We entered 2012 with aching hearts. Cadi had recently been diagnosed with a bleeding disorder called Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) and Mononucleosis. We had just found out that her expensive IVIG treatment was ineffective and that her platelets were continuing to drop. She was a very sick, very weak little girl, and I was a very fearful Mommy. I remember charting her symptoms - the times and amounts she would bleed, making notes of her bruising - the size the color - and panicking when we noticed petechiae, knowing that meant another drop in her blood platelets. I remember feeling very alone, very sad, and very tired. When I read this post, I can feel the pain and fear again.
We also entered the new year on the tail of a family announcement, that we were once again adopting from Ethiopia - a little girl! God had made it abundantly clear to us that someone from Ethiopia was still missing in our family. Little did we know what He had in store! We are still unsure why God so impressed a little girl on our hearts, as His plans actually led to our beautiful street boy. Perhaps He needed to get adoption back in the front of our minds - I really cannot even speculate. I do know that there was a reason God led us back into the Ethiopian program, and that we paid fees and started the process, only to put it on hold in order to bring Habtamu home, and ultimately, a few weeks ago, completely pull out of the Ethiopian program in pursuing the adoption of a little girl. For now, our family is whole, but perhaps one day God will send us back for Sophia. I don't understand it all, because I only get pages at a time, but I trust the story He is writing. It was on January 1 of 2012, after two months of losing touch with Habi and not being able to get him money that he needed to survive on the streets of Addis, that he went to an internet cafe', used his hard-earned money (from selling gum and shining shoes) to use the internet, made a facebook account, and found me. That moment that he found me on facebook changed our life; Jim and I knew that we could never lose him again, and it was time to step up our fight for this child whom we had promised to love, protect, and parent. Parenting across the ocean was not working - it was either bring him to us or move our family to Ethiopia. We asked God to work out the details and told Him we were willing to do either one.
In February we really started pursuing how to bring Habi into our family. We knew God wanted us to be together and was asking us to fight for him. We kept things pretty quiet, sharing with only our closest friends and a few family members the fight we were in. I wrote a cryptic blog post here asking for prayer. We contacted an Ethiopian woman who used to work with our adoption agency. We had met her in Ethiopia the year before. Jim and I really liked her and trusted her. We found out she had moved to the states and had started her own business/ministry, EthioStork. Jim and I decided to contact her, we had recently learned of an adoption friend who had brought home a teenage boy from Rwanda on a student visa. This gave us renewed hope, and we thought we could hire Duni to help us. For various reasons, Duni, talked us into first pursuing an international adoption for Habi and then pursuing the student visa as a last resort. So we began the roller coaster of figuring out if an international adoption would be possible for our Ethiopian son. We had a time line, as we were working on planning and preparing to lead a mission trip to Ethiopia in July. We were praying to have some solid answers to share with Habi by then.
February also brought about the definitive diagnosis of Septo Optic Dysplasia for Jamesy, as well as epilepsy, after spending a night at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. His diagnosis brought us peace with knowing what we were dealing with and sadness for an unknown future for our baby. We began intense therapies in our home with Jamesy to try to help him through his disabilities. We continued to battle Cadi's I.T.P. and kept praying for her strength to return and her platelets to come back to normal.
I continued being a Compassion blogger and really enjoyed advocating for Compassion and their children. This was one of my favorite blog posts that I wrote for Compassion. (There are still children waiting for YOU.)
March brought us to the one year anniversary of having Jamesy home with us. It was a year remembering a lot of pain, mixed emotions, and joy as well. With Jamesy's adoption we gained a beautiful, smiley, son, but we lost relationships which we had once held very dear. I knew that when we said "yes" to adoption and taking a journey that nobody else in our faith family had taken before, that we would be risking and sacrificing. I just did not realize that relationships would be sacrificed, and that there would be people we loved who would refuse to follow through on their words and would no longer walk beside us. I now know that this is not unique to just our family, as we have shared tears and broken hearts over this with many other adoptive families we have met along the way. And today, I can say, that I have worked through a lot of the pain and bitterness, it still hurts if I allow myself to go there, but I am learning that some people come into our life for only a season. And that is okay. I am moving on, and I am so, so thankful for the beautiful friendships that have come about because of this journey. I did not expect that either.
In March we had a few scary bleeding episodes with Cadi, but towards the end of the month, her platelets started to reach normal levels! She would continue to be monitored and have her blood tested until remission could be confirmed.
