Thursday, December 1, 2016

All is calm. All is bright.

It's been a fun, busy day around here. I am on the couch while Christmas lights twinkle and football echoes from the TV.  The kids are all asleep and Mark is gone.  All is calm.  All is bright. I am reflecting on yesterday and today.... I will start with today.  It started with breakfast with the oldest 2 at Waffle House (no it isn't our "normal" Wednesday and yes, Brycen let Regan join us).  I always love hearing what is going on in their lives, with their friends, and what God is teaching them in their quiet times.  Good grief, I always walk away pondering what they've shared, so grateful that they already have all of Holy Spirit they are ever going to have... not one ounce less than me.  It encourages me to stay in the word and to never get to the place where I feel like they can't teach me.  Do they ever teach me!  After dropping them off at 7:30am for Christmas rehearsal at school, I headed back home and found Hudson, Corbin, and Mark getting ready to walk out the door for school/work.  I walked in, looked around, and then asked Mark, "Is he still sleeping?"  A simple nod of "yes" with a smile was the response.  Around 8:30am I saw that brown-eyed boy walk through the living room while wiping the sleep from his eyes.  He came to me with a big smile, but no words because who wants to talk first thing in the morning? .  I cuddled him up in silence for a few minutes, kissed his head a million times, and then convinced him it would be a good morning to try a cinnamon roll.  Our attempts at getting him to eat nearly ANYTHING are stooping to the deepest depths.  But, Ty can't survive on bananas, Cheez-its, and oranges alone.  Ok, well, he MIGHT be able to, but let's be real, eating is too fun for that there must be a better way to survive.  So, I threw some cinnamon rolls into the oven, fixed his hair, and cuddled him some more. The cinnamon rolls were finally ready and he loved them.  As he was finishing up his breakfast, the door bell rang.  We had friends over for coffee at 9 and Tyson enjoyed entertaining their 11 month old daughter.  It reminded me of all the toddlers he was used to being around at the orphanage.  Every time we went to Tyson's orphanage, if he wasn't outside, we found him in the toddler room "helping."  It was fun to watch him today and to see that tender side that those years before us molded. 
After we said our good-byes to friends and I ran another load of laundry I did a few things around the house, we loaded up and headed to the grocery store.  But, we didn't pile into the car until we packed two more cinnamon rolls into a Ziploc to take with us.  DUH.  This trip to Aldi wasn't like the last two weeks.  We were on a mission.  That takes me to yesterday.  Tyson's fever broke yesterday morning, so his appetite still wasn't back to normal. Add that with not having a plethora of food options that he likes and well, it was a banana and Cheez-it kind of day.  UNTIL VEGGIE CHIPS.  I had offered them before, but yesterday Corbin had them in the car while we ran to pick-up Brycen from basketball practice.  Tyson tried one and HE ASKED FOR MORE.  Then, he asked if he could hold the bag.  Then, as we pulled up to the school, tears fell and I wasn't sure why.  So, I parked and climbed into the back of the van with him.  I will keep private much of what we talked through, but as it turns out, one of his brothers at the last veggie chip and that was just more than his little heart could handle.  I don't know what it is like to spend days or weeks or months hungry.  But, I could imagine when that is part of your past and then you enter a home with plenty of food to eat but not plenty of food you love, that when you find food you love.....YOU CAN'T HANDLE NOT GETTING THE LAST ONE.  Understandable.  We held each other and cried for 25 minutes.  I assured him we would go tomorrow (today) to get more veggie chips and he could pick out the exact bag he wanted.  So, that's exactly what we did!  When we wheeled into the store and I pushed him up to where those chips were, he beamed! 

All is calm.  All is bright.

We strapped those chips into the seat beside him in the cart and we did so LOUD AND PROUD.  As we drove home and I could hear the sweet sound of veggie chips crunching (as my friends cringe who don't let their kids eat in the car),  my mind drifted to a conversation we had yesterday.  As Tyson sat at the table eating banana number 1, I asked him about what he ate at the orphanage.  I knew it was porridge in the mornings, but it turns out he ate shiro and injera for every lunch and noodles for every dinner... if I understood him right.  His snacks were "biscuits" (cookies) and a boiled potato each day.  After really thinking through that I couldn't help but realize that BLESS HIS HEART.  No meat, bland diet, nothing cold, nothing hot, very little crunchy, salty, or green.  NO WONDER THIS IS HARD.  It's amazing to me, the more I think on his eating history, that he is SO willing to try everything.  He never refuses to try something, even if I can tell his mind is made up before he eats it that he isn't going to like it. So, I prayed (again), asking Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment regarding navigating eating.  But, here's the thing... THAT ISN'T A BIG CHALLENGE.  As Mengistu would say, "This is a normal challenge, not all challenges are normal challenges."  That Mengistu knows a thing or two or a million.
And immediately, the food issues didn't seem like that big of a deal.  He is going to eat and we won't let him starve. 

All is calm.  All is bright. 

Not everyday is easy.  Yesterday proved to be hard on more than one occasion.  But, as soon as I think about the hard,  my mind floods with the sound of the most contagious giggle you've ever heard.  It was the giggle that I heard yesterday as I popped open the umbrella and scooted in close to his car door and invited him to join me underneath it.  He just smiled and giggled.  It wasn't until a few steps later, I asked him if it was the first time he'd ever used an umbrella.  Through giggles and grins he said, "Yes."  He purposefully walked through a rain puddle and he looked up at me with those big brown eyes and they sparkled.  Despite the hard, the days are bright.  calm.  and bright.  It's simply a matter of choosing it to be so.  The rain could've caused me to be so rushed to get inside that I missed how excited and giddy he was.  I would've missed taking the time in the torrential downpour  rain to snap a quick selfie to commemorate the moment.  Tyson has taught me to SLOW DOWN.  To take in gratitude what I've historically taken for granted. To notice what has gone unnoticed.  For instance, in the car today he pointed out the window and said, "Christmas tree."  I replied, "Yes!  Christmas tree."  Then, he said "Jesus birthday."  He's listening!!  "Yes, Jesus' birthday! Christmas is Jesus' birthday."  About 2 hours later we picked up Regan, Corbin, and Hudson from school.  When we came back in the house I was sitting signing notebooks and reviewing homework when Tyson came in and said, "Mom, come, please.  Me show you."  I finished what I was doing and took his hand.  He walked to our Christmas tree, pointed to the biggest present under (beside) the tree and said, "This present for Jesus."  He didn't say it as a question, but rather as a matter-of-fact.  I loved that he noticed the biggest gift and assumed it was for Jesus since it IS afterall, HIS birthday.The rest of us have walked by those gifts a million times, not ever thinking about what gift we would give Jesus this Christmas.   I told him that Jesus taught us how to give and so for His birthday, we give gifts to others.  But, I walked away with sheer conviction.  In all of the lights, new life, discovering veggie chips, learning a new language, Tyson hadn't missed that when it's your birthday you get the biggest gift.  In all of the change he seems to get that

all is calm.  all is bright.

Food, language, social cues, and learning to be in a family might get overwhelming at times, but Who this whole thing is about seems to be crystal clear.  I loved that Tyson didn't ask if that gift was for him or even to ask me who it was for.  To him, Jesus is the One who deserves the gifts and by all means, the very biggest one, red and gold paper with a burlap bow and all.  With Christmas lights flickering and a Christmas candle scent lingering, I really want to give Jesus the biggest gift.  I want to make much of Him.  I want to honor and praise and FLAT OUT CELEBRATE HIM.  I pray you do, too.  He is our Way-Maker, who holds every ounce of this planet in His hands and He does so with intentionality.  We don't need to fret, but rather take Him at His word: Dont' worry, but rather PRAY (Phil 4:6). 


He is the One who came for us, grew in wisdom and stature, and bled and died in order to prove He is the Light of the World. 


As you lean into this Christmas season, worry less. Pray more. Let's give all of us (the biggest gift we have) to all of Him.  That Holy night brought to us the swaddled Christ-Child  to be our Redeemer and Friend.  Our Soul-Saver, Heart-Healer, Sin-Forgiver. 

We love you, Jesus.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fevers and Firsts and NOT being alone

