Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our Story


Infertility? Nope. But I bet you that is what a lot of people think when they look at our black and white little family. And I don’t blame them. In fact, I take it as an honor. Some of the people that I know who have trudged their way through the river of infertility are some of the strongest people I know. But for us? Infertility wasn’t it. Instead, it was a dream. A dream to be envoys of hope. And a crazy decision to actually step into the doing.

So, with four years of marriage under our belt, we signed, sealed and delivered a BOAT load of paperwork to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. You ask, “Why Ethiopia?”

We did that thing you do in 4th grade when you spin some piece of paper with all the boys names in the class on it… and close your eyes and drop your finger on one… who will inevitably end up your husband. Then you roll a dice to find out how many kids you will have, and then you spin a globe to find out where you will live. So, we did that… the globe spinning thing… and landed on Ethiopia. Well, not exactly. It took some thought, some prayer, some events, and some friendships… and that’s where we landed. And most of all, we couldn’t shake the sound of the beating drum of need. There are over 4.3 million orphans in that one country alone.  

So, back to the paperwork. This paperwork took 6 months to complete. By the end, when the 100 lb manila envelope was filled, every piece of paper there in certified and authenticated, I was shaking. I was so nervous that maybe on my way into the post office, I would slip, and that entire season of my life would be covered in mud. And there would be no loving and no hope bringing to a child.

But that didn’t happen. In fact, the papers reached our adoption agency with a speedy delivery. And then voila! A picture of our child and it was love at first sight. And then double voila! We flew over the next day to bring him home. No No and TRIPLE NO. We waited. And waited. (Although I have to admit our waiting was so small in comparison to others). And while we waited, I took a job for my Aunt as her manager at this coffee shop. Great little place. And if it wasn’t for the rent being $9,000/ month (YUP!) it would have really been something! But it went under ( lets hope it wasn’t my managing… I tried my darndest!) Yet, while it was up and running, it was my life. Not that I forgot about my husband or family or friends (well maybe sometimes) but that I started dreaming of life with the coffee shop. Maybe we would move closer to the shop. Maybe we would get to know lots of wonderful people and feel like we were cast members of “Cheers”. And maybe, I could bring the baby in to work with me while I did pay roll, ordering and stuff like that.

And then everything changed. My husband and I were at the coffee shop painting the walls. We got a call. They told us to check our email to see our baby boy (if we accepted). I remember how slow the freaking internet was at that moment. And although I tried to hide it, I was breathing loud. And there he was. He was the most precious thing I had ever laid eyes on. And I cried. He had these incredible deep eyes that seemed to peer into your soul. And in mine, he must have found him. The coffee shop seemed to drift away. I started to forget just what my hopes and dreams for that little coffee shop were. I was a mom. And nothing else in the whole world mattered any more than that.
Tesfahun Photo 1
Tesfahun Photo 2

So, what was his story? Who was this little 4 month old? Well, for one, he was a fighter. That’s for sure. He fought through a few things: He was given up at one month old, at 5 lbs and covered in diarrhea. His parents were both HIV positive and poor… very, very poor. When he was brought to the orphanage, they waited to tell us that he was there… they wanted to see if he was actually going to make it. And he did. Little fighter. He had hope. In fact, “hope” is part of his name. But, for this blog, we’ll call him, “Brave Heart”. A few days ago, I came downstairs to see him tee-toddering on one foot on the back of the couch, reaching up with all his might to turn on the light switch. “Brave” is a good thing… and a bad thing.  

Yes! He would be ours. We would be his! And I had no idea just how beautiful a thing that would be. So, we waited some more. There was one final step to this adoption (other than actually going over to pick him up)… the court date. This was a day that the birth parents would need to travel into the city and finalize the adoption through some legal documents. This, they told us, only goes well 50% of the time. Sometimes, the birth parents can’t travel into the city. Sometimes, there are hoops to jump through that haven’t been identified as a hoop yet. Sometimes, things happen and you have to wait another month or so for another court date.

