100 Days of Refining

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?  For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.  Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.  Then I will draw near for judgment.  I will be a swift witness against he sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 3:2-5 ESV

We heard God’s call to the orphan more than two years ago now.  We responded, but we made every decision with an eye towards fitting God’s call into what worked best for us.  This is how we understood adoption decisions to be made:  domestic or international was about your ability to handle potential discrimination — bring it — international; country of birth was about the availability of children and the smoothness of the system — lots of orphans and refined system — Ethiopia; child preferences were about what you were already prepared to handle — we had lame insurance and wanted to preserve birth order — young and healthy.  The first step of obedience was a big step for us at that point, so I didn’t even notice the practical and reasonable way in which we approached it.

Over the course of a wait of more than a year and a half, God started to strip away a lot of what we entered with.  The job which provided the steady check to pay for the added expenses of the new baby — gone.  The house with plenty of room to accommodate the new baby — sold.  The lame insurance which limited the health challenges we could take on — replaced with no insurance then lamer insurance.  And with each step, we felt more prepared and more liberated — refined by the fact that we were ever more dependent upon the one in whom we can always rest.  And we spent less time reasoning how decisions fit into our plans in favor of simple obedience, so that as we traveled to Addis we felt closer to the face of God than we have ever felt in our lives.  When we said goodbye to Aseres, we told her we would be back real soon because we felt a heavenly wind at our back.

We have been separated from our daughter now for 100 days; the weirdest 100 days of our life — pain and mourning but joy.  Suddenly, we see the fatherless in our neighborhood and town who we used to miss on our way to “bigger” things, but the fatherless, here and there, is a single call.  We participated with a group from our church engaging at the local elementary with many children without homes, fathers or food.  As one part of a group, we provided food for them over the Christmas break when they might have gone without, tutored our new friends during the week, and provided sack lunches for them on Saturdays.  Now, we know their names and we are present for what God would have us do with them to break the generational cycle of poverty and fatherlessness.  As those in our church have been obedient to God, more and more opportunities have come and with it opportunities to share the gospel.  Some food over Christmas started a snowball which God will use to repair the breach and restore the streets.  Instead of leaving it for others at our church with more time to give, we heard God’s call and have gotten to be a part of his glory.

At work, my cases have suddenly taken on the theme of our mission.  I have new adoption cases where former orphans have found homes, I represent a widow oppressed by her neighbor, I am fighting for a client from the wrong side of the tracks who the powers that be would prefer to ignore, I am trying to protect a little boy no older than Conner from an abusive father threatening him from jail, and on.  This is not the empire of wealthy clients which I set out to build, but even my work has been refined as one act of obedience leads to another.

At home, we are closer than we have ever been.  We miss our daughter and little sister together and we grieve together.  The kids pray for Aseres every night.  Roni almost brought the roof down last night with her honesty, her inflection and the urgency of her plea “in the name of Jesus.”  There was nothing left for me to pray.  I have been looking for fruit before I agree that she is ready for baptism — now I am just waiting for the next day at the river.  Marissa and I are closer than ever and our relationship has grown as we transition from a life guessing what the others want to both pursuing the God who will provide what each of us needs.

All to say, the more God tears down what we were, the more what he builds back reveals his glory.  It is painful some times — it was at first hard to let go of the steady paycheck, the big back yard, and other luxuries.  It was at first tough to trade date nights for time sacking lunches for fatherless kids, or time watching basketball for time praying your daughter can come home.  But each time we pass through the old life and die to something we thought mattered, we emerge with less weight of burden and we are freer.  I know the things we have given up are just the beginning and that God has a lot of refining yet to do, but I don’t know if the process would have gotten such a kick-start if we had the smooth adoption we set out after or if we hadn’t endured 100 days of separation.  We pray that we don’t look back at this time as a spiritual high water mark, but one chapter in a lifetime of sanctification.  And God, we promise we will keep chasing after you, even if you decide 100 days is enough for this type of refining.

