ones who need us most. Help us to deliver our best yes.

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Difficult Questions…

Tonight we did our best to honor someone vitally important to our daughter and her story. I was putting her to bed when she confidently whispered, “Mommy you are lucky to have me.” Gotta love her confidence.  I chuckled and quickly responded. “and you Miss Ava are lucky to have me. God knew what he was doing when he placed us together as Mother and daughter.”

“How did it happen Momma that I came from Ethiopia to your family?” Those were her words exactly.  The question stung for a moment and I can tell you I prayed for each word that rolled out of my mouth to answer her.

“Ava every person who is alive is born from a birthmother. Your birthmother lives in Ethiopia and she was brave and strong, carrying you in her tummy until God was ready for you to live on earth.  Soon after you were born your birthmother discovered caring for you was very difficult. It is a story that happens very often in a place such as Ethiopia. Sometimes Mommies cannot feed their babies and cannot care for them so they bring them to an orphanage where they can be cared for until they go home to adoptive families who are able to care for them. Your birthmother loved you so much and we always want you to know that. She should be honored for her role in your amazing life. “

Next I went to get Bob so we could process what had been shared together. He knelt next to her and marveled, like myself, at her curiosity, her understanding and her deep love for God at such a tender age. The timing on her questions is always amazing to us and what we know is that we must always be ready to speak truth to her when she needs to hear it. Certainly there is no need to go beyond what she can handle for her age but her soul knows. I am grateful that ever since she came into our family she has been our dear daughter but she is also Ava, born to a selfless woman in Ethiopia who loved her enough. We prayed all three of us for God’s provision and the protection he brought to Ava. We prayed for a birthmother we do not know, asking God to take away her deep pain and allow her to hold her head high. As we shared amens Ava said, “Do you think God reached down and put us together?” The visual is stunning and perfect for her to carry inside.

It is our duty and great honor to love her enough to speak truth. With every bit of my being I wish I could make the circumstances a birthmother endures less painful. There is not a day that goes by that I do not realize that someone’s deep loss was for our family a tremendous gain. While there are no words to explain or express the sadness of such circumstances I do believe God used adoption to convict our hearts and to teach us that every child deserves a family. Every child deserves an opportunity no matter the size. Every child deserves an advocate and a teacher.  God used our journey to Ethiopia to deliver us into far more than we could have ever hoped or planned. Today I am grateful. Grateful for the hope and promise God delivers to us all through adoption.

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A Long Road {the end and the beginning}

He had studied English less than two years total when he set foot in America.

It would not take long to see him grow weary during conversations and for a solid year he would nod yes to something and truly have no idea what we were asking him to do. We laugh about it now but at the time well you can imagine the challenge. Yesterday marked one of his final high school celebrations. We arrived at school early as the night before I had gone to bed in tears when I could not locate his senior presentation that just hours before had been changed to fit the fifteen minute timeline requested. So many people had asked Tadesse to please share his testimony with the entire student body and the parents of the Seniors during their final chapel at Northpointe Christian High School. For weeks he declined the offer but after sharing the opportunity with us we began to push and pray that he might reconsider. “Maybe it’s time to have your class know who you are and the circumstances you have endured through faith and hard work, ” we reminded him.

He would speak using his new language to tell of his harrowing years of living moment by moment trying to survive in his native country, Ethiopia.  He had to leave an abusive Uncle in order to honor that somewhere down deep God had gotten ahold of his heart, and like many other children he waited for his circumstances to change fixing his eyes on God and wondering where God was in such times of hunger and pain. In his testimony he describes that he knew he was a Christian after hearing the story of Jesus from missionaries who came to Ethiopia years ago. Yes a firsthand account of God using everyday people like you and me to share the gospel and the very answer to why we are called to go out into all nations. Tadesse’s story is one that should stick to our ribs when we wonder down deep if going to unreached people matters.

We arrived at school early with the hope that someone had the skills to find our lost file and his cap and gown that in spite of purchasing it weeks ago had not arrived for the awards celebration. It was just another day of realizing that the enemy does not want the story of the orphan crisis shared and he does not want solutions to helping hurting children to inspire other families to act. We have felt this many times throughout the last few years and yesterday morning was one of those times. Instead of folding I woke up early,  I tightened my armor and declared God to be greater. I let so much go and basked in the glory of Tadesse’s yes no matter the challenges or the fear. He was going to open his heart and share the plight of so many around the world with his peers and also their families. It was another act of healing and certainly a way to encourage others to seek to know more about ways to engage and ways to help.