We got a call. It was one of the “head honchos” of our adoption agency. She had good news! We passed court! All went well! “Great!” I said. “Cool”. And I immediately began doing the math in my head for our ADT (approximate date of travel) to Ethiopia. And then she said something else… that she has some other news… and I could sense that she was smiling. “Your baby boy has a twin brother.” My stomach swapped places with my heart. And I had to tell my stomach to go back down, and for my heart to start beating again. “Your baby boy has a twin brother.” She kept on explaining the situation… his birth parents kept him thinking that they could take care of him, and now they couldn’t. I don’t think I heard her. I already knew what we were going to do. I already was planning life with two little boys. I hung up the phone. And I almost died. Can you die of too much excitement and joy? You can if NO ONE ELSE WOULD PICK UP THE PHONE!!!!!!!!!!

After finally reaching my husband at work, he was stunned. Excited. But stunned. He has always been more of the type to be cautious and careful. I’m the one who would up and move my whole life to start out on the next adventure. But he had listened to the words of our adoption agency carefully: “Guard your heart”… because we do not know the health status of this other child.

HIV. It carries such a stigma doesn’t it? It’s treated as if it comes with the phrase, “Sex, Drugs, and other yucky business”. America has only recently opened their eyes to see the complexity of the AIDS epidemic. In the 1980/90s, it was swept under the rug and tagged onto one people group. It seemed as if America lumped the AIDS victims into this group and labeled them as “deserving” this suffering. How can anyone really “deserve” what this kind of suffering entails?? I don’t know. NO ONE deserves it. And NOTHING is simple about AIDS. It affects everyone.

“Of Christian evangelicals polled in 2000, only 6% felt it incumbent upon them to respond to the AIDS emergency,” said Bono in a 2006 interview. GROSS! Makes me sick just thinking of the arrogant, self-righteous &#@$&$#! (explicative). But then, I think back to when I probably would have turned the other way too. And I feel a pain in my heart.

Okay, lets be honest… people are having sex whether they get infected by the disease or not. So why do we label the ones who get the disease “dirty” if sooo many of the “clean” people are doing the SAME EXACT thing? And… do you know how many people DON’T know they have the disease? And do you know how many people (babies) receive this virus in the womb? And do you know how many people have been infected from violence and rape, especially in impoverished countries? And do you know how expensive the medication is to treat this disease? Poor nations can not afford treatment, or birth control. AIDS reinforces the cycle of poverty. And this was their inherited legacy. HIV/AIDS. Poverty. Pain. Loss. Suffering.

People such as Bono and World Vision (and there are LOTS more) are some of my heroes. My own mother is a “Child Ambassador” who goes around getting people to sponsor children in poverty. I think of that, and I feel like I’m a descendent of Martin Luther King JR or something. I am one proud child. These heroes of mine are combating such stigmas... they are tasting the tears of love and brokenness and letting it change them. Lets face it, we need more of them. Will YOU be one? I sure would like to be. But I have to say that until you enter into the pain and hurt and love, these statistics will not change your mind or your life. You have to know someone. You have to love. You have to risk something. Maybe… just your heart. 

Brave Heart had been tested. His test came back negative. But as for his brother…we didn't know. The next week-and-a-half were some of the most emotional days of my life. We were waiting for his test results. I went through every scenario:

He’s got it. We don’t bring him home. His parents don’t have the money to pay for antiviral drugs. He dies by the age of two. (That is the plight of most born with this disease in Africa). “Mommy?” Brave Heart asks, “Did I have any brothers or sisters in Africa?”

He has it. We take him home. He doesn’t do well with the drugs. He dies by the age of two. Heartbreak. Loss of our child. Devastation.

He has it. We take him home. We treat him. It goes good, very good. He lives a long, wonderful life, but he still carries this term, “HIV”. What does that look like? Will his gym teachers treat him any differently? Could he play sports? How about when I drop him off at a friend’s house? Will I have to tell them? Will he be treated as an outcast? What if he gets cut? What if his brother touches his blood? What if I do? Do you know how many times little boys skin their knees?

