Friday, August 12, 2016

HE WILL DO IT

Good grief.  I don't even know where to start.  For many of you who live locally I had told you in recent months that when we received our positive recommendation letter from Federal MOWCA you would hear me scream.  Please forgive me for letting you down.  This week wasn't exactly... I don't know... a barrel of laughs.  Last Thursday I started feeling bad, but chalked it all up to allergies and not sleeping well.  Then, on Friday the longer the day went on the worse I felt.  I finally managed to go to the walk-in clinic Friday night (a week ago).  Get this.  I HAD THE FLU.  Who gets the flu when it's 95 degrees outside?  Apparently me (how DUMB is that?).  Anyway, suffice it to say, the flu wasn't making any plans to be a short-term visitor.  Despite my Tamiflu, this crazy fever, cough, aches, and mucous decided to take full advantage of the "5-7 days on average" reputation it has.  So, when Tuesday morning came, I was finally entering the first hours of being fever-free and I FELT LIKE I HAD BEEN HIT BY A MACK TRUCK.  We won't even mention what I looked like.  Moving on... Mark woke as usual that morning and I waved to him from my post on the couch as he headed out the door.  Then, I fell back to sleep with my foggy brain in tow.  It felt like Mark was immediately busting back through the door in a blaze of glory.  I sat up in a sleepy stupor trying to figure out what planet I was on.  Somewhere in all of the startling and smiles, I heard him say, "WE ARE GOING TO ETHIOPIA! Jamie called and we got our letter!"  I REALLY WAS BESIDE MYSELF BUT NO ONE COULD HEAR ME SCREAM (including those in the room with me) BECAUSE I HAVE NO VOICE.  I sat up and repeatedly said, "Are you serious?" but all he could hear (due to the lack of voice) was, "....serious?"  He kept reassuring me that our agency had our POSITIVE RECOMMENDATION LETTER in their hands and they would be filing for a court date Wednesday.  I know all the adoption lingo makes some of you want to curl up in a corner in the fetal position, but for the sake of those who like hearing the process, I will briefly explain how this part works.
Many of you have asked how we could get our letter with court being closed.  The much needed, much prayed over letter comes from the Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs, a government entity (not an actual "ministry").  Once our agency gets our letter from MOWCA, we have all the necessary documents to file for a court date.  So, MOWCA and the court are two different offices.  Typically, when court is open, court dates are given within 24 hours and usually give you a date about a week later.  This would mean if court had been open Tuesday when our letter was available, we likely would've received our court date on Wednesday for the following Wednesday (this upcoming one). So, during rainy season only the court closes.  This means MOWCA is still reviewing cases and issuing recommendation letters, but families cannot travel until court reopens.  From what we understand someone in court works minimally during court closure just to assign court dates for families, making us have to wait a week, rather than the usual 24 hours to get our court date.  We are hoping to know that date by Wednesday. That court date will likely be late October to early November, but we will travel several days in advance in order to spend time with Tyson at his orphanage and to have an opportunity to travel to meet his birth family.  You know what I can't stop thinking about in regards to our court date?  THAT'S THE DAY HE BECOMES A MCKEEHAN.  We officially walk out of that courthouse a family of 7.  AND THAT IS OUR NEXT STEP....I can't even type those words without crying.  Our next step is hearing the judge declare him ours.  I am just beside myself all over again that God LETS us do this.

As the flu fog (& subsequent cough that makes me sound like I have the plague) have begun to fade and reality of all of this has begun to sink in, I keep coming back to this:

"The One who calls you is faithful, and HE will do it. " 1 Thessalonians 5:24

The One who calls.  That's not me.  That's not an agency.  That's not a government.  The One who calls is the one who is faithful.  None of the people (though they are AWESOME) who have helped us along the way in our agency, or our friends or family (though crazy awesome), or even the government... none of those are the One who calls or the One who is faithful.  HE'S THE ONE WHO DID IT.

I love this promise, one I have believed in faith countless times over the past six years.

HE WILL DO IT.

Sometimes you just have to say it outloud in the enemy's face so he knows you are on to him and you know the truth.  As I have looked back over these words this week, I am continually reminded of all those who still wait.  Goodness gracious.  Some are waiting on their own adoptions (many waiting on the same letter we've been waiting on), some on physical healing, some on marital healing, some on wanting their battle with infertility to be a thing of the past.  If I could pick each of you up and rock you in a rocking chair right now I WOULD.  The weight of the wait is not lost on me (or us).  IT IS HEAVY.  But, the beautiful thing about 1 Thessalonians 5:24 is this:

HE IS FAITHFUL. Period.

