3 years

It’s been three years.

three years

Three years ago today, after much soul-searching and prayer, much talking to and gleaning advice from others who have traveled the road to adoption, Jay and I sent in our first $50 payment and “pre-application” to Gladney to officially begin the adoption process. I think it’s safe to say that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Well, maybe some idea…but the year and half long process we, and all the other families who applied with us anticipated (with good reason – because at that time 18 months was the outer edge of how long the process took) has come and gone. Twice.

So far, it’s been a three year pregnancy. A very unpredictable, emotional three year pregnancy. Admittedly, there have been and still are days when we wonder if, at the end of it all, there will be a little one. The ups and downs of international adoption, and Ethiopian adoption in particular these last few years have been many.

Shortly after we began the adoption process, Jay shared a poignant post on our family blog. I loved what he had to say – he has a gift for words, and he eloquently and earnestly shared our heart as we began our adoption journey. Remembering the way God so clearly and kindly laid a desire for a little girl we’d never met on both our hearts at the same time has been something that has sustained and encouraged us during these past three years. The only thing I’d change today about Jay’s wording is that we are now fairly certain that at the time he wrote this entry, our daughter-to-be was not yet born, as we’d assumed.

May God watch over and protect all the little ones around the world who wait for families to call their own.

Expecting  (originally posted May 10, 2010)

Tricia and I are expecting. We are expecting a child to be part of our family soon, a little girl who is already born, whom we don’t know yet and is living a world away. We are expecting God to provide us the means to wrap our crazy family life around this little girl and surround her with love. We are expecting God to provide us with the finances necessary to make it all happen. We’re expecting a whole lot.

I don’t think we are presuming, in the pejorative sense of making demands of God, that he would align his will with ours. More on that in a moment.

In the fall of 2009, as I soaked up portions of Isaiah over and over, I came to an overwhelming conviction that I was to become a father to someone fatherless. This built up over months, and I did what any normal guy would do who has four children and a hectic life: I kept my mouth shut and hoped the building pressure of conviction would go away. It didn’t.

It turns out Tricia was experiencing her own version of this same conviction. For her, the sense of calling began building several months before I experienced it, but she too kept quiet, rightfully believing I would think she was crazy if she brought it up with me. A few days after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, as we contemplated the carnage and our family prayed nightly for the Haitians, we finally broke our silence.

It was a bizarre conversation. “I feel like I should tell you something.” “Well, I need to tell you something as well.” “Oh, you go first.” “No, you.” “I have this crazy idea that…” “Wait, for real?!? That’s what I was going to say!” “You’re kidding!” (Long, quiet pause.) ”Huh. Does that mean we actually have to do it?”

Jesus commands us to seek first his kingdom and leave the minor stuff like food, clothing, and shelter to him. As we came face to face with a call to adopt, we discovered we don’t have a clue what its like to actually trust Jesus and obey him in this way. There is so much wisdom that says we should count the cost, be a good steward, etc. Yet we realized that in the face of a clear calling, all of that stuff was simply applied to how we obeyed, not if we obeyed.

We wanted to make the cost (financial and emotional) the criteria by which we decided if we would adopt. But how can one claim to seek first the kingdom, if concerns about food, clothing, and shelter (and college, and retirement, and comfort, and vacations, and…) are the reason you don’t obey the call of God? We’ve had offers of advice regarding the pros versus the cons of adoption, but we honestly don’t need help in that regard. We can easily make a spreadsheet that has a far larger “cons” column. But none of the items in that overwhelming list are the kingdom of God. It gets hidden behind the noise of our concerns and comfort.

We have decided to try to obey, plain and simple. It has been a staggering effort, yet we are already seeing the fruit of God blessing us. For myself, I have seen my own heart change from simply desiring to have a heart like God’s that cares for orphans in their distress, to feeling like my family has a hole in it, waiting to be filled by my daughter who is not yet with us. I did not expect this… it has blown me away. I’m the guy who was content with three children, who deals with lots of chronic pain and fatigue, and who wasn’t looking for more complexity in life. Somehow the Lord is taking that weak vessel and filling it with love for a child I don’t even know yet.

Some friends from our church home group moved to Ethiopia last year to manage the in-country side of Gladney adoptions, so we have decided to follow where the Lord has provided. We have initiated the process to adopt through Gladney from Ethiopia. We are in the very early stages, so it could be a year or more before we bring home the newest Horne.

