Category Archives: Adoption

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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