Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Broken Beautiful

There is a song by Ellie Holcomb entitled 'The Broken Beautiful.' I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of the song itself (sorry, fans of Ellie).  As someone who has learned to embrace their melancholy, it's a little too bouncy and non-Sarah-McLachlan-ish for my taste.  However, I do love the lyrics:

You say that You'll turn my weeping into dancing
Remove my sadness and cover me with joy
You say your scars are the evidence of healing
That you can make the broken beautiful

That your love will never change,
that there's healing in your name
That You can take broken things,
and make them beautiful
You took my shame and
You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
And make them beautiful

Over the past month or so, that phrase keeps returning to me: the broken beautiful.  Why is it so striking?  I'm not sure other than the simple truth that the day-to-day walking out of our lives often looks and feels just like brokenness and beauty all wrapped up together. There are hard seasons. There are joyful seasons.  There are some seasons, like the one in which a few of us find ourselves now, that are at the same time both so full of joy and gut-wrenchingly difficult that it is hard to separate the two. It seems this isn't the first time someone has felt this type of thing; if so, we wouldn't have bouncy songs about it. But what does it mean when we find ourselves trudging through the tough spots?

Sometimes it means that we need to make time to self-reflect.  In the deepest places of our hearts, that brokenness and beauty can reside side-by-side, an odd couple of sorts.  They each have things to teach us, but we have to stop and listen.  We have to stop the noise-both outside and inside-and really really listen. That may result in us having to change our priorities.  Maybe we have to ask hard questions.  Maybe we have to evaluate our 'How did I get here?'s and our 'Why can't I get it right?'s for the hundredth time. Perhaps we have to find the freedom to let go of all of those things and learn to just be.  To be content.  To be enough.  To realize that brokenness isn't a synonym for weakness but is instead a place for healing and strengthening to occur. 

In the Christian world, we have a lot of clichés to handle these seasons.  They sound a bit like, "Choose joy!" and "God is in the details!" and so on, etc. Oh, what about, "Joy comes in the morning!" Are these things true?  Yes.  Can we choose joy in the midst of pain or difficulty?  Of course.  Does God care about the details?  I like to think so.  Will joy come when you open your eyes tomorrow morning?  Well, I'm not sure but here's hoping.  So while we're at it, let's make it a hashtag.  These are not false statements.  Sometimes, though, they become our cover-up for not allowing ourselves to examine the hard things.  They also can prevent us from being present with others in their seasons of brokenness.

I may not be able to see you choosing joy every day in the midst of your circumstances or witness you completely losing it in the middle of every waking hour... unless I choose to enter in with you. Likewise, you may not understand my moments of struggle or even my moments of celebration unless you choose to enter in with me.   So we watch each other's lives play out in our Facebook reels and assume we are all doing just fine.  It's far easier to watch from afar than it is to step into one another's pain or hurt or failure or ______ (fill in the blank as you will).  But that's the part that so often we miss: our broken places are no less holy than our healed places. 

When Jesus appeared to Thomas, it was His scars that He showed as proof of who He was.  An interesting thought to ponder: the Lord of heaven and earth did not need to have any scars after He was resurrected from the dead.  The power that gave Him life surely could have healed those marks on His body.  Those wounds were for us. They are the 'evidence of healing' that allow us to remember the brokenness.   They are the trenches where  miracles happen, and yet we need each other in the trenches. As Laura Story so aptly writes, "Our wounds need to be witnessed."

So where does the healing come into this process?  There are times when it happens all at once.  Most of the time, though, it happens as we journey through and come out on the other side.  Sometimes we emerge much stronger, wiser, and more resilient.  Other times we may find ourselves kinder, less demanding, and more at peace.  Whatever the end result, change will take place.  Just as the physical seasons span a few months and then give over to the next, these life seasons take their own spans of time.  Yet as more of the 'beauty' begins to take over, we cannot simply bury the broken.  It is a part of us now.  We don't cling to it and let it define us, but we allow it the chance to shape us.  It is part of our becoming.