It's 1:50pm and my eyelids are heavy as I listen to the heavy sleep of Tyson beside me on the couch.  Between blazing wild fires in the mountains just miles from our home and a brown-eyed boy with a fever, last night was rather long.  No complaints.  Just offering continued prayers for more rain (Job 5:10) and firefighters who are still working, despite inevitable exhaustion and risk.  The night hours gave me time to ponder and pray over so many things that have been newly revealed to my eyes and heart, all while holding a flaming hot a sweet boy with a fever.  There are so many firsts in our lives in these days... I try to remember them all to share with you, but it feels impossible.  There are multiple ones each day.  While they are fresh on my mind, I will share with you the past 24 hours.
All the kids were out of school yesterday, so I decided to surprise them and have our backdoor neighbor, Camden, come and stay with us all day.  Because, I mean, what is one more?  I had made a promise to Camden a few months ago that I needed to fill and it involved Chick-fil-A and fries and Sprite and mounds of  ketchup.  So, we all headed out for lunch at our Chick-fil-A.  Yes, we look like a three ring circus  take up a lot of space in a restaurant, but I was strategic in our arrival time so as not to be there with everyone else in Knoxville during the busiest time.  We all ordered and ate and then it came time to introduce Tyson to his very first fast-food play structure.  Somebody (one of you Momma's out there) please understand that the decibel level inside that enclosed room reached an ALL TIME HIGH around 1pm yesterday.  For anyone close by, please accept my most sincere apologies.  But, here's the thing... you only get firsts once.  The squeals and screams and laughs were music to my ears though I doubt that was the case for the others in there and I sat with a big smile on my face.  Play, Tyson, play. 
Once we arrived home, I was busy cleaning and  doing more laundry reorganizing.  As noted before, I am trying to get things settled, even still.  I saw Hudson, Corbin, and Camden playing upstairs, downstairs, and outside.  I finally found Tyson downstairs working intently with Brycen on making a lego motorcycle (duh).  But, Tyson seemed so sleepy and not himself.  When asked if he wanted a pillow to put his head on, he immediately responded, "yes."  NOT NORMAL.  So, I swept him up in my arms and felt his cheeks.. they seemed cool.  I did the "Mommy drill" and put my hand up the back of his shirt.  FLAMING HOT.  Here goes a first.  But, this time, it was for Mommy AND Tyson.  Just like when your newborn gets sick for the first time, you have no idea what to expect or how he/she will respond.  I immediately felt like a new mom again.  I took his temperature....101.8.  I explained that he had a fever and poured him some Ibuprofen because who has time for Tylenol every 4 hours when Ibuprofen works better and is only given every 6 hours.  HE TOOK IT LIKE A CHAMP.  He curled up on Brycen and was asleep in two minutes flat.  He slept through our dinner (thank you Huffman's) and  finally woke just as we were trying to decide if we should wake him to eat.  For the first time in over a week, I asked him if he wanted injera (Mark had gone by the Ethiopian restaurant yesterday afternoon to get some) and he said, "yes.".  So, I made some shiro like I have been doing it for years.  Thank you, YouTube, you just became my best friend.  Again.  Fortunately, shiro is easy, fast, and we had bought shiro powder and berbere before we left Ethiopia.  Tyson roused enough to walk to the table to EAT IT ALL.  You made me a hero to my kid, YouTube, and I am forever grateful. 
Tyson's fever responded well to Ibuprofen and came down, but at 2am it was right back up and we repeated the medicine routine along with some big gulps of water, because when your momma is a nurse and you are sick BLESS YOUR HEART.  I already had an appointment scheduled for today with the pediatrician to get established and begin getting Tyson caught up on immunizations.  We kept that 11am appointment anyway so we could run his labwork to confirm he has a virus.  His only complaint in the night was a headache, but this morning that complaint was gone. 
He woke with his sweet smile like he does every morning and he gave me big hugs, just like always.  After the big kids left, he said, "Momma, you and me....sleep on couch.  Then your bed."  Big smiles.  I responded, "yes, we did!  I loved it.  I am your mommy and I love taking care of you."  I asked him if he wanted to sit on the couch and read.  He agreed.  I ran and grabbed our "Noah and the Mighty Ark" book as well as our "Jesus Storybook Bible" (THIS IS A MUST FOR ALL YOU PARENTS).  I realized during Bible Fellowship Sunday morning that I didn't think he had ever heard the story of Noah and the ark.  So, I read that one to him and then we opened up the Storybook Bible.  I read with a shaky voice and with eyes burning with tears.  The days and weeks and months I have spent longing to sit, holding him, and read to him about Jesus are too numerous to count.  Despite his not feeling well, here we were.  Curled up on the far left corner of the couch with the recliner out, our feet propped up, and a tan cozy, warm blanket stretched out over us, reading about how the Bible isn't a book (just) about rules or about heroes.  It is, rather, a book about One Hero who came for all mankind and how every story inside it points to Him.  My heart was full as I flipped the colorful pages, his eyes glued to each one.  It was a first and one I know will forever be etched in my mind.
Next, I went to shower because a long night on the couch with a sick child whose fever keeps breaking and Tyson stayed curled up on the couch.  While I was getting ready he came in our bathroom and watched me.  I talked to him about mascara (because mascara and lip gloss are my love language.  And shoes, but that's for a different day), and hair dryers, and hair straighteners.  Then, he chose what hair products he wanted to use today.  We have an assortment, because I wasn't sure exactly what texture his hair was, so we planned for it all.  That has left us with about 6 of the 10 things that work well.  Obviously, we don't use them all at once, but I let him choose which leave-in conditioner and which hair oil he wanted today.  As I rubbed them through his brown (beautiful) curls, he said, "Momma, at orphanage when sick, alone."  I stopped, stooped down and repeated it to him to make sure I was understanding, "When you were sick in the orphanage you had to stay alone and be by yourself?"  He shook his head yes (which he is doing more and more, rather than just raising his eyebrows).  I went on, "Look at Mommy's eyes.  You do not have to stay alone anymore when you are sick.  Mommy will take care of you and hold you anytime you are sick."  My heart sank on the one hand.  On the other hand, I fought off grateful tears that those days are behind him.  I recounted a few hours before how we had been curled up on the couch and a few hours before that he had been between Mark and me in our bed and a few hours before that he had fallen asleep on Brycen.  All the while, I hadn't given it much thought, but in the middle of fevers, Ibuprofen, and fatigue, Tyson's world was changing.  Again. 
And when I see his world open or change, it changes me, too.  I stood drying my hair praying for sick children all over the world today who are in orphanages and due to lack of caregivers and the desire to not get everyone sick, they are alone in their beds.  I also thanked God that we are able to fill in the gap for those we know and love... that they don't have to suffer alone.  And just like that, we were starting another day of firsts.
We left the bathroom and decided to eat breakfast.  I went for eggs (I started eating them again in Ethiopia or, well, I would've been hungry).  Tyson opted for... wait for it...a banana (surprise!).  But, he had a different request this time.  He has obviously been observing how Hudson often has me cut up his banana in a bowl.  So, this morning, Tyson asked if I would cut his up.  I was happy to.  Then, he said, "Can I eat it with a fork?"  I was already emotional, but this request was so tender to me because Tyson is just learning to eat with a fork.  He was used to a spoon because he ate porridge every morning at the orphanage.  His other foods were all eaten with his hands (remember, no utensils in restaurants in Ethiopia?).  So, using a fork has been all new, and not always easy or fun.  So, today, he asked to eat his banana cut up with a fork.  He used that fork perfectly and declared it to be the best banana he's ever had. 
We were fueled up and ready for the doctor's appointment.  When we arrived to the "Nemo" room, his eyes were looking all around, but he stayed close to me.  I could tell he was unsure about where we were.  The staff was so sweet and kind and THANK GOODNESS for nurse Beth who has an adopted daughter from China.  SHE GETS IT.  She was the first face we saw and she was so sweet and welcoming.  I filled out a blue million pieces of paper  paperwork and had to repeatedly say or write "Unknown."  No, I don't know his birthweight, or if he has a family history of cancer or asthma or heart disease.  No, I don't know what injuries he's had.  I THINK I know he's never had anesthesia.  Paperwork didn't take long, but it was also a startling reminder of his life before us that I know so little about.  And, for an international adoption, we actually know a lot.  However, to look at page after page of questions and realize I DON'T KNOW ANY OF THIS was tough for me.  I want so much to know how much he weighed, if he was born full term, and how old he was when we started walking.  Yet, I find something beautiful in the not knowing.  The mere fact that I can NOT know and still love him fully.  Advocate for him passionately.  Care for him completely.  There is something profound and beautiful in that to me.  That I can look the doctor straight in the face and say, "I don't know," and he can look back and say, "That's ok.  We are going to take the best care of him we can whether we know these things or not."  Thank you, Jesus, for KNOWING ALL OF US (especially knowing all of our sin and rebellion and selfishness) and choosing to care for us.  ALL OF US....emotionally, physically and spiritually. 
I am so thankful (but not nearly so much as Tyson was) that he had his FIRST experience peeing in a cup.  It was a big hit (no pun intended).  That brought a huge smile to his feverish face.  He also had his first hearing screen, which he passed with flying colors and his first CBC, lipids, and lead screenings.  I am so thankful they all came back perfectly (even that pee in a cup!), with a slight decrease in his white count due to the virus that is causing his fever.  Otherwise, as the doctor said, 'I have never seen a child so newly home with no anemia, no problems in their labs, and seemingly, no parasites."  I told him what I say to everyone who remarks about how well he seems to be transitioning, "Thank you Jesus.  It is all prayer."  We are blessed with a pediatrician who has done many mission trips to Africa and agreed with us.  "God just knew to put him with you," he said.  Yes, He did and we are grateful.
So, I am finishing this up just in time to go grab older kids from school.  I think, I will be waking Tyson from another first... his first nap on Mom on this couch while everyone else was at work/school.  I will try to update again in a few days.  Until then, prayers remain and continue for firefighters,, fevers and firsts.  AND RAIN. 


Friday, November 25, 2016

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Happy Black Friday!
If you are like me, you stayed nice and cozy in your bed all night and got the same deals online.  We actually didn't have much to look for this year, but Mark and me try to score the same deals without leaving the couch or our pajama pants and hot coffee.  Either way, I hope your day was full of fun memories, like ours.  We celebrated Christmas today at our house with my parents and my sister and her family.  I mean, just our immediate family (including my grandparents and Maygen, Josh, and Jaxson), is 24 people.  It was loud and fun.  But, before you can celebrate Christmas, you have to decorate for Christmas!  We love the WHOLE KIT AND KABOODLE... decorating, tree, mantle, Christmas movies playing, hot drinks in our hands and glitter in every crevice and cranny of the house everywhere.  Even Mark loves it. Remember, we were the family BLARING Christmas music in the guesthouse in Ethiopia first thing in the morning on November 1 (nevermind that Christmas isn't celebrated in Ethiopia until January 7th).  It is just hard to be in a bad mood when you are hanging up 7 stockings for 7 people who will be home on Christmas morning.  New Perspective.

