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Update

We have been home 2 weeks as of yesterday.

We thought we’d feel sad with the wait in between, but we don’t.  We feel great.  That orphanage, those people, good people.  I feel like my heart is put to rest.  With our adoption from Russia there were three waits, the first one months long without knowing when we’d be invited back for court.

We’ve already been to court.

But don’t worry, while in Istanbul I realized that I hadn’t brought clothes for court, “Danggit!!!  I forgot!” I told Andrew.  He just smiled.  I am not a details person, which is always fine, things work out.  While in Ethiopia we walked into a mall-ish type place and I went into a store, which I remember being called ‘Fancy Lady,’ but I could be remembering that wrong.

I grabbed the hangered shoulder of a mustard yellow blouse with cream colored polka dots.  “Perfect!” I said to Andrew…who shook his head at me.  The gorgeous Ethiopian store worker?  She shook her head at me.  What happened to sales?  Wait–no, what happened to–wasn’t there a time in my life when I was stylish and could pick out cute clothes?  Perhaps that time has passed.

They helped me find some navy blue pin-striped deal and we called it a day, “I LOVE it!” they both told me.  Ok then.  You’re welcome.

On the way to court, we got stuck in traffic.  The two lane rode, somehow had both lanes going south.  So us and the other northbound suckers just sat there.  I watched all the people out my window, holding hands, arms around each other, babies wrapped in brightly colored but dusty cloth on their mama’s backs.   “This happens sometimes,” Fekadu told us as he honked the horn.  I held onto my stomach, my poor stomach, why had I brushed my teeth in the Turkish airport!?

We arrived at court, all our other friends were there, the ones adopting from the same little room as us who you become close to real quick, “Oh, is that an extra cracker you have, may I?” “YES!”  Needs and sharing from our little supplies make strangers into family real quick.

We crowded into a little room and sat on hard wood benches.  So different from Russia, so many families waiting at once, people smiling, people nervous.  Some of the men who work at the orphanage sitting there, smiling and talking to each other.   A family smashed in next to us was very nervous, I contemplated sharing the lavender oil in my purse, but sometimes people just aren’t into that sort of thing.  But I offered anyways, and she accepted, looking relieved.  Oh man, lavender smells good anytime, but in a third world country, with the traffic fumes flowing, it’s like breath of the gods.  We were all drenching ourselves, and conversation turned light, happy.

We shared about the successes of our adopted children at home.

“Brockhaus?”

We popped up, “Oh, us.”  The nervous family looked nervous again.

We walked into a small room, and were greeted my a serious man.  Serious in Ethiopia means a casual smile the entire time, just a little less bubbly, but kind.  Serious in Russia means death eyes to match their frown, but doesn’t negate kindness :)

“You know people who have adopted from Ethiopia?”

“Yes”

“You live in an area with diversity?”

“Definitely.”

“You have met the child?”

“Yes.”

“Do you love her?”

Oh jeez buddy, “Yes,” we said as we looked at each other and gripped our hands together, tears slipping down my face.

He smiled kindly at us, “That’s good,” he said.

And we were done.

5 minutes?  What happened to the two hour grilling like last time?

Proud parents.  Four children, one little girl, sweet as pie, now our own.

We walked back into the bench room and hugged some friends.

We traveled back to the orphanage for one more visit and one of the moms told us, “Did you know that in that room with us was the MoWa leader?”

“What!?” we all said.

MoWa is the group of people who decides when you can visit your child.  They have slowed down the entire process adding months and months onto every adoptive family.  How many times that name had been in my pleading prayers.

“Yeah, he was asking our driver, ‘Why are all these people crying and hugging,’ and our driver told him that we all love our children so much and it’s a big day for us.”  Apparently he was stunned.  I think I’ll take that as a good thing.

We arrived at the orphanage and scooped up a happy, squealing girl, so excited to see us.

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“I’m fly and I know it” -Penelope

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Poppy and her fan club

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Watching the trash collectors

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We went out to lunch at Lucy, where the bones were found.  It was gorgeous, a lush gazebo.