Every day that week I drove an hour to that coffee shop that went under... and cried the entire time. But I already knew what we were gonna do. It was in me. Deep in me. And it was in my husband too. Why is it that during some of the most difficult times of life, when your heart breaks at the thought of a wild flower blowing in the wind… that you feel this thick presence around you the most? This presence is so other-worldy that it takes your breath away. Some scholarly people call it the “numinous”, the awe-inspiring and wonder-evoking “holy”. And you feel like even though your heart is falling to pieces, like you are actually a pile of crumbs on the floor, that you feel most alive? Why is that? I don’t know. And sometimes not. Sometimes the hurt and pain is so deep… and no light comes into that darkness.

I was reading the other day this beautiful memoir of Mother Theresa’s life. Did you know that most of her time spent loving and caring for the dying people in the gutters of Calcutta that she cried out for God’s presence and He was no where to be found? Why? …Why???? I can only conclude that the more saintly you are… the less you feel God’s presence. I, obviously…. not that saintly. And I can also conclude that I know only a speck of a speck about the mystery of the numinous, the mystery of God.

My husband and I spent those nights snuggled next to each other staring into the fire in the wood stove. I don’t think it was an option to back down… at least that’s how we felt. So we called our Agency and said, “Listen. We don’t care his status. He’s ours.”
                                                             CHAPTER 2

About two weeks later, we boarded a plane. “Ethiopian Airlines” it was called. It was one week before Christmas. We were going to bring home at least one child. We really hoped for a miracle that we would return home with two! (What a Christmas present right? I could picture it now… our entire family awaiting our arrival on Christmas Day in the airport terminal and they see us holding not one… but two… yes, two beautiful baby boys!) But our agency told us it was basically impossible. Impossible with a capital I.

So, our flight over was pretty uneventful… except for the fact that our plane was struck by lightning TWICE on our descent into Rome. Yup. Thought that was it. BOOM. Life is OVER. But it wasn’t. The pilot kindly dropped the plane to get out of the storm. AND NEVER TOLD US HE WAS DOING SO!! So we REALLY thought we were a gonners! But we landed . I felt like I needed to vomit. But other than that… uneventful. (Did you know that happens quite a bit? Had I known… I would have rowed a boat to Ethiopia.)

I could go on in detail about our first time to Ethiopia. But instead… I’ll tell you how I felt. I felt shallow and as far-removed from reality and struggle as a person who lived all day dancing with unicorns, eating lollipops and chasing rainbows. I thought about how I had lived days and days of my life thinking about such trivial things… like what my legs looked like in certain jeans, how good I performed on the soccer field, how mad I was when people didn’t treat me right, how lame I felt with a college education and working at Starbucks. A young Ethiopian boy came up to our van with half of his face rotting off, with his hand stretched out for food or money or anything, and with a smile on his face. Here I was, thinking that I was somebody, and I just met someone who had nothing... and yet it was like watching the most noble character in an epic story. And I was the imbecile… imping my way around life with all my wants and dreams and hopes. I saw a man walking on his elbows and his knees, with no hands and no feet, using rocks as coasters… and he still had hope enough to breath.  
big 09
big 7


store 2

(All pictures above were taken by an adoptive mom who travelled to Ethiopia at the same time we did. She is a professional photographer: her website here.)

Why them? Why me? Why was I given my life? And they given theirs? Was it really “given” to them? Or did it “happen” to them? Did God cause this? (I think that is damned nonsense… and if it were true… I’d throw in the towel). Did God let it happen? Or could he not stop it from happening? And why? These are the questions that I wrestled with. For the past two years, and especially after we came home with our boys, I searched my soul and God’s. At times I said, “ To heck with you God!” At times I said, “Where are you God?” And at times I said, “I love you God”. And the next day after that, “To heck with you God again!”

And how about the moment we met Brave Heart? I felt whole. I felt unworthy. I felt like this out-of-control world was beautiful and secure. And, although I’ve never carried a baby in my womb for nine months, I think that I love that child just as much as if I had. In fact... I know it. And, if any of you even thinks that I could love someone who has my genetics MORE, well… then you just don’t know.

There was only one regret about that first moment that we held our child: I had wished that his birth mother were there in the distance watching. I wished that she could see how gently and securely my hold was, how my face beamed and how the tears rolled off my cheeks. That she could have listened to my secret thoughts of love and gratitude. And that she could hear my heart beating a promise. I would love him. WE would love him. Forever.

