The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Court File Number!!!!

We received the most unexpected call this morning.

MoT phoned us with our court file number.

And then after hanging up, we hugged, I shook, and I cried.

And cried.

It's just a five digit number.

It's nothing to write home about. Except that it is. It came earlier than we expected which is shocking. We were quoted that 4-6 weeks after our referral we could hopefully expect a court number or date. We are at 3 1/2 weeks post-referral-acceptance.

Our court file number means we have been officially logged into court and are waiting to be assigned a court date. I told Noah it's like standing in line in class on your way to go somewhere and you're just not certain when you'll get there yet.

I truly believe this came so quickly because of prayer.

I do.

And all I could do after hanging up the phone (and breathing deep) was repeat words of thanksgiving and then pray that our daughter could feel them. That somewhere in that small six month being, there would be a sense of comfort.

We were also told that we should receive our court date call soon...but right now we are simply relishing in this news. And when that call comes we'll rejoice again.

One step at a time we move towards our child.

By grace we continue.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rare (Nearly) Family Shot

Yesterday was beautiful, in so many ways.

I'm so glad we paused for a moment to capture this.

We also had the opportunity to share in the joy of our referral with many friends who live afar. Prayer is increasing in quantity. It seems as though daily, (I find out that) we're being added to lists, journals, and walls of prayer. I feel so blessed to have this commitment from so many and truly believe this is how we've come so far. So, thank you. Please don't stop.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lots Of Nothing. Bits Of Everything

I'd like to share something. There's lots to say. Lots going on. Lots. Going. On. It's just the season. I want to blab and share more about our referral but truthfully I've publicly shared all that's going to be squeezed out of me.

And the truth of it is, while everything has changed it often seems like nothing has changed.

And while we still turn to one another frequently and announce with elation, (as if it's the first time saying it) "We Got Our Referral!" that's gotta get boring for everyone else to hear.

It's all the same.

But it's all different.

There's a face in the frame. Okay, there's a face in all those frames. Staring back at us. Pleading with us innocently, to come.

We're different. In ways perhaps not visible, perhaps not tangible but we're different.

I've still not bought anything baby. I never really have. Ironically, I've sold a few things. I've perused one or two of those "will need" items...with a bit more seriousness now. But I never started decorating a room. (It remains our guest room and will until after court.) I never purchased anything other than a pair of Robeez (after the restructuring was official). I knit and sewed a couple things but that was partly to pass the time and partly to feed the hopeful anticipation bubbling inside over the years. Yes, years.

Ironically, a couple months ago we sold our fabulous double chariot. It took months to gear up for that, as it felt in a way that I was giving up on the dream. Silly. Getting rid of a jogger when we were supposed to be increasing our family was hard. It was right and it was an important thing to do, but initially it was hard. I've not yet bought a new one. (I've admittedly drooled over a few, however.) About a year ago I won a large Playtex bottle gift basket. Worth about $100, it gathered dust until yesterday. I was finally ready to part with the cello-sealed items, as they aren't the ones I know I will use when she comes home. Until yesterday the thought of getting rid of them made me nauseous. (I don't know why yesterday was the turning point.)

Was I giving up by getting rid of the material items? Was I admitting defeat and lack of faith if I sold 'things'? I see now and have always been aware of the superficiality of this train of thought. Doesn't make it any easier though.

I still won't purchase anything. I simply can't bring myself, or allow myself to do it. The vulnerability of it is nearly too much. It would mean this dream, this journey, this faith walk is being truly, completely, actually realized. And that in itself is overwhelming. What did I ever do to deserve such a gift as this human life? What sacrifice have I made that is great enough to compensate for the priceless reality of the direction in which our journey has turned?

We have been gifted a few special items. And finally, finally I bit the bullet and accepted a gift offered to be purchased for me many many months ago and I cannot wait to receive my Junk Posse pendant*.

