milestones and uncertainties

On February 12, our little boy had his first birthday. I’ll be honest, it was the passing of another day we hoped we’d be there by. Christmas. Tim’s birthday. Daniel’s birthday. But we celebrated him from afar, pulling some cake out of the freezer, singing a “beautiful” (ahem) rendition of Happy Birthday, and blowing out a single candle. The cake was sort of like this waiting game: getting old. (Don’t worry, we’ll get him a fresh cake for birthday #2.) All the same, join us in wishing a big Happy Birthday to a little guy in Ethiopia! It’s so beautiful to see this little boy move from scary beginnings to being a super chubby, smiling one year old. And seriously, he is SUPER chubby, with bright eyes, and hair that perpetually looks like a mohawk. It’s amazing.

The politics in Ethiopia continue to shift, and the messages we get remain mixed. The State Department still says only cases with the November 8 approval will go through. Our agency says they are already seeing families who didn’t meet that deadline get travel dates. Last week, we spent Wednesday afternoon on a conference call about travel details, as our agency tries to prepare families in groups, in case the final cases are approved in rapid succession. Two days later, we were reading the news that the Ethiopian Prime Minister resigned, and that the government has declared a state of emergency. While travel in some regions is riskier during this time of upheaval, we are assured that the situation in the capital (where Daniel is) remains safe. So, basically things continue to be totally predictable 🙂 We’re choosing to focus on the positive source of information; Our agency thinks we will be traveling in the next month.

For now, the waiting feels hour by hour, minute by minute, rather than day by day. I told Tim today that I know I’ll still be totally stressed in the next phase—I mean, I’m not delusional enough to think that we are just waiting to transition to rainbows and ponies. Hello, international travel and parenthood! Still, it will be a different kind of stress, and we’re just antsy to step out of the waiting room and into the fray.












letters from the waiting room

In case we haven’t mentioned it before now, adoption involves a lot of waiting. Wait for your application to be accepted. Wait for your home study to be completed. Wait for about a million pieces of paperwork to be approved. Wait to be matched with the right child. Wait for courts and embassies to determine that you can indeed be a match. Wait for a court date. And while you are waiting, wait each month for a new picture, a health update, anything.


Then you add in the volatility of governments, and you wait some more, for any kind of word about whether you should be buying plane tickets or investing in enough ice cream to get you through the realization that all the waiting was for naught. Since the Ethiopian government officially passed legislation to end inter-country adoptions, there has been little word from agencies. Crickets, really. This is understandable, as they are scrambling to get as many in-progress cases through as possible before any more doors get slammed. They are working hard to make sure some of these kiddos still get homes, so I tip my hat to them in these days. Those that are on the ground in Ethiopia have to continually look at little faces who may spend their entire lives in an orphanage if something doesn’t change. I can’t even imagine.


I can safely say that this most recent stage of waiting has been the worst for me (Katie). I know we don’t actually have a home phone, but if we did, I’d be struggling not to set up camp next to it, wasting hours just sitting, listening, waiting. As I have said before, it feels like holding our breath all the time. It’s become clearer and clearer to me that I don’t do this kind of waiting well. I’m struggling intensely to be able to focus on the work that I need so badly to chip away at. It’s frustrating and discouraging, to be honest.


For me,  last week also held another kind of waiting. I flew to California just in time to be present for the last few days of my grandmother’s life. I had so hoped that we’d be able to introduce Daniel to his amazing great-grandmother, but that was not to be. It was a first for me, just sitting in a room with family, holding her hand, knowing what was coming. Waiting. I was so glad to be with family, but I couldn’t help but think about Tim, who was continuing our waiting for word about Daniel in a quiet house with no one there to distract him. He’s a rock star, being so hugely supportive as I needed to be away, even when it left him holding his breath alone. Daniel has no idea what a cool dad is standing at the ready to hop a plane to Africa.


This is a bit rambly, I know, but it’s the check-in we have to offer for now. We are waiting. We might be on a plane in a few weeks. We might be eating ice cream. Or we might still be waiting. Either way, we’ll let you know 🙂

Some hope, some fear

As with our adoption journey in general, this week has been full of ups and downs. We have some new hope, but also some renewed fear. …and we’re still hanging in the balance, not knowing what the future holds.

We received multiple emails this week:

First, there was the email at midnight, Tuesday night. This email informed us that our I-604 investigation had been completed in Ethiopia. The results of the investigation come from the review into whether Daniel meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law. The results are sent to the National Benefits Center (NBC), who, essentially, give us a thumbs up or thumbs down. (We’re assuming it’s a thumbs up… but we should know with 10-15 business days). This email was good news. This is one of the last steps, we hoped.

Second, there was the email Wednesday morning. This email informed us that the Ethiopian government had passed law to ban international adoptions. This is very bad news. Not only for us, but for the thousands of children growing up in orphanages (at best) in Ethiopia. The one sliver of hope that we have is that our adoption agency seems to think that any cases already submitted to court will proceed. That would be good news (for us). Our case was submitted to the courts in October. So, we hope and pray that the cases already submitted to court will proceed.