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These two guys may look cool, but they are such softies and will do anything to make any of the children in the orphanage smile.  Grace and kindness flowing from them like a river.

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After we finished our meal, it was time for the afternoon rain.  We sat under an awning, and a man approached us.  He had his family with him, teenaged, sweet white and brown children, he told us they had adopted years ago and they were here as a heritage trip.  He spoke some kind, encouraging words to us.

“Are you a pastor?” I asked him.

He looked at me surprised, “Yes, I am, how did you know?”

“You’re encouraging and a good speaker.”

“Well, I mean, I could have been a pharmaceutical salesmen, right?”

We sat under the eves with Fekadu as the rain cleared up before heading back to the car.

“We have nothing but time here,” Fekadu smiled.

 

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We drove up to the green mountains once the rain cleared up, green forever, above and below.   At the bottom was 7,000ft above sea level.  Ethiopian Olympic athletes train on this mountain.  Half way up, we looked down to a sea of tree tops, lush and alive.  Drenched in sunlight, the air fresh.

 

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We saw woman after woman carrying a small forest piled on their backs and walking by foot down the curving road.

“For fifteen cents,” Fekadu told us.  It must take most of a day to collect and haul it all.  It  was what the poorest of the poor did.  We’d see their faces, strain and focus etched in their eyes, sweat streaming down their faces.

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While exploring the palace we met the sweetest shepherd boy.  Like all the people here, he was kind and giving, a lightness in his eyes showing he cared about people.

“Why is everyone just so kind here?” we always ask.

Fekadu shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

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besties

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At the bottom of the mountain, we visited the Former Fuel Workers Rehabilitation Center.  A missionary family has set up a loom cottage where the women can weave hand made scarves and sell them for decent, livable wages instead of carrying those piles of trees.  Creating a new life for themselves and their families.  We are SO into this, this is one of the biggest things to us.  We grabbed so many darn scarves, bought them all up.  The best investment.

 

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We visited Mo’s church for the service…we could hear it blocks away in the dark as we approached.   As we walked up, the scene was different, people were spilling out onto the sidewalk, standing room only.  We contemplated staying outside, but really wanted to see Mo.  We snaked our way inside, and tried to find standing room.  Mo was up there preaching with a full band filling the room with music and his preaching, the man was on fire, people closed their eyes, taking in the words, hearing of God’s love.    All the people across the rows were holding hands with each other and singing.  Andrew and I were too shy to hold hands, and stood, taking it all in.

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“Babe, let’s take an ‘Usie’”   “What?”

 

 

Oh, I forgot to show you my court shirt.  Are you as impressed as Andrew and the sales lady were?  Perhaps the 80s are back.

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Our final goodbye.

When dew slides down the sleepy grass, when pools of sunlight spill onto the wood planked floor, when the warm dust kicks up behind the hooves of the lambs–glowing as it swirls in the sun, when you stare up at the stars and wait, remember what we told you, and let each memory guide your heart to know, ‘We love you to the moon and back, look up to the moon and know our love for you.’  Our love is around you, even now when you don’t see us, you can feel us. Even in the dust, even in the moon, even in the stars.

We are here with you.

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“My best ever lady…”

We wave goodbye to her as she is placed back in her crib, her bottom lip under her teeth as she waves brightly, Andrew and I making fools of ourselves waving, waving, “Bye!  Bye!  We love you!”  She keeps waving, up and down from the wrist, turning her head to the side.

We load into the car and Fekadu, our driver, asks us about our time and asks us if we are hungry for lunch.  We are, and we pull up to Sky View.  It starts to rain and we walk up the stairs, surrounded by trees to a little room lined in windows, full view of the tree tops, making us feel like we are perched in a tree house in the jungle.

We order our food and chat with Fekadu.  He is humble and quiet, with large, kind eyes. It’s easy to feel comfortable while with him because he doesn’t need to fill space with talking if it’s time to be quiet, you can be yourself .  Andrew respects him immediately, I can tell.  We chat more and more, and then he asks us, “Have you ever heard of Compassion International?”

“Yeah!”  We respond.  “We love Compassion, we sponsor a couple girls.”

