Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We're Home!!!

It still is surreal to me, but all four of my children are tucked in their beds for the night in the same house!  (I guess it's equally surreal that I have four children, period)!

My trip for our embassy appointment and to bring Karis Lemlem home was amazing.  Never before have I so literally felt the prayers of others lifting us up before the throne of God!  Some day soon I will sit down and write out all the details of our homecoming, as they are a testimony to the greatness and faithfulness of our God!

Meanwhile, I'm recovering from jet lag and a head cold, and Mark and I are both tired from a baby that's having trouble figuring out how to sleep here. 

My sister Tricia took amazing pictures of our airport reunion.  She was hesitant to post them, as she's always considerate not to "steal my thunder" in posting things about my family before I get to. 

However, any thunder I may have is currently buried under a heap of spit-up cloths and diapers, so I told her to post away-and she did!

So, check out the homecoming party they staged for Karis Lemlem, and share our joy as she's united with her family!  It's all right here...unless you find this link well after the fact, in which case you'll have to scroll down till you get to Dec. 13!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Embassy Appt

Posted on FB Weds. morning:

"Our embassy appointment is complete!!!! As soon as we land in Chicago, lil' miss Lemlem is a citizen of the good ole US of A!!! She was a trooper through the wait, and even finally gave in and feel asleep! God is taking such good care of us through such good people! Our travel group guys have been incredibly helpful w/ carting bags and such as I go this alone w/ baby girl. And the staff here is amazing as always, covering our backs on everything. We actually made it through embassy simply by the grace of God, as we weren't informed that I needed a copy of Mark's visa from court travel-thankfully they let it slide!"

- IT girl

First Day/Night with Karis Lemlem

Posted on FB Tuesday afternoon:

"Karis Lemlem and I are here at the computer, and we could seriously use some prayer! She basically was inconsolable for the first hour we've been here. She did finally sleep for a bout 10 min, but the moment I moved, she was awake & crying again. And she doesn't like the bottle type I have for her either. But, she's mesmerized by the computer screen, so at least she's calm for the moment!"

(a few hours later.......)
"THANK YOU for praying! In hopes of distracting her, we went down to dinner, & I had over an hr. of smiles from her till she got fussy @ bedtime. We tried 4 different bottle/nipple combos-all met w/ crying. I finally just sat her up on my lap, held the bottle in front of her-she got it in her mouth herself, chugged it all sitting up, fell asleep, burped, & was (& still is!) snug in bed...all in 15 mins! Hallelujah!"

(Next morning.........)
"We had a fantastic night! She was asleep by 8:30 pm, then woke up @3:30 for her bottle, practically stayed asleep while drinking it, then went back to bed and I had to wake her up at 8 this morning! We're both smiling, happy campers this a.m. as we head out for our embassy appt...please pray that it goes smoothly!"

- IT girl

Made it to Addis!

Posted on FB late Monday evening:
"I'm safe & sound in Addis! Nearly cried w/ joy @ seeing the bassinet waiting in my room! Learned some things along the way...Frankfurt has the least efficient & most poorly laid-out airport of any I've ever seen, & the smell of German beer on the breath of those sitting next to me on the plane makes me nauseous. Other than that, it's all good. "Paperwork party" in the a.m., then to get my girl in just 12 hours!!! Finally got my contacts out, took an incredibly long, hot shower, and am ready to go horizontal for the first time in two days. Will report back tmo with my baby in tow!"

- IT girl

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bringing her home...

Well, we're finally on the final leg of this adoption process!  (Well, excluding the next 18 years of raising her...but you know what I mean)!

I am currently en route to Ethiopia to finally bring our daughter home!!!

There are so many emotions coursing through me right now...joy being prevalent, but also mixed with concern for our trip home, grief for Karis Lemlem to be losing all that she knows and is comfortable with, all layered through the normal excitement and surreal acknowledgment that we're actually having a fourth child!  In so many ways it's like giving birth...and in so many ways it's not!  It was very hard to leave Mark and the kids last night, and I came to realize that I didn't really want to leave to bring her home...I just want her magically home!  But, since that's not possible, I'll do what I have to do!