I made my way into the chapel and watched as baby pictures and senior pictures of all the graduates flashed across the screen. Just weeks before I had to answer an email saying I am sorry but there are no pictures of Tadesse when he was young. That is something that gets me every time as photography is such a treasure and a way to recall the adventures and most cherished times of one’s life.  I have nearly every day of my other children’s lives documented and oh how I wish I had the luxury of recreating at least a few photos for Tadesse. I sat down and I waited just praying that behind the scenes the staff was getting him all set up. Next the seniors all entered the chapel to a spunky song doing a dance filled with such enthusiasm and confidence. They were all seated and still there was no Tadesse.

And then a moment that literally stopped my breath. He entered the chapel wearing the traditional  cap and gown complete with a gold stole and blue and gold tassel.  My heart raced and chest heaved. Perhaps it was relief but I breathed out as if I had not properly breathed for nearly two years. The sight of him drew me even closer to God who had given me the mandate on Ethiopian soil that we were to be his family. The direction was clear but we would not be privilege to knowing what it would look like needing to strengthen our faith and obey in spite of the sacrifice and endless hours of work on days when we longed to return to easy.

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During the year we planned for Tadesse to come to the USA, every door opened after hours and months of hard work and many questions. Two years later I look back to see where God gave us blind love, so raw, so pure to connect us to this child in need. It’s indescribable even now but we gave it all to God trusting that he would use us to change a life. Often people compliment us on being so amazing and what I wish I could say is this. We are far short of amazing. Instead I would love for others to see us as obedient, answering the call to adopt which lead us to Ethiopia, our daughter, Tadesse, engaging others in the needs of vulnerable children and now to dedicate our voice to the least of these.  This all happened and is still happening at a time where God was breaking us all the way down in order to build us back up to be His. We are far from amazing and in fact in managing five little lives all so unique in their needs, has shown us every mole, scrape and stretch mark others would care never to see. Truth be told we wonder daily if we can stay the course to see all this through. On the days when we have felt like we can’t we trust that God can.

There are few words to express the exhuberent joy I felt as I listened to those in the audience sniffle as he talked. The computer failed at one point and he pressed on making everyone laugh about how they would be OK. His gold stoll slid off his gown and the microphone, all new to him, began to give feedback, and still he pushed on. He is a survivor and a servant and after the talk a woman walked up and said, ” Are you his family? ” I nodded as I was wiping tears and then she said. ” he has no idea how much he just blessed everyone in this room today.”  I smiled and nodded. “And that is exactly what all of this the last few years has been about. We are called to bless the one so he or she may bless another, ” I said. Funny thing is that saying yes to the hard richly blesses us more than we can know until God carries us through it and sees His plan through to the end or perhaps a stunning new beginning…

When I met Tadesse just four years ago I could have never dreamed that he would be sharing God’s great work in his life in front of hundreds of people at his high school chapel ceremony in the USA. In just two weeks he will wear his cap and gown again to walk across the stage to accept his degree. This chapter is nearly over with the new and intriguing road of college just ahead.

 

On the Eve of Her Birthday {Ava Turns Four…}

I tucked her into bed tonight with hugs and prayers. I thanked God for who she is in our family and for the preservation and protection of her life. I thanked Him for allowing her to be my daughter and our sweet yet sassy girl always curious and confident.

This morning I was able to spend time photographing who she is as she moves from three to four. It feels like a big milestone and as I look at the images captured I am aware just how much she is changing and how much she has grown. She is clever, witty and forever social no matter the scene.  Ava is a special gift to our family in more ways than I can ever share here.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the day she was born. Her life is a big deal. It was four years ago that her life hung in the balance and circumstances were such that Ava would be placed up for adoption. Yes she did come home to a family who has fallen deeply in love with her but our gain came out of someone elses or perhaps several people’s pain. I never want to forget that.