He can't NOT be faithful.  And, His faithfulness isn't dependent on if He gives us what we are asking for or not.  Or if He comes through in time (according to our timetables).  He is faithful even if scans and labs don't give us the hopeful news we wanted.  Here's the thing I praised Him for the most this week:  that He gives us any visible, tangible glimpses of His faithfulness is ASTOUNDING.  He doesn't owe us anything.  So, the mere fact that He still chooses to allow us to see His faithfulness IS WORTH CELEBRATING.  But, even if we were still waiting HE IS STILL FAITHFUL.

We have been overwhelmed and undone with gratitude over the sheer volume of texts, cards, hugs, calls, comments, posts, etc I've said it before, but it's true, so I will say it again:  This letter is all of OUR answer to prayer.  For each of you who have prayed and believed God for it, this answer is your answer to prayer.  I pray so much that as we walk out these final days of wait, we will do it with such compassion on those of you still in the waiting tunnel... not sure how much longer you have to go, yet so far in you can't see light in either direction.  I am asking God to somehow renew your hope after this week, but to know we are still with you. When your mountain moves and darkness gives way to light, we will dance with you.  Until then, we are standing with you in prayer and (when possible) in person.  We stand with you believing wholeheartedly that

HE IS FAITHFUL

and

HE WILL DO IT.

Thank you for walking so beautifully with us.  Tuesday night when someone asked what I had been feeling through the day, I responded with, "I have learned again how unbelievable our community is."  This victory is so sweet because you have chosen to come along side us.

Before I hop off of here.... I wanted to answer a few of your questions.

First, I don't even know what we need.  I'm tickled typing it, but it's true.  Because we had packed so well in January, I need to go back through our bags and see what is in there!  I believe we have everything, but if we have needs that arise, I will certainly let you know.  I DO know we may get a list of orphanage needs that we can take to leave at Tyson's orphanage.  When/If I get that list, I will pass it on to you, should any of you want to help.

Secondly, we will likely be in Ethiopia 2.5-3 weeks, but we have to be prepared for longer.  We will do our birth family meeting (which will be a 4 hour, overnight trip), spend time with Tyson at the orphanage, and then a couple days after we arrive we will have our court date.  Once we get the court decree, we can go PICK THAT SWEET THING UP and KEEP HIM FOREVER.  Somebody help me.  I can't even..... Then, after we kiss his face off (kidding.  sort of), we will have lots of other things to do.  We will do education there about Ethiopian culture, hair care, etc.  We will need to apply for his visa, passport, birth certificate (declaring his last name to be MCKEEHAN), and have a visa medical screening.  It doesn't sound like much, but it is a lot of paperwork that is all dependent on each other.  Once we collect all necessary documents, we can apply for an Embassy appointment with the US Embassy.  Once we complete that appointment.... WE COME HOME.

Next, Brycen and Regan will be joining us in Ethiopia.  Corbin and Hudson will be staying home with loving family and friends.  All the kids are aware of the plan and excited about it.  Hudson is particularly excited as his birthday is October 23.  When he first realized we would likely travel in October, he said, "Momma, can you please come back home with Tyson on my birthday so I will always forever know what my best birthday present was?"  And then I died.

Lastly, we will let you know the airport plan when we get closer to that time.  We have a mental plan and would love for you to come!  We will welcome everyone to be there when we get home as long as everyone knows we may not get to see everyone individually.  We sure hope to!  But, we will have to see how Tyson is handling it and if it's too overwhelming for him.  Also, when we can post his Ethiopian name, we will.  Remember, at the airport he won't know who Tyson McKeehan is:)

grateful to my core.