So we continue to hope, to dream, to pray - oh the prayer - fervently for our babe. The Beautiful Mercy (which has a much deeper meaning that those two simple words...and which will one day be shared) showered on us is sometimes - often - unbelievable.

So while it feels that there are infinite words and thoughts to share, in reality there's not too much to share right now. Field trips, birthday parties, retreats, walks, gardening, bubbles, and sprinklers currently occupy our days. We pass them enjoyably whilst anticipating that call, with a voice on the other end revealing our next milestone.

*dear canada post: please please puhlease don't go on strike.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Stock Photo Baby Is 6 Months

I can't help it.

Each time I look up, or over, or at the photo of our sweet babe's face in one of the frames into which we have placed her, my immediate thought is, "What a gorgeous, sweet, gentle, smiley faced baby they chose for that stock photo. What a beautiful child".


Nope, apparently I'm still in shock. Yes, still. Nearly three weeks in and I still don't "get" it.

A report from a friend the other day (who saw her!!!) made it a little more real. Ah hem, the report made her a little more real. She was off getting her vaccinations. That's pretty darn real.

But it's still hard for me to fathom that we have been given the greatest gift of all...and she currently lives 13311 km away.

It's true though. And it's real. And she is real. And the longer I stare at the photos in the various frames, the wider the smile curves at the corners of my lips. And synapses fire shivers down my spine and up and down the hairs of my arms.

She is real.

And today, she is six months old.

Monday, May 23, 2011

32 Months...To Count Or Not To Count

I've been debating whether or not to continue counting the number of months since our file arrived in Ethiopia. After hitting such a monumental milestone as a referral, would it be counter-productive or ineffective to "dwell" on such an arduous wait as ours. Or, after hitting such a monumental milestone as a referral, would it be motivating to press on and continue to count as we look back at how far we've come.

A menial waste of time perhaps, to spend time thinking about details such as these through such a life-changing journey, but it's already been done. And I don't think it's time wasted. It's all part of the process.

And I think as part of the process, I'm going to shelve this book in the volume of our journey. Not forgetting the ebb and flow, ache and elation, desperation and joy but rather moving on to the next phase.

So here we go. Two and a half weeks into the new phase of our journey. I don't know if I'd say it's harder but simply a different hard. There is no easier level of hard.

There was no face before. Now there's a face, a name, an age, a story...a life.

And the reality and direct reports of orphanage life set in. And the reality of that is scary. And the reality of trusting God in this is really really hard. And truthfully I am warding off panic and seeking to rest in grace and truth. And now all I want to do is be there, supporting, supplying, and making sure she is okay.

So we wait and continue to pray and trust in God's provision for His children. And while we know court pre-closure is possible, it won't be certain until that call on that day when our world will change once again and instead of counting up...we'll be counting down.

Oh - I cannot wait to count down.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Since our referral...two weeks ago to the day (read: pinch me it's still doesn't feel real)...there's been a real sense, need, desire to pray all that much more earnestly. We believe we were and have been, carried to this point, because of prayers lifted on our behalf and on behalf of a small child, half a world away, to whom no one could put a face or a name until fourteen days ago.

It has been that powerful.

And since that moment it has not stopped. I know the prayer has continued because of conversations I have on a daily basis. I know the prayer has continued because of the peace felt. I know the prayer has continued because without it, none of this would have come this far.

And since that moment I have felt an intensity to pray (perhaps even) hard(er) than before. For now, there is a face and a name and a being and a small, sweet girl who needs us almost as much as we need her.

And since that moment - the call - I have felt a new marathon begin. One in which there is perhaps a race against time. We rejoice - we continue to rejoice daily, hourly - and yet we know the journey ahead remains one of patience, grace, understanding, faith, and perhaps just a little more patience.

The prayer for a timely court date began nearly immediately after the referral. As we sat in a circle with many who are like family, we prayed for a timely appointment.