As Brave Heart fell asleep in my husband's arms, a woman from our adoption agency told us that our other son had just arrived today! And we could meet him!!! We stepped inside the Transition Home, a place where children stayed while they awaited their adoptive parents. He was in the Doctor’s office. He was sick. But he was so beautiful. We couldn’t pick him up. But we could look at him. He was asleep in a Nanny’s arms. And her arms were motherly and worn and strong and rich and poor and wise and full of life, strife and love. And so we watched him. Our peace-filled little gift.  

Oh, one more little thing… his HIV test was NEGATIVE.

He was not yet technically “ours” so our time with him was limited. And although we had tried to do what we could… he was not able to come home with us. So we kissed him goodbye and told him that we would be back to bring him home. We would return in 1 to 2 months when all the legal documents where in the Embassy’s hands. And although it wasn’t our dream come true, we still had our Brave Heart. And that week was a big week. It was our very first week as parents. We were all alone… halfway across the world in a country we did not know. Our first diaper change took 10 minutes, 4 hands, and 2 diapers. We were so happy our guts were smiling and our cheeks hurt.

The flight home was even more uneventful than the first. Our baby boy was apparently the best traveler in our family and slept almost all of the time. What a champ. We arrived on Christmas day and of coarse made some friends in our travels. Many of them left us teary-eyed. “Merry Christmas” took on a whole new meaning. Almost all of our extended family drove to the airport in my parents’ motor home to pick us up. Talk about a party on wheels! (Reminds me of that Chevy Chase Christmas movie). They had celebration treats, coffee, candles, Christmas music and more awaiting us. And when we glided down the escalator holding our luggage and our baby boy sound asleep in a baby carrier, we could see the feet of those who came to pick us up… then, their stomachs… and then their faces. Every one of them crying. And we were crying too. I think I could have died at that moment and really felt like I had truly lived.

The next month was one of the best, happiest, wonderfulest ( I know… that’s not a word… but I like it) months of my life. I was home being a Mommy. “Mommyhood” was a part of me that I never knew was there. And although I didn’t really know what I was doing, I was trying to love Brave Heart the best I could. And I think I was doing okay. He was an incredible little baby. We made trips to see a bunch of people. A bunch of people came to see us. And… we had the anticipation of adding to our family in just another month… a TWIN brother! It was all just magical.

Amidst the paperwork and waiting, we received a phone call one afternoon. It was our “family coordinator” from our adoption agency. She is the one who relayed any information about our child to us while we were waiting to bring him home. Wonderful and compassionate for sure. But this time, she sounded… worried.
“We want to let you know that your son has been sick. He has had brief moments of wellness, but overall, he has remained sick since you saw him. He hasn’t gained weight. He hasn’t been eating. And he now has been diagnosed with severe Pneumonia. He isn’t breathing well. He is on oxygen and IV.” I was holding Brave Heart. After I hung up, I sat on the kitchen floor and buried my head into his little body, “hold on little one… We’re gonna come get you.”

We waited for another phone call. And it came. He was not responding to the treatment. And so they had brought him to the hospital. Hopefully the doctors there would know what to do. We waited. One day. Two days. We called our family coordinator. Any news? No word. It seems that the Internet connection in Ethiopia goes down a lot. (Actually, when we were there… the power for the entire city would go out unexpectedly. For hours.) Our agency kept trying to reach their offices in Ethiopia. Nothing. Day three. Day four. Day five.

Brave Heart must have thought he had lost his mother. Every time I looked at him or held him I would turn into a blubbering mess. I was very, very, very sad in the day. And at night, I was very, very, very scared. Scared that we had done the wrong thing… should we have stayed a month in Ethiopia while we waited for his adoption to be finalized? Is he gonna make it with no Mommy or Daddy to hold him? Did we do the right thing in saying “yes” to take him? If we said “no”, would he still be healthy in the arms of his mother now? Would someone have to tell his mother that while she gave him up so that he could have a life with his brother, a life that maybe longer, a life without hunger, a life with healthy parents… that he died waiting for a family?