So for the time being, we are expecting.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
~~ Isaiah 58:6-12

Where Things Are…

This past Saturday marked 27 months for us on the wait list for Little Sister.

twenty seven

Sigh.

I might, just MIGHT be struggling with a bit of a bad attitude over how freakishly LONG it is taking for us to get a referral. It occurred to me last week that even if we get a referral tomorrow, that due to waits for court and embassy, and the need to make two trips over to Ethiopia after we accept a referral, Little Sister would not likely be home before our oldest, Miss Abigail starts her freshman year of high school in August. And for some reason, that milestone is hitting me hard. Maybe because Abigail has been known to ask somewhat incredulously during these past almost 3 years of our adoption process, “Mom, my little sister IS going to be home before I’m in high school….right?” And I would laugh and say glibly, “Of course she’ll be home before then, Honey!”

Except now…she probably won’t be home before then. And I feel anything but glib about it.

But, before this post descends into a negative pity-party…I feel it bears announcing that some friends of ours are actually in Ethiopia right now to pick up and bring their precious girl home. Seeing them at Gladney with their daughter in their arms does my heart a world of good, and reminds me why we are waiting, and encourages me again to be patient in that wait.

God used a multitude of things to stir my heart and Jay’s heart to consider adoption, and one of them was my old college friend, Walker’s and his wife, Missy’s adoption journey. I invite you to enjoy a peek into their day with Bethie and I’ll leave you with this:

 

walker bethie

 

Heartbreaking

My friend and Gladney buddy, Missy, of It’s Almost Naptime, is in Ethiopia right now on her family’s first trip to meet their new daughter, a darling 25-month-old little girl whom they will spend only a few hours with this week during their visit to pass court, and then hopefully go back within a couple of months to bring home for good. Missy and her husband Walker (whom I’ve been friends with since our days at Texas A & M) got on the wait list at Gladney just three months before we did, so we’ve really appreciated being able to watch each phase of their adoption journey. I’ve loved the pictures and updates she’s sent this week as they meet their daughter, and experience Ethiopia for the first time.

As part of our trips to visit Ethiopia, we are given the opportunity to visit government orphanages and see the reality of what life is like for many of the children who are not brought into care at a Gladney or other type facility. Missy’s blog post today after their visit to an orphanage makes my heart hurt, but I want to share it, because the sad truth is that children in so many countries are brought up in these conditions. You can read Missy’s post here as well. As a side note, neither Missy’s daughter, nor our future daughter reside in government facilities like this. Instead they live in a Gladney foster care center where as much as possible, they are held and loved on and played with, and are able to develop an attachment to their caregivers. 

No pictures allowed

We went to visit the government orphanages today.
The one where they keep the babies, no cameras were allowed. So I can’t post a photograph of the police van driving up as soon as we arrived, nor the police women who jumped out of the back of it with a five day old baby girl, wrapped in swaddling clothes, who had been abandoned at a hospital. Which happens sometimes as many as five times a day, we were told.
I can’t show you a picture of the bleak room we entered where fifty or so children, all dressed exactly alike in white tshirts and blue pants, immediately surrounded us as we walked in. Have you ever thrown a piece of bread in a pond just to watch the ducks fight each other for it? Imagine that, but with toddlers, literally crawling our legs. They swarmed all of us, including my children, but we mothers were attacked the most voraciously, so desperate were they for a mother’s embrace. I can’t show you the face of one of them, a boy I think, as I held him tightly, but imagine the purest joy you’ve ever seen. Then another climbed my leg and I held one in each arm as they clung to me, burying their faces in my neck until they pulled away and laughed.
And I’m sorry I can’t show you a picture of the bright sunny small room at the top of the stairs where the walls were lined with cribs. Even if I could, you couldn’t hear what I heard, which, aside from the caretakers chatting to each other, was silence.  Except for one chubby little girl who must have been new to the orphanage and therefore still mistakenly believed that if she cried, someone might come. She sat whimpering in her crib with a confused look on her face. In the picture I can’t show you you’d see that they were all clean and had dry diapers and were fed and appeared healthy, including the newly born, yet already orphaned babies sleeping wrapped in blankets. The other three in the small room, old enough to sit or stand, just stared at us, silently. All of them curious, except for one.
I can’t show you his picture. But he was sitting up, so he must have been about eight months old. He was wearing a hot pink sweatshirt with an American label and a diaper and he had those beautiful Ethiopian almond eyes.  He did not look at us. He stared straight ahead, at nothing. I can’t show you a picture of what it looks like for tiny almond shaped eyes to be completely hopeless. I can tell you though that when I reached for him, he flinched. But as I continued to hold my arms out, he cautiously rocked his little body closer, still not looking at me. And when I picked him up he melted into my chest completely and very soon I could tell that his breathing had regulated to mine. And he felt like he was mine.
But then I had to put him down. And he cried, probably for the first time in a long time he cried, painfully cried, and I looked desperately at one of the caretakers begging her with my eyes to please, just hold him. And she did, but she almost immediately put him back in his crib. I can’t show you a picture of him banging his head against the sides of the crib in frustration. Or of the worker scooting him back and shaking her finger and fussing at him in Amharic.
Imagine him going silent again. Imagine him staring, at nothing, again.
I can’t show you a picture of the next room, which was sunny and bright, where twenty or so cribs lined the perimeter and were also paired in a line down the center, with two to four infants in each crib. You can’t see that the mattresses were raised too high for most of the children, who should have been crawling out at their ages, but weren’t. Imagine them all beautiful, perfect. Imagine half of them napping. The other half sat or laid in their cribs, empty except for their tiny bodies. No toys. Most of them were under one year, only three seemed older than that. Twin little girls were in one crib who may have been two. One little girl seemed at least three, and she sat in her crib, making no noise, just smiling shyly, on the too-high mattress.
I can’t show you a photo of my son, my firstborn, going from crib to crib, tickling, hugging, kissing, playing patty cake with each baby, just as had been done to him every day of his infancy. I can’t show you how their eyes lit up as he bent his blond head over them and gave them each a nickname: Smiley, Cutie, Jailbreak. How they tried to sit up and reach out their little brown hands to touch him. How they drooled and smiled toothless smiles at him. How their coos and giggles broke the silence in the room of fifty babies. How when he left them, they looked disappointed, but not surprised.