Where, then, does this leave us? Can we trust God to 'remove our sadness and cover us with joy'?  Yes--a thousand times, yes.  But I do not believe that usually happens in a 'pull yourself up by the bootstraps in the name of Jesus' kind of way.  This method seems to put both God and ourselves in a box that I no longer think I like very much.  What if, instead of carrying around the shame and heaviness that result when that 'solution' doesn't quite work, we allow for another way?  A way that says God is merciful and gracious and meets us in every season.  A way that says if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will stop long enough to recognize our neighbor. A way that says, "I see you there, and I won't let you journey alone."  I'm not sure, but I think that way could turn quite a bit of weeping into dancing if we are willing to give it a try.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

One Month Home: Things We Knew & Things We Didn't

We have now officially been home for one month.  Since photos and Facebook are really meant for us regular people to appear fabulously wonderful at all times, I thought this would be a good time for 'what is real.'  (Don't worry if you are really fabulously wonderful at all times--I'm good with that.)

Let's start with a few things we knew going in, followed by what we have learned since April:

  • God had a specific child that He intended for us.  A friend told me something in random conversation  years ago that I have never forgotten--we were standing in the kitchen where we had probably either made a giant mess or were seeking coffee and silence--"You aren't waiting for just any child.  You are waiting for your child."  How right she was.    Yes, our adoption process was much longer and confusing than most.  But God knew.  He knew she wasn't here yet. And once she was here, He knew it wasn't quite time.  How thankful I am that we didn't give up on waiting.  How grateful I am for those who prayed in those hard moments of decision for us and who said, "If God isn't saying no, then keep going."  How precious are those moments with people who were not afraid of the tears and the questions and the hurt and who simply said, "Yes, I'll pray with you and for you." How beautiful that God always gave us the next step, even if that was all we could see.  
  • We knew the transition time would be a quieter stage, that we wouldn't be getting out as much for various reasons, that lots of people in a small space at once would be a little overwhelming, and that we would all need time to bond together as a family unit.  I read all the books, went to the conferences--what this 'should' look like is all stored up there in my brain.  What we didn't know, or at least I didn't, is that it is also a really lonely time.  Sometimes excruciatingly so.  My adoptive mama friends have confirmed to me that this is something quite a few of them experienced, as well, but that doesn't make it any less difficult.  I am sure people are trying to respect our current phase, but I was not really prepared for the quietness and the lack of interaction that seems to have occurred in many areas. So we are also learning to be more intentional people. That may look like meeting up at the park, inviting people over for dinner, or randomly texting a friend and driving to a tiny bakery for gluten-free donuts on Saturday morning (that was an excellent decision, by the way).  It takes a little bit of effort.  But in order to not drown, I'm working on grabbing the hands of those who are willing to wade through it with us.  Because we need them. 
  • We knew that going back to the 'under 3' age range would be different, especially since our other two are much older than they were when we started this adventure.  Good. Grief.  We are also older and tired and are now super happy to have these big kids because, guess what?  They can do things! For example, "Please help me find my coffee.  Or just reach up there and get it for me because I have no more energy until I drink more of it ." While the timing was different than we thought starting out, I know God is not surprised by that, either.  So while it may look and feel odd to one day have a kindergartner whose siblings are completing and beginning high school, it's ok.  Victor and I may have more gray hair than we'd like, but that's 'in' these days so we'll be fine.  Is it bizarre that my oldest niece is about to have her third baby and I now have a toddler and ask her which diapers to buy? Yep--only because I was ten years old when she was born and, wow, that's weird. But it's also a beautiful way for God to weave a story.                           
  • Speaking of the tired part--yes, we knew toddlers were busy people.  What we seemed to have forgotten was just how busy.  As in, they stop moving only when you feed them or they go to sleep.  People keep saying I look smaller.  Well, that's because I've lost a pant size.  Forget Whole 30--try Colombia 17!  Get a little altitude sickness, have a crazy schedule every day where anything at all could happen, walk everywhere (that part was great), get less sleep, and chase a toddler.  You, too, will be thinner, my friends!   I also forgot that you need to feed a growing toddler all. day. long.  Because not only do they need three meals, they need snacks, too! And they should all be healthy or you will be judged by the Parent Police.   Honestly, it's really the same as feeding Grant--I just have to be more creative with the food selections and she can't serve herself.  Thankfully, Violet is not a picky eater and actually does a little dance at the end of every meal because she is so happy with her food.  Yeah, it's pretty cute. She is also an excellent sleeper, so while she may be non-stop during the day at least she rests!  As do we...and getting a tight-as-she-can-squeeze hug in the mornings definitely makes it all worth it.        
    Even at the end of a long day, this face is the sweetest. 
  • We knew our families would be supportive and would love all of our children.  We didn't know how special it would be to see it happening.  My niece (aforementioned almost-ready-for-baby niece) and I  met at the park one morning and she saw a friend of hers walking.  Her oldest daughter said to this friend, "And this is my cousin, Violet.  She was just adopted from Colombia."   That isn't the only example, but that one made my heart smile.  Family is a gift.  How incredible that my precious girl has been so sweetly welcomed into ours.                         
  • We knew Natalie and Grant would be wonderful to a younger sibling.  Maybe because I do have quite a tribe of fantastic nieces and nephews and there have always been kids (ahem, people) older and younger than them around, they have a pretty good handle on how to treat little ones. What we didn't know was just how wonderful it would be to experience it.  While we do appreciate their help and their overall fortitude (do you know how many hours we spent in the back of a taxi in Bogota?), what I love most is the way we get to see them interact with their sister.  That bond seemed to happen immediately, and it is amazing to watch and to listen to them all laugh together at the simplest things. They can never say their little sister lacks personality, that's for sure, and neither do they.  I asked Natalie one morning if it was strange to have a little one in the house.  She replied, "Not really.  It's just like she's always been here."  And that is so true. 
Since that is enough words and we do all like a few good, happy photos, I'll leave you with these:
Bubbles are always a must.  And they are much better with a crowd. 

