I think this is my favorite song on Tobymac’s newest album. Because of the reunion of dc Talk on What Love Feels Like, it already made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy all over. But then I heard Mister Mac’s (or should it still be Mister Tobymac’s?) intro to the song at his concert in Indy a few months ago.
He shared that he wrote the song in the wake of his father’s passing. CCM.com has a great writeup on the song. You should just go over there and read it. Go ahead. It won’t take you very long. I’ll wait.
Powerful stuff. Right?
I have loved this song since the first time I heard it. Its sound kind of echoes dc Talk’s style from a decade ago. I’m sure that’s an intentional nod to the beautiful music Toby, Kevin, and Michael made together.
But the more I hear this song, the more I think it describes our adoption adventure. There have been times where the process has been frustrating – especially when it has come to waiting. And there have been some days where we’ve felt disheartened and maybe even a little defeated.
As I sit here in the airport, waiting to board my flight to Ethiopia, I m must say that I’m pretty spent. I’m physically exhausted. My nerves are a bit raw. And last night I felt like I was on the verge of a meltdown while helping a guest in the middle of the store. Not a temper tantrum type of meltdown. More like the way you feel when you cry so much that you’ve kind of melted into the floor. Yes. That kind. Anyone else ever feel that way?
I’m completely spent.
And that’s where I really love this song. Because empty never felt so full.
But ready to fight tooth and nail for this boy I’ve never met.
Just like I will fight for the rest of my kids. Because in my heart and in my soul, this child is mine. I hope the judge in Ethiopia agrees.
On Saturday, we received a letter from the Immigration office. It included this phrase:
USCIS is pleased to inform you that we have preliminarily determined that the beneficiary child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States as an orphan…
I’ll admit that it’s hard to celebrate some of those words. They’re full of loss. And hurt. And sadness. While that phrase “as an orphan” breaks my heart, this determination is a big deal. It means that we have cleared the PAIR investigative process. It means that one more hurdle has been cleared. We are one step closer to bringing “W” home as our son.
Then we got a call Monday morning. Courts in Addis were closed Monday and Tuesday, but our agency was convinced that there would be a very quick turnaround on the next step, which is a court appearance in Ethiopia. Because Christy already met him, I am to fly out to Ethiopia, meet my son for the first time, and then tell the Ethiopian government that yes, our family does intend to adopt “W” and that we will bring him into our family as one of our own. The agency staff was so convinced about the possibility of a quick turnaround, they were pretty sure that I would be due in court sometime early next week.
That meant that I needed to book a flight out of the States as soon as possible. Of course, there was a chance that the court wouldn’t schedule me to appear that week. So there needed to be some flexibility. But I needed to buy a ticket as soon as possible.
After some drama in trying to find an available seat, we were finally able to purchase a ticket on Monday night, some six hours after learning that I might have a court appearance very, very soon.
And then we waited.
I’ll be honest. Tuesday was a very long, emotional day. It was full of anticipation. But it was also full of caution. We couldn’t wait for the courts to open. Hopefully they would do their scheduling very soon. But in the meantime, I listened in on a travel conference call with our agency, learning as much information as possible in preparation for a potential visit this weekend.
Christy got the email Wednesday morning. She called me right away.
I leave for Ethiopia this weekend!
I get to meet my son for the first time this weekend!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. An adoption journey ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all.
It’s going to be a whirlwind of a trip. And I’m going to miss out on a few family functions, but I’ll be home for Christmas (hey, isn’t that a song or something?) and holycowIgettomeetmyson!
I know what you’re going to ask. And no, I won’t be bringing him home with me. There’s one more step after this one. It involves travel. Again. But this time Christy and I get to go together. And we get to meet the fine folk at the US Embassy again. And hopefully everything goes as expected during our visit to the Embassy.
And then we’ll head home. And our family of SIX will finally be together.
But first things first. I’ve got to get to Ethiopia and meet my son (HOLYCOW!). And then meet with a judge. And sometime after that, assuming all goes as it should, we’ll (hopefully) be named “W’s” legal guardians in the eyes of the Ethiopian government.
And then the clock starts ticking to that final trip to Ethiopia to bring this boy HOME!
Today is a pivotal day in our family’s story. And we’re asking you to join us in prayer. Here’s what Christy posted on our facebook page:
December 1st, Tuesday… I’ll be doing lots of things. Sleeping. Getting kids out the door for school. Teaching. Presenting my school’s programs to a group of students…
But, my heart will be in Ethiopia. This day could seal the deal, finish the investigative process, and give us a court date for Matt to fly to Ethiopia and legally make this kiddo our son. To meet this almost-grown boy that he loves with all his heart, but hasn’t yet been able to lay his own eyes on.
