It's official, January 18 is our court date in Ethiopia! We'll only be there for a few days, but we'll get to meet Zoe, hold her and love on her for the first time. During this trip we will officially adopt her in Ethiopia. But, after spending a couple days with her, we'll then leave her with just a few pictures of us for 6-8 weeks before we can go back to get her and bring her home to Tennessee. We are over-the-moon excited about the day we will finally meet her, but also scared to death. We have no idea how she will react to us when we meet. She will probably be scared to death herself! We just pray that it will be a time to start bonding and begin the process of becoming a family. We're also praying that we'll be able to drag each other onto the plane home. It will take an act of God and probably some powerful medication to do so.
Last weekend we were able to meet Sue, the director of our agency, Celebrate Children International. It was amazing to sit down with her and hear hear heart for the kids in Ethiopia and all that she is doing to make sure they find forever families. The house we were in was filled with internationally adopted children, several from Ethiopia. It was exciting to see the smiles on their faces and how quickly they have integrated into American culture. All I could think about was our Zoe, when they waved from outside or snuck a taste from the sugar bowl as they passed by. Sue loved on all the kids and knew them by name as she does all the kids she is advocating for around the globe. I am so glad that we are working with someone who views her job as a ministry and a calling. She is kind, but tough and her work is changing lives for eternity.
It really is weird to be an adoptive family. We know that it is a special calling and not for everyone. All Christians are called to care for the widows and orphans, but that doesn't mean everybody is supposed to bring them into their homes and families. We want to be advocates for these kids around the world without making Zoe, or any other kids we might adopt one day, become little trophies on our mantle. Like I have said before, Zoe will be as special as any children in our family. Everyone thinks, "Wow, you are going to change that little girl's life," and we will, but we know that we have as much or more to learn from her than she will ever get from us. So the three of us will learn and grow together and all of our lives will be reborn.
Tomorrow is our annual "Story Sunday" at TPC and I am preparing to talk to the kids about Zoe's story and the project that we'll be doing to collect much needed items for Tori and I to take to the Ethiopian orphanages in January. Tonight I video taped myself telling the story of our adoption journey in 5 minutes for the kids at our Franklin campus. It was amazing as I sat in Zoe's room, by her giant stuffed zebra and talked about how God has provided for us and answered so many prayers in the last few months. I thought back to how God changed our hearts from adopting a little baby to an older, waiting child who might have missed her chance to be adopted. I remember looking at the many smiling faces with Sue encouraging us to think about the "sad little girl" and then realizing that was our daughter. I remember the day that we got an email with no subject that opened to the smiling face that we'd been praying for. We had no idea how long it would take to see that smile and God gave it to us before we even met her. These past few months have been the busiest and craziest of our lives. The waiting has been getting harder. Today, Tori read a children's book in Target that began with these words, "I wanted you more than you ever will know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go." Thinking about Zoe had her in tears before the last page finished with, "you are loved." The author put our feelings into words. The words we wish Zoe could hear today and everyday. They are the words that the Lord has spoken to us throughout our lives, "Wherever you are my love will find you," and now this is the cry of our hearts for Zoe.
As the days get closer to meeting her, the days without her pass. We think of Thanksgiving with family minus Zoe, a trip to Disney World without her, Christmas morning with her far away and ringing in a new year knowing she is there and we are here. Life as we know it is about to change forever. I don't want to sound like "Debbie-Downer" but I would rate this journey higher on the sad/difficult chart than the joyful/exciting one. I know that the days of joy will come when we hold her little body tight, kiss her sweet little cheeks, kick the soccer ball in our back yard and read stories at night in bed. But for now there is no little body, no little cheeks, no one to kick the ball back or listen to stories. It's hard to know that, most likely, no one is doing these things with her now and these are days we'll never get back. I also know that God still has much to do to prepare us and much more to provide for us to bring her home. So, we continue to do the best at the calling He has placed on our lives for now. We minister to and love on those around us today and we pray for the "sad little girl" in Ethiopia. We pray for warm nights, a full belly, health, love, comfort, security and lots of smiles. The day we meet cannot come soon enough, but it will come. The day will come when our sad tears will turn to tears of joy as we wrap our arms around the little girl that the Lord created to be ours.
Taking the time to read this blog and pray with us means so much. We're grateful to those of you who have joined us in the journey as we bring Zoe home. We can't wait for you to see her smiling face and love her like you have loved us.