Yet in the wake of tragedy, with the reminder of the fragility of life, knowing that we cannot control and we need to release control, I am praying now with a sense of urgency. I cannot quench it. The drive, passion, intensity behind and within the prayers is one that makes me want to scream. And it makes me want to run across the country, swim the ocean, cross numerous more countries and swoop her up. And I want to touch her, smell her, hold her, whisper to her.

And so now we pray with urgency, without ceasing, with fervor.

And we wait.

And we need to know with confidence that the hour has been decided.

We need to rest in the knowledge of Sovereignty.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Distinctly Obvious

We are a conspicuous family now. To outsiders we are the same. But to us, within these four walls we are conspicuous...or at least well on our way.

A conspicuous family is one that stands out in a crowd. A blond haired family with a Chinese daughter or perhaps a brown haired family with an Ethiopian son. One family member is distinctly different than the rest.

{i've wanted to write on this for awhile but due to tragedy, i'll come back to it later. our conspicuous family is a topic heavy on and dear to my heart...and with anticipation and excitement, we embrace the many ways our family is growing in leaps and bounds. for now, i cannot concentrate on this enough to give it full attention so i'll be back in this space soon.}

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Throughout our journey I found a real peace when out in the garden. "It's cheap therapy!" I've often been heard saying. I never had any desire to be out among our flower beds or under the rhododendrons. Things were growing everywhere, our second year (and two very small children) into this house. Ironically I can literally pin point the date in July 2009 when I found sanctuary in the dirt.

Unfortunately for me, it rains here. Lots. So what's a girl to do with time on her hands, a journey wrought with the ebb and flow of change, and a need to do something therapeutic. Running has a finite timeline each week and chocolate, well, it counteracts the whole running thing. Fortunately, I've found a passion in re-finishing odd (and some old) pieces of furniture. I'm no pro and there's not an artistic bone in my body but I've taken heart in transforming fragments into functional furniture.

Over the past few months, after being gifted an incredible dresser from my grand-father, I've been cleaning and sanding and wiping and sanding and priming and painting and ( get the picture - it was a big job).

And last night it finally made it's way into our room. And I wish the photo did it justice. It already was a beautiful piece, now it's just been given a little extra TLC.

Fortunately for me (and for the garden!) it's spring (in theory) so attention will return to the garden (where it's already been focused for the past many weeks).

Oh, and on one small sweet babe a continent away.

We are focusing all that we can on her and on bringing her home.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I've been wanting to get some thoughts down. But the words won't come out of the thoughts.

It's indescribable, really. Over thirty-one months of waiting, anticipating, hoping, praying, culminating - changed on a dime. One ring of the phone and the way you had hoped it would, but couldn't fully comprehend - how could you? - your life is different. From what onlookers can see, your life, your family is unchanged. But in your heart, within your family, upon your family photo wall, within the deepest part of you, there has been complete transformation.

I woke up early this morning. I thought it was Saturday. Then I thought the referral was a dream. In a split second my heart leapt into my throat and in the pit of my stomach something was wrong. Within moments I rolled over, realized it was Friday and that the reality of our referral was just that: Our reality. It is real. She is real. And now our wait is for court. Now we pray for signatures and seals and words of legal confirmation. And we anticipate the date of when that will all take place - yes, that date. The next milestone. But I'm not impatient yet. We are now intertwined within a complex system of integrally moving parts which I greatly respect. No, we will wait with patience (at least for a little while).

So I made my way downstairs and cup of coffee in hand, I poured over our documents - her life as we know it - once again. As if to try and memorize the order of pages, each crucial detail and signature on the documents, I read it through again. And while not new to me now, each time I read through and absorb what we know of our small child I am struck. I'm in awe and I'm grateful. And I'm changed to the core. And I ache. And I cry - it is unstoppable. And I agonize over the thought of how this all came to be. And I am deeply grateful in an inexplicable, indescribable way.

How does one put into words the gratitude for one of the most sacrificial acts known to humankind?

