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Thursday, March 31, 2011

ELEVEN MONTHS

Look Mommy, we can make "ELEVEN!"
How did we ever make it to ELEVEN months on the wait list? Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we'd still be waiting at this point. Honestly, I figured at worst we'd be in between the two trips around now.

We are still waiting for a formal response before I can post exactly what's going on, but let's just say that things are going very well right now. We are almost at the point when I'll be carrying my cell phone with me everywhere, expecting a call anytime. That's quite a change from where we were two weeks ago.

I never did a ten month post... I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was struggling at that point, having trouble making sense of what was going on.

This means next month will mark one year on the wait list for us. One whole year of waiting.  Not one year since we started; we began the journey in December 2009.

This child has been well-waited for.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

They told me with salt!

I love my kids. And this time I don't mean my biological children.  I have two sets of kids in my life: two little ones who are mine by birth and another set - a big ole' group of teenagers. I often refer to them as "my kids" and thus confuse people who think I only have two small children.  If you're still not sure what I'm talking about - my husband is a youth pastor. That means all the kids from the 6th graders to the seniors in high school at our church are "my kids."  And really, it doesn't stop there. Once my youth, always my youth. If you've ever been a part of our youth group, I will forever consider you "mine" (and might always think of you as 16).  You can't simply graduate your way out of my heart -just ask my dear friends Rachel & Kaelyn about this one.

And oh, how I love my youth. They are just incredibly awesome.  For those of you with little kids who are nervous about teenagers, don't be. They're not nearly so scary as you think! In fact, they're just plain great (even in the tough times).

My youth showed me yet again this weekend just how awesome they are. We had our DiscipleNow weekend this weekend - a little weekend retreat we do every year.  Last night, Rob worked for HOURS to pull together this super-cool interactive worship/prayer experience for them.  Seriously, I think he put 15 hours just into setting everything up. Everything was done in the dark, with bazillions of candles to light the way. It was cool.

When it was said & done, the kids left and we turned the lights on to see what they'd left behind. It was just awesome.

The very last station was a HUGE piece of paper on the wall. The kids were asked to express whatever they wanted on that wall (anonymously of course). Can I tell you their responses would put many "pious" grown-ups to shame? They wrote poems to God, wrote out prayers asking Him to strengthen their faith, they acknowledged areas in their lives they needed to turn over to Him. Amazing.  These kids get it. Oh, they are just so cool.

But my favorite part is this: the second-to-last station.  It was a map of the world with two bowls of salt next to it. The instructions were to sprinkle some salt on North America & pray for our continent. Then they were to sprinkle salt somewhere else, wherever they felt led, and pray for that area.  After all the kids were gone and the lights were up, I looked at the map.

Africa got some serious prayers last night, y'all.  There was salt sprinkled pretty much everywhere, but there was more on Africa even than anywhere else. And the two places in Africa with lots of salt? Swaziland and Ethiopia.

The first time I said aloud to a friend that our adoption might not happen, I was sitting in  my car in a parking lot after spending all morning teaching the 4's & Pre-K classes about Ethiopia.  She told me that even if we don't adopt from there, our going through the process has brought Ethiopia to the forefront of so many people's minds. That God has already brought attention to Ethiopia through our process.

She's right. My youth told me that last night with salt.

Even if we never adopt from Ethiopia... our family and friends are more aware of what's going on in that part of the world.  The kids at Riley's school got an opportunity to learn more about kids in Ethiopia, our church family has learned more about Africa in general through our adoption stuff and through Heart for Africa trips to Swaziland.

And my kids, my big ones, care about Africa. They had a choice last night to pray for anywhere in the world and many chose Swaziland and Ethiopia. Teenagers in Greensboro care about what's going on in Africa.

What an honor it is to get to be the messenger. It's not our message, that's for sure. It's not about us, about our family, or even really about our adoption. I'm still holding out hope that we WILL adopt from Ethiopia, because I'm growing to love that place.  But even if we don't, look what God has done already!

Who knew salt was so talkative?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Prayers...

I've been struggling with how to write about what happened at our church on Sunday. It was incredible... and a little surprising!

Here's what happened: Rob preached a sermon he'd been planning on for a long time, since before all the adoption upheaval stuff.  So he preached a pretty weighty sermon about how John the Baptist was faithful and yet still ended his life imprisoned and then beheaded. And he wasn't sure he was going to even mention our adoption but towards the end, he decided to. So, kind of ambiguously, he mentioned that we were in a time of difficulty right now. We know we've been following God's will, we know we've been faithful, and yet we are not at all certain that our adoption from Ethiopia will ever happen.  He was honest about our struggles and our reaction in faith.