To that end, I have several specific prayer requests that I would humbly ask you to be seeking the Lord for us about.
1.  For my time in Ethiopia...that Karis Lemlem and I would have a relaxing time of bonding together, so that as she experiences the new and possibly frightening surroundings on the way home, that she would truly feel comforted by me...and that I would feel the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit that will flood through me to her.
2.  For our embassy appointment on Wednesday, that everything would go smoothly and that there are no issues in getting her travel visa issued.
3.  For our travel home...
  • For favor with the many airline attendants from whom I will need help!
  • For extra seats next to us on our flights
  • For Karis Lemlem to be healthy and to sleep well much of the time
  • For our flight connections...I have just 3 hours in Chicago to get through Customs and Immigration, hauling bags and baby and getting to our connecting flight
  • For our flight home with Mark from Pittsburgh, as we have a connecting flight in Detroit with only a 45 minute layover
4.  For our kids:  Adding a new baby to any family by any means is stressful.  Good stress, yes, but stressful all the same. Anna will especially need grace through this adjustment.  Also, she really had a difficult time when we last went to Ethiopia, and I know me being gone for yet another week will be hard for her (when it's the day before you leave and your three-year-old tells you every four minutes "I lub you, mommy," you know she's thinking about it too much...as heart-warming as it is to hear)!
5.  Pray for Mark and everyone holding down the fort at home, and for Mark's flights to meet me in PA to be safe and smooth.

We're so grateful to have so many standing with us in prayer.  I'll be posting updates throughout the week via facebook...if there's anything lengthy or incredibly noteworthy, Rebecca will post it here for those of you not on facebook! 

If you're local, we'd love to see you in Anchorage when we get in on the 12th!  One week and we'll all be home!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finish Line

I hope I don't get any details wrong in this post...because in this case, the truth is stranger than fiction.  Not strange...but remarkable, amazing, divine, out-of-this-world crazy.  And this is kind of lengthy and detailed, but I believe your heart will be blessed by what you read here!

We, admittedly, were beginning to stress about the last bit of our finances that we needed to go to our embassy appointment and bring Karis Lemlem home.  We KNEW God had provided everything we needed up to this point, just like He always has through everything.  But, when it comes down to the rubber meeting the road, it gets a bit hot!  A week out from presumably needing almost $6000, and we had not an inkling where it would come from.

The run down:
Flights for both of us:  $4000 (estimated)
Flight for Karis Lemlem: $300 (estimated)
Visa for Karis: $400
In-country costs: $1200-$1400.

As we started looking at flights, it was getting nasty...and with little flexibility due to Mark's work schedule, available flights were soon over $3000 PER PERSON.  Ugh.

That is when we made the decision for me (Wendy) to travel alone.  Save on flights. Save on in-country.  It'll be tough, but I can rally-at least that's what I told myself then!

And then God's handiwork became evident once again. 
$1000 given by a friend.
$500 given by another friend
$75 given by another friend from college.
$370 remaining in our adoption fund

Total:  $1945
My ticket AND Karis Lemlem's combined final ticket cost: $1922!!!

So, this left Karis' visa and our in-country costs.
I really felt strongly that we should do the t-shirt fundraiser...if for no other reason than I wanted them!  My sister Rebecca went to work designing, Daniel and Sarah at http://www.bluebirdscreenprinting.com/ were ready to roll on short notice, Eric digitized the design for us, and away we went!

Many friends, family members, and fellow adoption peeps rallied on the t-shirt fundraiser.  Donations and help spreading the word from friends from high school.  (I'm getting old, folks...that was 15 years ago, and I'm once again blown away by the generosity and goodness surrounding us from past to present).

In the meantime, I rec'd the new estimate on in-country costs for just me traveling:  $800-$1200.
T-shirt fundraiser results (includes many generous gifts):  $1100!!!

So, we're down to just Karis' visa ($400), and then we also got the bill for our homestudy update that we had to do last month ($324).  And it was disappointing that we now could not take any donations to the orphanages/street kids, because I could only take 2 bags...which is one for me and one for my baby girl.  Extra baggage is $200/bag.  *disappointed sigh*  We had a whole suitcase of medical supplies given by a nurse here in Anchorage, and we also had hooded sweatshirts donated by friends from church for the street kids Bisrat works with, as well as a whole tote of cloth diapers I have had in storage and tons of new plastic pants and ear thermometers bought by another friend from church for the orphanages. 