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The amazing joy of parenting from 8,000 miles

On November 30th, the judge in Addis asked who was there to be a parent to Aseres.  Marissa and I told her that we were, and Aseres became our daughter forever.  We spent the next morning with Aseres before returning home without her to wait for the US to allow her to join us.  [There has been no change on that front] Every time we meet someone who asks about our family, we tell them that we have four children because we do.  We try to avoid explaining unless they ask.  Some likely assume one of our daughters is away with friends soon to come home, and that is true.  Aseres is at a transitional home in Addis and shares a room with seven or eight kids about her age — many of whom she has known most of her life.  One little boy has shared a room with Aseres for 17 of her 18 months and is waiting to join his parents in San Antonio.

We receive monthly updates on Aseres growth and development along with pictures.  Since we returned to Texas she has mastered walking and cut some teeth we can see in the pictures.  She has begun vocalizing more but she does not say “mama” or “dada.”  It is the only “x” on her development chart, but we think she knows how to use these easiest of words and is merely reserving them for me and Maris.  She is our daughter forever and that forever started 94 days ago — all glory be to God.

I hear long waits like ours are discouraging some families from adopting or adopting from Ethiopia.  Oh what a shame that we are such a fearful people.  The walk we are on with all of its delays is the most amazing of our lives and is to be desired not avoided.  The God who spoke the world into existence and brought us out of death trusted us to walk through his rescue of a beautiful orphan from a land of kings.  God moved mountains and obstacles and rained provision to take us to her and brought favor through a foreign court of suspicion.  Now, we care and love Aseres with all of our heart.  She now has hundreds interceding to fight spirits on her behalf.  She now has parents who pray for her daily needs and her soul.  She has brothers and a sister who look to every day with giddy anticipation of coming joy.  And that is while we wait, but there is no doubt that God will bring his rescue to a conclusion.  That day is coming and it will be beautiful, and we are merely to wait.  If the wait is hard, it is only because the coming joy is amazing.  The pain is daily broadening the bounds of the joy, and God will bind up our pain and build upon it and use it to advance his kingdom.  There is no better time in a  day than when I am brought to tears for my daughter.  God has compassion on her and I get to be an earthly vessel to cry that compassion down so he can redirect those streams of love into her heart and bring a smile to her face in those pictures we treasure.

That is not something to avoid — it is something to run to.

Many of you have joined our story as it has gone and I don’t know who most of you are.  What I know is that there are 140 million orphans who God wants help in caring for.  I feel that God wants some who read our blog today to be his vessels of rescue.  If that might be you, we want to pray for you and connect you to resources to help you.  That God would bless you with a chance to cry in anticipation of amazing joy,

The McGlothlins  (forthecity@river-stone.org)

Pain, mourning and forgiveness — adoption is hard

Wednesday was the 63rd day since the judge granted our adoption of Aseres.  The next day, we got to share the good news with Aseres before we kissed her goodbye, told her we were going to prepare a place for her, and promised to be back for her real soon (see Going to Prepare a Place for You).  We did not allow ourselves to expect submission until December 15th, the last Thursday that gave us any potential of seeing Aseres again before the new year. We continued to pray for submission on December 22nd and December 29th, January 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th.  Each week we were all in with prayer — staying up until 1:00 a.m. which corresponded to the submission hour in Addis, and each week, we were devastated and mourned another week without our daughter.  We think every week we lose with her is gone forever, and each week we seek to put an end to her living without parents to love her and hold her and teach her.

Against that backdrop came Wednesday.  We had cleared every hurdle we knew about until my cell phone rang with an 817 area code on the caller id.  Crap, our agency contact could only be calling with bad news — otherwise it seems she would wait until the next morning.

“Hello, ——” I said with dread in my voice.  I think I even told her she could only be calling with bad news.  I was right —

An 11th hour review of the documents showed a date typo on one of the court documents which would have to be redone by the Court prior to submission.  It might be ready tomorrow in time for submission.

Might means might not.

Yes, but we don’t have reason to think the Court won’t complete it before Court closes for two weeks Friday.

