"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18

Our Family

Our Family

Monday, October 31, 2011

Many Thanks!

Just wanted to say a special thank you to my precious church family for throwing us a beautiful shower for our girls. It is so amazing to have such wonderful support. Thank you guys for all your hard work, cooking, decorating, cleaning, and of course for all the lovely gifts. We love you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Now that they are ours, I can finally show their faces on our blog with no heart stickers - Yea!

Leaving Washington DC for Addis Ababa. Ethiopia,here we come!

Our first picture together with our girls!

All Dolled Up

The Girls with their Poppy

Morning Bedhead


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ethiopia was Amazing but the Girls Were Even Better!!

We have been home almost a week now and I'm finally catching up enough to share about our trip. Please forgive my tardiness but it's been chaotic since we've been home. We've been trying to wade through the backlog of bills, emails, and opening a brand new UPS store! And of course soccer, football, dance, etc doesn't stop either. Please keep us in your prayers as we try to juggle all the many things going on in our lives right now :-) And now onto the important stuff...I will post the pictures seperately so this will flow better.

Our trip was even better than I'd dreamed. We arrived Saturday morning after a loooong flight of 14 hours in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We were tired but very excited. After dealing with long lines for entry visas, money exchange, and luggage checks, we finally arrived at our guest house and a driver took us to meet our daughters for the first time face to face. We were both very nervous but the girls came to us immediately and hugged and kissed our faces :-) They were so beautiful. We played for a while at the Transition House and watched them eat lunch (they were moved here a few days before our court date and will remain there until we bring them home). Chris pulled out his ipad and played with an app that says common words and phrases in Amharic. They enjoyed pointing out colors, shapes, etc. when he played them in Amharic. He accidentally hit the button for the phrase "Are you married?" and they thought that was hysterical. All the kids wanted him to play that phrase over and over and they'd all giggle uncontrollably - it was precious.

When we brought them back to the guest house with us, we played all day outside with bubbles, frisbees, beach balls, and jump ropes - it was so much fun. We were at the guest house with 2 other families who were there for court and one other family who was there for their Embassy date - all of them were from our agency. It was so nice to get to know one another and forge lifelong friendships. Many of their children also were in the same orphanage as our girls so the children all knew one another and were able to play together. The Snyder family brought balloons and those were a huge hit too. They liked to hit them into the air but soon discovered they could blow them up and let go of them and they'd go flying through the air real fast - that was their new favorite past time. Throughout the visit, it wasn't uncommon at any time to have balloons fizzing past you blowing out air and spit with lots and lots of giggles :-) Also, I demonstrated jump roping for them thinking they might not know what to do with the ropes. Unbeknownst to me, Chris captured this lesson on video and keeps threatening to put it on FB. A few moments later, the girls made a fool out of me by showing me that not only did they know how to do the basics with a jump rope, but they could criss cross, jump backwards, jump on one foot, jump with a partner, etc. It was amazing!

Hannah and Abekeya love to eat and both slept great too. In fact, a couple of nights they actually asked to go to bed! Can you believe that? It's true. They went to bed around 8pm and slept solid until 7am the next morning. We worked through the language barrier better than I thought we would through pointing, miming, gestures and sometimes with help from one of the ladies at the guest house who could translate.

We had a few firsts with them which is great since we feel like we've missed so much in their lives already - here are a few:

We enjoyed eating ice cream with them at Kaldi's Restaurant - they'd never seen icecream and although they enjoyed it, Hannah kept having to sip some of Chris's coffee in between bites because it was so cold in her mouth :-)

When we went out for lunch, the restaurant had a hand dryer that blows hot air on your hands. Hannah was terrified of it but eventually after showing her myself how to use it, she finally relented and put her hands underneath.

We had cheeseburgers and fries - Abekeya loved both. Hannah doesn't appear to be much of a meat eater though and she stuck with the bread and fries.

Hannah & Abekeya skyped with our kids back home and with our church family as they were setting up for Sunday morning service. Although the connection wasn't great, the girls loved seeing their new siblings and saying hello to our friends at church. These were very tender moments for all of us.