Jim and I were privileged to take two days to listen to the Verge Conference online. God used this conference to completely reshape how we thought about church and missional living. We are still working through what we learned, and we have revisited and talked through the sessions the entire year. God planted a seed that we are excited about.
One of my favorite blog posts was written this month - How to Give Kids a Heart for the Nations. This is something we continue to pray for the hearts of our children, and I am excited to see how God is growing them (and us as a family) in this area.
This month we also loaded our family into a minivan and traveled for 30 hours, down to Alabama to see some sweet adoption friends, and then back over to Florida for a week away with my parents and my sister and her family. It was an amazing trip. One that we needed in order to get away from ministry pressures and relax after Cadi's sickness, Jamesy's diagnosis, and our chaotic battle to bring Habi home.
May was one of the most exciting months for me, and my relationship with God deepened in a whole new way. Jim and I read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Againts Excess by Jen Hatmaker, and we decided to join the experiment. There are seven areas of excess that are targeted, and we began with food. It was a fast of sorts, and I blogged through the entire month. It was the first time I had fasted in this way, and even now, I stand in awe over what God did in us, through us, and for us this month. I so needed that month of fasting to focus intentionally in on what God was asking of us and to focus on praying for the courage to move forward. God taught me so much about faith and pushing while I prayed. The Spirit spoke to my heart this month, and I knew without a doubt, that somehow we were going to be bringing Habi home with us in July - this knowing came after learning that when Habi was only one clearance away from being adoptable, God slammed the door permanently for an international adoption. We decided to go public, and we announced to the world that we were going to pursue a student visa for our son, and try to bring him home in July, hoping to garner prayer and support. And we did, we had people across the country immediately pull together fund raisers for us to help with all of the money needed, but we also received rejection and stern warnings about bringing an older boy into our home. However, we knew this what God was asking of us and we plowed forward determined to follow Jesus to our son
May also brought about summer break, and my last days Mommying three babies.
June was a whirlwind of activity as we tied together lose ends for our mission trip to Ethiopia, packed to go overseas, finished paperwork for Habi's student visa, begged God to allow him to come home, and loved on our three babies who we would miss so much while we were gone. In June we continued to fund raise for Habi's plane ticket and other expenses to get him here. I stepped out in faith and I decorated his bedroom believing that he would soon be living in it. I slept better this month, as I knew that Habi was safe with our friend Chuck in Ethiopia, who had gone over a month ahead of our team. It was such a great feeling knowing Habi was safe and fed for an entire month, and it gave me so much peace.
One of my favorite parts of June was meeting Shaun Groves and eating dinner with him and our Ethiopian team. He came and preformed a concert at our church. It was definitely a night to remember and the perfect way to prepare my heart for our upcoming trip.
And thanks be to God - this was the month that Cadi was officially declared in remission, and we could finally put I.T.P. behind us after 8 long months of blood tests and a sick little girl.
I still do not have words for July. Typing this, even now, so many months removed, my throat throbs, my eyes burn, and my heart races. We literally stood inside of a move of God as He granted Habi that student visa. For the first time, our family was together and whole.
And then our trip to Ethiopia - experiencing serving people whom we have fallen in love with, alongside the son we fought so hard for, well, I still cannot wrap words around it. Sharing my journal entries from that trip is too intimate for me, so I have shared so very little from our time serving in Ethiopia. I walked away from that trip with a real desire for more from our American churches. I came home almost depressed with what we have here. I am still working through all of that. It is hard to experience authentic worship with brothers and sisters, and then come home to sterile, programmed, polished "church". I do not mean that to be an insult, I am as much of the problem as the next person, just trying to work through it all.
July also brought about a CPS investigation on Jim and I, as Jamesy escaped from our home one evening. Although, it has now been cleared up, we are still shaken by that experience and disturbed that so little grace was shown for his special needs. Our family also travelled out to Illinois and Indiana. In Illinois we got to meet and stay with some dear friends, and then we attended my brother's wedding. Although, the trip was hard on the heels of coming home from Ethiopia, it was also a good bonding time for our family.