But if you are mentioning the closure, that means.. I am going to just keep praying for Thursday — I can’t process the court closure…  Didn’t you have this document on November 30th, why only catch it now?  Nevermind, doesn’t matter the answer.  Please. please. please do all you can.

Every time I get off the phone with bad news, I have to let Marissa know.  It is so hard to tell her.  Marissa is already Aseres’ mom and she hurts for Aseres every moment that she is separated from her — Mom Hurts for her.  And Marissa’s expressions of hurt look like some people’s expressions of anger.  We talked, like we always do.  There was less anger which I oddly missed.  I don’t want her to put any emotional distance between her and the situation.  Even thousands of miles away, Aseres needs her mom to hurt for her like only a mom can.  When Maris acts angry, I can see that hurt and I know Aseres can feel it.  Of course, I knew it was there and she was just protecting me from it.

I had a meeting at City Hall and Owen had soccer, so I picked Roni and Connor up and took them home.  I prayed with them, put them to sleep, then poured into my bible — Isaiah, Psalms, Romans — joy, rescue, salvation, crushed, hears the cry of his people, joy comes in the morning, steadfast love, faith, frees the oppressed and protects the orphan.  Maris made it home and we watched a movie and Tebow on Fallon before praying — it’s whatever we ask right.  You called us to this.  It is your glory I will sing.  Yes, let joy come in the morning — tomorrow morning — this night has been long enough.  In Jesus name.

Thursday morning, February 2nd turned out like the six Thursdays before it.  Aseres’ file was not submitted.  I let Marissa know then hit my knees, face down in my conference chair and cried out to God.

Did I miss you in this God?  All the signs you gave us; bring this to completion, in Jesus name.  I have faith that you can but I am running short on faith that you will – forgive my unbelief.  I know you have Aseres back and will write your perfect plan upon her life; we are here for you to work through.  How long until you hear our cry?  Strengthen my marriage, strengthen my faith — strengthen them for these tests.  Reveal your glory; we have staked everything on it.  We are living this out in front of our kids as they grow in their faith and in real time before everyone — for your glory  — let them see your glory.  You created heaven and earth, who am I to know better than you, but I thought I was chasing what you wanted.  Increase my faith, wipe out my fear.  Stand in triumph over those who would keep her trapped today, in the name of Jesus.

Adoption is hard.  It stresses a marriage; it distracts you from work; it demands emotion which is unavailable for other pursuits.  It may take everything you have.  We might lose it all if this keeps going.  But God didn’t promise us an easy road; he just promised to be enough to sustain us, so we count another tear as lost without holding back any emotion the next week.  The further we get out on our rope, the closer we are to understanding how dependent on God we were all along.  We are so honored that he will work a rescue of Aseres through us.   And once he does, he will heal any emotional scar left from our wounds.  I know that; I’ve seen it.

My parents couldn’t have kids.  For years they tried but nothing.  Their friends had kids who weren’t even trying, yet they were married and ready but not them.  My mom hurt like Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel.  Finally, God led her to me, a sick orphan in foster care, and he united us when I was a little over three months.  My parents have this picture of me sleeping on my mom’s shoulder the day they picked me up.  I grew up resenting it in a weird way (see No fairy tales), because I thought their joy at that “mommy moment” was the satisfaction of some need on their part.  What I didn’t realize until I hurt like they hurt is that the fact that it satisfied a need of theirs wasn’t bad, because they didn’t make the moment — God did.  God knew my mom’s hurt, and God gave her just what she needed to heal the emotional scars.  Thank you God for using me when I was three months old and for putting me to sleep out of compassion for my mom’s hurt.  Forgive me Father, for holding that moment against them.  And God,we could use a moment of healing from your perfect grace.  We will trust in that and keep hurting for her every day until you bring this to completion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and my Cushite daughter