Just before Mark hauled 1,400 tubs of Christmas d├ęcor up the stairs brought up all the Christmas decorations, he looked at me and said, "THIS year this is going to be fun!"  I knew what he meant... last year had been so difficult.  The tree decorating had been quiet and methodical. It wouldn't have taken much to convince me to not do any of it.   The mantle was full of stockings for every person who was staying here Christmas night (varies from year to year).  Tyson had a stocking, but hanging a stocking (again) for one you just KNEW would be home "next year," but wasn't... it's frustrating.  And heartbreaking.  And just plain hard.  Even yesterday morning when I woke, I was immediately grateful for our being home for Thanksgiving.  But, my next thoughts were immediately for those still in seasons of wait.  Those who aren't where they thought they'd be this Thanksgiving.  Those still waiting for adoptions, pregnancy after infertility, jobs, relationships... the list is long and the wait can be excruciating.  The emotions of last year were just all so fresh on my heart as we opened our boxes of Christmas lights, garland, and stockings.  I remember thinking when we packed it all up at the end of last December, "next time I see this Tyson will be home."  AND HE WAS.  I decorated the mantle and hug up all 7 stockings... a first for our family in more than one way.  It will be our first year to have us all home and for it to just be the 7 of us on Christmas morning.  Circumstances like cross-country moves and jobs are keeping our "regular crew" from coming and staying Christmas Eve night  this year.  When Tyson first saw the stockings he had the funniest look on his face, saying, "a sock shoe?"  I guess if it's all new to you, it does seem a bit strange. As I made final touches on the mantle and plugged in the lights, Tyson's face lit up!  He smiled from ear to ear.  While I was working on the dining room table, Mark was putting up the tree.  Tyson let us know he had heard of Christmas trees, but he had never seen one.  Well, here ya go, sweet boy... 9 feet of artificial, pre-lit goodness. 
The next day we decided to do the tree in the playroom because I can't seem to handle doing two in one day.  This is the room where we do all of our Christmas morning traditions like gifts, reading the Christmas story, having prayer, etc.  The tree down there is one that is lit with colorful lights and all the ornaments the kids have made through the years.  We top it with a Santa hat and call it beautiful.  My tree the upstairs tree is white lights, red and gold ornaments only preferably, and wide red burlap stretching down from the gold star on top.  So, we get to do fancy and we get to do fun.  As we prepped for the fun tree, we opened all the boxes of ornaments, just like always.  We knew the kids would know to get "their" ornaments out and put them where they wanted on the tree.  As I stood back to make sure the tree was ready for ornaments, I noticed Tyson sitting on a gaming chair playing with his Discovery laptop oblivious having no clue what to do.  I quickly went over and showed him how to hang ornaments on the tree.  He smiled and said, "Me do."  He walked over and picked up an ornament and as if it was all happening in slow motion to me, he perfectly hung that snowman sitting atop a white cotton ball  snowball. The only other time I have felt like time was standing still in this same way was just three days earlier as I stood and watched him as 23 people stood around singing "happy birthday" to him.  I was there and I was watching, but I couldn't sing.  Tears stung in my eyes as I watched him grin from ear to ear with the glow of his 6 candles reflecting off his face.  I knew if I sang, I would UGLY cry.  Rather, I stood and watched with tears and a smile.  Fast-forward to fun-tree decorating and here I was again.  I found myself watching in slow motion and taking it in.  His first Christmas tree.  EVER.  His first chance to know the joy of Christmas and all that being a kid means this time of year.  We explained that just like he had just had a birthday, Christmas was Jesus' birthday.  He must've understood, as yesterday he said, "Mommy, tomorrow Jesus' birthday?"  I realized he'd overheard me talking about having Christmas with my family today and he didn't want to miss if it was Jesus' birthday!  I don't want to miss it either.  I want to sit in grateful adoration of the One who came, knowing all of our flaws, faults, and sins and choosing to put on flesh and blood for us anyway.  Surrendering fully to the will of His Father, Jesus came, making a way for all things to be made new.  Praise You, Jesus. 
As we walk by our fancy or fun trees, let's not miss Jesus' birthday in it all.  The birthday of all birthdays.  The One whose first breath changed everything for all of mankind.  Without this one birthday, none of our physical birthdays even matter, because they are temporal.  We are all here for just a short season... we have to live for what will outlast us!  As we lean into this joyous season, reflect on that Babe, in the manger, whose small hands and feet were going to grow and ultimately hang from a cross to give us freedom, grace, and salvation.  With fresh perspectives and new reflections on the small things in life, I am just so excited that it's (finally) beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Jesus, You are welcome here. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Perspectives