 

I’m sorry, but I can’t show you any pictures of this because the government wouldn’t let us take any photographs.

24 months!

Today marks 24 months on the wait list.

Or, if you prefer smaller numbers, 2 years on the wait list.

Which is another way of saying today marks two years since we became what is known as “dossier ready” in the adoption world, ie: our dossier was complete and logged in with the powers that be in Ethiopia. Since that time we have been legally eligible to receive a referral for a little girl who will, Lord willing, some day join our family. We began our process closer to three years ago, but have chosen to keep track of the official dossier-ready date since that is more common among our friends and acquaintances who are in the middle of or have completed the adoption process.

Tonight Abigail and I had the radio on while we drove home. I wasn’t listening all that closely but my ears perked up when the strains of a familiar Christmas tune began. How could that be? It’s only November 16th, and Thanksgiving is almost a full week away. Shocked that this radio station should commit the egregious sin of playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving week has even begun, I tried to change the channel, but Abigail insisted that she loves Christmas music and couldn’t I please just keep it on for her sake? I grumbled and muttered something about people who insist upon running all the holidays together, blah blah blah but eventually I joined my daughter in belting out a few Christmas tunes and we had a jolly time singing together.

And then it happened. After “Do You Hear What I Hear” finished playing, the station that doesn’t know you’re not supposed to play Christmas music till it’s Christmastime played the song that was performed back in 1984 by a collaboration of British artists known as “BandAid” (including Bono, David Bowie, and Sting plus many others) for the purpose of helping to raise awareness of the terrible famine that was impacting Ethiopia at the time. The performance brought in millions of dollars of aid and the song has become so popular that you’ll hear it over and over again on your local radio stations around the Christmas holiday. And, as I learned today, even well before the holiday. So be it.

The song is called “Do They Know It’s Christmastime” and ok, sure, it’s not the most amazing prose ever crafted, but it was written with Ethiopia’s children in mind so it hit home pretty hard on this, our two year anniversary of officially waiting for Little Sister. And I realized that wherever she is right now, and whatever loss or tragedy she has suffered in her short life so far, she doesn’t yet know she is loved and wanted and yearned for by a family around the globe who wonders how many more months it will be till we see her little face and know who she is. And even if we get a referral tomorrow (which we won’t because I’m pretty sure Gladney doesn’t give referrals out on the weekends) there is no way she’d be home in time this year to spend Christmas with us, here in our home, as part of our family. All of this came in a rush at me while Bono sang his heart out about Ethiopia and I began sobbing and crying for this little girl whom we have spent years journeying to, but whom we have not yet reached.