The one thing that was of any comfort during these 5 days was that people were praying. And that although we could not do a thing to help him, people everywhere were lifting up love and prayer. Now, does prayer always work? No. I prayed long and hard for one of my best friends in college to beat a horrible cancer. And it took her life. And she’s gone now. But did I still feel the need to pray? Yes. It’s like C.S. Lewis said, “When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

We had the earliest departure tickets on hold to fly to be with him. Maybe a mother and father’s touch would be enough to give him hope. And right before we booked these tickets, we got another call. We finally had news! And it was GOOD news! He was responding to treatment! I sat on the floor with my arms around my knees, rocking back and forth like a little child. And cried. And cried. Thank you…. Thank you.  

I’m not sure what exactly got the little guy through. Was it the love of the Nannies in the orphanage? Was it the love of all the people who were thinking and praying for him? Was it the doctors? Was it his strong little heart? Was it God? Maybe all of these things? I don’t know. I’ve come to believe that there are some things we can know. And others are a mystery. To me, God is "the still, small voice" that you hear while you are on the mountain top of joy and when you are drowning in the sea of pain. He doesn't take away all this "stuff"... this "stuff" that makes up our very existence. But He rushes over it like the wind, and He flows through it like the oceans. There is no place where His energy doesn't reach. And life here is a bit more wonderful and beautiful when we recognize Him rushing and flowing through.  

Now, I have to tell you the truth. I almost gave up on God. And in fact, I did give up on the God of my youth. The God of my youth was easily figured out. He had all the right answers, and he knew who was right, and who was wrong (which meant that I knew all the right answers, and who was right and who was wrong). But he died. Or rather, I put an end to him. ( That’s not to say that he wasn’t very real to me in the place I was at). But now He’s bigger… more of a mystery, and the world is more complex and scary and beautiful, and I think that my love for people is deeper. Trying not to judge anyone comes much easier now. When you really wrestle with the questions of life, you become a whole lot less SURE about yourself, and a whole lot more understanding of others. At least, I really hope I am.

Well, after 2 years (and more) of wrestling with God… I still believe. Now, that’s not to say that if something horrifically awful would happen to me… that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would still have faith. I don’t know. I’ve never been there. But I still do now. I’ve had these experiences that I cannot shake. And I’ve met a few of the most humble, beautiful people who love this God of love and truth. And I think of these incredible people, like Mother Theresa, Ghandi and Martin Luther King JR. who had this faith that moved mountains. ( I know… I know… a bunch of you Christians are thinking… “ahh…. Ghandi wasn’t a Christian”. People… Ghandi was filled with more truth and love than all of us “Christians” combined! And love certainly has the last word.)

Now, there are times when I really wonder what God is thinking, letting a mother of four young children die, or letting my friend die at the age of 19, or watching Africa suffer from hunger and Tsunamis destroy life. But there is something about faith that I won’t let go of. I’m not talking about blind, stupid faith. I really think that critical thinking is a must. But faith… is faith.  It is something you cannot prove. Who enjoys sitting under the weight of these unanswered questions?… I certainly don’t. Yet, we wrestle, we push, we search, we love and we ache… and in between the lines, in the sweat, in the beauty, in the struggle and in the life…. you find it. Its right…. there. 

Okay, okay… enough theology! GEEZE! On to the story! 

                                                  CHAPTER 3

So we were on our way to get our little baby boy #2! It was Valentine's Day and romance, chocolates and love making were the last things on our mind. We had to leave Brave Heart at home with our family… in the best hands… but it still felt awful. We told him that we would return home with his TWIN brother. Someone that looked just like him! Someone that he would spend the rest of his life LOVING. Someone that at times he would want to kick in the stomach, but that he won’t be able to live without. A best friend. A soul mate. HIS TWIN BROTHER!!!!

When our plane arrived in Addis Ababa, we saw wonderful, familiar faces who escorted us, helped us, translated for us, and loved us on our first trip. They felt like family now. Seriously… the intensity of moments such as these bonds you together with people who were once total strangers. As we stepped onto African ground, the aroma was wonderful. “Africa, you are starting to feel like home,” I thought.