until he's home....
carrie

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sun Stand Still

I don't know what it is like to be a soldier in Joshua's army defeating your enemy and needing more daylight in order to destroy them all.  I DO however, know what it is like to need a miracle and more time.  I never intended to have so many weeks or months between posts.  To be honest, it isn't because I haven't had time or the desire to update.  It's been far more about not wanting to expose all my BLAH and tears for the world to see.  However, community is important.  Vital, actually.  So, I felt like it was time to update you on what we know as of today.  I will get back to Joshua in a few minutes... He has so much wisdom to offer on our situation.
On my last update we were waiting for another document from Addis MOWCA (this is equivalent to a state document) in order for Federal MOWCA to approve our case.  The needed document was something we already had in our documentation and our agency explained this to our federal MOWCA expert, the one who reviews our case and issues a positive or a negative recommendation on our case.  Ideally, you receive a positive recommendation, the head of Federal MOWCA signs your letter, and then a family travels and goes to court to finalize the adoption.  Our case has never been ideal or "normal."  Seems as though we have hit every bump in the road and had the worst possible timing at every single step.  Anyway, our federal expert finally made a recommendation for our case on June 1st.  Negative.  His reasoning was because he didn't believe Addis MOWCA (where Tyson is currently living and his guardian, the orphanage social worker, is currently living) had jurisdiction over him.  Our agency has never had a case where a negative was issued when the regional approval was from the same region where the child was living.  The thought behind the negative was that Federal MOWCA was wanting us to gain regional approval from the South Region, where Tyson was born (not Addis region where he is living.  To get approval from somewhere other than where the child lives is NOT the norm).  The problem with getting this new approval is that the South has been closed to international adoption for over two years.  And, that route would likely add years onto our wait.  Literally.  Years.  With no guarantee they would issue it. 
Needless to say, we were devastated and knew a negative recommendation in no way meant or means that the adoption can't happen, it simply means we have to figure out what paper work we need to get to satisfy all questions or concerns addressed by the expert.  Our agency immediately did something they have never done before.  They filed a formal written complaint against federal MOWCA, the head minister, and our federal expert.  In the formal complaint, our agency cited a case of another child who was born in the South (same region as Tyson), was in Tyson's same original orphanage, was transferred with Ty from that orphanage to his current orphanage, and that child's case received a positive review at the beginning of the year (when we were originally expected to travel).  The two cases should have needed IDENTICAL documentation.  So, our agency cited the gross inconsistencies in these cases, asking for federal MOWCA to re-review our case and to overturn their negative recommendation.  Literally, the difference in the other case and our case boils down to the expert who reviewed each one.  Had our case gone to another expert, we easily could've received a positive and already traveled and been back home.
Since June 2nd, when the complaint was filed, we have been waiting for a response from Federal MOWCA.  Two weeks ago our agency was able to secure two different meetings in the same week with the head of Federal MOWCA to discuss cases (one being ours).  The head minister was aware of our case and stated that as long as Tyson's transfer from his original orphanage to his current orphanage was legal, the negative would be overturned.  Remember the child who had the same transfer at the same time?  All signs point to that transfer being perfectly legal (the Ethiopian government was, after all, the one who closed that original orphanage and therefore forced the children to go to new orphanages).  So, our agency continues to go every day to federal MOWCA to inquire about our case.  One HUGE factor in all of this is timing... remember, ours has never been, I don't know, timely?  Ethiopian court closes every year for rainy season from August to October.  That means that from August 5 (approximately) to September 30 (approximately) no adoption cases will be heard in Ethiopian Federal court.  NO TRAVEL.  That's another whole week, right? Yes, but it takes about a week from a positive recommendation to a court date.  Meaning we have.... TOMORROW.

IN STEPS JOSHUA. 

Listen, we have heard our fair share of "you inspire me with how you handle all of this," and "you've taught me so much about endurance and patience and God's timing by watching you."  That is all really nice and we are genuinely grateful that in the mess and tears and frustration, God can somehow still shine through cracked jars of clay.  BUT WE ARE READY TO BRING HIM HOME AND NOT BE TEACHING SO MANY LESSONS ON PATIENCE :).  I haven't always handled this well.  I haven't always trusted God well.  I haven't always taken it and wholeheartedly believed that all this was working out for the good of anybody or anything.  My bed, floor, war room, and bible have more tear stains and taken more fist poundings than I care to admit.  But, I often in those moments of doubt, open my bible to Joshua 10.  In this process I have read this passage enough that if ink faded by the mere passing of the eye, it would be faint to the point of being unreadable.  