As I return to Ethiopia and dig deeper into the hardships of vulnerable families in developing nations I have become very mindful of the life or death situations that women and children are often pushed into. I understand more acutely that often there is no alternative or back up plan. Life is just as precious but lack of resources, trust and protection cause people to do things that to you and me might seem unthinkable. I guess what I mean is that adoption has humbled me and taught me such respect for families who struggle. There can be so much pain in the choices they feel forced to make.

Tonight I am praying for the woman across the world who had to do the unthinkable. She carried a precious baby to term, likely delivered her with little or no care, fought to feed her and then realized that relinquishment was perhaps her only option. For me there is still great debate there even though I love and am raising our amazing daughter who came into our lives through the miracle of adoption.

Adoption is a message of hope just as birthdays are a message of renewal. Happy Birthday to our baby girl!

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Beauty beyond skin color… {a message to my daughter}

I can only hope that women such as Miss Lupita Nyong’o and others will positively influence my daughter as she matures. Miss A is nearly four and she is already aware of her brown skin. She mentions it often and asks to look like me. She strokes my hair and some days I catch her pulling at her own locks and asking when they will be longer like mine. My responsibility to her runs deep. She is my daughter and we are uniquely close. Her shared thoughts are similar to when my boys were young yet with MIss A I am forced to examine the notion of color and difference not because I want to but because she was born on another continent where God created her perfectly and wonderfully.  We want her to know her heritage and we want her to embrace her inner beauty and how what is on the inside is often what is shown to others on the outside. I want her to love and admire her uniqueness without believing that a fair complexion or long straight hair makes life more fulfilling or easy. I want nothing more than to know the very best way to honor every person for the gifts and character he or she possess. It is my passion that Miss A be reminded often that her value and self-worth comes from something so much more than the pigment of her skin. I thought I would perhaps have many more years before Miss A began to see herself through the lens of color but she has surprised us with a self awareness far beyond her years. So here is an eloquent speech that might be over her little head for now but someday very soon she might need to listen and I look forward to our discussion.  Like it or not we all stare, we all wonder, we all compare and we certainly judge. It seems to be a built-in part of being human yet I am most interested in what happens immediately after the look or the awareness. Can we embrace the person who might look different from ourselves? Can we see beauty without judgemental eyes.? Can we tolerate differences and be grateful that the world does not all look the same? This is the hope for my children and all children around our ever-changing world.  I will fight to show my daughter various examples of character, compassion and intelligence in both men and women of all ethnicities and every day I will remind her that beauty is always fleeting. It is only heart and soul that remain…

Praying for the Orphan

It’s Adoption Awareness Month. November… a time to gather and give thanks for so many blessings and a time to celebrate and honor the gift of adoption. Adoption is nothing short of a miracle when we consider all the sacrifice, challenge, logistics, expense and courage that all involved endure. It is a journey with many ups and downs but in the end it is a gift so worth giving and receiving.

I love her more than I could have known. I love her enthusiastic charm and just how close she sits, often invading my personal space, to get a little closer. I love both her baby talk voice and her big girl voice and the chatter I hear when she is talking to her pretend friends on her little dollhouse phone. I love how tighlty she grips her markers to make “wild people” and already a few three letter words. I love how she holds my face when I bend down to kiss her as she stares into my eyes and giggles. I love her dinnertime prayers and her tightly closed eyes when we pray together. She is my daughter and while all of my children have been giant blessings, Ava is a blessing beyond words not only to myself and my husband but also to our sons. Ava came home to us via adoption and adoption has proved to be one of the greatest gifts of our life!

Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother.
Two different lives shaped to make your one.
One became your guiding star; the other became your sun.
The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love, the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality; the other gave you a name.
One gave you a talent; the other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions; the other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile, the other dried your tears.
One sought for you a home that she could not provide,
The other prayed for a child – and her hopes were not denied.
And now you ask me through your tears,
The age-old question unanswered through the years:
Heredity or environment – which are you a product of?
Neither my darling.
Just two different kinds of love.
– Author Unknown

