When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house in Alabama. I loved staying there and I especially loved spending times with my cousins. My cousin Jamie is almost 5 years older than me and when I was little I wanted to be and do anything she was doing. Of course, being 5 years older she didn’t always want me around. I will never forget this one time when Jamie was going to play with one of the girls in the neighborhood and I wanted to go too. Somehow she and my grandfather tricked me into getting into his truck. As he drove away I looked up at him and said in my small child voice “But Big Dad, Jamie’s dare and I’m here”.

That may have been the first time I said the phrase “she’s dare and I’m here”, but it certainly hasn’t been the last. There has been many times in my life that that phrase has ringed true in my life. Nights away from family while in college, weeks away from Hope while she was still in Ukraine. Years away from Carrie while she lived in Atlanta… All moments in my life when I thought she is dare and I am here.

Well this past week was full of those moments. On the second day that we had Zoe, she had a bit of a melt down. It really was not that bad looking back, but at the moment, it was horrible. She was being a typical 3 year old and testing her limits with us as her new parents. When she didn’t like our response she began crying and having a fit. She then proceeded to take off all the things we had given her and throwing them down. (She is one smart cookie) Well, as a new mom who was exhausted, in a foreign land, away from family, and having lived 2 of the most emotional days of my life, I lost it. I started crying and could not stop. I began to wonder could I do this? Could I parent this little girl? What if she didn’t like me? What if she rejected me? What if she didn’t want me to be her mom? Well the doubt set in and the spiritual attack was one of the strongest I have ever felt. So what did I do? I called my mom. I wept telling my mom what was happening and she on speaker phone told me exactly what to do. She told me to hold Zoe tight and tell her I loved her and sing to her. I could not even get the words out, so my mom sang over speakerphone as I held Zoe. I was a hot mess. I couldn’t get it together. I wanted my own mother so badly but “she was dare and I was here”. 

After Zoe calmed down and was back to her smiling self, I was still a mess. I just could not get it together. I wanted to be back home. Back in the comfort of my own family. I just knew that if Carrie was there, she could help me. She could reassure me, she could encourage me and hold my hand. But, “She was dare and I was here”. So Derek let the nannies at the guesthouse watch Zoe for a little bit so that I could get it together. We called Carrie and she talked to me for over an hour. I missed her so much, and it was so nice to hear her voice and hear her reassure me that Yes I could do this! She actually laughed at me and at how smart Zoe was to know how to get to me like this. Now, looking back, I can also laugh, but at the time I was not laughing. I was a mess. After a 1 hour $250 phone call to Carrie I was able to get it together. Derek, Zoe and I all went to bed very early that night and finally got a good nights sleep. Its amazing what sleep and reassurance from home can do.