Finally, there was the email Thursday evening. This email, from our adoption agency, said that since we’re just waiting on MOWA (on the Ethiopian side of the process), we can start going over any travel questions we might have. They included their travel booklet, which includes things like recommended in-country drivers, hotels, procedures for going to the US embassy in Ethiopia, questions we may get from the judge, etc. This was very exciting – to be thinking about actually traveling to meet and pick up our son. This is also terrifying – because what if it all falls through at the last minute?

Over the last few days I’ve found myself crying a bit. Sometimes with joy, because I think I might get to meet my son soon; sometimes with sadness, because I fear he might be taken from me right at the end.


Every time I read through the Torah, I am struck by the emphasis on remembering. God admonishes Israel again and again to remember what God has done. This intentional remembering is meant to ground Israel both in times of prosperity and in times of trial. When you are prosperous, God says, “be careful that you don’t forget” that it was I that provided for you. And when you stand at the edge of what seem like impossible or just discouraging odds, be sure to remember that I’ve superseded the odds many times before.  The reminder to actively remember comes so many times that it’s clear God knows how unfailingly forgetful the Israelites—and we—can be. And so the Israelites are commanded to tell and retell the stories to their children and one another, making active memory a part of their daily lives. As a person of faith, facing discouraging odds, I’ve been particularly challenged by this lately. It’s easy to sit in the silence of waiting for news and forget. It’s hard to invest energy into active memory, but we need it. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you some stories (each has a lot more detail, but for the sake of your eyes, I’ll hit the main points). If this looks excessively long, feel free to skip to the end 🙂


There was the time many years ago (I was a sophomore in college) when unforeseen circumstances completely emptied my college account. As I walked down a hallway in Thurmond Hall, a moment I can still picture in my mind, I sensed clearly that I was not supposed to apply for loans, that there was something better in store. It might as well have been an audible voice at that moment. Shortly thereafter, a mentor from home contacted me to let me know that an anonymous donor wanted to cover whatever was missing in my funding. This person, who is still anonymous to me 20 years later, covered those gaps every semester until I graduated and allowed me to finish college debt free.


There was the time when I was entering my last few months of living in Hawaii and so badly needed some joy. Despite incredible students and some beautiful friends, my year there had knocked me to my knees and worn me thinner than I know how to describe. The summer weeks ahead (in a house emptied of those students) looked dismal and long, and I prayed desperately for encouragement. Totally unexpectedly (to me), some folks came over from the mainland to do ministry, just for those summer weeks. The connection was immediate, and those final weeks were among the best I had in Hawaii. By the time I left, I wished I could stay.


There was the time when I was working at a homeless shelter, and though I loved my clients, I was exhausted and unhappy, and I longed to return to the kids I had spent the previous couple years working with. I had committed to remain at the shelter for several years though, and didn’t feel free to leave after only a year. It also seemed unwise, since I didn’t exactly have a new job waiting for me if I did move and this one paid well. I talked to my boss about how we could at least make some changes to my role, and when he called me in to talk it over once more, he told me he had been praying about it as well. “Let me tell you what I feel like God has said to me,” he said. “I believe that we are robbing those kids of you, and that you need to feel the freedom to go. Also, you need to not worry about not having a job lined up.” I was back with those kids two months later. (I also met Tim before I had even unpacked my car.)


There was the time when Tim and I took a trip to Cairo, IL, carrying a literal jar of money, and crazy weather forced us out of our tent and into a motel room we couldn’t really afford. Feeling totally discouraged the next day and trying to decide if we could pull off another night, we sort of ambled through our day and ended up visiting a small church. As we drove away after the service, an older man ran toward our car (we were a tad confused by the scene), and out of the blue asked if we’d like to stay at the church for a couple of nights. Later that evening, when a man came to show us around the building, he handed us an envelope. The church had taken up an offering. It was almost exactly the amount we had paid for our motel the night before.


There was the time that my computer completely died totally unexpectedly, days before I was to start my qualifying exam (a two-week take home test). A new computer was not exactly in the budget, but wasn’t really optional for me as a PhD student. Through circumstances we could never have guessed at, both of us separately reminded of the same verse about refusing worry, God provided a new computer within days, completely free. The new computer was also much lighter, alleviating some of the back pain I was experiencing from carrying the previous digi-brick around.


There was the time that we had been trying for months to find a way to move from Lexington to Harrodsburg, hoping to break the stress and exhaustion the distance had caused for several months. We were fried. One morning I felt challenged to pray more specifically, and so with a touch of trepidation, I said, “God, we really need you to give us a place to live in Harrodsburg…today.” By 7:00 that evening, we had an apartment, ready for almost immediate move-in. The stress reduction that followed was beyond what we could have expected. We could breathe again.