And yet here we are, the recipients of grace and selflessness beyond what I could ever fathom.

Blogger's Back!

Ack!! Or is it Argh!!

Either way, blogger's been down for two days. Hullo!!! That is not okay and my blogging-self feels the great forty-eight-hour-blog-shut-down-post-referral-but-it-still-doesn't-feel-real-I-can't-keep-my-eyes-off-of-hers-need, to get something down on this here forum.

And, because Murphy established that horrific law eons ago, I have no time!

But soon...I'll be here, in this space soon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pinch Me, She's Real

I'm still not sure what to say.

I'm not sure what to think...when I'm not day dreaming.

I'm in shock and disbelief, in the most amazing way possible.

When I walk through the kitchen and her big brown eyes stare back at me, I have to make the conscious decision to remind myself that she is the one meant for us.

And my heart skips a beat each time.

I look up from washing the dishes, expecting to see a framed photo of a colour print-out reading "Waiting For Our Little Girl In Ethiopia" and my breath is literally taken away when I see her face instead.

Only four days in, and I am still in disbelief. I relive the phone call in my head and I still second guess that it actually took place...that it wasn't a dream. Three years of waiting and I think it's going to take a while to sink in.

But here it is: she's real.

She is so very very real.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

She Smiles With Her Eyes - Our Referral Story

I will try to coherently share with you our referral story. (Grab a mug of something and a chunk of time because I've never been known to spare details and this is no exception.)

I say 'coherently' as it's hard to type as I stare at the most beautiful little babe this Mama has ever seen. I also say 'coherently' as the events of the past two days have been whirlwind times infinity and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around all that has occurred. I say 'coherently' because when one hopes and prays and waits for a life-changing event such as this, for so long, it's hard to wrap one's mind around the reality of it. But this I know: we are so very blessed.

Briefly I want to share two thoughts before divulging those juicy details...please bear with me.

First, when I say she is "the most beautiful..." or "the most amazing..." or "there is none as incredible...", I whole-heartedly realize that my statement is intensely biased. And I'm okay with that. We've waited years so we're okay with feeling a little biased.

Second, while I am elated to share in the details of our referral story and some of the details of our wee babe's being and her life, it is her story to share. Amidst the joys of our celebration, the tragedy that has occurred is incomparable to much else. There will be bits I will purposefully leave out as they are simply not mine - not ours, to share. They are hers. You are welcome to ask any questions as I'll likely, unintentionally leave something(s) out...but some of the specifics will never be voiced on this forum or by ourselves.

To preface our story I will say that I never give the phone a second thought. I never carry it around, often forget to charge it, and it was only in January of this year that my arm was twisted to the point of giving in and getting a cell. Over the past four weeks however, our/my phone has been a fifth appendage.

Each day I would get up, say to Ben "today? will today be a pink day?" to which he would patiently (oh, the patience this man has!) reply "sure, that would be good" or "maybe" or just simply an "I love you and I'll see you at lunch" coupled with a kiss on his way to work.

Each day I would carry the phone close until 11am, at which point it would be 2pm in Ontario and I figured there was no way MoT would send a referral onward. After all, if Ethiopia is ten hours ahead of us (seven ahead of EST) then MoT would definitely have it by midday and have sent it to our agency. After around 11am, I would carry it a little more loosely until about 1pm and later I could care less. Knowing there was always a possibility of a later day call, I would never hold out too much hope.

The feeling - similar to the pressure growing in a balloon as your small child blows it up to the bursting point - had been welling in my heart for weeks. (Okay, really it had been years but intensely to the point of explosion was more recent.) The ache was more intense than I can accurately put in to words. And through all this I knew, we knew, and felt carried by the prayers voiced on our - on her - behalf.

This week came and on Wednesday I emailed our rockstar of a social worker to ask her if she thought that if I stared at the phone long enough and willed it to ring, it would and that it could be her on the other end. I'm sure she had a chuckle at my expense. I did.