The service finished up and just as Rob was going to dismiss us in prayer, a friend of ours made his way to the front of the church! He said "I'm so sorry to interrupt, but Rob shared his soul with us today, and we need to pray for his family."  He had me come forward and as I held Rob's hand, our church family came around us and put their hands on our shoulders as another friend of ours prayed.  I could barely see through my tears but I could feel so many of our church friends around us, supporting us, praying for us.

Talk about a burden lifted.  Or maybe not lifted but shared.  It was as if our struggles stretched out across the shoulders of our church family and suddenly didn't feel quite so heavy.  It was so humbling to have our church family pray for us and love on us like that. I almost ruined it for myself by worrying all afternoon that someone might think that the whole sermon had been about us or that the prayer had been pre-planned. But our friend (the one who started the prayer) said to us later "Sorry about that, but God was telling me to go up there and I just had this vision of me standing in front of Him one day and God saying to me "remember that time I told you to pray for the Cassells and you didn't do it... and I didn't want to have to answer for that!" 

And I don't think this is a coincidence: We got encouraging news about our adoption yesterday! The very first piece of positive news since we learned about the delay on December 28th!

My take-away lesson from all this? First of all, prayer is powerful.  But even if our adoption doesn't happen, Jesus is enough for me.  He is caring for us through our amazing church family who is there for us and loves us.  No wonder God wants us to live in community. I always think about living in community with regard to what I can do, or what I can give.  But God put me smack in a community that is caring for me and my family right now.  All I can do is praise God for how wonderful they are.

My other take-away lesson? The one I don't want to admit?
I can't handle this by myself. 
 I am so terribly independent (if you know me, you probably already know this and are nodding your head in agreement).  I want to handle everything, do everything, without any help.  I'm the girl who tries to bring ALL the groceries in from the car in one trip. While carrying a child. And a cup of coffee.  I'm perfectly happy living in community as long as I'm the one reaching out to others, as long as I am the one helping. But being on the receiving end? Much harder for me. I'm thankful that God's stripping me of my pride in this way... but it hurts a little. I'm relying on Him in ways I've never had to before.

If this keeps up, I'll be one humble girl by the time my third child falls into my arms!  I think I could handle that :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Adoption is not for wimps...


 I actually saw this button for sale somewhere! I want to buy it and stick it on my forehead!

This is hard.  There are so many things I don't know right now. I don't know what's going to happen with our adoption. I don't know if the rest of this year will be about waiting for a baby or about doing all our paperwork again so that we can be placed on a different waiting list for a child from elsewhere. I really don't know.

But that's okay.

There is someone who knows.  God knows not only what I'll be doing for the rest of 2011 but for the rest of my life. He knows when I'll be grieving and when I'll be celebrating. There is a lot of comfort in that.  It's funny when you read through the Bible and remember that God never promises us a cakewalk.  He never says "Come to me and I'll see to it that you never suffer again."

In fact, I think that it is quite the opposite.  It's more like "Come to me and I'll give you a heart like mine - one that suffers but one that has an unbelievable capacity for joy and peace."

This not-knowing has been hard on me.  But the more I cry out to God and let him take all my frustration, anger, and fear, the more I realize He is making my heart more like His.  He's been grieving over orphaned children longer and deeper than I ever will.

I can't be a wimp. Because I am not the one who matters here.  Yes, I long for a third child and my arms feel just not quite full when I'm holding the two beautiful little ones I do have, but that's not really what this adoption is all about.  My sole goal on this earth is to bring glory to God. I can do that in lots of ways (just as I often do the opposite in lots of ways - ugh).  God has given me His heart for orphans. That's how I can bring glory to Him.

This is not exactly a time of joy and peace for me, but I can't be a wimp. That brings glory to no one.  So instead I'm trying to focus on the joyful and peaceful parts of my life right now. I have wonderful friends - so many of y'all are praying for the children and government of Ethiopia right now, and are praying for us.  You all are amazing. I have some friends who are RIGHT NOW in India checking on wells that our AWANA kids raised money to install in areas where there is no access to clean water. That alone brings me joy!