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! 
Our house is bustling with kids outside climbing and riding, kids downstairs playing school, and one on the couch watching football (you can figure it out).  The one on the couch watching football is also the one I took to Waffle House for breakfast this morning, despite his not going to school for the half-day.  We had both been missing our Wednesday morning breakfasts.  For those new to the blog, at our house, your 8th grade year you go to breakfast with mom one morning a week (6th grade is Dad, 10th is Dad, 12th is mom).  So, we started the day with grits and bacon.  Ok, I started the day with grits and bacon.  He had something covered, smothered, capped, and  I don't know what.  But, Mrs. June knows and she always has it waiting us at "our" table (We love you, June!).  After breakfast, I came home to jump into cooking up a storm  preparing for Thanksgiving.  Being in the kitchen is one of my favorite things of all time.  So, no complaints here, but somebody come save me when it comes to cleaning it all up I don't prefer the clean-up.  It's all finished and ready now!  But, all that time in the kitchen today minus the 30 minutes Regan and Tyson helped with pecan pie bars gave me time to reflect on the past few days.  I am going to be honest....Momma can't seem to get into a normal routine since we arrived back.  I am not sure exactly WHY, but it could be the mounds of laundry and crazy busy time of the year the time of year and the laundry.  We only grew by one so I don't really have a logical explanation for why the laundry has increased exponentially.  Please, I insist that you stop and see the mayhem for yourself over on my Instagram feed.   It was not staged (though everything in me wishes it had been).  I think it all goes back to not being in a normal routine where I am doing it everyday because IT'S THE BUSIEST TIME OF THE YEAR.  Blah-blah-blah.  It's all fine and we will NOT die from laundry overload.... unless you are a McKeehan child who knows HOW to do laundry and you do not do it on your designated day (or at all).  Then, it's all up for debate. 
As I type, I have to let you know that two things happened in the past 24 hours that have encouraged me to keep up with the blog a little more often.  I have concluded that I can write and if you want to, you can read.  No one is forcing either of us, so it makes it all kinds of fun!  I have been overwhelmed with how many people from all over the country and world have been reading along.  I just had no idea when I decided to type my journal,  rather than write it, that so many of you would want to follow along.  But, yesterday as Tyson and I were loading up in the car at the church (after FCA Thanksgiving lunch with the kids), a friend was pulling in and told me she had something for me.  I stuck the gift in my car after telling her thank you without opening it first.  She texted me later to let me know she was just the deliverer, that the gift wasn't from her.  That prompted me to want to open it despite the fact I was at my THIRD grocery store of the day ready to just DIE because of all the people right there in my car as I sat in a parking lot.  I am typing on what was inside.... a brand new HP Notebook to encourage me to write more.  What most of you don't know is that I have been using Mark's laptop to do blog posts.  Many nights he doesn't bring his laptop home or if he does he needs it for work.  SO, while in Ethiopia I was afforded the privilege of blogging more because we were on the same schedule and I couldn't ever sleep all night. So, with a heart of gratitude (and tears sitting in my eyes), I am typing on my own laptop.  It's already been such an encouragement to me to keep writing. Thank you, generous blog reader and friend.  I am genuinely undone with gratitude. I want to steward your generosity and thoughtfulness well.
 Secondly, earlier today Mark walked in with a package addressed to me, but I didn't recognize the return address.  So, I opened the big box and found the sweetest note inside from a friend I met last year working at the Statemint consignment sale (hugs and thanks, Chandra!).  She included gifts for Tyson's birthday, my birthday, an ornament that says "best year ever 2016," and a small poster to frame that reads, "It's the little things."  The gifts were all so thoughtful, but her words on the card are what meant the most.  She said the blog had become part of her daily devotions while we were in Ethiopia.  Tears immediately came to my eyes.  After all the heart ache, delays, waiting, and doubts, Jesus came through.  Again.  He chose to mend what had felt and seemed so broken.  In the process, He used it all to bring others, including us, closer to Him.  Only Jesus.
As I have been typing, we had a slight fall outside from atop of the climbing dome from near the top of the climbing dome.  A brown-eyed boy came straight to his Mommy and curled up in my lap.  Seems as though Mommy seemed to make it all alright. 
Back to what I was previously saying....
All of the Thanksgiving trees (which are so great, by the way!), posts, and texts have had me giving so much of the past 10 days a new perspective.  We are over-the-moon about having Tyson home.  Nothing compares to having everyone home under one roof arguing and playing.  Mostly playing.  But, it isn't all easy.  I am learning to be grateful for the laundry piles, the disheveled coat hangers, and the Matchbox cars that are overtaking our house that are everywhere.  When you disrupt your family tapestry and flow, there is bound to be repercussions.  Ours have been minimal and we are so grateful for that.  We have the tearful-more-than-normal biological child who seems to be adjusting well, but "gets" that things are different.  Not the we-have-a-playmate-here-for-an-extended-visit different.  The permanent, our-lives--forever-changed different.  It is all normal and GOOD.  Sharing things, rooms, parents, siblings, and time with others is HARD.  I get that and we pray we have fostered a home where they can voice what they are feeling with no condemnation. All things considered, all the kids have done exceptionally well... better than I anticipated, actually.   But, the perspective is new and fresh because this season of life reminds me that we have another blessing at home TO GET WORKED UP ABOUT.  Over the past 6 years we have all shed our fair share of tears over wanting to have a brother/son to share with. 
Reflecting over the last few days, I can't help to think about Saturday night.  Kids were all asleep and I was up tearing blue and white streamers (19 to be exact, because that is how many it takes to cover the kids doorways) to hang from Tyson's door.  I remember last year blowing up 5 balloons in our basement (thank you at-home helium tanks!) with tears streaming down my face.  He was turning 5 alone,  in an orphanage where they don't celebrate birthdays.  I kept having to force myself to put one foot in front of the other.  We recorded ourselves singing him Happy Birthday and kept those 5 balloons flying high attached to his empty chair at the dining room table all day.  This year, it was all so different.  I now know his favorite color, that he has an innie belly-button, his most sensitive ticklish places, and how he beautifully rolls his "r"'s.  I knew what gift or twenty  he would love to open and what to serve on his big day that would bring him sheer delight (here's to you, pizza and chocolate iced doughnuts).  As I hung up those streamers, I remembered all the nights and days I had longed to hear the hum of his sleep in that darkened, superheroes bedroom.  I stood there, hanging streamers one by one, listening to his breaths and humbled to my deepest core that I get to be his mom.  It's how I feel about all the kids... on their first birthday, you reflect over their life, the way they've changed you, the way they've grown right in front of your face. I have said it a quadrillion times and it has never been more true:  The days are long, but the years are short.  I am working hard to be present in the now... like listening to the conversations the kids have with our widowed neighbor or hearing them "teach" in the basement as they play school.  Saturday night, it was listening to him sleep. 
He woke Sunday to a doorway full of streamers and light up, noisy emergency cars on the table.  They police car that drives by itself was, of course, his favorite.  He also found a new Big Wheel in the garage because when you are the fifth kid in a family the wheels are literally rotted and cracked on the old one. He loved it!  The four biggest kids and Mark headed out to church around 8:30am and Tyson and I stayed in until service time.  We are still navigating dropping him off and leaving him when he has NO CLUE what to expect.  He'd only been to church once, with us, in Ethiopia.  Just after the others left, he came to me with huge tears and a quiet spirit.  I feared he was in emotional meltdown mode and I started praying.  Turns out THANK YOU ENGLISH TUTOR IN ETHIOPIA he was able to finally verbalize that he "wanted to go, too."  OF COURSE HE DID.  So, I explained that we were going to get dressed and join the others at church.  So we did.  We grabbed Corbin from his class and headed to the service.  Tyson was able to meet so many new friends who have been praying for him.  He fidgeted and wiggled sat with me during the service and was not one big amused that Dad was up there talking.  He did stop and take note when he heard his name or when the video started of us meeting him for the first time.  HUGE SMILE for that one!  After we picked Hudson up from Children's Church post-service, Tyson promptly informed me he was ready to go to Children's Church "next time."  Well, that settles the indecision about when to send him.  He saw it, Hudson is there, and apparently "Mom you go and me and Hudson stay next time."  He isn't going to sulk and miss me too much while he is there. 
Tyson's birthday was spent with streamers and balloons draped from the corners of the dining room and breakfast room and with grandparents, cousins, aunt/uncle, and a (very) few friends.  We didn't want to completely overwhelm him!  As he was curled up on me Sunday night before bed, we were discussing his favorite parts of the day.  He looked right at Mark and I and said, "Me birthday Monday?"  NICE TRY (told you he was a genius).  We reminded him you only have one birthday in a year and his was approximately 364 days away.  He took it well.
But, Monday did come.  And it brought with it a 9:45am dentist appointment.  Tyson's first ever visit to the dentist.  We went to a local pediatric dentist and the office was inviting and friendly.  They were prompt to call him Tyson (despite having to register him as Asnake for insurance purposes).  We went back to begin the visit and he laid flat on the orange table.  It forced him to be looking up to the ceiling where there was mounted a TV with "Despicable Me" playing.  The dental assistant quickly put headphones on him so he wouldn't miss any of it!  We discussed what little history we knew.  I voiced my concerns over the brown spots I could see on his teeth, knowing his report wouldn't necessarily be "glowing."  In his navy cardigan and yellow t-shirt peeking through, he looked so cute as the hygienist began "counting" his teeth with her pick.  It didn't take long for her to have me take a look with her.  All four of his back molars have large cavities.  The bottom two are very big (obvious to the naked eye).  She explained that the brown spots were evidence of defective enamel.  She cleaned Tyson's teeth after flossing them and then explained that we needed to do x-rays. While he was having his teeth cleaned a friend, whom I had forgotten worked there, came over and told us how excited she was to have us.  Her daughter used to go to school with Corbin and so she knew our journey had taken forever  been long.  She explained that each morning they review new patients who are coming in for the day.  She said when they said Tyson's name she explained the situation and how new he was to being home.  I am so thankful for the way the Lord continues to go before us.    Next, we walked through the brightly colored office and found the big interesting machine with a million buttons and gadgets on it x-ray machine.  Tyson stood as still as could be for the initial pictures.  Then, he moved to the chair for more "pictures."  This time, he had to bite down on a spongy thing that had a big black square attached to it that went into his mouth.  He gagged and gagged and coughed, but kept smiling through the huge tears that had formed in his eyes.  The hygienist was patient and kind and (fortunately) fast.  After the right side was done, I hugged him and told him how great he had done.  Then, I told him he needed to do his left side.  He smiled and said, "ok." That side went much faster, but not without more gagging.  He handled it all LIKE A BOSS so well.  Then, the dentist came over, reviewed his history, his xrays, and looked at his teeth.  I knew the news wasn't going to be good, but I was praying for grace to receive it well.  She explained that 12 of his 20 baby teeth have defective enamel and therefore are more prone to cavities.  Four of the molars must have treatment, with the hopes of salvaging two of them.  She isn't sure those lower molars (which he is supposed to have until he is 12) are salvageable.  But, we are going to try!  As I sat there, I was overwhelmed with my lack of gratitude for the simple things... clean water, a toothbrush, fluoride, and good nutrition. Tyson got and used his very first toothbrush less than a month ago.  Until October 2014 he was considered severely malnourished (then he changed orphanages).  And now, he has to pay the price. His poor baby teeth are in rough shape.  We are praying his permanent teeth will come in with perfect enamel.  So, on December 22 he will be put to sleep heaven help me and have caps on those molars after two of them also have a pulpectomy.  From what the dentist said, this procedure is "a last ditch effort to salvage the teeth."  We are praying it allows him to keep those teeth at least a couple of more years.  If, when they are doing the procedure, they find the nerve isn't in good shape, they will remove the teeth.  Our first doctor's visit and we are diving in head first.  I figure it's all up hill from here.  We will go to the pediatrician's office next week and the eye doctor in January.  But, I walked away with a new perspective on the simple things, like a toothbrush.  We pick it up every morning and don't even give it a thought.  Yet, other people all over the world will have lifelong pain or medical issues simply because they don't have a toothbrush.  I am so thankful Tyson could come to a house with clean water, fluoride, a toothbrush and good food! 
After the dentist Tyson and I went to Chick-fil-A (still using a generous gift card!).  As you know, if you follow along, Tyson's primary diet has consisted of bananas, pizza, burgers, and fries.  I have concluded he doesn't really like burgers all that much, but he gets them as a means to an end ... FRIES.  However, this week he ate 6 nuggets from Chick-fil-A  (hip hip hooray).  We celebrate the small things at this point in the food department. I knew you'd want to know (duh).
As we look toward the morning with SO MUCH to be thankful for, I am giving thanks with a new perspective... one that is fighting through perfectionism and learning to be ok with letting you into my CRAZY laundry room (that is all tidy right now.  It won't last long, I am sure).  A perspective that knows every season isn't a "thriving" season.  Right now, we are in "surviving" mode and we all know "thriving" days are coming. A perspective that remembers where we have been and where we are. One that can cry at the drop of a hat recollecting last Thanksgiving and the way my mind and heart felt 8000 miles away.  A perspective that isn't focused on the outcome while completely missing the process.  Along the way, I have referenced a ratty, old, torn piece of paper that hangs on our fridge.  Just this week, I have looked at it no less than 5,000 times.  In the lower right corner it is dated 1/11/05... you do the math.  It's older than three of our children.  It has seen me through SOME DAYS.  It reads:

Today, away from the world and hidden from public view I exchange....
my weariness for His Strength,
my weakness for His power,
my darkness for His light,
my problems for His solutions,
my burdens for His freedom,
my frustrations for His peace,
my turmoil for His calm
my hopes for His promises,
my afflictions for His comfort,
my questions for His answers,
my confusion for His knowledge,
my doubt for His assurance,
my nothingness for His awesomeness,
the temporal for the eternal, and
the impossible for the possible.

I have no idea where I read it or found it.  I do know it's offered me so much to be thankful for.  We are given the great privilege of having a compassionate Savior who longs to exchange all of us for all of Him.  As I zone in on weariness, frustration, nothingness, temporal, impossible  a few of these, I pray you will do the same.  Don't miss Him in all that is going on.  When we choose to make these exchanges, a new perspective is inevitably going to come.  I am wishing you the Happiest of Thanksgivings full of new perspectives.  And, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for no empty seats at the table, for 5 kids who teach me so much, for Hudson coming to faith in Jesus this year, for the opportunity to take Brycen and Regan to Africa for 24 days (life-changing),for a husband who loves and leads us so well,  and above it all.... I am thankful for Jesus.  It is all in Him, from Him, for Him, through Him, by Him. 