As Joshua led the Israelites to victory over their enemies in Ai and Jericho and had killed the kings over both towns, the king of Jerusalem became insecure and fearful of Joshua and his army.  To add to the fear and intimidation for Jerusalem's king, Joshua had joined forces with the Gibeonites, a large group of strong warriors.  Larger and stronger, even,  than those of Ai and Jericho.  So Jerusalem's scared king joined forces with 4 other Amorite kings in an effort to destroy Gibeon.  The combined attack forced Gibeon to call on their allies the Israelites.  So Joshua and his entire army set out for Gibeon.  The Lord told Joshua that He had given victory to Joshua over the Amorites and there was no need to fear.  In a surprise attack, Joshua took on the Amorite armies.  The Lord caused the enemy to be panicked and Israel was able to kill "a great number of them at Gibeon" (Joshua 10:10).  Joshua and his men kept going killing the enemy.  As the enemy retreated, do you know what God did?  I just love it.  He destroyed them with a hailstorm!  Talk about a bad day!  Verse 11 says that "the hail killed more of the enemy than the Israelites killed by the sword."  This particular part of the passage always forces a second read from me.  It reminds me that all my best efforts in my human power don't compare to what He can do in destroying the enemy.  No one could've seen a hailstorm coming! And yet, He was able to do more with an unexpected hailstorm than Joshua's whole army could do with swords, preparation, planning, and strategies.  The command of His voice ushered in destruction that no human could stand against.  Isn't that powerful?  So often God asks us to do what we can with the resources He has given.  He wants us to obey and walk in the Spirit so that we are positioned for His blessing. But, there often just comes a time when all our human effort won't get the job done.  The enemy is still bearing down and still trying to come against us.  That's when we have to step back and let God do what only God can do.  

Good grief, wouldn't it be nice if God would tell us what He has planned sometimes?  A heads up about the hailstorm He is sending to destroy the enemy, for instance.  But, as I read about Joshua, I find that because Joshua was faithful with what resources God had given and because Joshua continued to stay connected to Him in prayer (rather than being self-sufficient, relying on his well-laid plans, depending on his well-trained army, etc), God did what only GOD could do to bring the victory. The verse that gets me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. is verse 12-13:

"On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel.   He said, 'Let the SUN STAND STILL over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.' So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies."

AND THE SUN STOOD STILL. 

 I can't even type it without crying.  God heard.  God cared.  God listened.  God answered.  His people needed more daylight!  They needed a miracle and more time.  I know God is capable of giving us that recommendation letter tomorrow. And, that is what I am praying for.... for a miracle and for the sun to stand still to lengthen the day tomorrow in Ethiopia.  He is able.  
I am also praying that if He chooses to wait that we will trust Him more than what our eyes can see.  I am praying my greatest desire will be nothing short of HIM. HE IS THE GOAL.  On the days I struggle to walk 4 steps without hitting my knees in desperate prayers for Him to move mountains, HE HEARS.  And on the days I am able to go through the day with full confidence and hope, HE SEES.  For all the days in between HE CARES.  And, I know He will answer.  As I have studied and leaned into what He wants to teach me in these days, I continue to be drawn into "His ultimate glory, our ultimate good."  That boy won't walk through the doors of this home with his family until it is the time God will receive the most glory and it will be for our ultimate good.  NOT ONE DAY SOONER.  
That truth eases the hurt of a broken heart, but it doesn't' numb it.  This road is hard, long, and most assuredly not the road we expected.  If tomorrow comes and goes with no positive recommendation letter, we know the earliest we will be able to travel is October (and no guarantees then).  That will be  just 3 weeks shy of us waiting for this final document for one year.  One month from the six year mark of starting this adoption.  But, He hasn't left us alone for one millisecond of it.  We know He is asking us to do what we can do with the resources He has given us so that we are positioned for Him to do what only He can do to get the most glory.  Tonight, I am praying for the sun to stand still.  For Him to grant us more daylight and for the miracle to come in whatever form He chooses to send it so that all eyes are on Him.  This is HIS story and we are grateful He has chosen to write us in.  

We are forever grateful for your prayers over our family in these days.  We are also grateful for your prayers over Tyson.  I so wish I could post a picture of his RIDICULOUSLY cute face for you to see and pray over.  This fight isn't in vain and the enemy isn't anyone in any government or agency.  There is one enemy and this process has his name all over it.  He has come to steal, kill, and destroy.  But, the Lord has told us to march on, look the enemy in the face, and remind him that GOD HAS GIVEN US VICTORY OVER him AND WE AREN'T AFRAID.  

I will update as my heart allows.  forever indebted to you for the time you have spend in prayer on behalf of our family.  we love you.

until he's home....

