Tuesday, December 21, 2010

eating my words

I usually LOVE putting together our family Christmas card and letter, but this year I have been decidedly grouchy about it. Nothing makes me grouchy like having to eat my own words. The thing is, last year our Christmas letter promised a bigger family photo - one with us and our Ethiopian child who surely would be home by then...

I have made a concerted effort not to assign my own time-frame to our process: it will take exactly as long as it takes, God is in control, our son will come home at the perfect time. But last year at this time I just could not fathom a scenario in which our child would not be home by the following Christmas. All I can say is, lesson learned!

All these waiting stages stacked on top of one another have certainly not been easy... but I can also see God's goodness in the midst of it all. He is never late. He never breaks his promises. He loves us and wants to give us good things. Some of the deepest valleys of our journey so far have yielded some of the most amazing blessings, so we will keep walking, keep trusting, keep waiting as long as he wants us to wait. We know how this story ends, and it is beautiful and worth the wait.

Merry Christmas from the Ballasts
Seattle and Addis Ababa
December 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

belated part 2

When we got back from our first trip to Ethiopia I wrote a post entitled "ethiopia, part 1 of ?". It's been 6 weeks today since we returned and I haven't written much more about our time there. Partially because I actually covered most of the basic details of the trip in my first post, and partially because it is just so hard to write about. I miss it - I miss him - too much, and I haven't been able to go there.

But today I will suck it up and go there because there are some stories that need to be told.

In case you are not aware, there are 2 types of adoption cases with respect to how the child becomes available for adoption: abandonment and relinquishment. Abandonment can mean a lot of things. In legal terms it simply means that there are no birth parents involved in the process. Again, there can be many reasons for this so please don't make assumptions. [Really, let's not make assumptions ever, but especially in adoption. Seriously.] Anyway, our case was an 'abandonment' case, and as such we were told that we would not be able to meet any of our son's relatives. Despite that (or maybe even because of that), we decided that we wanted to travel the 12+ hours each way to the town where he was born. If we could not give him the benefit of pictures and stories from the actual people who gave him life, we at least wanted to give him pictures and stories from the place itself.

Here are the top 3 most significant decisions we have made as a couple:

1. To get married
2. To adopt
3. To travel to our son's birthplace

I am not exaggerating: that three day trip literally changed my life forever. I will never be the same.

Another decision we have made together is to keep the details of our son's early life private, so I won't be sharing every little bit of why this trip was so incredible, but I do at least have to tell you the part about God giving us an ocean when we asked for a cup of water.

On Sunday morning we got in the van in Addis Ababa along with another adoptive family, a driver, a translator, and a young woman who was also on her way from Addis to the small town in Western Ethiopia where we were all headed. After a brief introduction, the young woman and the translator began an animated conversation which was clearly about us, and we kept hearing our son's name repeated back and forth between them. I think I drew blood biting my tongue to keep from interrupting them and asking what in heaven's name they were saying. Finally, the translator turned to us.

This young lady is a member of your son's extended family. When we arrive, she would like to introduce you to his grandmother.

Shock. Joy. Nodding. More shock. I sobbed and laughed and lifted my hands to the God who loves to blow us away. We had half-heartedly asked God to give us just one small connection to our son's beginnings on this trip - maybe a story from a nanny from his first few weeks in the orphanage. Maybe a memory from the guard about when he first arrived, who brought him, how he looked and acted. Honestly, I wasn't even expecting that much. It seemed like so much to ask, especially when we were told there would be nothing to learn, and no one to talk to. This was a trip to take pictures, collect a pinch of soil, and buy a souvenir - something of which we could say, "This came from the same place that you did." And what did God do? He showed off: He put an actual relative of our child right in our laps, sharing a 12 hour van ride with us, headed toward the home of a grandmother we didn't know existed.

We came away from that trip with videos, pictures, and experiences that I absolutely cannot put a price on. It was not an easy trip or a cheap one, but I would not trade it for the world. If you have the chance to do this, DO IT. Of course I can't guarantee your child's relative will be in a van with you, but I can say I do not think you'll regret it.

[Note: You may be asking yourself, if your child has living relatives, why did he need to be adopted? If so, please see the beginning of my post regarding assumptions. Thank you.]