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Forever and Ever

I could write a novel just off what has happened since my last post, a week ago (time really does FLY).  I am sorry it's been a whole week since I updated, but JET-LAG IS NO JOKE  but we have been tired and busy.  I feel like I need toothpicks to prop my eyelids open after 5:30pm every night.  Tonight has been far better! I hope to fill you in on what has been happening since then.  There is just so much.  I will try to do the highlights.  And, if need be, I will make it two posts.  I don't want you bored with one LONG post.
So, last Friday we woke up and headed to Debra Zit, a town just outside of Addis.  I was so excited for all the kids to get out of Addis to see AFRICA.  Mengistu had mentioned a 5-star resort there that we could go visit for the day inexpensively and allow the kids to canoe, swim, etc.  We all sang our guts out ("Eye of the Storm" and "Good, Good Father" were top of the list) as we made the hour commute.  Traffic outside of Addis was a dream was much less congested and this allowed us to focus on farmland, mountain views, and bulls fighting in the street (our only traffic jam was with two bulls, horns locked, middle of the road!).  There is something so beautiful about experiencing things you NEVER see in America.  The bulls in the road along with the previously noted hole in the ground restroom are top of the list.
We arrived at the resort and it was like a whole new world when we walked in.  The walkways were all covered with overarching trees and vines, making it so serene and private.  The stairs were all cut out of natural rock and the covered porches on each room opened up to a beautiful "lake" (large pond).  Each covered porch had a stone fireplace and outdoor bed/sitting area.  It was beautiful.  Brycen and Tyson hopped into one canoe and Mengistu into the other.  They had so much fun paddling around and the entire time Tyson was smiling from ear to ear.  He kept saying, "Go faster, Brycen, go faster."  Poor Brycen was trying his best and was doing great!  I sat back and smiled, batting away tears.  His world is expanding with every passing day.
Next, we went by the spa, as Mengistu had told us about body massages that were super affordable. Turns out HE WAS NEVER WRONG.  Nine whole dollars for a 45-minute body message at a 5-star resort.  YES, PLEASE. So, Mark and I both took advantage of that ( THANK YOU MENGISTU FOR BABYSITTING).  Next up, lunch.  We sat at a table closest to the water, a thatched cathedral ceiling over us, covering the porch.  It was a view that would cost a fortune anywhere else worth a million bucks.  And, it was shared with the most special people (minus two blonde-haired, blue-eyed boys).  We were all talking about going home, but we were also keenly aware that we would be leaving Mengistu, who by now, has become like family to us.  None of us thought too long about our leaving him or we would tear up.  As lunch finished I couldn't quite figure out why it was taking FOREVER there was a delay in service to bring our receipt.  Then, the entire kitchen staff came out singing, "Happy Birthday," pushing a big cart with a wooden cutting board on it that read, "Happy Birthday, Carrie" in white icing.  Just below the writing were the most divine brownies covered in ice cream.  Yes, I am gluten-free and yes, I am dairy (very)limited.  And, YES, I ate it.  It was Africa, it was special, and it was almost my birthday.  When the brownies came out with candles going, Tyson looked so confused.  Finally, he joined in singing and watched me blow out the candles.  Then, as he was eating his brownie he looked at me and said, "Mommy's birthday finished."  Little did he know... it was just getting started! Turns out since we were still in Africa (on the plane) at midnight, my birthday lasted 32 hours (due to 8 hour time difference)!
We finished up lunch all relaxed and full.  We decided it was time to head back to Addis, as we had to swing by Bethany to pay our FINAL fees from travel and needed to shower before HEADING TO THE AIRPORT.  On the way back Mengistu said, "we will go back a different way."  Y'ALL.  It was a toll road that was COMPLETELY CLEAR of traffic.  Like, we MAYBE passed 30 cars on the 30 minute drive back.  Turns out it also saved significant time.  The toll road was super nice, newly paved, and one of the first times we felt like we were in America in the car.
Anyway, we made our way to Bethany to pay (just after going to our regular coffee shop just around the corner from Bethany) and I decided to stay in the car with Regan, Brycen, and Tyson.  Mark had planned to just run in and pay Bethany with Mengistu.  While we were waiting I looked at Tyson and said, "I can't wait to take you home.  I love being your mom."  He looked right up at me and said, "You're my mommy forever and ever."  Regan and Brycen both looked at me simultaneously like, "WHOA!"  I had tears I was trying to bat away.  But, about that time, he looked at Brycen and said, "You are my brother forever and ever." Then, at Regan, "You are my sister forever and ever."  Then, as if it was just a normal conversation he went on, "And, Dad is my Daddy forever and ever."  Someone please come console me as I curl up in the fetal position and cry my eyes out  because I have never had such a wave of overwhelming gratitude sweep over me like it did in that moment.  Not only that what Tyson had said was true, but that HE UNDERSTOOD AND COULD VERBALIZE IT.  Needless to say, by the time Mark and Mengistu returned we were all in tears in the van.
We finally made it back to the guesthouse and ate dinner while we took turns showering, because 17 plus hours on a plane makes you want to gouge your eyes out requires starting out fresh.  We took all 12 bags back down 2 flights of steps and said our (tear-filled) good-byes to the AMAZING staff at the Ordinary Hero guesthouse (who had now seen us for 23 straight days in our pajama pants and watched us grow to know our sweet boy more every day).  We also told the other families good-bye, promising to keep in touch (all are hoping to be home by Thanksgiving!).  We loaded into the van and off we went, just as the sun had gone down.  We couldn't see much as we drove, which was probably good, as I felt like we were all on the verge of tears knowing we were about to have to tell Mengistu good-bye.  As we drove a few miles away, getting closer to the airport, Mengistu handed me a bag and told me he bought me a birthday gift.  I quickly opened it and found inside a shirt we had joked about buying, but couldn't ever find after we finally decided to get it.  It is a yellow, v-neck t-shirt that says, "Powered by Injera."  I just LOVE it. I thanked him profusely and we traveled on.  It was all so bittersweet... mostly sweet, knowing we were headed home.  But, grief overwhelmed me at one point as I considered that Tyson was about to board a plane and leave the only place he's ever known.  I knew he was going into a more stable, loving, fruitful environment.  But, I also knew that we all love our comfort zones and we all love home.  It was just all so much at once that I had constant tears as we got closer and closer.  The tears were mostly ones of SWEET RELIEF and overwhelming joy that we were finally headed home.  But, adoption always involves grief.  And, this drive to the airport merged all the joy and grief for me.
We pulled up to the airport and we were all mechanical in getting the bags out of the van, pretending a good-bye wasn't coming.  But, it had to.  So, we each hugged Mengistu and told him HE MUST COME VISIT US (which he has tentative plans to do in August).  We cried and then Mark, Brycen, Regan, and I watched as Mengistu bent down to hug Tyson.  It was a long, genuine, tearful hug.  When they separated, Mengistu was wiping tears, ones he was still crying as we pushed our boatload of bags away and waved to him until we couldn't see him anymore.  The emotions were raw for me.  Leaving was harder than I expected, not because I didn't want to come home.  We had just gotten into our routine there and Tyson knew what to expect, where things were, and our schedule.  This was his country, his people, his language, his food.  We were walking away and asking so much of him.  I knew it was necessary, but I also wanted to work through the grief.
The airport situation was  quite possibly the worst airport situation in the history of the WORLD challenging.  We had three of us checked in (after having all of our bags and all of us make it through a security checkpoint).  The Ethiopian Air ticketing system went down and we had to wait for over 30 minutes at the desk (as the line grew and grew).  We finally walked away with a hand-written boarding pass (I mean, really).  The system came back up shortly and Customer service issued the rest of our boarding passes (Thank you, Jesus!).  Next came bathrooms breaks and security check point 2 or 3... I lost count because Mark and I were BOTH pre-selected for a carry-on bag check.  This involved us waiting a LONG time (in an area where we could see our kids, but they weren't with us... MOMMA'S PLEASE SYMPATHIZE), having every SINGLE item removed from our carry-ons, iPads/computers turned on, shoes off (again), watches off (again), glasses off (again), and then we were given clearance to move about 40 feet to the next passport security checkpoint.  No, I am not exaggerating. But, thankfully, we were FINALLY through and the award for best airport participant goes to Brycen, who, by the time we sat at our gate, was carrying a sleeping Tyson (he fell asleep during our strip search carry-on bag search).  Tyson stayed asleep for the 45 minutes we waited to board and didn't wake again until we stopped in Dublin for a refuel 7.5 hours later!!  But, as we took off in Addis and I felt the wheels come up off the ground, I looked at Mark and cried.  WE ARE GOING HOME.
We had a refuel in Dublin for an hour and then 7 hours more until we landed in Washington, D.C.  Tyson did GREAT on the flight, staying busy with his iPod, movies (he watched about 10-15 minutes at a time), suckers, sitting in the floor, stretching across us, etc.   Before we knew it we were in America.  When the wheels touched down I looked at Tyson and said, "You're an American citizen now!"  We de-boarded, road a trolley (of sorts) over to customs (where they have to look through a HUGE stack of papers given to us at the US Embassy before we can enter the country with Tyson), reclaimed our bags, put them back on the luggage carrier, and off we went to Starbucks.  We drank buna, CHANGED OUR CLOTHES, and then headed to find some lunch.  On the way we had to go up and down a bajillion several escalators. AND TYSON'S LIFE CHANGED.  Escalators were a GREAT introduction to America... the land where we can't even walk up and down steps.  HE LOVED THEM. And then came the moving sidewalk... his mind was blown.  It was at that point I realized seeing life and luxuries through his eyes was going to change my life.
We ate Chipotle (well, Tyson had Five Guys because... Fries) and introduced him to ice.  The idea was novel, but the reality wasn't so great.  He doesn't prefer anything too cold or anything too hot.  This is because in Ethiopia everything is served lukewarm (except buna and chai).    But, we quickly got water with no ice and everyone was happy.  We found a play area in the airport and let the kids play there until it was time to get to our gate.  When we arrived to our gate, we knew everyone there was heading to Knoxville.  Many were asking us questions and Tyson was like a  superstar there.  Everyone was so sweet and he even found a sweet little girl to play with (who so graciously shared her toys with him).
It finally came time to board.  I was sitting with Tyson (who had the window seat) and Regan was in the single seat on my other side, Mark sat just behind her.  Brycen sat in the single seat in front of Regan.  When we sat down and buckled, I bawled.  Our next step was Knoxville. Home. Corbin and Hudson.  Everyone together.  I was just undone.  And, I couldn't wait to see Tyson enjoy the window seat! But, by the time we were actually taking off, the sweet boy was sound asleep.  Bless his heart, his body was telling him in was 9pm, which is past bedtime!  I literally held his head up so it wouldn't nod forward or backward and wake him up.  About the time we were descending, I started trying to wake him up.  I was offering him sips of water, gum, anything to wake him up!  He couldn't keep his eyes open!  By the time we de-boarded, waited plane-side for luggage, and walked to greet everyone, he was wide-eyed, but for a few minutes, I had my doubts.
We were practically running to where our family was waiting.  I was holding Tyson's hand and when we came through the rotating door and saw our parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and CORBIN AND HUDSON, we started running.  I finally saw Hudson running for Tyson and I let his hand go so they could run and hug.  I am crying remembering it.  Sheer joy.  There were tears of joy between them. Corbin wasn't far behind, but he was coming to hug his Momma first, and I am ok with that!  We introduced Tyson to his family and all the familiar faces he had seen in photos that he was now seeing in person.  The hugs were long and tight and the tears were many and frequent.  As we started walking down toward the escalators, Tyson was walking around with such confidence, like he owned the place... because he was, after all, now an escalator PROFESSIONAL.  We came down the escalators and unless you see the pictures, I doubt my human words will convey the emotion.  I was so overwhelmed and humbled by the sheer number of people who were there clapping and crying and videoing, and holding posters, and shouting.  WHAT A BIRTHDAY! Our church  family (biological and otherwise) is amazing.  Tyson was greeted with handshakes, balloons, high-fives, fist bumps, a few hugs, and SO MUCH LOVE.  He handled it like a champ and seemed to enjoy finally seeing everyone we had talked about.  But, after 24 hours of travel, all the emotion, and the time change, we were ready for home.
We finally loaded into the car like a three ring circus and got all three "little" boys buckled into the backseat (fiasco).  The giggles and laughs coming home were such a sweet sound to this Momma.  They were playing with helium balloons (probably the first ones Tyson has ever seen).  He just kept watching it and hitting it and laughing.  Corbin and Hudson were catching us up on their lives and asking Tyson questions.  It was so much fun.  As we pulled into our driveway, our hearts were just undone.... a sweet banner hung from our porch that read, "Welcome Home," with pumpkins and mums flanking our front door.  There were red (obviously) balloons sporadically floating in front of the house.  It was perfect.  And written really big in sidewalk chalk across the driveway were the words, "Welcome Home Tyson."  If that isn't the understatement of the last six  year, I don't know what is!  Yes, sweet boy, welcome home.
We entered and he just moved quickly from room to room, not sure what to look at first.  But, after we showed him his room, the bathroom and Regan's room, I could tell he was especially quick to look at Regan's room.  That's because he now knew where the bathroom was, and he needed to go!  We toured the house, finally arriving downstairs in the play room.  Tyson walked around the perimeter of the room first and then sat in the floor, grabbed a Scooby-Doo van and started playing.  The truth is, even now, it's like he's been here forever.  He just sat and played like it was home.  And it is!  My heart swelled watching Tyson play with Corbin and Hudson for the first time.  It was almost more than I could bear.  We had our first "official" family of 7 picture taken and then we spent the evening just being home and listening to Corbin and Hudson "teaching" Tyson where everything is in our house.
Since coming home, there have been a few firsts that have been tender to me.  Here are a few:
-his first night being tucked in.  makes me cry all over again to think about.
-first morning to wake up, find me in the kitchen with sleep still in his eyes, tap my leg, and raise his arms for a big hug.
-First morning with a BIG breakfast.  Discovered he likes sausage sandwiches!
-first time to see a dishwasher or washer/dryer
-trying to figure out how doorknobs work
-discovering automatic doors in the van.  This was almost as great as (if not greater than) the escalators.  Even today, he still can't get over the doors.
-seeing the sunroof.  I opened it, without thinking, and heard something... looked back and he was laughing hysterically, pointing saying, "window?"
-first time baking blueberry muffins with mom
-eating his first (and only) slice of bacon.  THIS WILL IMPROVE.  I feel sure of it.
-first Wal-Mart, Target, Aldi, Lifeway, Chick-fil-A, Habaneros, Kroger, and bank visits.  He likes to go.
-first day home with just Mom and Tyson... we cuddled and watched Scooby-Doo!
-and tonight, his first bath!  He's only ever had a shower and he's never been swimming.  I am happy to report he LOVED it.