Today is Martin Luther King Day.  While this holiday has been observed for most of my adult life, even in Arizona, it has new meaning this year.  Aseres is from Ethiopia and is blessed with beautiful, black skin.  We will bring her home soon as our adopted child with all the same rights and privileges as Owen, Roni or Connor, but she will arrive on the same shores where Africans were brought in chains three hundred short years ago.  Greed brought Africans here as slaves and prompted millions of my ancestors to risk death in a war to keep Aseres’ ancestors in bondage (save me the states rights crap).  Even after slavery was defeated, an entire system of laws replaced it and put new chains of bondage upon the newly “freed” people.  In 1896, separate but equal rail cars (and schools) were upheld as constitutional in Plessy v. Ferguson, which kept another generation in a different sort of chains.  John Harlan (for whom Connor takes his middle name) dissented and wrote:

We boast of the freedom enjoyed by our people above all other peoples. But it is difficult to reconcile that boast with a state of the law which, practically, puts the brand of servitude and degradation upon a large class of our fellow-citizens, our equals before the law. The thin disguise of ‘equal’ accommodations for passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead any one, nor atone for the wrong this day done.

This system remained into the mid-20th century when Rosa Parks got on a bus in Birmingham.  She was simply too tired to move to the back of the bus as the law forced, so she went to jail.  And it fell to an unknown minister to rally against this oppression.  Dr. King fought against the system of separate but equal, and fought so that someday my oldest daughter and my youngest daughter could drink of the same water fountain, ride the same bus, go the same school and sleep in the same motel room.  His story and the stories of all who marched and fought with him are the most amazing tale in American history.  They fought without weapons against dogs, water cannons, police, the government and the church (his letter from a Birmingham jail was in response to eight Christian pastors who discounted his actions as “impatient”).

Today, America is still racially divided and the dream of Dr. King has not been fully realized.  The laws now mandate legal equality, but legislation does not change hearts.  Every school may allow blacks or hispanics to attend, but not every parent allows their children to go to the same schools where the blacks and hispanics are concentrated.  They may blame it on the test scores or something else, but the effect of isolation is just as damning to our kids generation as the legal isolation imposed on our grandparents.  And a good number of the people who congratulate Marissa and I on our adoption of Aseres will not allow their own child to consider marrying our black daughter when they are both older.  John Piper says that “opposition to interracial marriage is one of the deepest roots of racial distance, disrepect and hostility in the world.” (J. Piper, Bloodlines, p. 213 — click for free access to book) This lingering discrimination effects everything — no marriage then no dating, no dating then be careful of common friends, less common friends means less interaction and before you know we have rebuilt walls we thought our parents tore down.  I remember when I was ten, my pastor preached a whole sermon against interracial marriage.  I wish I knew then to ask him to reconcile that Jesus descended from the marriage of Boaz, a Jew, and Ruth, a Moabite, or that God struck Miriam with leprosy for speaking out against Moses marrying a Cushite woman — a woman apparently from very near where Aseres was born who likely looked a lot like her.  At least the arrows Marissa and I have endured for our own marriage position us well to walk Aseres through other people’s ignorance.  We can tell her that opposition to interracial marriage is racism and racism is sin, and we can pray with her for reconciliation.

But there is even less obvious racism that I myself have been guilty of in the past — silence in the face of a “joke” or a derogatory term or an offensive stereotype.  Why didn’t I stand up and say “no” to a bad joke or at least pray for the other person’s prideful ignorance?  Then there is not reaching out to those who live separate and apart on account of race or poverty.  Why have I had so few black friends in my home, or so few from the other side of town?  For my sins, I have found forgiveness through repentance which means I am resolved against a replay of my prior inaction and omissions, because we are all sons of Adam with the same gifts from God and same promise of salvation.

And so today, we marched down MLK street in San Marcos with our kids, our friends and our pastor (no, not that one).  I felt ashamed that our town’s 23rd annual march was the first one I made, but it will not be the last.  Next year, Aseres will join us and the next and the next, and we will patiently endure with her and her oppression will be our oppression, until God breaks every chain.