Thursday morning we whirl-winded around the house getting ready for a friend's birthday party and then headed out so one small five year old could enjoy himself over the next few hours. It was May 5 and I knew from an email sent out months ago outlining Ethiopian holidays that May 5 was a holiday there and therefore they would not be working. (And if you ever doubted how ornery I am, that fact alone will likely affirm that "detail oriented" doesn't begin to describe me.) Not working in Ethiopia means nothing happening in Ontario, therefore no movement on the western front either. So, I had my phone but kept it in my pocket only half-heartedly. I'd been texting Ben a bit throughout the morning as one small four year old and I ran some errands together. The only reason my cell ever rings is that it's my husband, as not many others have the number...and those who do have it only text me.

We picked up our sweet five year old - who assured me that while there had been cake at the party, he'd eaten very little and saved half for his brother. This was at noon. I contemplated heading to the camp for lunch but decided against it as the request for a super cool nearby park arose and seemed like a request I couldn't pass up. Plus, what four and five year old boys don't need to burn off energy?! I threw some pizza their way and we headed a couple minutes down the road for our fun.

We arrived, played together for about five minutes and then they took off on the jungle gym while I sat down to send a quick text to Ben. I closed my phone and oddly, seconds (!) later it rang. Not a text-reply ring. It was a ring-ring. Trying not to get irritated at the fact that he would phone me in reply to my text, I answered quickly...the thought briefly passed through my mind that it could be The Call, but it passed just as rapidly because, as I mentioned it was May 5 - an Ethiopian holiday. Plus, it was 12:26pm and in my mind too late in the day.

{she called our house first}

"Hello" I said, trying to keep my voice gentle (it was shaking a bit) and not sharing the irritation with the anticipated caller. (After all, he knows better than anyone the anguish that has been endured while waiting for our moment when the world would briefly stop and the journey would hit a milestone.)

"Hi Ashleigh, it's Fiona. How are you?" initiated the voice on the other end.

It was too real. To real to believe this could actually be happening. Here. In this park. On a random day (which wasn't really random at all, was it?!) in May. With both boys out of school. A short distance from Ben. It was too real to be happening now.

(The rest of what was said is likely pretty accurate but I can't promise that. It's all a blur which I tried my best to burn into my mind in the moment as it was a juncture in time, I want never to forget.)

"Um, Fiona why are you calling me?...I'm okay?!?!?...I think." (I physically had to sit down.)

"Are you somewhere, where you can talk?" she calmly replied. (She has the sweetest, more gentle and genuine voice.)

I think I could have been sitting on the moon and I would have been somewhere where I could talk.

Also, I think this is a line that any adoption-related social workers must swear on oath to memorize because time and again, across provinces it's the first thing we all read when hearing of a referral be given. And now I understand why. When your life changes on a dime, you need to be somewhere where you can talk.

"I'm at a park with my boys. Oh Ben! I have to be with Ben. But old is she? How is she?"

I wanted to know it all in that instant and in the same breath I wanted to know none of it until we were together as four.

"Ashleigh, she's beautiful. She's little. She's only five months old" she replied.

"Oh" I replied through the know, the ugly cry. "Oh! I told a friend the other day that I didn't know whether I would laugh, cry, puke, or wet my pants when this finally happened." Yes, I felt I could be that honest with her as I choked through my tears...I think she chuckled.

We briefly chatted, not revealing any other details and I told her I would call her as soon a we were with Ben. She told me to drive safe (wise words when you've just received a call three years in wait).

The boys and I ran to the car - I was still trying to catch my breath amidst the sobbing - and I continually tried to explain that they were happy tears about their baby sister. The drive home is a bit of a blur but I did have to smile as the Lord reminded me to be patient: we got stuck behind both a dump truck and a school bus...for nearly the entire drive.