December 1st, Tuesday, there is a hearing scheduled (not for us) that involves a long trip from the country side to Addis. It involves a final letting go. Adoption is necessary. It is a way God can make beauty out of the ashes of this fallen world. But, it is not easy. It is not without loss. Over the next few days, please pray for those who are making decisions, those who are letting go, those who will walk that road beside them. Please pray the trip can be made, that things go smoothly, so that we can finally transition this treasure into a family again.
This is a pivotal week for the future of our family of six. We would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers.
We are so in love with this kid that it aches to have to wait so long. Of course, we completely understand the need for the parties involved to do their due diligence. I wish I could just hop on a jet plane today and scoop up this young man and never let him go.
Soon. Very soon.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our adoption journey.
**Update** We have received word that the hearing did happen today and that it went very well. Now we wait for a decision from the Embassy. Please continue to pray for all parties involved.
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Our family is about to grow again. Soon, we’ll be a family of six. Our family is about to explode in anticipation of this boy’s arrival. We have his bed ready. We have tons of clothes for him. We already know his name and we can’t wait for him to fill the empty chair around our dinner table. We’ve had one waiting for him for a while.
I mentioned that he’s a teenager. Right? And that he’s currently half a world away. And our waiting has been longer than any pregnancy could ever be. But that’s part of the adoption journey. Christy has already met him. She got to hug him and spend a lot of quality time with him and love on him for almost a whole week. Hopefully, I’ll be meeting him before the year ends. That’s exciting.
That’s how long we’ve been waiting for a document from W’s home region. It’s an important document that’s required for the US Embassy to be able to complete their investigation for the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process. Submitting to PAIR is the final hurdle to clear before we’re able to travel to Ethiopia and bring W home.
We received notice that our case was submitted to PAIR today!
This is HUGE news.
It seemed like the timeline for completing this adoption had been in a holding pattern while we waited for this document to be completed. And now it’s finally submitted and the clock can start moving again!
While it’s not time for me to start packing my bags just yet, we can now confidently say that it should be happening soon. Like, within the next few months (barring any unforeseen circumstances). That’s a big-huge deal.
Adoption ain’t for the faint of heart, y’all. And I am excited to meet my boy! I’m hoping and praying that I don’t have to wait very much longer.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BrightMind #CollectiveBias
It wasn’t meant to be…
Nine years ago this Fall, our family walked into a local animal rescue shelter in Upper East Tennessee, determined to bring home a dog named Bella. Christy and Aly had been there earlier and they had fallen in love with this beautiful, gentle giant of a dog. As we all walked in to meet Bella for the first time.
As we entered Bella’s cage to meet her, a family walked in with a leash. They had just adopted her and were taking her home. We were sad. I think Aly was pretty close to devastated. They already had a connection with this dog and we were looking forward to having her join our other dog, Diego, as part of our growing family. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
As we walked around the rescue shelter, wondering what to do next, Aly watched a family bring in an adorable 10 week old puppy. She was white with some brown spots. Nobody was sure what breed she was. Maybe some type of beagle/pointer mix?
The details really don’t matter that much. Because Aly was instantly in love. As soon as the family left the building, we made a beeline to the volunteer who was working that evening and instantly began the paperwork to adopt this precious little puppy.
We named her Bella, in honor of the Bella we were originally planning on adopting. We left home that night, fully intending on bringing a Bella home. It just wasn’t the Bella we were expecting.
The photo above was taken shortly after we brought her home. Just look at that face! Who can resist those legitimate puppy dog eyes? We instantly fell in love with our Bella. And Aly has considered her to be a sister since Day One. And their personalities really do mirror each other. It’s kind of spooky how much they’re alike sometimes. These two have a very close bond. They have very similar spirits and temperaments. It’s almost like they’re soul sisters.
She’s growing up like everyone else.
Bella’s definitely not a puppy anymore. In fact, now that she’s older than 7 years old, she’s considered a senior. Now that Bella’s older, her nutritional needs are changing. Like any other family member, we want to give her what she needs to remain healthy. And providing the proper nutrition is pretty important. The experts at Purina have discovered that a dog’s brain chemistry begins to change significantly. This change can have a pretty big impact on a dog’s memory, awareness, and decision-making. That’s why Purina has created the Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind for adults. Their formulas were created with senior dogs like Bella in mind. Owners who include Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind as part of their dog’s daily diet may see an improvement in their dog’s memory, attention, and trainability.