Melkam Ganna, Aseres

Aseres - January 2012 (standing now)

Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, so the birth of Christ, or “Ganna,” is celebrated today, January 7th.  Ethiopian orthodox Christians fast the day before Ganna and then go to worship at 4 a.m.  There are no gifts exchanged other than a single item of clothing which some children receive.  Twelve days after Ganna, Ethiopians commemorate “Timkat” or Christ’s baptism, which is a a three day celebration.  Each is accompanied with a lot of pomp and religious circumstance, including specific foods and attire.

I am not posting an endorsement of the orthodox church, because the intersection of religion and the government was one of the most uncomfortable things I saw in Ethiopia.  I grew up in the American, liberal tradition which views the intersection of church and state as very dangerous for faith and government.  First come the religious, then come the fascists as the thinking goes, but I did not see any indications of such challenges in Ethiopia.  Instead I saw a very religious people, and a religion that had a lot of observances well-rooted in my understanding of the gospel.  And I saw a country that has lived in relative peace for 3,000 years, save a decade or two when the Italians and the Communists tried limiting their independence.  And I saw a country which is 51% Christian and 49% Muslim, yet peaceful and harmonious.  Matter of fact, the deeper orthodox pockets of the country resist adoption of children born in their region not on account of the children going to Muslim homes, but on the chance they might be adopted by Protestants.

As for Christmas vs. Ganna, I think I will go advantage Ethiopia.  We got back into town in early December, and day after day we were assaulted by the commercial end of Christmas.  I couldn’t get to Roni’s school without sifting through thousands of cars streaming into the outlet mall buying a bunch of crap they likely didn’t need.  We finally bought the kids some gifts on the 23rd and even then it really wasn’t much.  But we did spend every minute we could with the kids throughout the season; we’d rather give them that than stuff.  Marissa and I didn’t decorate our tree until Christmas Eve, a few hours before family arrived to celebrate.

It isn’t that Christmas was different this year than in years prior; it was more that Marissa and I are different.  We saw kids without homes living on the street, an orphanage of boys without families or shoes, a plastic tarp serving as home for six boys under five on the side of a road winding up Entoto Mountain, and dozens of other pictures with us every day.  Yet everywhere we looked in Ethiopia was absolute joy, and the Spirit was present and out in the open.  Everywhere we encountered commercial Christmas we saw dead zombies going through the motions.  We didn’t have trouble buying into Christmas because we were angry with Americans or anything like that; we felt sorry for them and us.  All we pile up will vanish in a moment, yet the focus and the drive to pile it up blinds us to the Spirit.  Some of our family thought the lack of buy-in for Christmas might be a reason to seek some counseling and others hoped we would outgrow it.  I am kind of afraid we will, but I don’t want to.

But that isn’t the post; it isn’t about us and American Christmas.  Instead, we want to wish our beautiful angel in Addis a Melkam Ganna.  The word became flesh for you 2011 years ago a few hundred miles from the foster center where you celebrate his birth today.  God is with you today, and soon, very soon, God will send us to bring you into the home we are preparing for you.  Mom, Dad, Owen, Roni and Connor love you, sweet baby.  Melkam Ganna, Aseres!

[In case we haven’t told you, we are praying that our file is submitted to the US Embassy this Thursday.  As long as that happens, we should hear from the embassy around the 26th.  We will hear at that time that we can go get Aseres as quick as we can get there or that there will be additional investigation into her background which could bring significant delays.  Praying for good news the rest of the way, until she is home]

Waiting patiently on you Lord, please incline and hear our cry

On the eve of Christmas eve, Marissa and I are home with Owen, Roni and Connor and really wishing Aseres was here with us.  The US will not allow her to enter the country and has asked for new evidence from all cases prior to submission.  Our agency is busy gathering that new evidence and will submit Aseres’ file once it is complete.  Our agency is only allowed to submit files on Thursdays, so we await news of submission each Thursday.  Four Thursdays have now passed with nothing, and we are torn in what to do.  We want to go be with her during the wait to start the parenting, but we also feel there is a lot of work for us here in San Marcos – between my office, three older kids and other things God has given us.