And now, if I were a great writer, I would pen a paragraph here which ties all this up into some tidy and finished package, bringing in the unmistakable comparison about how we weren’t even aware of God’s love and care for us, or our need for His grace and love, and yet He pursued us passionately and at great cost to Himself. With an undying, unfailing, never giving up, never stopping love. But I don’t feel any compulsion to present you with a neat package or a beautifully crafted ending. Because adoption is not neat or tidy and because we don’t yet know how this story turns out.

And so for now, we continue to wait. And to pray. To love this little girl we haven’t yet met or even seen a picture of. And to trust God for what lies ahead for her and for our family, for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

23 Months Waiting

Today marks 23 months since we first got on the wait list with Gladney.

The wait has been hard, hard, hard these past few months…but we are encouraged to see families continue to receive referrals, slow though they are. We know that things are slow because our agency is working harder and longer than ever before to ensure that children’s documents are put together properly, and that these little ones’ cases and histories are investigated thoroughly and honestly before families are presented with referrals. This is comforting…especially given recent allegations of fraud and corruption in the adoption world. Hang in there, sweet baby girl…we hope it won’t be too much longer!!

Blog?

For 5 months I’ve been MIA on this blog. I’ve considered shutting it down, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. Yet it also would seem I can’t bring myself to sit down and actually write anything, whether of substance…or not! This weekend, I am sick: fever, coughing, and generally just feeling crummy. Given how I feel, the idea of housework is unthinkable. I’d curl up with a good book, but my head hurts too much to read.  Even food holds little appeal. So, I thought I’d try a little blogging…here’s a bit of what’s happening here at House of Horne.

We’ve been remodeling our kitchen…whew, what an experience this has been. Maybe some day I’ll write about it. Maybe someday…it will even be done. Very thankful we’ve been able to do this…but there have definitely been days that didn’t merit any Saturday night fever poses.

We are well into our second consecutive (4th overall) year of homeschooling, and I can honestly say that we are loving it. It’s not without its challenges — I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it is sometimes very hard, but the kids are thriving and I am appreciating this time with them more than I ever have.

My baby just turned 7. Oh my heart. What a joy he continues to be…but can anyone tell me: how do the years fly by so fast?

That adoption we used to blog about?  Yeah, it’s still very much in the works…I find that many people don’t even ask us about it anymore b/c they assume perhaps we gave up or abandoned the process or something. That’s ok, I understand….and I know folks mean well. The process has certainly stretched out way beyond any timeline I ever imagined when we began this journey. I suppose we Hornes continue to learn that we don’t get to choose how life happens…and I have enough (nowhere near as much as I’d like, but just barely enough) faith to believe that things would not be better were I in charge. No. way. I hope maybe in the not too distant future that we’ll have news to share on this front.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a tv date with this beautiful girl — just the girl, not the horse —

to watch some Wives and Daughters. Hat tip to Aunt Jennifer for the suggestion!! :-)

A Year and a Half

Yesterday marked 18 months on the waitlist for us….

Referrals have slowed to an average of about 2 per month these days. Those of you asking how much longer…well, we are around #36 on the wait list, give or take.

Not a whole lot more to say.

17 Months on the Wait List

Wow.

I never, ever thought I’d be writing a post with this title.

Today marks exactly 17 months that we have been on the Gladney list of families who await a referral for the child/children we will be matched to for adoption.

Given the date, it seems rather fitting that just this morning, a social worker from Gladney visited us in our home to perform the required update to our Home Study. Each 18 months the home study must be briefly updated to reflect any changes in the family/home. (Our changes by the way were rather boring overall: in the 18 months since our last home study, we have added two little rabbits to the household, and Jay and I have each turned 40.) I HOPE that our adoption process will not stretch out so much longer that we will need to have yet another update before our daughter is home, unless we, for some reason end up moving houses. But…I just don’t know.

When we began this process just a little over 2 years ago, the average wait time after all your paperwork was complete to referral was 9 months. The process has lengthened considerably now and there really is no “predictable” average wait time anymore. The best guess as to how much longer we will wait for our referral is, conservatively, a year from now. Even my 6 year-old can do the math on how many months of waiting that will be, but it is too sad to me to type that number out here. Perhaps (I HOPE!) it will be sooner than that, but realistically speaking, that’s what it looks like today.

Increased wait times are mostly due to increased scrutiny in Ethiopia into the adoption process. Much more information and paperwork are being required by the Ethiopian government to go along with each adoption case, particularly relating to investigation into each child’s background prior to them being cleared for adoption. All of this takes more time and manpower, and as a result, far fewer referrals can be given out each month.