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

two steps forward, one step back

Welp. I didn't expect to have an update so quickly. Turns out Mark did a conference call Monday with our agency where we found out that Federal MOWCA DID review our case last week.... One step forward. BUT, our expert (who reviewed our case) requested ANOTHER piece of documentation that, in the words of our agency, "they've never requested before." Two steps backwards. Y'all. Doesn't this sound like a tragic comedy? I've learned there are parts of it you have to laugh about to keep from crying about. We do both. 

We knew this little guy was one-of-a-kind. His process is just confirming it.

This new documentation that is being requested must come from regional MOWCA (in Addis Ababa). We received regional approval in November 2015 from Addis MOWCA because Tyson is currently living in Addis. However, he was born in southern Ethiopia (a different region). Typically when kids are transferred from one region to another, how our agency did the paperwork is how it is supposed to be done. However, this particular expert wants Addis MOWCA to give more clarity about why they issued the regional approval rather than Tyson's birth region (which I'm not disclosing on purpose). There is documentation in our paperwork that lends toward these answers, but with the current guideline & staff changes, we believe our expert was just trying to be hyper vigilant. 
  
It is important to note this new regional MOWCA tends to be a bit slow (might be an under statementšŸ˜).  But, we have full confidence in our agency that they are doing everything to get this matter taken care of as quickly as possible. Once we get this new document, our case will go back to our expert in Federal MOWCA, and then we will have to wait (again) for that one last recommendation letter. 

Thank you for continuing to pray for this new explanation for the expert and for that final (positive) recommendation letter. I'll keep you posted....

Until he's home.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

patience with joy......

First off, I didn't title this "patience with joy" because that is something I've mastered or am even having. I'll get to that in a little bit. This is, perhaps, one of the hardest posts for me to sit and type. The reasons are many, but not the least of which is that I had hoped (& planned) for the next post to be "we are traveling!" This post happens to be the farthest thing from that. Are we still just waiting on one paper? Yes... But, that one paper is from the federal Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs (MOWCA). This particular agency is, as I noted in my previous post, an Ethiopian government entity, much like our State Department. This office conducts far more business than "just" adoptions. What we are waiting on is positive recommendation letter from this office, thus giving us permission to travel and finalize our adoption. As most of you know, our first federal court date (for birth family) was October 27th, 2015. This letter of recommendation comes as a result of that court date, after an expert has reviewed all necessary paperwork & investigations. Originally we were told the estimated time to get this letter was 4-6 weeks. We have had two "hearing dates" to pick it up (both were in December), but our letter "wasn't ready" either time. This isn't an unusual scenario. Later we were told letters could take 8-12 weeks. This past Tuesday marked week 19. We have known FMOWCA had not written any recommendation letters (for anyone with any agency) the previous two weeks. We had hoped this week they would. However, word "on the street" in Ethiopia (not from our agency, but a few other agencies have also reported) that MOWCA "reshuffled" (or restructured) officers in their office. This means that the head minister, who is required to sign to our letter, has likely lost her job and someone will be replacing her. This also means (again... Word on the street) that everyone will need training (which is expected to take months) before any more letters are given.

Sigh.

God can do anything and He may choose to perform a miracle and have letters signed tomorrow.                He is totally capable of that. I will just say that yesterday was, for me, single-handedly the hardest day of  these 51/2 years. To be so close... But so far.  After discussing things over with Mark we decided to unpack our suitcases.... The hardest thing I think I've ever had to do. As I took clothes out, I found I had to audibly say, "I delight to do Your will [psalm 40:8]." I said it with tears streaming down my cheeks. I am so thankful for my dear friend, Nina, who came over and helped me put Regan's clothes away. I knew (& she knew) this wouldn't be an easy task. We didn't unpack because we've lost hope or faith, but rather because it's hard to walk by 9 packed suitcases in our bedroom everyday. The reality is, everyone (including our agency) thought we would travel in mid-January. So, having them packed wasn't presumptuous on our part. However, I'm learning (the hard way) that waiting on papers, people, agency, or timelines is NOT the same as waiting on Him.          
   

Surrender is hard.


Before unpacking yesterday, I came home from having coffee with a friend and had a big, ugly cry on my bed with my head buried in the mattress. It was a cry of surrender. A cry to say, "God, I want to want You more than this paper. More than I want him home." A cry to say, "I surrender my plans and expectations to Your plans and expectations." A cry to raise my arms up and confess, "I can't do this one more day without Your help." A cry to confess that I haven't always trusted His way or His timing.

Surrender is hard.

