Nesting and packing and nesting and packing

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"If the family were a container, it would be a nest, an enduring nest, loosely woven, expansive, and open." - Letty Cottin Pogrebin

If the statement that a family is a loosely woven and expansive nest, then it’s safe to say that our nest is about to get bigger. It’s already grown in our hearts, but things are about to get real. Real world real. Because that empty chair at our dinner table is finally about to be occupied. Forever.

Rumor has it he’s a pretty good soccer player. And he’s a big fan of Manchester United. So I’m trying to get the hang of it. I was never a very good soccer player. And I haven’t really been much of a fan.

But I am now.

Because he is. That’s kind of how the game is played. So I’m learning about soccer  football. We’re also learning how to be fans of Manchester United. It’s a whole new world in the Todd household, y’all.

There is a sudden flurry of activity in our house. In the midst of our busy school and work schedules, we're trying to put the final touches on this house, making room for one more person. So you could say that we're in full-on nesting mode, helping this family container of ours expand some more.

Fortunately, his side of the Boys' bedroom is ready. Chalkboard and all.

image
But we're not just nesting. We're packing, too. So we're kind of in this weird state of cleaning and rearranging a bunch of things while also pulling stuff out to pack. Fortunately, I didn't really fully unpack from my trip a month ago. But now there's two more people flying out with me and one more coming back with us.

So we're nesting. And packing. And nesting. And packing. And waiting. And getting ready. And nesting. And packing.

Because soon this journey to bringing Weldu home will come to an end.

And the real journey will begin.

My day in court

Dad and Weldu  - first trip last day

On Tuesday morning, December 22, I joined a dozen other families from around the world in a small 30 foot by 30 foot room on an upper floor in an Ethiopian courthouse. All of us were there for the same thing. So one by one, families were ushered into the adjacent judge’s chambers for an interview. When the family would complete their interview, they would leave the judges’s chambers with smiles on their faces. And they were greeted by congratulatory handshakes and the occasional high-five from the people around them.

When it was finally my turn, I was escorted into the judge’s chambers. The door closed and I shook the judge’s hand as I sat down in a chair in front of his desk. He began to ask me questions in order to confirm our family’s eligibility to adopt “W.”

None of the questions were tough. And none really came as any surprise. But they have me the opportunity to share my heart and show how we hadn’t entered this adoption journey without serious thought and prayer. I love this boy. And Christy loves him, too. Our whole family loves him. And that’s how it should be. Right?

The first of many hugs to be had.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on


Weldu Josiah entered the world more than a dozen years ago. He entered our world about a year ago. In our hearts, he’s been our son since that day we first laid eyes on him. He was our son when Christy met him in July. He was our son when I met him shortly after stepping off the plane in Addis.

And on December 22, we were legally declared capable of adopting Weldu into our family. On December 22, Weldu became a Todd.

Dad and WelduIn a few weeks, we’ll have an appointment scheduled with the US Embassy in Addis. Then we’ll be making one more flight to the Land of Coffee and 13 Months of Sunshine. And we’ll take Weldu into our arms and bring him home. 

It’s been a long journey. But this kid is worth it. He’s so worth it.

 

This is what love feels like

Tobymac concert 2015

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. Tobymac concert 2015

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.

I’m empty.

And that’s where I really love this song. Because empty never felt so full.
Tobymac concert 2015
Poured out.
Used up.
Spent.
Exhausted.
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.

Our biggest adoption update yet

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, let me tell you.

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.

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

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!

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

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!

Will you pray with us today? Please?

Ethiopia Innocent Prayers of a Young Child (3405971322)

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:

Six Family Christmas Stockings

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.

Posted by 7, 568 Miles to “W” on Friday, November 27, 2015

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.

Our family is growing. So I’m stocking my medicine cabinet.

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HealthySavings #CollectiveBias

Stocking up our medicine cabinet #HealthySavings.jpg

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.

The empty chair at our dining room table #HealthySavings

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.

In the meantime…

Continue reading “Our family is growing. So I’m stocking my medicine cabinet.”

The update we’ve been waiting 11 months and 15 days for…

"11 months and 15 days..." -  hourglass - Original image credit: Habib M’henni / Wikimedia Commons
Original image credit: Habib M’henni / Wikimedia Commons

 

11 months and 15 days.

Almost 50 weeks.

Close to 350 days.

Approximately 8395 hours.

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.

Then I watched God move a mountain. Again.

A “moved mountain” in Durame, Ethiopia

This adoption journey has been quite an emotional roller coaster with many unforeseen twists and turns. There might have even been a corkscrew or two thrown in there for good measure.

And it ain’t over yet.

But that’s OK. It’s kind of par for the course when it comes to international adoption. I’d imagine domestic adoption is a similar roller coaster ride.

Christy finally met “W” face-to-face. It’s been great for the soul and I hope that it will continue to warm his heart after she returns to the States.

Jeremiah 29:11. I’m sorry you had to wait so long…but I am so thankful God blessed us with you.

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?

For I know the plans I have for you bracelets

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.