After our referral, we wait for a court date, which is scheduled at about 3 months after referral. We make a first trip to Ethiopia for that court date, and that is when we will finally get to meet our daughter (we can’t wait!!). However, we are not cleared to bring her home till after waiting another couple of months for an Embassy date — basically, for her visa to be ready. Right now, the estimated time from referral till a family brings their new son or daughter home is about six months. It could be less, but it could be more.

If all this sounds incredibly long, well, that’s because it is incredibly long!! And yes, it is hard, hard, hard. But as hard as this wait is for us here, I know for certain that the increased wait times are much harder on the children and their caregivers in Ethiopia. And the sad fact is that the longer the wait times are overall, the fewer children who are in need of families will ultimately come home and be welcomed into a family, their family. That makes my heart hurt incredibly.

I have been horrible about updating this blog. Truly, life is full, things are busy, and the fact is that most of us find it simpler to type out a quick little status update on Facebook than to sit down and write a blog post that hardly anyone is going to read anyway. I hope to blog more in the future, if only because in the past, I have so appreciated the account here of our family’s growth and change. Perhaps in the coming months, I will have the joy of blogging about our newest family member, a little girl whom we do not yet know, but who is very real to each of us as we think of her and pray for her daily. She has a place in each of our hearts, and we feel so privileged to wait for her.

May God be with all of those who wait, the children and the families. May He comfort those who mourn, be close to those who are brokenhearted, and place the lonely in families.

We Interrupt the Thankful Posts…For a Little Update (One Year Waiting…)

Last night as our family gathered to pray together we spoke about how today, November 16, 2011 was going to mark a year’s time on Gladney’s wait list, waiting to be matched with a child we don’t know yet but are already in love with, if that makes any sense. A baby girl whom we pray for, and hope for, whose face we have not seen, whose story we don’t yet know. A tiny girl a world away whom we look forward to joining our family someday. But who, until she does, has become known around our home simply as “Little Sister”. Last night some tears were shed as we realized a full year of being on the wait list had gone by, and that we are still here, still waiting, not completely sure how or when this process will ultimately play out.

Reaching the one year mark on the wait list was never really on anyone’s mind until the recent slowdown and changes in process in Ethiopia, and subsequent delays in referrals, court processing, and Embassy approvals for many adoptions. When we began the process with Gladney back in April of 2010 the timeline for an Ethiopian adoption was very different than it is now. Once we achieved the monumental milestone of being approved to adopt, and having our dossier reach Ethiopia in mid-November of 2010, we felt pretty confident that we’d be celebrating this 2011 Thanksgiving and Christmas with another little Horne around our table. Of course that has not happened, and we continue to wait. To hope. And to pray.

That God has his hand upon this little girl, wherever she is. That He is being her provider, since we cannot yet be. That He is loving her and giving her comfort, since that is not yet ours to give.

And truly, while we wait, we see God’s hand and mercy upon our family in ways we did not imagine. While I am not saying that I think it’s good for children who are orphaned to have to wait longer for families, I do believe that God has given us the blessing of knowing the wait has been fruitful for our family, and I am grateful for that. I have had the privilege of watching my children become a little more aware of the plight of millions of orphans around the world. I have seen their eyes shed tears over the pain so many kids their own age face on a daily basis. I have seen them grow in compassion. I have seen their hearts become a little more tender to the things that truly matter in this world. Oh sure, they are still normal, selfish kids — aren’t we all?? Who wallow in wealth and struggle with contentment despite having so much — don’t we all?? Who complain mightily about the blessings they enjoy freely — and yes, I could be writing these lines about myself and not my children…but isn’t that the point?

I have to believe that wherever our daughter is, and whatever circumstances she is in, that at this time, our stories are not ready to cross paths. But that when it is time, that God will orchestrate events beautifully, and we will know with certainty that His timing is perfect. We really, really look forward to the day that we will finally get to see her face, to hear her story. To welcome her into our family and to shower her with all the love we know how to give. All the faith in the world doesn’t mean the waiting isn’t hard…it is hard. And it may get harder before we are all done.

I said I was interrupting the Thankful Posts and I am. But today, I want to leave you with this picture that came across my Google feed after a recent search on the text “In everything give thanks…”. This little boy actually resides not in Ethiopia, but in Zimbabwe. I cannot get this picture out of my head. Nor can I think of a more appropriate reminder for me and my family as we contemplate what it is to give thanks.