We want to go Addis today, despite the fact that we don’t have the money to do so, it would spin the other three kids into chaos and I cannot exactly abandon my office, yet we wait in San Marcos.  I could paint our hesitance as a lack of faith or certainty in where this adoption is going, but while dramatic that would be untrue.  We feel confident that God will bring this to a conclusion and it is his victory to win.  We are still here because God has not called us to go yet and we trust he will make it clear to us when the time is right as long as we are quiet enough to listen.  It isn’t just that God hasn’t called us to go, it is that he has called us to stay by trusting us with more and bigger kingdom work here in Texas.  While every day we stay brings sadness and pain, God is revealing his grace by providing us distractions and joy.

Sunday at church, we read David sing that he “waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).  I have read that passage a bunch of times and sang songs based upon it, but it had a new meaning.  David waited patiently for the Lord when the waiting was so hard it caused him to cry out to God.  Then God inclined to hear his cry.  Waiting is so hard and fighting is so easy, because we want to believe we have control over the outcome and that our fighting is the key to victory — or broader, that victory is somehow to our credit to the same extent it is our responsibility to fight for it.  As in most things, there is nothing flying to Addis is going to do to speed up the process, because we have no influence and we cannot win this victory.  God will bring this to a conclusion just as he has brought it thus far and it is his victory to win, just the same as all the glory is his.

Yet it is so hard to wait patiently, because every day we don’t go I feel like we are somehow failing our new daughter that needs us so bad.  Do we love her enough to leave today or tomorrow or Christmas day?  Do we love her as much as the three kids already in our home?  Of course, but those seem like false questions more of the enemy than God.  It seems the better questions are if we are faithful enough to wait, and if we can avoid making the new daughter, whom we have sought after so hard for two years, into an idol.  So we wait in painful patience, until the victory is won before us or God calls us to Addis.  Still, every morning we wake up in our comfortable bed, we are wrecked for the beautiful girl in the small crib.  And we cry.  Maybe that is a pain we should always feel even after Aseres is in the room next to ours and thriving and loved, because there will still be millions of beautiful orphans stuck in cribs too small away from a family and unloved.  And we should always cry.

Going to Prepare a Place for You

Adoption from Ethiopia requires two stages of approvals:  the government and courts of Ethiopia then US immigration.  Prior to this year, US approval was a quick process that traditionally followed within one week of Ethiopian court approval.  Therefore, adoptive couples made only a single trip of around ten days and were able to return home with their new child.  Late last year, US immigration began to conduct more in-depth investigations of each child’s background before approving their entry into the US.  The US approval went from less than a week to four to six weeks to in some cases several months, depending on the case and the individual investigation process.  For several months we have known we would have to make two trips, but we determined not to look ahead to our last visit and goodbyes but instead praise and celebrate each visit and God moving to complete Aseres’ adoption.

We awoke Thursday completely focused on our third and final one hour visit.  Marissa and I decided that if all we had left was one hour with our new daughter, we wanted to spend all 3,600 seconds taking in her eyes, and her skin, and her smell, and giving her all the love we had — there would be plenty of time for tears and mourning after the goodbyes.  As much as I was committed, I was dazed when we arrived, but Marissa went straight to work doing just what we both committed to, scooping Aseres up into her right arm and holding her tight to her as she sought permission from the caretaker to go downstairs and out in the front yard.  It is unlikely that the caretaker understood what Marissa said, but she was warming to us and smiled approvingly.  On the way out, she told us thirty minutes remained before snack.  In the hall, I took Aseres from Marissa as she asked for Aseres’ special mom.  In Gladney lore, the special mom is the original caretaker assigned to each child upon their transfer from the orphanage.  We heard families speak with reverence of their child’s special mom and the bond they shared.  I was still in a daze but loved seeing my beautiful wife go to work; oh how her faith has grown by answering God’s call upon her life.  We heard adoption stressed marriage but I have never loved her more.