We want the best for our dog. After all, she’s kind of like family. So we went to our local PetSmart to give this new formula a try. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind includes enhanced botanical oils that promote mental sharpness in older dogs like Bella. Some owners have seen improvements in their dogs’ mental sharpness in as little as 30 days. That’s pretty remarkable! So we wanted Bella to give it a try.
Because changing dog food can cause unnecessary stress on a dog’s digestive system, it’s important to take a few days to transition to a new dog food. For Bella, most of her diet consisted of the original dog food with a few bites of Pro Plan Bright Mind mixed in. Each day, we increased the amount of the new food while decreasing the amount of the old food. By the end of the week, she had transitioned completely to the new Bright Mind formula.
It might sound like that was a lot of transition, but it really wasn’t. It only took a few extra seconds to mix the food. And it was worth that extra effort to ensure a smooth transition for Bella’s digestive system. After all, she’s like family to us. And we want to do what we can to care for her properly.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Aly already has plans for Bella to be an integral part of her bridal party if she gets married somewhere down the road. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Aly and her “soul sister.”
This post has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. Readers must be 18 years of age or older. All opinions are mine alone. #bluPLUS #CollectiveBias
We have a relative who is tired of smoking cigarettes. She’s tired of the expense. She’s tired of the mess. She’s tired of smelling like smoke everywhere she goes. Our family is happy to help her make the switch from cigarettes to bluPLUS+ e-Cigs. Because we’re also tired of the mess. And we’re tired of the smell. Everyone in our household welcomes this change and we want to do whatever we can to help support her as she makes the switch.
It’s pretty easy to buy bluPlus+ products. You don’t even have to leave your home. You can buy them online with ease. And that’s pretty important for us. We’re able to help provide this relative with a regularly updated monthly supply of vape tanks. What’s a vape tank? It’s the part of the e-cig that holds the flavor. It provides the most enhanced vapor and flavor available. You can find out more information about their tanks by clicking here.
When you order from the website, you have access to nicotine strength (anywhere from Non-Nicotine to High) and flavors that are not available anywhere else. It is a personalized shopping experience. The digital store also offers exclusive discounts and sales that are only available online. And when you sign up for the blu Nation Rewards program, you’re eligible to earn some pretty neat stuff. And you don’t even have to make a purchase to participate. You can earn points by reading specific articles or connecting your social accounts.
We’re starting our relative off with the bluPLUS+ Xpress Kit. It includes a long-lasting rechargeable battery and two flavor tanks. It also includes a USB charger so you can quickly recharge your e-cig’s battery while you’re on the go. For a limited time, the kit is also bundled with a free pack of flavor tanks. This means the bundle contains $30 worth of product and is currently available for only $14.99, while supplies last.
In addition to the online store, there are several other ways you can keep up to date with how blu is continually improving the e-cig experience. You can like their page on Facebook, or follow them on Instagram (@blucigs) and Twitter (@blucigs). If you want to hear what others are saying about bluPLUS+, this Pinterest board is a great place to look.
I’m glad we’re able to help our relative make the switch. With bluPLUS+ e-Cigs, we’re able to provide her with a smokeless experience that feels and tastes good. Our family welcomes this alternative to the smelly, ashy, expensive lifestyle she has been living.
You know, Christy and I think that Mihret is a pretty special little girl. I know, I know. We’re supposed to think that way because she’s our daughter. But she really is. I promise. And I have proof outside of our own objective biased opinion.
You can ask the principal at her school. And you can also ask our district’s School Board.
At the beginning of each School Board meeting, our district invites a school to shine a spotlight on one of their students. The schools rotate throughout the year. That gives each school two opportunities throughout the year to present a student to the School Board as one of their Spotlight Students.
The Principal at Mihret’s school chose Mihret as her school’s representative at this month’s School Board meeting. With the help of a friend, she opened the meeting by leading all attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Then her Principal shared a little about their Spotlight Student. He shared a few words about her. He said that she’s an exemplary student with a bright smile and an “I do it myself” attitude.
This really shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, she was named Most Determined in her class a few years ago. I promise. We aren’t that biased when we say she’s a remarkable little girl. It’s pretty apparent. Don’t you think?
The School Board President presented her with a special certificate for being her school’s Spotlight Student.
(Sorry the photo is a bit blurry. I wasn’t quite ready to take the picture. It all happened much faster than I expected.)