Brycen has been learning about Gideon in school and our conversations prompted me to go downstairs and grab my "Gideon" bible study (so good! Written by Priscilla Shirer). As I walked down the steps my mind was recollecting what God had seared into my heart a couple years ago during that study: God will strip us of every human way to succeed to force us to trust Him to come
through. When we are stripped of our resources, our hope, or own abilities, we are forced to rely on His resources, His hope, His abilities. Being stripped down to nothing isn't easy. Or fun. But, it is often necessary.

Without knowing what news we had just received, one of my friends (a fellow adoptive mom) texted me that she was praying for me and she had come across Colossians 1:11 in her studying yesterday:
"We are praying, too, that you might be filled with His mighty, glorious strength so that you can keep going no matter what happens-always full of the joy of the Lord" (Living Letters Life application Bible translation)

That was salve to my hurting, open, hemorrhaging wound. I couldn't wait to come home and study it more. I opened my NLT and found it like this:


"May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy."

Patience with joy.

It almost sounds like an oxymoron... Patience with joy?

And it IS ludicrous in our flesh. As I prayed and confessed yesterday, I surrendered this process to Him again fresh & new, I have repeated this over & over again, "patience with joy." I'm still not able to talk about it without tears, but my heart is at peace that only God can change this. I'm trusting He is fighting for us (& for Tyson) based on the truths of Exodus 14:14. There is no more "doing" we can do. We've been asked to just "be still." We are still praying and contacting the resources we feel God wants us to, but our hope & trust is in Him alone.

Fortunately, Tyson doesn't know about us yet, but we were able to get him an English tutor and he started that this week. Please pray for protection around him and for his physical needs to be met. Ethiopia is facing their country's worst drought in its history. We believe he is well taken care of in his orphanage and that he is well fed. Please pray for these provisions to remain for all the children impacted by these continuing delays.

My heart is broken, but my heart is trusting.

Thank you for walking with us

Until he's home....

Monday, February 8, 2016

One Paper... Why So Long to Wait?

Yes, it's true: we are one document away from having travel dates to meet, get to know, & bring home our son. Human words could never express our sincere gratitude for how everyone is praying for & encouraging us. I just stood with a family after church yesterday asking about it all. As they stood with me, I explained what we knew. There stood a friend who let a tear fall on her cheek saying, "you're just so close!" It was so tender to me because WE ARE (so close).
So, I thought I would answer the questions here about why it's taking so long & when will the paper ever come?! After our first court date (which is birth family court and happened on October 27th), our dossier and all supporting documents the government requires, went to the MOWCA office (Ministry of Women's and Children's Affairs). This office is a government entity (for comparison's purposes, much like our U.S. state Department). Once our documents arrive there, our case is assigned to an expert. There are numerous "experts" at the office, therefore, depending on whose desk our documents hit can determine how quickly its reviewed. During the "investigation" by the expert, they will make sure all the required documents are present, signed by all necessary people, that investigations into the case by both the U.S. Government & the Ethiopian government are adequate investigations and no other papers or interviews are needed. Once the expert is confident our file is complete, he/she will have a letter of recommendation written. Once that letter is written it goes to the Head Minister who then has to sign off on it. As you can see, there are many moving parts and places for delays. So, it's one final paper, but it can take while. Originally, at the time of that first court date in October, the average turn around time for this document was 4-6 weeks. However, elections in Ethiopia brought in new government leaders in this office and that slowed down the process as transition, learning the process, and creating new guidelines have come into play.
All of this to say, we have no idea where in that process our file is... On an experts desk, on the head minister's desk, currently under review, etc. Therefore, we have no idea when it will come. It could be available tomorrow or we might still be waiting in three months.
Thank you for continuing to support us with prayer and encouragement. We will keep you updated when it comes! We sure do love you.
Until he's home.....