“I was a Compassion child,” he tells us, totally catching us off guard.

“What!?  NO way!  That’s amazing!” we tell him.  He is my same age.

He starts to tell us about his family when he was a child, he never met his father, and his mom remarried a man who was an alcoholic.  He would hit him everyday.  I start to get upset thinking of anyone hurting such a kind soul, Andrew too.

“So I had to start sleeping outside on the street.  I was 8, and didn’t have shoes or go to school.  I was one of the first groups of kids Compassion worked with, and I was chosen by Nerida, she lives in Australia.”

When he says her name, a smile comes to his face, not a showy smile, but one of deep joy, of love, as though the love she has shown him over many years has illuminated a permanent light in his heart, in who he is.  This serene, humble man asks us shyly if we want to see her picture, proud.

“Of course,” we say, we’re both feeling overwhelmed by this story, amazed, to see the other end of this, to see him now, an adult, showing us his sponsor.  It felt surreal, humbling.   He pulls out his phone, there are only a couple pictures on it.

“This is her, Nerida, my best ever lady.  She saved my life.  I am who I am today because of her, because she chose me,” he shows us his best ever lady as if she were the most precious, important thing in his life.

 

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He shows us a couple more pictures, they met a few years ago.  They took a trip to India together.  A picture of Nerida, her husband, son and him, “Family Picture,” he tells us, proud, as he pulls it back to see it again himself, smiling at the photo.  This, these people, are everything to him, he doesn’t even need to say it, it shows on his face when he looks at them.

 

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He tells us that when he was chosen, he got shoes.  He got regular meals, and was able to go to school.  How he is able to be the man he is today because he was sponsored.  Because he was chosen by Nerida and her family.

“How much is sponsoring?” he asks us, “$38?  $40 a month?”

“$38,” we tell him.

“Maybe for sponsors it’s like nothing, an after thought, but for the kids, it’s their whole life.”

“It’s everything.”

“Wow…” we tell him as I think about our two girls we sponsor, their little lives becoming more illuminated to me.  We always have known Compassion is good, do good things, but to see Fekadu’s face, and hear his words…

“She would write me letters,” he told us as he put her picture away, “And I have every one.  I’ve saved every letter, every book mark, I remember the encouragement she would write to me.  She saved my life.”

After meeting our daughter for the first time just hours ago, then hearing Fekadu’s story, we can’t hold back the tears, Andrew and I sitting, stunned listening to his story, taking it all in as the rain streamed down the windows, the sky still bright.  He is quiet and humble, but the light inside of him, his joy, shining.

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“Every month, we would all run to the office to see if there were letters, I always had one, she always wrote to me.  Some of the other kids didn’t get letters, and they were so sad, it’s important to write.”

“It am thankful for the life God gave me because of it.  The shoes, the education, the food, it’s the reason I am here.”  He looks down at his hands, “But the most important thing that I got from being sponsored is learning about Jesus Christ.  It’s because of him that I have forgiven my step father.  We don’t really have a relationship, but I have forgiven him in my heart, and now, because of that forgiveness and because of Jesus, I support my half brother and sister, his children, and I put them through college through my work.”

Too much.  We see their photos, a handsome young man and woman, their arms around him.  They look healthy and confident, he tells us what each of them are studying.  He shows us his mom, he tells us she is his hero, he supports her, too, with his work.  His work that he was able to do because he was sponsored by Nerida.

We learn he also sponsors other families locally, a widow and her 14 year old son who is paralyzed throughout his entire body.  They have no wheelchair, so she carries his grown, limp body on her back.  “I cried the whole day I met them,” he tells us as he showed us her smiling face next to her son in a picture, their clothes tattered, but Fekadu helps to provide meals for them through his sponsorship.  He bought them a simple wheelchair, not fancy, but usable.

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He sponsors a poor family who lives at the dump.  He loves them.  He works with the youth in his church.

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“I can’t live my life without helping others the way I was helped.”

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Andrew and I told him that we are going to chose another child to sponsor through Compassion, one in Ethiopia.  We are hoping that in a couple years, we can travel back as a family to visit that child.

