An Adoption Shower for Samuel

About three years ago, friends of ours from church announced that they were planning to adopt a baby boy from Ethiopia. They subsequently became very close friends of ours, and their adoption journey had a major impact on our lives and our decision to adopt.

John and Vanessa's wait ended up being a lot longer than expected. Like two years longer. It was agonizing, waiting and praying with them, begging God for their referral of the son they would name Samuel. Finally this spring, the call came and they saw the face of their child. A few weeks later they were able to fly across the ocean to meet him, but they still have a few months and two more trips before Sam can come home.

Because their family will be traveling on various mission trips this summer, our friends planned a baby shower for Vanessa last week. They held the shower at the church with beautiful global decor.

One of the big traditions in Ethiopian culture is their elaborate coffee ceremony. The original plan was to have someone come and demonstrate the ceremony, but that didn't work out so they showed a video of it. In Ethiopia they often eat popcorn while they drink the coffee, so popcorn and coffee were served while presents were opened.

The cake was custom made by a local woman and it blew me and everyone else away. It was designed to look like a vintage suitcase, with edible "stickers" all over it featuring symbols and logos that are all very meaningful to this family's adoption process. It was delicious too!  

A table at the front of the room displayed photos of the family and Samuel, which many hadn't seen because they can't be posted online yet. Small sheets of paper with the outline of Africa were available for people to write a note of blessing to Sam or the family. Vanessa expressed that these notes were the most important gift anyone could give her that day.

Opening gifts was fun to watch and took quite awhile because so many love and cherish this family. After the gifts and cake there were a couple of games. A quiz with various trivia about Ethiopia, adoption stats and the family was fun, and I won, undoubtedly because I read so many adoption blogs, many of which are via Ethiopia. The we played a variation of pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey, except it was pin the heart on Addis Ababa. The kids were much more willing to play this than the adults. 

Party favors were simply Hershey bars wrapped with this lovely printed labels. The ladies did a wonderful job of throwing a beautiful and meaningful adoption shower on a pretty limited budget. Not only did the shower bless the family, it blessed and educated the guests and helped build the culture of adoption in our community.

And we all can't wait to meet Samuel!


My Boy's Imagination

Scene: Leaving a restaurant in our 'hood, I'm driving the mini-van with both boys in the backseat. Waiting to pull out at an intersection.

Alex: I see something dead on the road over there.

Me: Oh really? That's too bad. What do you think it is?

Nate: Looks like a squirrel to me.

Alex: Looks like a stingray to me!

Nate: That's impossible, it couldn't be a stingray out here!

Me: Yeah that's kinda silly. That would be tough.

Alex: Well it looks like a stingray to me.

Nate: I guess it could be. Maybe someone was driving a pick-up truck through our neighborhood with a big tank of water in the back and a stingray in it! And they hit a bump and the tank fell out! And the sun caused all the water to evaporate! And the wind blew all the broken glass away, which is why you don't see it anymore!

Me: My goodness, that's an impressive imagination. Keep using that. Exactly like that.


The Big Exciting Adoption News Update!

How's that for a headline?

First, the news I've been very impatiently waiting to share with the world: we got our referral!

That's adoption-speak for finding out who our future daughter is, seeing photos, and learning a bit about her. It's a big day in the process and it has had a major effect on our hearts. We are head over heels.

Someday maybe I will share with you the CRAZINESS that I've been going through over the past couple months. There have been a lot of unexpected twists and turns in this process. I have had to make some super quick decisions, like when my agency coordinator calls as I'm driving down the highway at 65 mph. There have been emotional meltdowns and obstacles and moments when it looked like this whole process might come to a screeching halt and we would end up with no daughter. There has been an enormous amount of prayer.

But for now I'm going to skip that part in the interest of privacy. I'll tell you someday but if I told you all the nitty-gritty details right now, more than one person would be unhappy. Just know that I have witnessed the hand of God directing our steps up close and personal.

Getting our referral call was completely and totally unexpected. Different orphanages have different procedures, so it seems. We got an unexpected window of opportunity from Haitian social services, IBESR, to have our dossier submitted under the old procedures, already matched with a child.

So one night after dinner, Mike was in the process of making beer (as usual) and I was helping the kids with homework or something (that's code for I was on Facebook or reading blogs, as usual). All of the sudden my phone rang and I recognized our agency coordinator's number. She and I had been calling back and forth about lots of stuff, so it wasn't too unusual. But this was long after her office hours, so it was a bit weird.
What Mike was doing when we got the call.
She started to explain that this was our referral call and got all excited, making faces at Mike as I listened. So I made Mike stop what he was doing and we sat down in the dining room with Michelle on speaker phone as she told us she would be emailing over our daughter's photo and info. It was super weird hearing her say "your daughter". For now we will refer to her as Baby R.

We hung up and I opened the email and saw the most beautiful smile I've ever seen on a baby girl. I learned her heartbreaking story, which we will not share because it belongs to her. I felt a profound sense of peace and connection.

And then we had to leave everything and put the kids to bed because it was already past their bedtime. We didn't tell them just yet. Mike had to finish whatever he had started with the beer-making, so we didn't talk about it just yet. I had the job of contacting a doctor to review her file, so I did that. Then finally we sat down and talked about it and prayed together. We accepted the referral and told our closest friends and family the next day.

The next night we took our boys out to dinner and told them the news, showing them photos on our phones. They said "She's cute!" and that was that. No big deal. The only real difference to them is that now they pray for her by name. 

These boys need haircuts.
Speaking of her name, we hadn't chosen a name for our daughter in part because we wanted to see what her biological given name was. We discussed very briefly giving her a new first name and keeping her Haitian name as a middle name, but so far we just call her by her Haitian nickname. I think it's going to stick. I believe it is a way to honor her first family.

An aside: On the subject of first families, many of you may have read a LOT of blog posts recently about adoption ethics. We are very aware of the practices of unethical adoption and are treading very very carefully. Mad props to Tara Livesay, who has personally be used by God to help me in our process, and Jen Hatmaker, for sparking a ton of good discussion and thinking on this subject this month. So for the time being, I will use the term "our daughter" EXTREMELY loosely. She is not ours yet and many things could happen that would change that. I won't pretend that I am not emotionally and financially invested in her joining our family, but I will only do that with the utmost respect and care for her first family.

Ok back to the news...there's more big news. This week IBESR finally opened up this grace window to accept dossiers under the old procedures and after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, we received word we were officially logged in. We are celebrating and praising God joyfully around here today. All glory to Him for working a miracle for dozens of kids in Haiti this week.

Now the catch...this is still only the start of the process. I know, you're thinking "WHAT?!!! You've been at this more than a year already!" I know. Now IBESR has to review and approve us. That could take months. Many months. We don't know at all. And then there are about a dozen more steps in the process even after that happens before we can bring her home.

My best guess is we're looking at a minimum of six months and a max of a year from now till Baby R comes home for good. Let's pray for the minimum, shall we?!

The good news is we don't have to wait that long to go see her! We're planning a short trip to Haiti sometime in July or August. Believe me, I cannot wait.

If you're still reading this crazy long post, thank you so much for hanging with us. Thank you for praying for us constantly. God has heard every prayer.
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