We have an awesome life. I love to wake up and see what each day holds for me and my girls. Zoe is a truly amazing kid. She is kind, she shares, she forgives, she can turn a bad attitude into a good attitude, she is very smart and I could fill a book with all the wonderful things about her! Zoe has transitioned beautifully into our family over these last 9 months. We take lots of happy pictures and do so many fun things. But, honestly, our life is not all sunshine and gummy bears.

January has probably been the hardest month we've had since we brought Zoe home. I think back to a year ago after we had just met Zoe in Ethiopia and had to leave her. It was the most difficult time in our lives. We had such joy getting to know her then such sadness to leave her. This was followed by the roller coaster of emotions as we worked with the Ethiopian court system and government agencies to finalize the adoption process.

Now she is home. We get to hold her and love her and laugh with her everyday. This month we have also spent time crying with her. As we've started this new year, Tori and I have been extremely busy at work and my usual patience has been at an all time low. Zoe and I have had some difficult times and I have had days where I've felt like an utter failure as a father and husband because I literally don't know what to do. I am supposed to be an "expert" on kids and I am at a total loss.

We weren't sure what was going on, but beginning right after Christmas Zoe began grieving her birthmother, Mehret. I have watched Tori hold Zoe in her arms as she weeps over the loss of her birthmother and the fact that she is beginning to forget her. More recently, her behavior has started to change, her sleeping patterns haven't been normal and even her eating habits have changed.

Tonight was, by far, the most difficult night of parenting we've had with our precious Zoe. Today started off rough for the girls. I went to church early and they had their typical Sunday morning at home, watching cartoons and getting ready to come meet me. Everything was going just fine, then Tori chose Zoe's favorite red boots to wear to church. It seems that Zoe decided she did not want to wear them and the meltdown began. By the time they got to church things were better and everyone complimented her awesome boots. Throughout the day she struggled with having a good attitude, but was able to turn it around. Then bedtime came and she fell apart.

I was putting Zoe down and she began flailing and screaming so loud that Tori came in to see what was going on. She was kicking, and screaming, and hitting, and spitting, and screaming, and flailing, and biting, and screaming, and yelling and screaming and crying.  It took both of us to physically hold her down. Both of us were so angry and couldn't figure out what was going on. Tori finally got the sense to talk it out of her. We realized that the problems of today were more than just red boots and bedtime.

Zoe began to ask why Mehret gave her away through the saddest sobbing I've ever experienced. Mehret has always been freely discussed in our home. We have always said that she gave us the best gift and talked about how we truly love her. Over the past month Zoe has talked about her in a much different way. She has said some of the most hurtful things to us in the process of grieving her loss and dealing with feelings of abandonment. Tonight we watched our 4 year old daughter scream and weep over being abandoned by her birthmother. She decided she never wanted to talk about her, love her or pray for her ever again. We told her that we would always do these things and then Tori prayed for Mehret right then and there. Zoe asked us, "What is Mehret to me?" We told her that she was the one who gave her life and cared for her until we could come and get her. She now knows that we love her no matter what she says to us, that we will never leave her and God made her for us before she was ever born.

It is truly amazing to me that Zoe can even have these feelings. She is angry, she is sad, she is confused and she is heartbroken. As she worked through these feelings tonight we felt them right along with her. Adoption is amazing, but it is also very difficult. Not many preschoolers around here have much to mourn or grieve. She has been through so much in her little life. We so often shortchange children and what they feel and understand. There is so much more than they can express living inside their tiny bodies.

After things calmed down we were able to talk about this passion she has inside her and how she is a "feisty girl" just like her mommy, which she loved. She wanted to know more about being feisty. She was so excited to share this trait with Tori. We talked about how they are like a zig zag line going up and down and up and down and I was more of a calm straight line. She looked at me and asked, "Daddy, why are you slow?" Which is a question Tori asks fairly consistently of me. Tori began to talk about how the two of them are so alike. We talked about how they will live big, fight big, but most importantly they will love big. Tori talked about how she got in trouble A LOT by her mommy, just like Zoe will and how I didn't get in trouble very much while I was growing up. Then Zoe looked up at Tori and said, "I think Daddy is gooder than we are." We all laughed and then I was able to say to the both of them that of all the girls in the entire world I could choose, I chose a feisty one to be my wife. Now I live in a house with 2 feisty girls and couldn't imagine it otherwise. Our family needs Tori to understand Zoe and me to make sure they are both alive at the end of each day.

So, today was a day we will never forget. We saw our daughter suffer, we heard harsh and hurtful words and our family grew stronger. So, we pray that we will continue to know how to love and parent her well. We pray that we can help her remember Mehret when she forgets and we can honor her when she feels betrayed. I pray that she remains feisty and our great God uses that passion to change the world and glorify him in mighty ways. Today has been so very difficult, but we have learned that 2 feisty girls + 1 slow daddy = The Jones Family and we wouldn't have it any other way.

I am ashamed to say that this year is my 30th MLK Day and the first time it has meant anything to me. I’ve always thought of this day as a holiday for African Americans. Now I have an Ethiopian daughter and I’m forced to think outside myself. As I tried to tell Zoe a little about this day I said that it is important for people with brown skin and then Tori stopped me and I realized, for once in my life, that this day is important to everyone.
Dr. King challenged our world and we should all be so very grateful for his courage and leadership, no matter our skin tone. As I thought about this day I began to realize that no one is truly free unless everyone is truly free. If my neighbor has no freedom, then mine can be taken away at anytime. I am so thankful today that we can celebrate a man who reminded our country that God created and loves us all, so we must live together in peace.
I am so thankful that my daughter will have every opportunity in the world available to her. It pains me to think that my brilliant, beautiful, vibrant daughter might not have been part of my family if it wasn’t for the courageous work of people like Dr. King. I cannot imagine my life without her and I cannot imagine her growing up in a world where she could not have the hope of doing anything and everything her heart desires. Because of Dr. King’s dream, I can tell my sweet Zoe that she can follow her dreams anywhere they take her!
Today I thank Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for inspiring change. I pray that my family and I will have courage to stand strong, like him, in the face of injustice. Today I recognize that Dr. King took a stand for each of us, no matter our race, gender or tax bracket.  Today is a challenge to me, and everyone like me, to celebrate the differences in each of us. Today I praise our great God for uniquely creating and loving us all beyond our wildest imagination!