“That would mean everything to them,” he nodded.

“But you’ll have to drive us,” we smiled.

He nodded and smiled.

Fekadu wrote this with someone thinking about sponsoring;

A message for the people who would like to start sponsoring in the future is….here is an open field to be God’s hand and feet. You will never regret for what you will do here in the lives of Children. This is a place where the blessings flow for both the child and sponsor.
Compassion for me…..’Compassion is an angel which was sent from God to save my life.”

 

If you are interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion, you can find the children waiting for sponsors here: www.compassion.com

 

We started looking at some of the little boys in Ethiopia, and they each now have a little video with their profiles you can see.  Hearing their sweet voices will make the decision of which child to chose kind of hard, but in picking one, know that through that simple act, there are untold lives who will be touched and effected by just this one child that you choose.  Just like Nerida.

Just like Fekadu.  22 years ago.

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“Appreciation and gratitude goes to my favorite organization ever, Compassion International which is highly committed to change the lives of children by releasing them from spiritual, physical, social and economical poverty. I am here, who is a live testimony to witness this.”

Andrew and I were so honored to meet Fekadu, and to hear his life, his love for Compassion.  About his sponsor,  Nerida, who to this day is touching lives with that one decision.  Who sponsored and encouraged him for 14 years.  Hearing about the lives he serves and supports now because of being a sponsored child.

We are honored to share his story here.  To share the other end of those sweet faces just waiting to be sponsored.

Compassion International, you are doing a good thing, we are so honored to be a part of it.

 

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Meeting Our Girl

Have you ever had something you can’t think about?

Like your child, sitting in an institution.  That would be one for us.  Our brains gave up, “Nah, I’m done,” and we agreed, too much.  Mental separation to function.

As we waited in line at LAX, with our bags, surrounded by Turkish people, it still felt like an insurmountable wall.  It still felt like it will never happen.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I told Andrew as we slipped off our shoes.  “It’s too hard.  The wait…”

“Yeah,” he agreed.  We boarded and they passed around no pork meals and played middle eastern music.  We slept, boarded another plane.

We drove through the dark African sky in the middle of the night to our hotel, not far.  The next day was not a visiting day, we explored the city, rested.  I didn’t think about meeting her once, still separated, like a hand from a spot that’s been burned by the stove.

The next day, I woke up at 5am, the alarm was set for 7.

My heart was racing.  I wasn’t prepared.  It’s the day, I’ve been longing for, sometimes in joy, other times in anguish.

I got up, I knew I still needed sleep, but I couldn’t.  I got up and stood by the window, moved back the thin curtain and gazed out at the night sky, flecked in bright stars.  I smelled the dust outside, I started thinking about what to do, but not about what was happening.  I tried to take a deep breath to quiet my racing heart.  We were here…

“You will have two hours with the child.”

“Andrew, should we have brought toys or something?” I asked quickly, the empty space in my head, filling with a child.

“No, probably not…”  He joined me in the day.  We started getting ready in the dark morning, stillness out our opened window without a screen.  My mind still not going to what was happening.

Our driver arrived.

I started crying.

I put on my sunglasses.

He was kind and quiet in a gentle way.  I sat in the back seat as the world passed me by out the window.  I watched the people along the road as we drove quickly in our car, our kind driver managing the roads well.  I feel fine, and numb, and nothing else.  I take a deep breath, focusing on what I was seeing out the window.

Beep beep, he honks at a closed metal gate, a man pulls it back and we park in a small cement square outside the building.

The building.

I’ve dreamed of this, my palms are warm.  Tears come down my face, now I don’t even know the feeling attached, I just feel the tears on my cheeks.

We are greeted by a kind woman inviting us to sit.  I try to chill.

“You want to go up?” she asks us.

Andrew and I look at each other, my heart is racing, “Yes…” we say quickly, jumping to our feet.

 

 

We walked up the stairs, piles of freshly washed clothes hanging on the banister.  Women in head wraps bow to us and smile at us kindly.  They are excited, I think.  It doesn’t smell sterile, it smells warm, alive.