And spring is coming... who wants to be wimpy & sad when it's nice outside! :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Movie weather

You know how in movies the weather seems to match the mood? Everyone's sad and bummed out and the weather is oh-so-conveniently rainy and dreary.

Well I think I might be in a movie. It's rainy and dreary and that's kind of how I've been feeling these past two days.

We've been getting progressively worse news on our adoption since the end of December but most of it has come in the last two weeks.  Yesterday I was driving to an adoption event and, to be honest, I didn't really want to go. I didn't want to talk to other adoptive moms. I didn't want to have to say out loud what's going on with Ethiopia.  It was drizzling when I left the house and then an all-out rain storm hit us about halfway there.

I'm glad I went (cue little ray of sunshine and maybe a bird tweet). The moms who were there also happen to be my friends and they were wonderfully supportive and made me feel much better about the situation. Thank God they did. When I got home I saw the official US Embassy announcement about Ethiopian adoptions. And it's not good (cue thunderclap).

It was raining this morning as I packed up the injera and aterkik alitcha I had made to bring to Riley's school for their "Trip around the World." His classroom was Ethiopia. I spent all morning talking to the different classes about Ethiopia, letting them try the food, and talking about what life is like for kids there. And it rained all morning.  I, however, didn't cry, so I consider that a success.

Now it's a rainy, dreary afternoon.  The kind where you just want to curl up in bed with a book but end up falling asleep before you've read three pages.  It's the kind of weather that's the opposite of motivational - you don't want make any major decisions on a rainy day.

And today I'm not making any major decisions. I have said out loud that this situation could mean that we may not be able to adopt from Ethiopia. This is true, we may not.  But we don't have to jump ship just yet. We aren't making any major decisions. Because we didn't begin our journey towards Ethiopia on a whim. It was well thought out and covered in prayer.  Any other decisions we may make will be done in the same way.

Please pray for us. Pray for me - I'm not handling this as gracefully as I would like. But more importantly, please pray for the children of Ethiopia. I can handle the emotional pain that would come from not getting to adopt a child from Ethiopia. I can get through that. But what it might mean for those kiddos who would never know forever families is a much greater wound. Please pray for them and for their government.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ethiopia...

This just may be the only week in the past 16 months of my life that I don't really want to talk about Ethiopia. Whenever someone mentions the word my heart freezes in a sort of achy way that I can't entirely describe.

But you know what is going on this week? Thursday is "Trip Around the World Day" at Riley's school and his amazing teachers have decided that their class is going to be Ethiopia. All week they have Ethiopian and other African things out for the kids. I brought in a bunch of our stuff from Africa and am bringing injera and aterkik alitcha on Thursday for all the four year old classes and pre-k class to try.  As I dropped R off at school this morning, my eyes fixed on the Ethiopian flag on the classroom door, I saw our Noah's Ark set out for the kids to play with that was made in Swaziland (ha ha - it's closer to Ethiopia than one made here anyway!).  Just before I turned to leave, Riley said "Mommy, stop & listen!" and I heard our Ethiopian children's music CD playing in the background.

My eyes teared up a little and my heart warmed.

What all of this craziness has made me realize is that I truly love Ethiopia. I've never been there but it is a land and a people that I am growing to love.  And that is important.  No matter what the future holds, Ethiopia has landed in my heart and that's not going to change.

Thank you for your prayers. This is a scary time for us and it means so much to know that others are praying for us and with us for Ethiopia and the Ethiopian children. No updates yet but please keep praying!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

More Rollercoastering

I'm a wreck.

I have started about four different blog posts since last night.  They vacillated between positive, negative and downright bleak. I honestly am not sure I have words for what's going on in my heart right now.

We're not supposed to talk about what's going on in Ethiopia in public forums and I am going to honor that but I will say that, right now, things are not looking good for our adoption.

I am so scared. And I found out after 5pm on Friday so I can't contact my agency to see if they have more info. I am praying we'll hear something from them on Monday.  What I've heard is not official so I'm trying not to get ahead of myself.

Please pray. Pray for the children in Ethiopia and for their government.  And please pray for the families everywhere who want to parent those children. Pray for me, that I will have the grace and patience I need to get through this. There's so much we don't know right now.

What I do know is that God is aware of all of this. He knew it before I did. He knows how it will all turn out. He knows what my family is supposed to look like when we're all said and done adding children.  I can add nothing by worrying.

But I think He's okay with it if I cry a little. It's part of that heartbroken thing, after all.