We are all adjusting beautifully.  Thank you so much for your prayers.  Thank you for following along and loving us so beautifully.  We literally could never repay you.  We know we couldn't.  Your prayers are a priceless gift to us and we are so grateful you have chosen to come along with us on this journey.  Mark and I have discussed that if God had asked us to write out our "dream" trip in Ethiopia, meeting him the first time, and transition home , we literally couldn't have dreamt to write it this way.  We know we are bound to have issues at some point, but for now, we are celebrating the graciousness of Jesus to come this far and feel like he's been here forever.  Speaking of forever.  I am SO glad I get to be his mommy forever and ever.  And I am glad he gets to be my Tyson forever and ever.

I will try to update again super soon!

glad to be HOME,

Thursday, November 10, 2016


I will try to give you the highlights of the day as well as details about our arrival as this will be my last blog post from AFRICA (somebody shout Hallelujah!).
So, we woke early and headed out the door at 7:45am in order to arrive at the US Embassy for them to review our documents and (hopefully) give us an interview.  Yesterday Tesfahun arrived to submit our documents, but in order to submit them you have to pay for the visa and when he arrived the cashier's office was closed. HUGE BUMMER and one we thought had thrown our plans off track.  We have known since Monday that finishing everything today was a slight possibility, but one we knew was a long shot.  THANK YOU WAY-MAKER for MAKING A WAY.
We arrived at the Embassy around 8:30am and were finally able to enter after they confiscated our phones, searched every crevice of our bodies, sent us through metal detectors, and (forgetting I had water in my purse) making me drink some of my water to ensure I wasn't going to kill someone with its contents.  I am grateful for the security!  We entered, waited while our agency staff submitted documents.  Then, we discovered after they reviewed it all that our last name was misspelled on our MOWA letter (as was Tyson's birthdate... they had the wrong month).  BIG SIGHS as we thought we were going to have stay until Monday to get it all done.  BUT IN STEPS OUR ANSWER TO PRAYER, HEATHER, FROM US EMBASSY.  She called us up to inform  us of the misspellings, but she also knew we had waited for a long time on this adoption and she was SO gracious.  She agreed to do our Embassy interview under the promise that we would correct the translation mistakes (the original documents were correct in Amharic, but the translators office was responsible for the misspellings and date.  Remember the crazy differences in calendar?).  Getting Tyson's Visa was dependent on us being able to get the translation corrected and MOWA to stamp and sign it in time to get it back to the Embassy and get the visa printed.  SOMEBODY UNDERSTAND THAT WE WERE PRAYING FOR FAVOR, BUT KNEW THIS HAD NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE.  Typically documents are reviewed for a couple of days before an interview is given.  We are sitting here tonight saying, "when you can't explain it, you didn't do it.  This was all Jesus."  Superman Tesfahun was busy working on other cases today, but he did go get the translation corrections made and get the MOWA stamp.  While he was doing that we went to run grab last minute things we wanted to get as gifts.  We also grabbed lunch at Tivoli (for the 3rd time since we arrived... so familiar that one waiter walked over to our waiter before we ordered and explained Regan's order of grilled fish with NO SAUCE and french fries, as it isn't on the menu that way).  We were honored to have Sebilu join us for lunch (as well as Mengistu).  There is just something so healing to just flat out honor someone else.  We spent much of the lunch telling Sebilu how grateful we are for him, his team, and how we can see their passion for the children and families they serve.
Next, we went to Wal-Mart Shoa to get traditional spices so I can have those at home for Tyson.  While there, Regan and I had to go to the restroom (forgot to mention we stopped for buna earlier).  When I finally caught up to her and Mark inside Shoa she said, "Mom, the toilet here is a hole in the ground."  I chuckled, because I had used one like that on my previous trip to Ethiopia 6 years ago.  I encouraged her and told her she was going to get the true Africa experience.  She was hesitant, but she can now say (as can I, again) that she used a public restroom that was a hole in the ground.  If this intrigues you (well, gross), but please see Mark's Instagram feed for a photo of the public restroom at the supermarket.  Moving on.
We were still waiting for confirmation that Tesfahun had delivered the necessary, corrected documents and that the Visa would have time to be printed before closing at 5.  We were hoping, but the later in the day it got, the more it didn't seem possible.  In order to wait for Tesfahun to come back, we went to the Bethany office for about an hour or hour and a half.  Mengistu was able to work and we hung out in a room by ourselves (free wifi!).  I looked at my watch at one point 4:40pm.  About that time I saw Mengistu walking toward us... his expression wasn't good.  When he has bad news to deliver he raises one arm up over his head, bends it at his elbow, and tries to break it gently.  He walked in, I stood (hoping for good news), he said, "Guys, there is a problem.  I just talked to Tesfahun," arm going up.  I sighed.  He continued, "the problem is you are leaving.  IT'S ALL DONE.  HE HAS YOUR VISA AND IT'S OVER."