We walk into a room, filled with small wooden cribs, so many pairs of deep coffee eyes find us, each with pouty lips, the sun streaming in from a window behind, I squint to see, squint to take it all in, we take one step into the room.

I don’t see her.  I will know her when I do.

I have looked at her little face so many times, our baby, just a picture, our child.  I will know her, I scan the room with my eyes to find her eyes.

Then I hear,

“Arsu!  Arsu!  It’s your mommy…” 

 

She was behind another little girl in my line of vision, and she is placed on her feet in front of her bed.

She looks into my eyes, shy.

I start to cry, but don’t want her to be worried.  So I smiled a wet smile.  “Hi sweetheart…”

She smiles back.

I pull out the bear, the one thing, the only thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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She loves it, feeling the soft fur in her chubby hands.  I reach out my hands

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“Little one,” I whisper into her cheek, she leans her head on mine.

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Her weight in my arms, her small arms around mine, my mind couldn’t move away, because the long wait is now filled with our child, our daughter.

 

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I look at Andrew who is overcome.

He is just overcome with her.  We here, in this room, she is here, with us.

When I see his face, it makes me smile.  We are happy.

We are here.

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But when she sees him, she clings closer to me, we giggle.  She’s probably never seen a red head, plus that beard, would scare any kid.  Took her about 5 minutes, though, to be a daddy’s girl.

 

We hold her close, we tell her we love her.  She wants to be held, so opens her arms to us, doesn’t want to be put down.  She had been waiting for this too, but with what would seem a much better attitude ;)  Oh, this girl will teach us so much.

 

The only way to describe her is, angelic.  Happy, loved, cheerful.  Chubby and gentle, full of personality.  Wanting to be loved and held more than anything else.

A blessing, a gift, chosen for us, which just baffles us.

Our gift.

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To be honest, it’s hard for me to find words to capture the magnitude of this blessing, which is a good thing, I think.  She is joy and sunshine, perfectly preserved and well loved in our time apart despite my fretting heart.  Each moment of worry of no value.  God can do all things, his love reaching and filling where you ask, even oceans apart.

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Thank you for following our journey, for touching the sky and our daughter with your prayers.  Andrew and I feel so small and undeserving in so many ways for the goodness he has given us in each of our children.

And this girl, I can’t even.

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She gets her own mama and papa, forever. But the gift is for us.  When I thought I couldn’t wait.  When I just couldn’t, here she is, she gazed into my face,  seeing all of me, my tears and my joy, my shaking mama heart, eyes alive with the love we have for her, chubby hand on my arm,

You waited for me? in her eyes, on her face.

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How could we not…how could I have spent one second in worry and discouragement when she waited, right here, the entire time.  Our sweet gift, His perfect plan.

 

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‘For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.’  Habukkuk 2:3

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Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it.’ 

Isaiah 30:21

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She spent half the time with us asleep in our arms in the baby wrap, her soft cheek squished on us as we fall deeply in love.  When she wakes up, she wakes up smiling.

The staff here love her well, they love all the children so well.

“Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house.  God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom.”

That is who God is.

 

And we really want to say thank you again to each of you for helping us make it this far, your love and support and kindness fueling us more than you may even realize, even some of you we have never met have been brick layers connecting us to our girl.

 

Ultimate thanks to our God, for hiding seeds in our hearts, all of this is inspired by him entirely– and for leading us every step of the way, and his patience with us, even when we got a little impatient ;)  God, you are so good, we don’t deserve it.  Your love for us and your children leaves me speechless.  We will live our lives as a thanks to you, as people made new by your love and your guidance, as best we can, with open hands, as you teach us.

Thank you for teaching us how to open our hands even small enough to trust in you long enough to receive the goodness you had planned.

Our world is big, needs are big, and if we let him long enough, he will blow our hearts out of the water with his plan that is more good than we could ever imagine, know this in your heart.  God loves you.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  Ephesians 3 /20

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So anyways, thanks to everyone who ever lived :)

 

For our Penelope River Arsu Brockhaus <3

Aka our Poppy

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