Monday morning we went to court. The children aren't allowed to go, so they remained with the ladies who work at the guest house. We were both intimated and nervous. When we arrived, the building was very unassuming and not at all like our court houses here. We waited for a couple of hours and when they called us, we went in together as a group with the other 2 families from our agency. The court room was tiny, maybe 10 x 10. The judge asked us some very basic yes/no questions and then she said those special words "All of your paperwork is here. They're yours." Oh happy day! All three families passed and now our girls have our last name and are legally ours!!

I had coached myself to keep it together all morning but when she said those two little words, "They're yours" I burst into tears. So many months of paperwork, waiting and wanting, bad news, delays, fears, and grief all melted away in the realization that God does indeed keep His promises. Ironically just yesterday, I saw on a church sign "When God brings you to it, He'll see your through it" and I thought to myself, I wonder if the person who put that phrase on the sign has ever adopted? LOL.

There was much joy and celebrating after we arrived back at the guest house. That is, until the next day when we had to leave. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was leave half my heart in Ethiopia. Even now as I type this, I am weeping for the two little pairs of brown eyes that I love so much. I missed my children in America terribly too and it's such an odd feeling to feel as if your heart is split between two continents. We had our translator to explain to the girls that we were taking them back to the T-house temporarily until the US Embassy told us we could bring them home for good. They seemed to understand the process as they've seen it happen many times with their other friends at the T-house but they, like us were sad. I never dreamed we could bond so much in four short days. They constantly loved on us and called us Mommy and Poppy (they came up with that on thier own - so sweet). I feared when we first began the adoption process, that I wouldn't be able to love someone else's children like I did my own that came from my body. That's simply not the case though. When God calls you to adoption, He puts that love for those kids in your heart in such an intense way, that you feel they were always a part of you.

The girls knew their ABCs and numbers in English as well as the song "Jesus Loves Me" which they sang all the time. As we drove to the T-house for the last time, Hannah began to sing it and it was a reminder to me that even though my heart was breaking to leave them, Jesus loves them even more than I do and He will keep them in His hands. I thought of how much it hurt me to leave them for a few weeks or months but how God loved us so much, that He left His own son to DIE for us. Oh How He Loves Us!

When we left them, we all shed some tears but the translators told them how much we loved them and would miss them, how we couldn't wait to come back for them soon. We road to the airport with heavy hearts and entered the ticket line at the airport. We struck up a conversation with a couple in front of us and soon discovered that they were a family we knew via email from our agency whose daughter had also been at the same orphanage with our girls. We all had dinner together before we flew out and it helped to have someone else to talk to who was going through the same. After almost 32 hours straight of either being at an airport or on a plane, we arrived home in Nashville.

It was wonderful to see my other kiddos again and to share with them the pictures and videos of their new sisters. Please continue to pray for us - you can't know how very much we've felt these prayers and how God has comforted us through this whole journey. In quiet times during the night when I lay crying thinking I'd never be able to hold them in my arms, in discouraging times when we'd receive bad news from the government entities with more delays and red tape, in overwhelming times when I felt like I was drowning in paperwork that would never be complete, the Lord was there comforting me. Thank you for your prayers. PLEASE keep them coming. It is our prayer that we will have a swift Embassy Date and that the girls can be home this year.

28 "Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God,the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

Valerie & Chris

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Packing and Prayers

These are our suitcases - okay not really but close! We only have 12 more days until we're on the plane and I'm so excited!! I've begun the arduous task of packing. There's still tons to do what with court paperwork, planning for my kiddos left at home, buying stuff we'll need etc. I feel like I'm packing everything but the kitchen sink and if I can find an extra bag, I might take that too. Hopefully our 2nd trip for the Embassy date will be easier to pack since we'll know then what we will and won't need.

Cases are proceeding EXTREMELY slowly on the Embassy side now so please pray that God will put His hand on the Embassy and push things along quickly. We are so hopeful that the girls will be able to come home this year.

We covet your prayers and look forward to sharing some wonderful pictures and stories with you when we get home. Please pray specifically for:

*Our safe travel
*That our stay with the girls will be a wonderful and happy time of bonding
*Pray for Nan as she watches over my other kids who will remain at home in the U.S.
*Pray for us and the girls when we have to leave them. I'm already tearing up thinking about that. Pray that they know they are loved and we ARE coming back to get them. It breaks my heart to think they might feel left again.
*Pray that God is GLORIFIED through all of this.