Our adoption agency, All God’s Children International,  shared a wonderful message asking for us to pray specifically this month for the orphan and the global orphan crisis. Today and everyday approx 5700 children will be orphaned. Children everywhere long for a family, for security and for love. We were lead to Ethiopia where four million children are orphaned and or abandoned often from preventable disease. Where will you be called to change the life of a child in need? Perhaps you feel called to the foster care system or domestice adoption. Maybe sponsorship is the right journey for you. Come one and all. Partner with a child. While we are not all called to adopt, anyone can love and minister to child in a meaningful way.  If nothing else please pray. Pray for the orphan to know the power and hope of the gospel. Pray for hearts to be stirred to open their homes to a waiting child. Pray for birthparrents to feel supported as they wrestle with a painful choice, pray for governements to do what is just on behalf of so many children in need.  The time is now to show mercy, love and justice to the orphan.

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Peace and Grace,

Melanie

Meant to be {three years HOME}…

Three years ago today I carried this little one off of the plane and through the airport into the arms of family, so many of us just waiting to know and love her. There is so much emotion that swirls when I watch her today, her charming and charismatic little personality developing. We are so blessed to have her as a daughter, a sister, a niece and a granddaughter. She brings such joy to our days. This song by Stephen Curtis Chapman is a favorite and one that rings true for Ava. She is a dream come true and she is so meant to be here touching the hearts of others. She is perfectly, wonderfully, beautifully meant to be and we love you more today Ava,  than you can ever know.

 

 

 

 

Three Years Ago

Three years ago we touched down in Addis Ababa. I can vividly recall the sounds and the smells. The night was dark and the air cool. The smell of exhaust lingered even though it was late in the evening. As the taxi drove us to our hotel, The Riveria, my head was nearly hanging out the window. I longed for daylight to catch the first glimpse of the African land. There was restless sleep and then we awoke early to the bustle of traffic. We both bounded out of bed to see so many people walking. We could not tell where each was headed but even in the early hours of the morning it seemed people had places to be, their white scarves protecting their heads from the morning air or sun.

There are few words to describe the feelings we all had the day our large van turned down the rocky road headed for the Hannah’s Hope Transitional Home. We were with several other couples all meeting their children for the first time and nobody knew if we should laugh or cry. We prepared cameras, commented on animals in the road and simply tried to breathe. The journey had been so long and then the travel, leaving family behind to venture half way around the world to meet our  daughter. I could barely climb the stairs as they ushered us up to the second floor. From there we all took turns couple after couple meeting our children. We photographed each magical moment until it was our turn.

We entered the bright pink room and Almaz motioned for us to sit down on the floor. I found myself scanning the room. Would I know her? Then in an instant she was placed into my arms, our little miracle girl who had already in a few short months endured so much. I looked at her then looked at Bob then looked back at her. She looked into my eyes and smiled. She smiled and I could not contain my tears. How fortunate we were to walk the adoption path no matter the fears, the unknowns and even the losses. She was all I could have ever dreamed when we said yes and I knew my heart would never be the same.

 

 

Now three years later she is a bright light to all who meet her. She is witty and smart, remarking often about things children far beyond her years might not even grasp. She is social and silly, holding my face while I read to her at night and working hard to get me to laugh while she plants kisses all over my face. She is a charmer this girl. She is aware and already wonders about black, white and tan. Now she is telling us that she is perfect in the eyes of God no matter her color. She is playful and thrives on the interaction with other kids, never wanting to miss a moment with her neighborhood or school crew. She is a Mama’s girl and in the last few months she has taught me so much about the role of a mother in a young girl’s life. It’s a huge responsibility and one where I teeter between loving all things pink and fancy and reigning her in from caring too much about looks and clothing. Everything I say matters these days and she is forever remarking that someday she will be a Mommy like me. No pressure or anything!

 

Tonight I watched her lay flat in the bathtub and swish her hair back and forth with just her eyes, nose and mouth above water. I was smiling from ear to ear when she said, “what Mommy?” My words did not come. I could only smile bigger and then we both began to laugh aloud together. She is happy and healthy. She is living the life God intended even though there are days I have no idea exactly how to explain it. Adoption is so crazy amazing and I am blessed every day by the love Ava has brought to our hearts and our home. Three years has flown by. You, sweet Ava, are extraordinary and we can hardly wait to watch you smile and shine your way through the next three years. We love you.