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Timeless

Some days it's emotionally harder to update than others. Today is tough. We DO, however, have a bit of good news since my last post- we recieved our US PAIR approval paperwork, one of two papers neede for us to travel. Therefore, we are literally waiting on ONE PIECE OF PAPER. It's called a MOWCA (Ministry of Women's & Children's Affairs) letter. On the one hand I CAN'T BELIEVE IT....ONE PIECE OF PAPER. We have come so far!!! On the other hand, I have fought serious frustration and deep sadness (and safe to say anger). That one lone piece of important documentation is the same one we have been waiting on for over 13 weeks. We were originally told it would take 4-6 weeks. Recent trends are showing these letters are taking 4-12 weeks across the board, with all agencies, to get. I'll try to explain it as best I can (ahem, as best I understand it). Our first federal court date is actually one for birth family. You might remember our sweet boy's birth mom showed up for that important date on October 27th. At that time, the MOWCA office was having a turn around time of 4-6 weeks from that court date to give their recommendation, negative or positive, on each case. This recommendation is the MOWCA letter. The MOWCA office contacts our agency with a hearing date for them to come and pick-up their letter of recommendation. We have had two such hearing dates and both times our letter "wasn't ready." We are currerntly still waiting for another hearing date to *hopefully* get this ever important document. This week there has been another Ethiopian Holiday (Timkat), making federal offices slow and quiet. We would be so grateful for your prayers regarding this letter and movement towards getting another hearing date. There appears to be no rhyme or reason as to what order these are issued. Some families have received their recommendation at the "normal" 4-6 week mark. Others, like us, have waited months. Our agency continues to send a representative everyday in the hopes of getting this moving. They continue to advocate for us and our son. Please pray for them, as well, as they navigate how much to push and how much to ask for and the timing of their requests.
So, what happens when we DO get that all-important letter? Once we get a hearing date scheduled, get the letter in the hands of our agency, then, they will submit our documents to the federal court to apply for OUR court date (TRAVEL). Typically this date is assigned within 48 hours of submitting the documents and that scheduled date is usually about 10-14 days later. As you can imagine, no one expected us to still be waiting for this one letter at this point. That is why we, as well as our agency, thought we would be traveling by the end of January. Obviously, that isn't going to happen. I have been on the verge of tears for the better part of this week feeling like our hands are tied. Talking with our beloved Jamie (agency case worker in Grand Rapids) this week, I explained to her that I feel like all those laboring women who were READY to push, but we were waiting on the doctor.  I'd have to stand beside them and encourage them to NOT push in the hopes the doctor would make it (for those who couldn't wait, I was honored to deliver them!), when everything IN her was saying, "It's time." I feel like everything IN me is screaming,"It's time," while everyone involved in the process is saying, "wait." The hardest thing to do is often to simply wait. In my flesh, I grow so frustrated and mad about this situation. Then, I hear Holy Spirit whisper, "I am the Timeless One....before time, out of time, yet also aware of time." He often reminds me that His focus is singular: working all things together for His Kingdom's good. I trust Him- even when I cry. And, when I feel like I am wavering on distrust, I'm working hard to confess it quickly and ask Him to forgive me...and I don't always get it right. I'm so grateful His love isn't dependent on my actions, emotions, or faithfulness. He is Faithful. He is Gracious. He is Kind. He is Timeless. I am grateful.
Until he's home....

Friday, January 1, 2016

Expectations, Travel, and Waiting

I just re-read my last post and so much has changed. I won't bore you with acronyms and adoption lingo (too much). What I WILL say is that in October Tyson's birth mom was located (learned he had a family) and showed up to birth family court (1st federal court date). As a result of this court date, we are waiting on a letter from the Ethiopian court called a MOWCA letter. This letter typically takes 4-6 weeks to obtain. Today marks 8 weeks. Sigh . Welcome to the McKeehan adoption process where nothing seems to go exactly according to plan. But, it's progress! This MOWCA letter is one of two documents we need to apply to get our court date and TRAVEL.  In addition, we finally received regional approval on the last day before our U.S. Immigration paperwork expired. It also happened to be Tyson's 5th birthday. Needless to say, there were celebrations and grateful tears all day. From there, our documents were sent from the NBC (National Benefits Center) to the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We were assigned an officer there who is conducting the final investigation on our case. The U.S. Embassy has had our documents in Ethiopia since December 8. Once this investigation is complete, we will receive PAIR approval (hopefully and expectedly). This is the second of the two documents required for our travel dates to be given. We will likely only be notified 10-14 days prior to leaving. With many U.S. Holidays and Ethiopian holidays (Ethiopian Christmas is January 7th), both of these processes seems to be moving slow. We are praying for urgency on the part of MOWCA officials and Embassy employees/officers.

So, many of you have asked how we are preparing ourselves, our home, & our kids. The reality of his coming home seems to become more "real" with every passing day. This past week I bought him shampoo and curl merengue for his adorable locks. Then, I came home and packed it in his suitcase. It's definitely getting real. When we initially began this process, we had a conversation with Brycen and Regan that we have revisited recently with all four kids. It went something like this:
Me: how would you feel if one day someone told you you couldn't live here anymore? That you were
going to get on a plane, move to another country, live with people you don't know, call them mom & dad, eat their food, learn their language, and celebrate their holidays their way? 