We arrived at camp, the boys and I ran down to where we knew Ben would be and Noah ran over and told him we had news about their baby sister. I just stood there sobbing. Phone held up in one hand. Mouth covered with the other hand. Tears streaming down my face. We hugged and then ran to the office to call Fiona back and see, and read, and live the next moments of our journey together.

This is where some of the details will blur. Not because I don't remember them but because they are hers to share. We opened document upon document and absorbed all the details we could. We imprinted her image in our minds. We called family and friends until our fingers hurt.

We have air horns at the camp which, in cases of extreme emergency we blow: one, two, or three air horn blasts depending on the specific crisis. However, four air horn blasts signifies the birth of a camp baby. The air horn was blown four times for our baby on Thursday. We had an office full of people for the next couple of hours. And all we could all do was stare at her - and rejoice together.

Her wee five month old body.

Her duck fuzz hair.

Her dump truck onesie.

Her 13lbs body.

Her little, but noticeable rolls on those sweet little legs.

Her story, as with all orphans is tragic. Sadness, mourning, great sorrow have been experienced so this child can have more, so that our family can rejoice. We will never forget this.

We will never brush over this sacrifice.

Back to the story...we booked an appointment for the next day with our doctor. The rest of Thursday is mostly a blur (the Canucks won - I do remember that!) and Friday we woke up, excited to take her information to our doctor and officially accept our referral for what appeared to be one healthy baby girl.

Our doctor went beyond what I had anticipated and hunted down some infant development and growth charts, (after we had reviewed all other medical report information). Keeping in mind they were North American infant growth charts, we charted her developmental information: weight, height, head circumference. By our standards and charts, she falls within the 75th percentile on all accounts. On north american accounts. (What a gift for her lifebook.)

Mercy. We have been shown great mercy.

We officially accepted and our documents bounced from us to Choices to MoT in Ontario before 4pm EST, Friday.

I called Fiona back and asked her when the referral originally came through to her, as I was shocked to have received it on an Ethiopian holiday. She had actually received it on Wednesday the 4th but some crucial documents were missing so she didn't want to call us until she had a complete package. Bless her heart. The irony is that Wednesday was the day I emailed her asking if she thought my willing the phone to ring with her on the other end would be worth a shot.

The next step is court. Court dates seem to be booking out 3-4 months after referral. However, typically ethiopian courts are closed during August and September. I'll let you work through the math. Recently there was a court date announced by a family who made it in under three months so if you can please pray that we are assigned a pre-closure date (ie: July), we would be so grateful. If we don't make it before the closures, we won't see her or make it to court until October-ish.

This is the story of the day we saw our daughter for the first time.

This was the story of four working to becoming five. This was the day the reality of miracles proved truthful once again. This was the day we had been dreaming of for years. This was the day we were able to begin imprinting her features in our mind.

Oh and her eyes...

She smiles with her eyes.

Friday, May 6, 2011


That's right.

We received it.

The call.


And we accepted just moments ago - the referral of a beautiful ethiopian five month old baby girl.

(Details to follow...juicy ones.)

Thank you. For sharing in this moment and this journey. Thank you.

This is only the beginning.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Making Them Sons And Daughters

God is not anxious. God isn't depressed. But God's fatherhood is pictured for us as a tumultuous, fighting kind of fatherhood - the kind that rips open the seas and drowns armies. Joseph probably had no idea that he was a living reenactment of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. He probably never thought about the fact that he was serving as an icon of his God. He just did what seemed right, in obedience to the Word of God. But he was participating in something dramatic - in every sense of the word.

When we adopt - and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our church and communities - we're picturing something that's true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise (John 5:19). And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Words To Live By

I'm reposting a quote I saw on fb this morning. It brought a smile to my lips and a lightness to my step on one of those (these!) excruciating-wait days...perhaps it will do the same to you...whether you're in The Wait or not. Maybe you saw it too...

I want to be the kind of woman that when I get up in the morning and my feet hit the floor, that Satan shivers and says "Oh, Crap she's up".