Then we saw God move a mountain.

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.

And waited.

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.

And waited.

And waited.

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.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord Psalm 975

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.

 

7 must-have apps for international travel

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #Tips4Trips #CollectiveBias

7 Must-Have Apps for International Travel #Tips4Trips #ad #cbias

As mentioned earlier, a lot of moving pieces finally came together at just the right time in just the right way in order for Christy to be able to meet “W,” the teenage boy we are in the process of adopting. Late Sunday night/early Monday morning, I drove Christy to the airport. Nearly 18 hours later, she landed in Ethiopia. There were times where I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to pull the whole thing together. With my full time job, Christy’s responsibilities at her school, and taxiing the kids to and from sports practices, church activities, and camp, it just felt like too daunting of a task to get together all of her necessities plus a bag full of donations in less than two weeks’ time. I honestly don’t think we could have done it without our unlimited talk, text, and data/web from Walmart Family Mobile.

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

If you’re looking for the lowest priced unlimited plans with access to a network that covers over 280 people, Walmart Family Mobile is the place you should look first. Their Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data service plan starts at $29.88 a month for the first line. In addition to unlimited talking and texting, you also get access to up to 1G of 4G LTE data per month. Plus, they have a variety of phones available at some pretty incredible prices, including the Alcatel One Touch Pop Astro for only  $64.88.

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to this link or your local Walmart for current pricing.

#Tips4Trips Store Collage at Walmart

While we’ve taken several vacations in the States, I think it’s safe to say that we’re no world travelers. And we definitely haven’t made a habit of jet-setting around the globe. So when it was finally decided that Christy was going to make this trip by herself, life became a bit more hectic. And life was already hectic with the kids’ activity schedules.

We had travel agents to call. And social workers to call. And our adoption agency to call. We had to make sure my work schedule was arranged in such a way that I could be home as much as possible. We had doctors to call. We had family to contact. We had to collect items – diapers, wipes, educational supplies, DVDs – that we were going to donate to the Care Center. The to-do lists kept piling up, adding more and more chaos to this whirlwind.

You know what we didn’t need during this mad rush to get everything done and ready for Christy to get on a plane? A phone service that dropped all of my calls. Or a phone that was so slow that it would be easier to send documents via passenger pigeon or the Pony Express. Been there. Done that. Not going back.

Ever.

Luggage and phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

That’s what I love about using Walmart Family Mobile. I don’t have to worry about wonky Internet connection. And I can be confident that I’ll be able to have an actual conversation on my phone without worrying about how many minutes I’m using. That’s pretty important when you’re in a time crunch.

And the phones are pretty cool, too.

In preparation for this great journey, I discovered some pretty cool apps. I think these are some tools that every traveler should have in their digital suitcase. They’re very helpful. And they’re free, although some can be enhanced with in-app purchases.

7 must-have apps for international travel:

Android Apps SmartTraveler #Tips4Trips

SmartTraveler

Provided by the U.S. State Department , SmartTraveler gives a plethora of information about countries around the globe, including local customs and laws, political climate, and the location of the U.S. embassy. It also keeps you up to date on travel alerts and warnings that have been issued by the State Department.

 

Android Apps iBlueButton #Tips4TripsiBlueButton

You never plan on having a medical emergency while traveling. But just in case the unforeseen does happen, it’s a good idea to have iBlueButton. It keeps all of your medical information and medical history in one place so you can access it with just the swipe of your finger.

 

Android App Google Hangouts #Tips4TripsGoogle Hangouts

This was pre-installed on our Androids, and although it’s gotten some negative press in the past, Christy and I have been using it to communicate over the the thousands of miles between us. You can use it to send text messages. You can also use it for free video calls via wifi, too.

Christy checking the phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

Android Apps iTranslate #Tips4Trips

iTranslate

With over 90 languages available on this app, you can translate words and phrases in a matter of moments. With an extensive dictionary library, you’ll be able to discern contextual clues and dialects. It’s easy to use and essential for a world traveler.

 

 

Android App Google Goggles #Tips4TripsGoogle Goggles

Let’s say you’re overseas and you see a landmark some 30 miles away but you don’t have any idea what it is. It looks important, but that’s about all you know. With Google Goggles, you can take a picture and search the web with that image. This app has some serious potential.

 

Android App FlightAware #Tips4TripsFlightAware

FlightAware was the perfect app for me to use while Christy was up in the air. No matter where I went that day, I could check the app and track her flight. And if you’re using it while traveling, you’ll be able to keep up to date on the flight schedule and which terminal you have to go to. That’s amazingly helpful if you have a short layover.

 

Android App XE Currency #Tips4TripsXE Currency

You can keep up to date on the exchange rates with this app. It’s a great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your currency.

It’s also helpful if you’re trying to plan and budget your trip.

 

There are so many apps available that are related to travel. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones. Now that Christy’s begun her journey, I can start planning for my trip to Ethiopia, which should happen within the next few months.  What apps should I add to my list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

#Tips4Trips Phone and suitcase