And of course, there was that time we found out that there was a little boy in Ethiopia who could be our son, but we needed $20,000 in one week in order to make it happen. If you’ve been following this blog, you know how that one turned out 🙂


I could go on and on with these stories, but you get the idea. “Be careful that you don’t forget,” God tells his people. I have no idea what lies ahead for us in this season. I don’t know what lies ahead for Daniel, and that breaks my heart many days. But as I tell and retell these stories, I remember that we have been cared for again and again and again when the outlook seemed dismal or the odds overwhelming. In these days of holding our breath, of feeling exhausted and irritated by uncertainty, that’s enough to hold me up.



Hanging in Midair

The phone call with the Department of State (DOS) today went about an hour long, and we did get a lot of helpful details filled in. In a time when it can be hard to feel positive about government, I have to give a shout-out to the DOS for holding such a conference call and graciously answering questions from families and stake-holders (as well as offering to answer more via email). Their concern for the situation in which families like ours find ourselves felt genuine.

Though the DOS is still awaiting confirmation, news sources in Ethiopia are reporting that the legislation to end inter country adoptions officially passed Parliament today. Our adoption agency seems more hesitant on that piece of information, stating that it hadn’t even officially been proposed as far as they know. Hopefully we can get that cleared up in the next couple of days. (The abundance of conflicting information only makes this time harder for us.) Anyway, if the legislation HAS passed, the issue becomes solely about which cases will be allowed to come to completion, and which ones simply missed the cut off. It sounds like the meeting where the I-604 line (which, again, we haven’t reached) was drawn was already incredibly tense, and that even that line was a hard-fought concession. In coming days, the DOS will be advocating for families like ours, who have been matched with a specific child (some for over a year), but haven’t had that particular document signed and sent to the embassy. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process our documents for now so that if there is any change on the Ethiopian side, they’ll be ready to go.

As Tim and I returned from finally getting ice cream tonight, I told him that it feels like we’re just holding our breath. There’s a crib down the hall. There are pictures on the mantle. And there have been a million incredible moments that point to Daniel being meant for our family. But for now, we hold our breath, and do life while hanging in midair. We’ll update you more as information comes in!



Things are so clear with government. Such efficiency. Such organization!

Said no one, ever.

While we don’t have totally definitive answers, we wanted to offer what do we know for today. First, those on the ground in Ethiopia say that any changes in the process MUST go through parliament first, and to their knowledge, the legislation hasn’t even been officially proposed yet. The impression that they have gotten at recent meetings is that the powers-that-be don’t even support the proposed legislation. Second, the I-604 is a part of the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process. This process occurs in the U.S., and according to our agency, is not directly connected to the court process in Ethiopia (though as I said, they happen concurrently). In that case, Ethiopian officials can’t dictate whether a U.S. process comes to a halt.

So basically–and this has happened multiple times on this incredibly smooth journey–no one knows what’s going on. As in, not even in the government. The Department of State has called for a conference call on Monday, which will include leaders as well as adoptive families. Pray for clarity and resolve to come out of that meeting.

A few blog posts ago, I asked that you be “partners in hope” with us. You have done that in so many ways in the last 24 hours. We are so thankful 🙂

[insert expletive of choice]

We’ve been slack in our blog updates–sorry! The lack of activity here is mostly a reflection of what the process has looked like over the last few months. Lack of activity, aka waiting. We did get a bit of progress a few weeks ago when we found out that our paperwork had officially been filed with the courts in Ethiopia. We hoped that meant impending travel, but what it really meant was another round of paperwork for us so that a concurrent process could be started with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration folks. Oh boy, do we love paperwork at this point 🙂

Then, about two weeks ago, some news that we decided not to share until we had a better idea of what it meant. Officials in Ethiopia announced that they were officially proposing legislation to end international adoptions in Ethiopia. Exceptions would be made for cases already in progress, though no one was defining what stage counted as “in progress.” We figured we’d hold off for some more clarity. And I mean, how could we not be in progress?

Today, the U.S. Department of State issued an update. Any cases that haven’t received a certain status (a signed I-604…which doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but it’s a big milestone) by today, November 8th, will not be processed. The adoptions will not be completed. The announcement moves on to suggest that those who have been matched but aren’t going to make it should start talking to agencies about what sorts of fees could be refunded.

We do not have I-604 status. Our paperwork was, perhaps, days away from being delivered to the people who start that process.

Now, our agency has people on the ground in Ethiopia. Thankfully, they are saying that this can’t be right, and that they have been in government meetings as recently as this morning which don’t match the information given by the State Department. They are baffled by the announcement. And so, they are going to dig into it and get back to us with some more information tomorrow. Hopefully, with good news.

We could wait again to say something. It’s all up in the air. But this time, we need our cheerleaders, and we need prayers from those of you who pray. And I maybe need ice cream….