I have to say that I am so happy to be back home in my own house, with my family close by. But, it is also so hard. “My little girl is dare and I am here”. Oh how hard that is to think about. This is probably the hardest “you’re dare and I’m here” experience I have ever had. How oh how can I be away from my little girl this long. Then last night as I lay in bed (well this morning at 5 am because my days and nights are mixed up) I sat praying for Zoe thinking lord how can I do this. It hurts so much that she is dare and I am here. Then the Lord reminded me of a sweet moment I spent with my daughter. On the last day before we took Zoe back, we went to eat at a restaurant that had an art gallery/store in it.  Zoe and I picked out a beautiful painting to take home. While Derek was paying and having the painting packaged up Zoe and I spent what would be our last 30 minutes just the 2 of us girls together. I held her tight and close and rocked her and sang songs to her. We sang, “You are my Sunshine” “Jesus loves the Little Children” and finished up with 16 versus of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” (we had to cover every family member).  The Lord reminded me of that moment tonight and the words “he’s got the whole world in his hands” played over and over in my mind. See, it doesn’t matter that Zoe is dare and I am here because God is everywhere. He has her in his hands, he has me in his hands, and he is holding both of us close. He loves her more than I ever could and he loves me that much as well. This entire journey is in His hands even if she is dare and I am here..
I really can't wrap my mind around the fact that we are leaving this Saturday for Ethiopia and will be holding our little girl in our arms on Monday! We have gone from looking at pictures of a sad Ethiopian girl, to filling out paperwork to actually meeting her face to face. Reality is starting to sink in. I mean, we are about two months away from bringing her home! I don't even know what emotions I should be feeling. I know that I am so stinkin' excited I don't know what to do with myself. I can't wait to actually meet our Zoe.
But, to be honest, I am expecting it to be really weird. T and I will be two strange white people that are very excited to see her. She will have just been moved to the transition home and then taken with us to the guest house for a few days. This could totally rock her world. Hopefully the pictures we sent will help with our initial meeting. Maybe she will recognize us after a month of looking at our pictures.
Luckily, Tori is an amazing "giver." She can't help it, she just loves to give a gift. It is in her DNA, handed straight down from Patti. So, the girls have been collecting lots of wonderful things for us to take with us to greet our precious little one. She has packed enough crafts to keep us and the entire city busy. So, we don't have to worry about too much awkward downtime. In addition to the crafts, we're taking her lots of suckers, a white baby doll, Mrs. Potato Head, play dough, tiny underwear, little shoes, new clothes in various sizes for her to try on, some comfy PJs, Sesame Street DVDs and matching silver, heart necklaces for her and Tori. I cannot wait to see Tori and Zoe interact. Tori is so amazing with kids and was just created to be an awesome Mom. I could almost weep thinking about the love she will pour out on our daughter. It's going to be so cool to watch T pull one thing after another out of her bag of tricks to ease Zoe's fear and just start getting to know her.
As we talk about this trip we are trying to be very realistic. This might not be a trip filled with hugs and laughs. It could be lots of screaming or tears or silence. We have no idea what to expect. All that matters to us is that we get to meet her, love on her, hug on her kiss on her, and simply be with her.
We have a wild trip ahead of us. I will give you a brief look at our itinerary so you can know how and when to be praying for us, because if you are reading this, we are expecting your prayers!
We leave Saturday evening, January 15, and fly to D.C. then on to London. We have a 10 hours there, so we rented a day room to shower and rest or do whatever we need to do. Then we're off to Ethiopia. We land in Addis Ababa on Monday morning and head to the guest house where we will be staying. We hope to pick up Zoe shortly after that to bring her back to stay with us. Tuesday morning, January 18, we leave Zoe at the house with caretakers and head to court where we will officially adopt her. Her mom will be there so hopefully we will get to talk with her and learn more about our little girl. Please pray that things go smoothly and we pass court without any hiccups. This has not been the case for every family and last month a few birth-mothers backed out on court day. We're praying that Zoe's mom will stick to the decision she made and we'll be able to thank her for the unbelievable gift she is blessing us with as we reassure her that we will love and care for Zoe more than she could ever dream. I cannot imagine the sacrificial love it must take to do what she has done for Zoe. After court we'll go back to the house and spend the rest of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday getting to know our little girl. We're planning on taking Zoe back to the transition home Thursday night because our flight leaves at 1:45 AM Friday morning, January 21. We'll fly back to London, on to D.C. then to Chicago and finally home to Nashville, Friday night (thank you 8 hour time difference).
This trip is going to be totally insane. I honestly don't know how we are going to leave her there. After spending time with her, bathing her and putting new, clean clothes on her, sending her back to the orphanage will be the hardest thing either one of us has ever done in our life. It is going to take both of us dragging each other onto that plane (and some powerful drugs) knowing that it will be 8 weeks before we bring her home. We can't imagine what will be going through her little mind as we dive-bomb her life for a few days and then head back to America. We pray that we'll be able to use the translators to help her understand that we are coming back to get her and she is not being left again. We are preparing ourselves as much as we can and we will spend our time with her rejoicing and praising the Lord for this unbelievable gift without dwelling on the hard days ahead.
In the past month, we've been overwhelmed by the kids at church sending us off with more play dough, hot wheels, diapers, baby clothes and formula than our suitcases can hold! We've packed our huge suitcases with stuff the kids are sending to the orphanages and tried to get most of our clothes in our carry-on bags! It is amazing to see them open their hearts to kids in need around the world. All of us "grown-ups" have so much to learn from the love and generosity of kids.
So, I write this blog with great anticipation and excitement. Thank you all for asking about Zoe when you see us and for the great encouragement you have provided. We can't wait to come home and share stories and finally send pictures everywhere! We are so grateful for your participation in our journey and we are so thankful that you continue to pray for us and our sweet Zoe.