Our summer flew by with break-neck speed. August allowed us to continue bonding as a family of six. We grew more and more in love with Habi, and the miracle of having him in our home only heightened. We celebrated Scotty turning 4, and Jim turning 32. We enjoyed family walks to the park and Habi began soccer practice at his new school. We quickly learned just how much we would be sacrificing in having to send Habi to a school so far away from our home, but God's grace continued to pour out on us and He continued to meet our needs. In August we received a large scholarship from Habi's private school, which covered half of his tuition - just another love gift from God showing us that we were being obedient. I gently allowed people into our world through a few blog posts like this. Again I realized how little grace is given to an adoptive family, and my heart yearns to change that in the body of Christ. When a family brings a newborn home in the "homegrown" way, grace is showered on that family. It is expected that every milestone and every coo will be recorded and celebrated. People expect oodles of photos on facebook and your talk to revolve around your newbie. It is expected that the family will go through a period of adjustment and change for a season. I was relearning, that sadly, this is not always true when you bring children home through adoption.
In August I also processed through little bits of our trip to Ethiopia with a few posts like this and this.
And we geared up for the 2012-2013 school year.
September brought school and soccer games and Cadi's 7th birthday. September brought about overwhelmingness to me, as I tried to balance Jamesy's therapies, homeschooling Cadi and Scotty, Habi's soccer practices and games, helping Habi with homework that was so foreign to him, and traveling to get Habi from school - on top of regular mommying, housework, being a wife, and being involved in ministry. It was a lot. It is still a lot, but God has been so faithful to lavish me with just enough grace and mercy for each day - nothing more and nothing less - enough. We also continued to tread the waters of raising a big boy. We were and are so green, and some of my heartache came through in posts like this. But through this child, God was and is teaching me some of the greatest lessons I have ever learned. My most popular blog post, since beginning to blog seven years ago, was written in September - What to Consider Before Saying "Yes" to Bringing an Older Child Home and my first post was featured on blogher.
This was the month of survival, as we all flexed and learned how to live in our new chaos.
Super storm Sandy hit many of our neighboring states, but we were spared and given a few days to regroup and refresh as a family stuck inside of our home. It was a needed reprieve, and I thanked God for it and mourned for those who were struck by the storm.
Habi's soccer team won their Championship game, and my heart was so filled at the number of family and friends that came out to cheer him on to victory.
Jamesy was given the unofficial diagnosis of Autism in October, which we add to his growing repertoire. We know God has plans for our son, but some days are dark and hard, as we struggle with how to best help him. Somedays I feel very alone trying to wade through special needs waters. We are blindly begging God for wisdom.
I also continue to learn this lesson that I shared about in October.
November is always a blur as the holiday season begins. I turned 33 in November, and my family swaddled me with love. Jim and I were able to get away for a few hours alone- the first time since April. It was needed and refreshing. Something that we need to find more time for. Somehow. Habi experienced his first Thanksgiving, and as a family we had so very much to thank God for this year.
November was National Adoption/Orphan Awareness month. I kicked it off with this post. I think I will always have a heart for adoption, now that I understand how tightly it is tied to my redemption in Jesus, but I also think that I will always be misunderstood in this passion. I started out the month bravely and excitedly blogging, and then I let fear of man and rude comments silence me. I am still learning how to not let this happen. However, two of my favorite posts that I did write this month were Wrecked (funny how just a few weeks after writing this I allowed fear to take back over) and Don't Adopt.
November slowly started to bring a new rhythm to our family, and in the midst of our craziness we hit a new normal. And we continued to marvel at the way God was meshing our family in the way only He can.
And December brought us full circle, back to Advent and Christmas, and this year lots of snow! Cadi followed her tradition and sang a solo at our Church's Christmas Eve service, and we basked in celebrating Jesus' birth all together as a family for the first time ever. December went by too quickly as it always does, but it also brings with it an eagerness to begin again, to have a fresh slate.
I look back on this past year, and the blog posts God allowed me to write, the story that He is penning over us, and I am in complete and total awe. I cannot believe what God brought us through and what He did for us. We seriously witnessed a miracle this year. I feel so unworthy to be used by God, that He would desire to let ordinary people fumble through such a beautiful plan that He set in motion. Yes, 2012, was a year of undeniably change and indescribable blessings.
Thank you for sharing these cherished moments with me, for showering me with grace, when this space is silent for too long, when I talk about my brown-eyed boys too much, and when my passion shadows empathy. Each of you is part of this story, just by coming here and reading. Thank you for that. Thank you for standing beside our family.
As crazy as 2012 was, my heart feels that it is only the beginning of what God has in store for 2013. I'm ready for the ride.