We made it to a manicured patch of grass surrounded by plants and trees.  It was wet to the touch but one of the drivers found a twin mattress and placed it in the middle of the grass.  We fell upon the mattress and let Aseres out of our arms to admire her from three feet away.  Marissa had already noticed congestion and snot that traditionally announce a cold, and the coming cold limited Aseres play.  She couldn’t be sick here, not on our last day, not when we couldn’t nurse her and love her to well, not before we could break her out of her germ encampment — but she was.  She kept her thumb in her mouth for comfort but didn’t cry.  I awoke that morning with congestion as well, so my kleenex became her kleenex — all I have is yours baby girl.

Twenty minutes felt like five, and Marissa talked Greg, a brother-in-law to another traveling family to snap some pictures of four of us then three of us.  I still felt nothing but joy; there were other feelings in the background but the forefront was dominated by joy and awe at how God had moved.  A slender, young lady in a white nurse’s outfit appeared and was introduced as Aseres’ special mom.  This is who we were to thank and share with, right?  I couldn’t wait to tell her that our court date was a success and she was ours and we would.. “No, English,” she interrupted.  Marissa stepped forward and I back and she handed Aseres to Special Mom.  We learned that Aseres had been with Special Mom until two months ago when she was moved to her current house across the street from the old one; the caretakers don’t move, just the kids.  Marissa pointed the camera towards the anticipated special emotion that did not come.  Aseres appeared to not even recognise the one woman who was assigned just to her and tasked with loving her until Marissa came for her.  My fading hopes were renewed as Marissa took Aseres back and the special mom pulled out a phone to show us pictures of a beautiful two or three month old little girl.  My heart leapt, because we had never seen baby pictures of our beautiful new daugther.. until Special Mom corrected us, “my baby” and it was hers not ours.  No mom, no home, a distracted special mom; American government can we please take her home now?

Our outside time dwindled, and we wanted to pray over her for longer than what remained, so the four members of our family of six huddled on that small mattress and prayed from deep within and with all we had for healing, for caretakers, for protection, for God to love her and care for her, for God to bring us back to her with his speed, for love, for forgiveness and for strength.  While all four of us remained huddled with six hands in every direction and all focus on our beautiful baby, Aseres held my leg with one hand and comforted herself with her other thumb.  The prayer continued and changed at the same time as I explained to a beautiful angel with words God must have given her ears to understand that we had no choice but to leave but we would be back; God wanted us to go and prepare a place for her — her forever home, predestined for her from the beginning of time — have faith sweet child.  We don’t want to leave, I again assured her through tears which God kept from falling upon her face, but the perfect Father will never leave her and has perfect love especially for her — the former orphan, the least of these.

Back upstairs, we stretched our hour through her meal, until it was goodbyes one at a time — Owen, mom, dad.  Marissa brought some clothes and a photo book which were tucked in the corner and obscured by her tears.  I saw the large plastic bag holding them as I made my first attempt out the door, so I reversed back to where we left Aseres on the floor.  I handed the clothes to the caretaker who tried to assure me with her eyes and smile away my tears.  I got back on the floor and went through each one, “Mommy… Daddy… Roni…. Owen…. Connor…. your whole family.  She grabbed it and I grabbed her head with both hands, wanting to continue a prayer I wasn’t sure had ever stopped, but I couldn’t come up with the words; hopefully God understood my silence and made her to understand as well.  I kissed her on her forehead unable to avoid leaving a few tears this time and turned to rejoin Marissa and Owen who were putting their shoes on in the hall.  Don’t look back; can’t not look back; give right hand folded over wave just as another boy took Aseres new family photo album.  The caretaker returned it and told him no in Amharic, because we are hers; forever joined by God — at least she told him the “no” part.

Out in the driveway, two families stood completely inside out.  I heard the Spirit inviting us to pray together, and we all huddled with arms around shoulders, former strangers now co-workers in the orphan field and we prayed — forgive our unbelief, thank you for moving mightily, thank you for having the orphan’s back, protect these little ones and thank you Jesus for leaving us to prepare our place in our father’s house — until this day I never realized how hard that must have been; give us a measure of that strength to do the same for these former orphans now co-heirs and reunite all of us in your perfect timing, Amen.

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