They brought us to the Transition Home. We were told that our son was probably still in the hospital, so we would go see him there. We watched another mom meet her daughter. It was beautiful. But inside, I just really wanted to go to the hospital. Until, someone said, “Your son is here”. Normally, you have camera and video all cued up for such a meeting. But we were so caught off guard, and at that point we didn’t care if the moment was recorded or not… we just wanted the moment. We just wanted our son. But, that wonderful, saintly, adoptive mommy (mentioned earlier) followed us in with her professional camera and her professional eye (how awesome right?) and took this:

big lu pic

I look at the picture every now and then and I well up with tears. This picture paints WAY more than a thousand words. Well, one thing it doesn’t paint is the little sigh that came out of his mouth as he smiled at us. I would say that this was “love at first (well second) sight”… but its not true… we had loved him long before. We loved him when we heard, “twin”. And we’ll call him “Tender Heart”. He gives about a million kisses a day, and cries at the raise of an eye-brow.  

That week was much more intense and stressful than our first time in Ethiopia. We still did not know if we would be able to bring him home yet. His paperwork and “Embassy okay” was not final. Could we smuggle his little body on the plane? He only weighed 11.5 lbs at 7 months old. Yes… I know… some American infants are born at that weight. But he had been sick for months. He had this thing called Rickets too. It’s a vitamin D deficiency that softens the bones. How do you get it? Malnutrition. Did you know that over 50% of Ethiopians are considered malnourished? Yes. I seem to forget that fact even when I saw it first hand, and even when I experienced how hard it is to get a malnourished kid to eat “normally”. And I certainly forget it every time I go to Panera and splurge on a “bakery item for only 99 cents”. It sure is easy to forget isn’t it? God, help me not forget.

Anyways, so my husband and I lived on Balance bars and bottled water while we awaited news of our son’s “legalities”. While the other adoptive parents toured the city and country, we laid around in our hotel room, worrying about the flight home and Tender Heart’s ability to breath, worrying about his coughing, and stressing that we would be stuck there for a while. As much as we loved that Country, we wanted to be home with BOTH our sons. With this stress and diet…. where was the Metamucil when you needed it most? TMI?
Some things happened that changed our odds of getting stuck in Africa… for the better. Well, first it got bad, and then it got better. And that in and of itself is a story. So I won’t bore you. Here is the gist: Our fabulous Adoption Agency Director set us up with one of the best doctors in Ethiopia. Turns out our son might have had a hole in his esophagus. (The doctor believed this was why he was so sick for so long… he’d drink a bottle, reflux, and it would end up in his lungs. Repeat Pneumonia). And in order to find out, we needed to go to America to have some procedures done that were not available in Ethiopia. So… they “okayed” us to go home. That was the good news. The bad news was that our son might have a hole in his esophagus. A soothing thought at that moment was that that night we would be able to bring Tender Heart to our hotel room with us… he would now be ours to keep.

I don’t think my husband or I actually slept more than one hour that night. We were too busy listening to every breath Tender Heart took. But you know what? We did the same exact thing with Brave Heart. Sick baby or not, I think most parents don’t sleep very much that first night. They have this precious little life that is so fragile and so beautiful, and THEY are to watch over this little life, and shelter this little life. In those moments that you lie awake at night, listening to the awaited breath, the wind seems so frightening and the world so dangerous, but under your roof, there is safety and warmth and love. And YOU have something to do with the safety and warmth and love. And that thought puts a smile on your heart, and eventually puts you to sleep. And months later when you are woken up every 30 minutes from a screamy, crying baby… you remember that smile on your heart. Sometimes it takes a bit to remember it… but you remember it.

Well, as the story goes… we were able to bring Tender Heart home. We spent only 7 days in Ethiopia. And, not only that, but another saintly adoptive mommy brought an extra “baby” inhaler just cause she “thought she was supposed to”. So, we had more calm about boarding the plane. There were no lightning strikes. And this time, I didn’t get sick from drinking the water in Ethiopia. Did I tell you about that? It was BAD. NEVER drink the water. NEVER. (It was accidental okay??)

When we arrived home, there was a welcoming party. And the most important on the welcoming committee was his twin brother. They were finally together... after 7 months of being separated. And they knew it. Tender Heart could hardly keep his head up and his pants were kinda hanging off his skinny little legs. Have you ever seen a baby kitten fall asleep and tip over? The kitten’s head is so big in comparison to its body, that as it nods off, it tips right over. That was like Tender Heart. Brave Heart was all “Americanized” and “chunked up”. And they were smiling and talking… looking straight into each other’s eyes.