We hugged and screamed and hugged some more.  Then, Mark had the great idea to ask Pastor Matt to get Corbin and Hudson out of class so we could tell them we were coming home.  I had our travel agent search for flights for us earlier this week, hoping this would be the outcome.  So, we had flights reserved already which allowed us to know when we would arrive home (more on that in a bit).  So, Pastor Matt FaceTimed us once he had the boys.  When the FaceTime came up we had Tyson say, "Hey!  I am coming home."  The boys looked a bit confused and immediately Mark said, "We are leaving tomorrow to come home with Tyson!  We will be home Saturday afternoon."  Instantly, Hudson put both hands over his mouth and began crying.  He couldn't even talk.  I said, "Are those happy tears?"  He just nodded, "yes."  Then, we were all crying.  Thank you, Matt, for scooping him up and giving him big hugs.  Corbin was smiling from ear to ear and said he couldn't wait.  Just after we hung up, Tyson went back and sat down, put his head on the table, and cried SO hard.  I assumed Hudson's tears had gotten him upset, but wanted to make sure.  I ran over, picked him up, we were both crying.  I said, "destainya?" (happy?).  He shook his head yes.  I had Mengistu talk to him to confirm they were happy tears.  We asked if he was afraid of anything or scared or sad about anything.  He replied, "Just really happy."  SWEET BOY.  The rest of the day he kept saying, "I love Corbin and Hudson."

SOOOOO.... arrival details.  Let me just say that we all know the Lord has OUTDONE HIMSELF on our entire trip with timing, people we've met, families we've met, and memories we've made.  It's all just so surreal.  But, in all of His kindness, He decided to put a cherry on top of all of the already amazing goodness.  Saturday, the day we arrive home, also JUST HAPPENS TO BE my birthday.  CAN YOU EVEN?????
I can't.

I keep thanking Him over and over again.  I cried the entire ride from Bethany back to the guesthouse.  It never occurred to me IN A MILLION YEARS we would be able to be home on my birthday.  I thought we would still be here on Thanksgiving.  WAY-MAKER.

OUR ARRIVAL is expected to be at 2:15pm Saturday afternoon at McGhee-Tyson airport.  This flight is typically on time, but if you want to keep track, you can... we will be arriving from Washington-Dulles (airport code IAD).  WE WANT YOU THERE.  If you want to come, COME.  We know it is half-time of the Tennessee game, so some of you will be busy, but if you are free... we would love to have a crowd there.  We will have just traveled for 23 hours, so I am not promising what we will look like or how we will smell, but we will LOVE TO SEE YOU PEOPLE there.  We are just going to (as politely as possible ) ask that you know Tyson is still adjusting to be in a family and so for now, we would love if you want to high-five him, fist bump him, or shake his hand.  For now, we are just asking for help in allowing him to continue to bond with us with hugging.  It seems odd, I know, but we don't want him (or any of our children) completely comfortable hugging a lot of random strangers (we know you aren't strangers, but to him most are).  If he initiates a hug, go for it.  We just want to be cautious to not overwhelm or overload him (or confuse him).
Next, Pastor Matt will be at the airport early to just organize people, should there be a crowd that comes.  Our only request is that our immediate families (Corbin, Hudson, grandparents, my sister and her family, Mark's sister and her family, Maygen and Josh) will be waiting up by where we will exit and everyone else can either wait down closer to the escalators or downstairs at the bottom of the escalators.  THIS IS ALL OUR STORY and we want you to be there to see this boy COME HOME.  He is full-fledged Tyson McKeehan and knows it.  So, feel free to call him that and if you make signs, you can use "Tyson."  He already recognizes his name:)
After the airport, we are SO PUMPED to be able to load into Mark's car as a family of 7 for the first time (crying again).  We will head home as a family and have some photos made of him coming home for the first time.  Then, we are looking forward to spending the rest of the day UNDER ONE ROOF.  We can't wait to see Corbin and Hudson with Tyson.  Thank you so much for respecting this special time for us.  We have someone who told us months ago she wanted to make our meal for the first night we were home and so we are well taken care of (and HUGE SHOUT OUT TO MY RECKON SQUAD FOR VOLUNTEERING TO STOCK OUR PANTRY AND FRIDGE WITH NECESSITIES. ALSO TO NINA AND DANA FOR CLEANING OUR HOUSE TODAY).  I mean, seriously, y'all.  OUR COMMUNITY IS THE BEST.  Thank you for being intentional and purposeful and exactly what we needed.
I am beside myself that my next post we will be home.  On our first night in Addis I wrote a blog post and called it "Immeasurably More."  When I wrote that post, I had no idea what the next 23 days would hold.  I had no idea that my life would forever be changed by so much more than "just" gaining one child (I mean that is pretty huge!).  The overflowing blessings that have come are more than any of us could've fathomed.  Here I am over 3 weeks later and it's all come full circle.  He is Sovereign and Good and Faithful and Kind.  And He continues to be the God who gives

immeasurably more.

See you Saturday at 2:15pm!!!