Kids (all four in unison): eyes wide. Mouths gaped open.

Then, little by little, one at a time, they opened up about how that would feel.

Me: well, as Tyson comes home, none of us can forget for one second that that is what we have asked of him. He was happy in the orphanage where he knew everyone, knew the routine, knew what to expect. He may hug us initially, but we can't forget everything about this is grief to him. We know in the long run his having a family and a home and nutritious food is what is best for him. But, he doesn't know that and he likely doesn't even necessarily want that. We all like to be where we are comfortable.


The conversation sparked great thought for them and we have discussed it many times since then. As I've thought about it repeatedly, trying to somehow put myself in his 5 year old shoes, I continue to be unable to wrap my head around it all. So many people have come to us and said, "what a lucky little boy." It's such a hard thing to hear, almost producing nausea. There is nothing about this that IS or 
FEELS lucky to him. He's alone, living in an orphanage, and walking out of there with so much grief behind him and so many unknowns before him. He will walk out wearing clothes we take him, unable to even keep one change of clothes. Nothing to call his own except his name. And that will change, too (though his Ethiopian name will become his middle name after we transition him from that name to Tyson).  There is no part of his story that is lucky. Are we unbelievably grateful to have the privilege of bringing him into our family with unconditional love and enough laughs and fun to last twenty lifetimes? YES. But, to a 5 year old.... This isn't easy. This is so hard. It's so overwhelming. His one and only time to ride in a van or car was likely one year ago when he moved from one orphanage to the orphanage where he is now. Contrast that with our lives, seat belts, booster
seats, and a mom who can drive (most drivers in other countries are all men) and it's a lot. And that's
just the car & driving part. As I've pondered this over and over, trying to prepare in advance how to ease so many transitions, Holy Spirit has been so kind to remind me that I was once SO comfortable in the flesh. Spiritually, before I knew Christ, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, walking in selfishness, and doing what I wanted, was comfortable. Once I came to faith in Christ, even knowing in the long
run I'd be better off, a war waged. It was hard. I often wanted comfortable back. I wanted to be able to respond in my old ways, to talk using my old words, to judge others with my old opinions. But,once I was adopted into God's family, things changed. And, it was a foreign place to be. There was a lot of grief in those days- grieving the death of friendships, old coping mechanisms, and most of all, death to myself. Hard. Painful. 
As we look eagerly toward the next few weeks with hopes to travel near the end of January/beginning of February, I thought it might be helpful for all of us to recognize the weight of what this sweet boy is going to be going through. We are hopeful there will be lots of early fun memories, snuggles,
tickles, and laughs. However, we are prepared there may not be any. We know we can't heal his
broken past or his broken world. We can, however, lead him to Jesus Who can fully, completely heal him. 
We are also still discussing all of our transition plans as far as his coming to church, grocery shopping, being away from home, etc. we are so grateful for your prayers, love, & support in these
areas. We will have wifi while we are in Ethiopia, so I will try to post updates while we are there as well as our arrival date and time back into Knoxville should any of you want to come to the airport.  We welcome you; we simply ask for understanding that he isn't going to be able to hug everyone. At this point he doesn't even know who Tyson McKeehan is or Mark or Carrie McKeehan. Therefore, he isn't going to be able to understand or know who everyone is, but we DO welcome your coming. This will let him know how loved he is. Should he get too overwhelmed, we will scoop him up and wave and head out. He has had numerous caregivers in his years in the orphanages. We will be the first, consistent, same caregivers he has ever had. Adjusting to this change and learning what a mom & a dad are will not come instantaneously. It's gonna take some time. Therefore, we will prayerfully & carefully navigate when to get out of the house and when it's best to just stay in in an effort to
foster attachment & bonding. We have read numerous books on the topic and have researched best approaches  to aide in adjustment.  We will use these resources as well as prayer to navigate what will be best for Tyson. Our parenting style will need to shift for a few months and the pace of life will likely need to slow immensely. Our biological kids love & trust us innately. That isn't the case with adopted kids. As we  step into so many firsts and a "new normal," we so appreciate your continued prayers and support.
Thank you, again, for your journeying with us. Five years is a long time to so faithfully pray, cry, wait, and give. We are undone with gratitude for all you've done.
Until he's home....