I had thought that moment coming down the escalator with Brave Heart in the airport was the best it was going to get. But in fact, it got better. That moment was better. And believe it or not, moments since have even been better than that. Simple moments. Like sneaking into their bedroom while they are asleep... laying in between their cribs and just listening to them dream. I think your heart grows over time. And with time, it can hold more love. Some days it feels like there is a whole lot of muck and selfishness and questions in my heart. And I think those days are like growing pains. Cause love comes in fierce and consuming afterwards.

I think we are all on a journey, making our way through to find this meaning of life we know has to be “out there”. William James writes in his book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience” about how all the religious traditions of the world, reduced to what they have in common, make two claims: 1) something is wrong 2) they speak of a solution to that problem. I have set out to follow this Energy, this Ultimate Reality, and Ultimate Good, and who, by knowing, I will know more of how to fix the problem, in the world, and in me. I used to think that God was someone who you had to believe in. That he was “out there somewhere” waiting for you to believe in him. And now, I think I, and all people, and everything, as in the book of Acts says, “live and move and have our being” in this mysterious God. Sometimes, we are moving closer to "really being", sometimes farther away. I believe that loving Brave Heart and Tender Heart have brought me closer.


  1. Incredible had me crying. Thank you for sharing your story...I'm excited to meet these little guys some day!

  2. Jenny,

    Absolutely painted a beautiful picture of your dreams coming true. Our God is a wonderful, amazing, and faithful God and your story is proof of that. To hear your words in depth of your experience completely made my day/night. You are an incredible woman and you and Aaron amaze me. Tears filled my eyes at so many points and I am so thankful for people like you as I don't think I could be so brave. Love you! Hope I get to meet those precious little boys someday soon!

  3. Beautifully written. Love you, Aaron AND your adorable boys. So glad to be a part of your lives :-) xo

  4. jenny.... i love it!!! i had chills and tears and just loved it!

    and it's too bad we weren't better friends when you were in the middle of all this, but i am glad we are now bffs and i get to experience this stuff with you :)

    love you!!!!

  5. Thank you everyone for your precious comments!!! Love it and love you!!!!!

  6. Jenny, I've heard of your amazing story through some mutual friends. and today I stumbled across your blog. Thank you for sharing, it's truly touched me. SO amazing. You are an inspiration with your faith, your struggles and your honesty. You and your precious family are in my prayers as you continue down this journey of love. simply beautiful.


  7. What an amazing story. Congratulations on your two amazing boys!

  8. I've just spent the last hour or so reading your blog, in tears. What a beautiful story of faith. The boys are gorgeous. I love the video. So much of what you say rings true for my husband and me. I cannot wait to meet our daughter. We too have been saved from small dreams :)

  9. Beautiful, tender, brave and full-hearted words. Keep writing from that deep heart of yours. You left a comment on a friend's blog (It's Almost Naptime) and for some reason I decided to click...even though I was going to make her blog my last for the night. So glad I visited you tonight. I am richer for it.

    Blessings from Houston,

  10. Oh Jenny...this is so beautiful. There are so many quotable Jenny quotes in there. You've challenged and moved me tonight. You've perfectly articulated the journey of an adoptive parent. Wow.

    Maybe I'll just cut and paste your story onto my blog, and just change the names.

    Loving your blog...

  11. PS three of those people up there are my friends! Party at Jenny's blog!

  12. Dear Brave Heart & Tender Heart Mommy Jenny!! Thank you for sharing your incredible journey with your sons!!! I look forward to reading your blog !!!

    God is an awesome God!

  13. beautiful, thank you for sharing your inspiring and warm story. My heart just grew

  14. Oh wow, what an inspiring and beautiful story!

  15. Oh my gosh, how the Lord works in great ways. I posted today about friends of mine who are trying to adopt their son from Ethiopia. Now I stumbled onto your blog. You write beautifully and from the heart. Your words brought tears down my face. They are blessed to have you and you are blessed to have them. Praying for y'all!