Almost home,

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I am just going to hit the ground running tonight. No small talk about the election, or the weather, or the fact that many of you have a long weekend coming up.  Today was super full and it's gonna take a while.
Tyson and I woke early so we could be ready to go at 8am to finish up his Visa medical exam.  Turns out the election news (as it wasn't officially "called" yet) made it a tee-tiny bit difficult to leave since I was going to be without wifi all day.  But I survived and turns out I got to see it all anyway.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.  So, we ate breakfast and headed out the door.  Remember Monday when traffic was my worst claustrophobic nightmare terrible and it took us two hours to get to the clinic?  Well, we left 30 minutes later today and arrived 40 minutes earlier than Monday. GO FIGURE.  Our appointment wasn't until 10am (to have the TB skin test read), but we arrived early and Mengistu was already at Kaldi's waiting so we joined him for buna.  Tyson went for the chocolate donut and chai again.  There was a TV on CNN just over my right shoulder so I didn't miss much.  Then, about 20 minutes later the nurse met us and we went to the clinic, which was just a short walk behind Kaldi's.  The technician working looked at Tyson's right forearm and declared his test negative in about 12 seconds or less.  Mengistu asked if we could have the results sent to the Embassy this morning rather the (normal procedure of) afternoon.  The tech said he could send them IF we obtained a letter from the pediatrician at Such-and-Such Hospital.  Turns out, Mengistu explained, that was the exact hospital we were headed to in an effort to complete Tyson's exam.  So, off we went to the hospital.  I will spare you all of the details, but in way of third-world countries it was pretty nice.  We went into floor one and the nurse rattled off some info and in about 5 minutes they had Tyson's folder.  Then it was off to upstairs.  I was pleasantly surprised to read "pediatrician" over one door, indicating we had come to the right place.  We stood in the hall a few minutes waiting and then Mergitu (the nurse with us) motioned for us to come in.  We did and Tyson had his vital signs taken.  Then, off to another room, this one labeled "exam room 2."  The pediatrician had a full sized desk in the exam room and when we entered she asked about the election (she had been at the US embassy for breakfast) and then asked about Tyson.  She looked him over and said she would finalize his paperwork for the embassy as soon as she had the TB skin test results.  With that, we received a letter from her to take back to the clinic.  Shew!  We were in and out in 15 minutes or less.  Moving along faster than I suspected.
So, we drove BACK to the clinic and then while Mergitu took the TB test results BACK to the hospital, Mengistu, Tyson, and I went to a swanky hotel lobby to watch the news and grab a snack.  It was there I was able to watch my first live TV in a month!  It was Donald Trump's acceptance speech and I will stay out of politics and just say, I am glad I was able to watch.  The longer I am away, the more I realize that regardless of the results (whether I like it or don't), we still live in the greatest nation on earth with wealth that is killing us and freedom that is wasted.  Another post for another day. But, we need to stop our whining and complaining.  Off soapbox.
Finally, we were off to Bethany for Mengistu to do a few things and for Mergitu to get all the medical papers to Superman Tesfahun so he could submit them to the embassy this afternoon.  There was one minor detail I forgot to mention about our car ride from the clinic to the hospital (the first time).  Mengistu said, "Meselu (our social worker with Bethany here) called me and said she had tentatively scheduled the birth family meeting for today, but she hasn't been able to contact the birth mom since. So, she might be on her way.  If she is, you will meet her today.  If not, it will be tomorrow."  *my mouth gaping open* "Today?" He replied with a "yes, maybe.  We will wait to hear from Meselu."  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO THINK AFTER THAT?????  And, I was DYING to tell Mark.  Anyway....
So, once we arrived at Bethany I needed to print the confirmation email from that masters degree form from yesterday to submit with Embassy paperwork.  While there I went to Tesfahun's office and Meselu was sitting in his office along with Mengistu, Tyson, and Mergitu. POWER TEAM.  Meselu said she had gotten in touch with Tyson's birth mom, Maso, and she would be bringing her by TONIGHT to meet us.  THE WHOLE WORLD STOPPED.  I swallowed hard and thanked her for working so hard to get it to work out.  And then, I got teary eyed just thinking about it.  We came back to the guesthouse and I ran up the steps to tell Mark about the medicals being finished and about the birth family meeting.  We looked at each other like, "THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING."  In a few minutes Mark jumped in the shower and I began writing down questions from my previous list to ask Maso.  I looked back through the photo book we had made for her of pictures of Tyson.  We put a few photos inside of our family and our house, but mostly of him.  I prayed over it, hoping it would be a treasure to her.  We straightened up the room a bit and I finally sat down to think.  But, thinking TOO much wasn't good for me or I was going to start crying and NOT BE ABLE TO STOP (you Momma's out there better give me an AMEN. I know that you know....).  So, I folded dirty laundry (not kidding) and sorted clothes and prayed.
Six years ago today we started this process.  And eleven days later on the other side of the globe a young girl had a baby boy. Today, God saw fit to not just merge those world's, but to collide them together.  It was about 5pm when Meselu called to say she was 10 minutes away with Maso.  My heart raced and I had to go to the bathroom like 12 times.  Then, we headed downstairs to wait.  It felt like 2 hours.  I paced and straightened the pillows on the couches and then straightened them again.  I wanted to love her well.  Finally, I saw the small gray car pull up that I had been in all morning.  Out stepped Meselu and then, there she was.  Her face was familiar from pictures, but she is far more beautiful in person.  She also had a man with her, who it turns out, is her boss.  He and his wife and children had made the SEVEN HOUR DRIVE to come to meet us.  More on him and his family later.
The big question you probably have is WHAT DID TYSON THINK?  Well, Meselu and I had discussed earlier today that since he has no memory of his birth mom, it might be best to just have the meeting, let him meet Maso, take photos together, and when he is older, we will explain who she is.  Otherwise, WHO COULD PROCESS THAT AT AGE 5 WITH A 10 MINUTE WARNING?  no one could.  So, he just knew Meselu was coming and that we were having a meeting.
Because he was clueless about who Maso was, he was standing at the door (as always) and opened it as soon as they walked to the guesthouse door.  Meselu walked in first, then Maso, then her boss.  She didn't initially acknowledge Tyson much, but I am not sure she knew it was it him right away.  So, I introduced myself with a handshake first trying not to grab her up and rock her in a rocking chair all night scare her to death with a hug.  Then, Mark introduced himself, then Brycen, then Regan.  About that time, Meselu grabbed Tyson's hand and it was then Maso realized it was him.  We walked to the adjacent living room and went to the couches that were the most private.  She sat on one end of the couch and I sat with comfortable space between us on the couch beside her.  I wanted to move closer and keep my hand on her, but I didn't want to overstep my boundaries.  My first impression was: SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND HE LOOKS JUST LIKE HER.  Her frame is so petite and her face still so young.   Mark and Meselu and her boss each sat in dining room chairs across from us, forming a circle.  We made small talk about how long it took them to come (I almost died when she said 7 hours!).  Then, we asked about how she knew the man... she started working for him and his wife just after she took Tyson to the orphanage when he was 6 mo old.  She lives at their house taking care of their house and their children.  Oh, and she goes to school full-time.  Then, I started with questions... her birthday (which she doesn't know, but she does think she knows her age), how Tyson was as an infant (she said quiet and that he didn't cry much).  We discussed her pregnancy, her labor, her delivery and her favorite memories of him while she had him.  She said when she thinks of him she remembers that he was starting to sit up when she took him to the orphanage.  That was so tender to me.  Milestones for Momma's are a big deal.  She hadn't forgotten.  Rest assured, she never will.  The next 20 minutes was questions and talking... we told her about us, our family, our church, our kids, etc.  She answered our questions, but she was very quiet and reserved... UNDERSTANDABLE.  We asked about her dreams for him, her dreams for herself, and about what she would want him to know about her when he is older.  We discussed her hobbies (she likes to read and she likes chemistry.  Remember his "tall" mind?  He totally comes by it honest).  As she spoke I tried to memorize every freckle on her young, beautiful face.  Then, for a split second tried to calculate if it would be feasible to just take her home with us, too.  I want to love on her.  Good grief, she's brave.  I was somewhat of a basket case emotional, but Mark said all the right things when our questions were finished.  He looked her straight in the face and told her how brave we think she is.  He told her that we are so thankful for her  and that she gave Tyson something we couldn't and we wanted to honor her by giving him something now that she couldn't.  I spoke up and assured her that we would love him forever and that he would have every opportunity that our biological children would have.  I told her (through tears) that I am so thankful she wanted to meet us because one of my life's richest blessings was being able to meet her.  AND I MEANT IT.  The grief and loss that her one heart and life has endured overwhelms me... from losing her father when she was young to having no choice but to lose her son when she wasn't much older.  I asked her how we could pray for her.  She gave us things to pray for.  Then, I told her that we had started this process 6 years ago today and because he wasn't born yet, I had prayed for her and for him every single day of his life.  It was the first time I saw tears form in her eyes and she was able to bat them away.  She repeatedly, softly answered, "Ishi," which means "ok."  She did thank me for our prayers and said she was so happy for him to have a family like ours.  She was excited to hear Mark was a protestant pastor, as she comes from one of the only protestant tribes in the south.  When we told her about Tyson memorizing scripture in the orphanage with Waset, she grew teary-eyed again.  That made her SO happy to hear.  Can you imagine all the days she wondered if he was ok, eating, being cared for in the orphanage?  So to hear today that he was not only eating and thriving, but he was learning about Jesus and memorizing scriptures had to be healing for her.  Healing still flows through the hem of His garment and I could see healing coming to her broken heart.  We assured her we would take him to the best eye doctors we could find to correct his nystagmus.  And, gratefully, I was able to muster up the words to let her know his condition is one he was born with and not one she caused in any way.  Tears for the third time.  It wasn't much longer that Meselu asked if we wanted pictures.  UM YES.  So, we got pictures with her and then we called Tyson over (he had been playing with the kids and eating dinner on the other end of the large room).  He came over and stood with us for pictures.  Finally, I stepped aside and let Maso and Tyson have  pictures together.  First she stooped down to have their faces closer to one another.  Then, we told her she could pick him....I am crying as I type.  What she must have felt to lift him up again.  To hold him again.  She put her cheek against his cheek and I literally gasped and looked at Meselu and said, "TWINS."  She agreed. I was so thankful her boss had a smart phone and he took pictures for her to keep of seeing him again and meeting us.  Isn't the Lord kind?
Next, we asked if Mark could pray over her.  So, we stood in a circle, Maso was between Mark and me with one arm around each of us, then Brycen, Tyson, Meselu.  Right there in a circle, Mark prayed grace, hope, favor, peace, and comfort over her.  She and I both cried, even though she couldn't understand the prayer, I believe God answered my prayers for her to know how much we love her.  WE ARE SO FOR HER.  I knew human words could never say what my heart felt, but I knew Holy Spirit could.  He did.
After pictures I asked if she had time to play with Tyson for a minute as Meselu was going to spend time with the other family at the house.  I took Tyson over to the toys and tried to get him interested in something.  It didn't take long.  He found a book with farm animals, body parts, colors, fruit, etc.  Once he opened it and Maso crouched beside him, I backed away.  I have forever to read with him.  This was her day.  I don't know what they said to one another, but they talked and had a few smiles and laughs.  Then, I walked over and had him say letters as I pointed them out.  I videoed them together, knowing this will be a treasure to us all in years to come.  It's a treasure to me today.  After the alphabet, I asked if he wanted to draw on the dry erase board.  It took a second to find the red marker, but we did!  Then, it didn't work, so we switched to yellow.  I said, "Do you want to write your alphabet or draw a flower or a sun?"  He said, "Flower."  And off he went.  He drew a flower and when he was finishing she asked him if it was for her and he said, "Yes, this flower is for you."  When he had finished he held up his dry erase board with the biggest smile on his face.
It was finally time for them to go and as they walked out of the living room toward the lobby, I asked Tyson if he wanted to hold Maso's hand walking out.  He grabbed her hand and they walked from the living room to the lobby together.  I stood behind, trying to soak it all in.  She bent down in front of the door and kissed him on the cheek.  Then she stood and we hugged.  She put her face in my right shoulder and I embraced her with a long, hard hug while tears streamed down my face.  I told her thank you and that I loved her.  Then I hugged her again.  She hugged Mark and the big kids and just as she was slipping out the door she reached down and kissed Tyson on the right cheek one last time.
I am a crying mess typing this, but as I have said over and over... grief and joy do not coexist in any other form like the they coexist in adoption.  Five and half years ago she walked away, not knowing if she would see him again.  Today, she walked away fairly certain she wouldn't see him again.  I had to come upstairs and be alone for a few minutes to just cry.  I don't know if she cried pulling away or if the joy outweighed the grief.  I just know that the two sides of the coin of adoption are conflicting and beautiful, opposite and complimentary.  I have no doubt in my mind that she knows we love him and that we are going to take care of him.  But, I couldn't help but think of all the sleepless nights she was probably up with him as an infant, just the two of them.  As a young teenager, trying to navigate working, feeding, providing, and parenting.
Yet, here we were, six years later.  The Lord gave us the gift to cry together, to look at each other, and to walk away knowing we couldn't do it without the other.  I so long to honor her for the way she has loved him, even since that day when he was 5 months old and she relinquished him.  She has made a way for him to be adopted.  Without her coming 7 hours to court or being willing to be interviewed by two governments, none of this would be possible.  And then to come today.... how she must love him.  My heart is so full that we had the privilege to meet her, to see her with him, and to let her know she's loved, cherished, and appreciated.  She kept saying, "God bless you all."  I just wanted to say, "He already has and you are a big part of that."  But, something in me knew she already knew that.  I am praying as she cares for her bosses children everyday, one of them similar in age to Tyson, that she finds healing there.  I pray she finds healing in going to school in order to fulfill her dream to be a teacher and by investing in the lives of children.  Above all, I pray she finds healing in the mighty name of Jesus.   I believe Him for it and trust her to His tender care.  As she lays her head on her pillow tonight, likely staying in a hotel with air conditioning for the first time in her life, I pray she finds rest in knowing her bravery and courage have laid the path for others to see and know  Jesus.  As we each play our God-given roles in this thing, His purpose is clear: HIS GLORY.  Without her, we can't fulfill what He has called us to.  And, in the obeying and surrendering, we each play our part and somehow, He takes it and uses it to demonstrate a sacrificial love that was given for all mankind.  He takes her selflessness and somehow makes us the beneficiaries, just like when God gave Jesus to die that we might walk away with life.  I am just undone at the whole thing tonight.  Overwhelmed by her sacrifice.  Overwhelmed by Jesus' sacrifice.  Humbled to my deepest core by her courage to do the hardest thing in order for the one she loves to be given life.
Only Jesus writes these stories and when He chooses to pen us in in even the smallest role, I just fall at His feet in gratitude.  Tonight, gratitude is my anthem.
Thank you for loving us well.  Thank you for praying for Maso and her mom who is aging and therefore making work more difficult.  Thank you for sharing Jesus when you share about our adoption.  This is His story and we are the stewards.  Honored to walk it out with you.

Until WE'RE home,