Don’t ask me why she’s posing like this. She insisted on doing it. I think she was just so excited about the whole thing that she couldn’t quite contain herself.
She’s definitely a remarkable little girl. And she marches to her own beat. Don’t you agree?
Just in case you weren’t convinced that her parents aren’t the only ones who are totally enamored with our little girl, she also had her own cheering section that showed up at the Board Meeting to support her.
I’ve had the opportunity to take Mihret to school on several occasions. It’s fun to watch her cruise the hallway with her wheelchair. She waves to everyone, like she’s in a parade. And everyone greets her like a celebrity. I’m pretty sure she thinks she runs that school.
She’s already in the spotlight while she’s at school. So it was pretty fun to see her spotlight’s reach expand to the rest of the school system.
Needless to say, we’re pretty proud of our little Spotlight Student.
A photo posted by Christy Ooley Todd (@ooleytodd) on
Two more trips are required before he comes home with us. Sometime in the Fall, I hope to be able to meet “W” for the first time. During my stay in Ethiopia, I will appear before a judge and declare that yes, he is the child we’ve been trying to adopt. If all goes according to plan, “W” will then be declared our son in the eyes of the Ethiopian government. Then I’ll return home shortly after that court date. A few weeks later, we should have an appointment with the US Embassy in Addis. Christy and I will fly to Ethiopia, meet with the Embassy, and bring “W” home after that. Hopefully that will happen before Christmas of this year.
That’s the way things are supposed to happen. That’s the way the timeline generally goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it happens for us. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t happen that way, either. Because here’s what we’ve learned during this journey: God is writing this story. We are not. And the Author is going to weave this story together in whatever way He sees fit.
In high school, I wanted to do something “big” for God. I never knew exactly what it was, but I was going to shock the world with the gospel. So I kept searching for that big thing I could “do” for Jesus. I don’t think I was wrong in my desire. I might have been a little misguided in my approach. But hey, I was a teenager. I think we all were a little misguided as teenagers, weren’t we?
This desire to “do” something big for God continued into my preaching years more than a decade later. I firmly believe that God can work miracles. I’ve seen them happen. It was my hope and prayer that I could somehow put God on stage and allow the congregation to see what God had done. It was almost as if I was expecting Him to perform some great act so I could shine the spotlight on Him.
Again, not a bad desire. But maybe the wrong approach. After all, God is God. He doesn’t have to perform a miracle in order for us to shine the spotlight on Him. He is worthy of worship because He Is who He Is. And that’s enough.
God orchestrated things in such a way that He provided for Mihret’s adoption in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.
So when we started pursuing “W,” I kind of expected things to work out in a similar way. I mean, that was a pretty cool story the way everything was woven together so perfectly.
But that organization didn’t award us a grant this time. No worries, I thought. There are other opportunities. So we applied for more grants. And waited.
We had the yard sale that was hugely successful. But it wasn’t enough to cover the rest of the fees.
So we waited some more.
Then things started to get a little…oh, what’s the word?….tense…around here. If Christy was really going to make this trip before the courts closed in Addis and school started here, we were going to have to figure out a way to cover the rest of the fees and travel costs. Maybe we were going to have to make this thing work on our own.
Then it happened. God moved mountains.
Not only did God move the mountains, He obliterated them. He caused them to melt like wax.
We were confident that God was going to use the matching grant from Hand in Hand to make a big dent in the need. But we didn’t know how much was actually going to be donated. There was still a lot of uncertainty. And maybe some doubt.
But the donations that were contributed to the matching grant were over the amount necessary.
Then we started getting notifications of approval for grants that I had totally forgotten about. And I’d definitely forgotten that we’d applied for their assistance. But they started sending in money.
And the next thing I knew, everything was paid for. The agency fees. Christy’s plane ticket. Even the in-country travel fees. Everything was covered within a matter of days.
Yes, God is in the mountain moving business.
As I sat and watched the whole thing unfold, I started to realize something. Sometimes “doing” something big for God simply means being obedient and stepping out in faith. You do what you’re supposed to, planting seeds as you go along the way. But in the end, you sit back and watch God do what you couldn’t even possibly imagine what would be done.
All week, I’ve been humming this song. It makes sense when you look back on the events of the last few weeks. It starts at the 5:58 mark…
God is writing a story, friends. And it is bigger than any of us even realize.
If you get a sense that God is calling you to “do” something, then go do it. By all means, do.it. But if you think God is calling you to go and watch and listen, then do that. Watch how He works. He’ll let you know when it’s time for you to do your part. Because He’s already at work. He’s already telling the story.