  16. Thank you Jenny!
    Your story is amazing and I love your writing! Your words flow so well! So honest! So inspirational!

  17. What a completely lovely story. Thank you for sharing. You are truly blessed to have theses two little ones.

  18. this story is beyond amazing, it's people like you that reaffirm that people at their core are good and that there is a god. thank you for being you and demonstrating so beautifully that love always wins :)

  19. oh my gosh what a wonderful story! You are such a wonderful writer, too. I can't wait to see your boys as they grow :)

  20. This is so beautiful....I definitely cried reading this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and being a wonderful example to us all.

  21. wow- what an amazing story- I cried- such beautiful moments captures.

  22. Amazing, beautiful story! And those boys! So adorable!! :)

  23. This is so wonderful you are sharing this with the world. What an amazing story. Thank you, also, for stopping by The Fowlerville Observer. I'm having a blast study the history of our little village -- it is long and varied. :)

  24. this is so so so amazing and beautifully written. thank you for sharing your story. your boys are beautiful and so adorable.
    i can't wait for the day i adopt.

  25. so i pretty much just cried through that whole thing. there may or may not be snot running down my nose. and i don't think there's anyone else in the world right now that i'd like to meet more than you and your family.

  26. This is one of the most awesome and emotional things I have read. SO inspiring, makes me want to do the same thing. You are amazing. God bless you, and your gorgeous family.

  27. Oh my goodness. I just found this. And forgot about everything around me for the past ten minutes while I read every word. I've spent time in Haiti and South Africa in the past and hope to be able to adopt someday. Your story is so inspiring and I'm so glad I found you :)

  28. I just finished reading this and cried and criiiied some more. Adoption is such a beautiful thing anyway but throw in international and TWINS and oh mercy. My heart can't take how amazing this is.

    Freckles in April

  29. Saw your comment on my blog today (thank you by the way) stopped by and found your story... It is SO amazing. I have a friend who is currently trying to adopt a baby from Ethiopia, I'm sending her your link. :) Your family is so cute, and your story is amazing.

  30. Just inspiring to know that we can help and bring hope to those around. Congratulations on such a beautiful family! I look forward to reading more from you.

  31. You and your husband are truly AMAZING people. I am sitting here bawling my eyes out while reading your beautiful story. You have a wonderful way of writing and I truly enjoy reading your stories.

    Delighted Momma

  32. this is such an amazingly beautiful story. touching, scary, happy, sad...wonderful. you also seem to, so eloquently, put into words things that i cannot about my faith. thank you so much for sharing this journey with us!!! you all are such an inspiration.

  33. Your story is amazing! You and your husband have hearts of compassion and hearts overflowing with love!

    I loved reading it and would love to start reading your blog from the very beginning! Is there anyway to see all your old post w/o hitting the "older posts" button over and over?

  34. Jenny, I loved hearing your sweet heart, how I wish we were friends!!!

    I have struggled over my 'why God' s too, for many years... Either he is a good God and isn't strong enough to stop suffering or he is a bad God and does allow it.
    Then I came to (or I should say: God brought me to) option 3. One day my 4 yr old little boy broke his airplane, and I could see that I could fix it... but he wouldn't let me, he just cried over it. Yes, the airplane was broken, but it could be fixed. I did fix it, and now my little John comes to me with any broken thing he has. Its a special bond we have now, he trusts me with the 'big' things----like his favorite toy airplane... but he didn't before.
    God does allow suffering, but He also knows that He can fix it, and we're even better than we were before we got broken.

  35. Hi Jenny. You've commented on my blog several times and I finally got around to reading your amazing story! I had to fight back tears as I read this. It's so beautiful! Can't wait to read more about you and your amazing family.

  36. I followed the comment you made about my sweet little guy to your blog and now have had the privilege of reading about your two sweet little guys!

    They are so adorable I can hardly stand it. I love the photo of you meeting tender heart. I love that you are their Mama. I love your heart.

    love love love.

    So good.

  37. I know you no longer blog here but I've read your story over 10 times in the past three years. My husband and I have recently been told we can't have our own children. I feel like the universe sends me your story over and over again in my darkest moments for a reason. Thank you.