Well, last week our church treasurer called me to see if I was home b/c she was going to drop off a cash donation that had just come in.  We just missed each other from her coming by and me getting home...and there was $400 sitting in an envelope on my table.  Karis Lemlem's visa taken care of.  Just. like. that.

A week later, a family member of a friend was here and wanted to buy a t-shirt.  She left a check on the counter for it.  $300. Homestudy update bill taken care of.  Just. like. that.

At church on Sunday, I was reminded that from another friend sending a check, there was $200 in the adoption fund.  And someone else gave me $100 specifically for the orphanage donations.  And someone else gave the treasurer $100 for the same thing.  Extra baggage fees taken care of.  Just. like. that.

Of course there is the issue of having traveling money for , meals, tips for bag attendants at the airport in Addis, and emergencies....and someone else at church handed me $400 to have for travel.  Taken care of.  Just. like. that.

The only thing left in this whole process is our post-placement visits (follow up with the social worker who did our homestudy) and readoption fees.  Could run anywhere from $600-$1500, depending on what our homestudy agency charges.

Between today and yesterday, we received another $650 total from friends and family. 
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure our post placement costs will run us about $650. 

I hope you have read in amazement what God has done for us.  We are in awe of how mighty our God is.  We are completely humbled by how he has chosen to bless us.  I can hardly wait to see what the Lord is going to do in the life of our baby girl, who is really HIS baby girl...it's surely going to be something great with all that he has done in her life in six short months!  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." Jeremiah 1:5

"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Ps. 40:5

"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Ps. 54:4

"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your words and consider all your mighty deeds."  Ps. 77:11-12

"Declare His glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." Ps. 96:3

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Embassy Date!!!

We are so grateful to finally have a concrete embassy date...December 8th!!!
While we are disappointed that we won't be able to bring Karis Lemlem home for Thanksgiving, we're so thankful that we'll be home in plenty of time for Christmas-in 25 days, we will all be under one roof!  Plus her health has improved tremendously, so we're relieved of that!

Logistically and financially, the December 8th date is working so much better than if we left this week!  Although our plan isn't entirely what we had hoped for, it will still work reasonably well (though don't ask me how well it's working 10 hours into our flight...you might not get the same answer)! 

There were several issues to work around.  One is Mark's work schedule.  While he's allowed to take the time off, he still needs to service all of his stores, and would have to make it up...meaning a double load after our trip.  Also, our flights were going to be over $3000 each.  So, we were trying to use our airline miles to at least get to the east coast, which would make the international leg that much cheaper.  But, in trying for Thanksgiving week, it was no surprise that there were no flights available.  Now, we can use our miles!

At this point, I  (Wendy) will leave very early a.m. on Dec. 5th, which will get me into Addis at 2:20 a.m. on the 7th.  After a (hopefully) good hard sleep, I'll be off to the Transition House to bring Karis out of the orphanage for good and forever!!!  That would be 20 days from now, in case you weren't counting! :)

Mark will fly out on the morning of the 10th, getting into Pittsburgh late that night.  Karis Lemlem and I will fly out late Friday night and get into Pittsburgh the night of the 11th.  We'll have a few precious hours with Mark's parents, brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and anyone else who blesses up by showing up!  Then we leave Pittsburgh at 6:30 the next morning, and arrive in Anchorage at 2:30 p.m!  While we're disappointed to not have more time in Pittsburgh, it still absolutely boggles my mind that it worked out at all, and that Mark's whole trip and my trip from Pitts to Anchorage is all free with miles!

There are still a few financial variables, like the in-country cost (which should be much less now for just one person), & Karis Lemlem's ticket (international flights still charge even for a lap infant), but we know it's going to be much more manageable and we won't need to sell nearly as many shirts!  But please keep spreading the word about our t-shirt fundraiser, and thank you to every one who has ordered so far!  At this point, we're just about giddy with excitement that we are THIS CLOSE and GETTING CLOSER to bringing that baby girl HOME!  We're as happy as she looks!