At encuentro, they told us she was very afraid of 'shower time' and really did not like water when they would do activities.  One of our given goals was to give her 'new experiences with water.'  I think she's made pretty good progress!

So far, the only people outside of my immediate family who can hold me are Mrs. Jame and mi amigo, Martin.  Mrs. Jame bribes me with cake and combs my hair.  She's a keeper.  I am pretty sure Martin is one of my people.   Maybe he is the first Nigerian-Colombian?  Either way, he's pretty cool!


A girl has places to go.  Hasta luego!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

One Week Home, FAQs, and a PSA

She likes the sunglasses.  What can I say?
We have officially made it past the 'one week home' mark and have entered into our second week.  We thought we would answer of few questions and also offer a few insights into our 'new' normal for this season.

We'll start with some FAQs--our most frequently asked questions so far:

Does she speak English? Well.  She is 18-months old and Colombian!  So the simplest answer is 'no.' She does now say "hi,' 'hello,' 'more,' and a combination of 'shoes' and 'zapatos' which she firmly believes means we are going outside.  She is also very good at saying, 'no, no, no.'  Ha!  If that counts as 'speaking English,' then I suppose so.  However, her first language is Spanish.  There are still some things we say to her in Spanish because it is evident that she understands. Often we say things both ways so that she will learn the connection between the languages.   She is extremely clever and misses absolutely nothing, so I feel no worries about her language skills as she has time for them to grow and develop.  Right now, though, we get a lot of speeches in the language of 'toddler babble.'

How is the adjustment going?  To be honest, we are very thankful for the transition process so far. In fact,  now that her stomach issue has been solved and we aren't changing 502 diapers and outfits per day--life is good!  We are tired and are all learning how to balance everything, but for the most part things are going well. We have our challenges, but that's all part of it.   I think people are often surprised and will say, "She just seems so happy."  She is a joyful little soul.  That doesn't mean that there are not hard moments or times when we aren't quite sure just what made her sad or why she feels cranky.  But we laugh a lot here, that's for sure.

Will you be at church/small group/the park/anywhere this week? The answer is no, probably not for a little while longer.  The bonding period is very important, especially for a toddler.  Violet had wonderful caregivers and before that a foster family, and so it is vital for her to know that we are her family unit.  For now, large groups of people are overwhelming for her and also add confusion to an already full plate of big life changes.  So we are keeping the world a bit small.

Can we come by and visit?  Yes!  Please don't stay away or feel like you are bothering us!  We need you! It helps things feel real.  We have had a few friends stop by and say hello which has been wonderful for us and for our 'big kids'  That being said, here are some things to know before you come.

>Just give us a heads up that you'd like to come.  It makes it easier on everyone.  Then if the day isn't going so wonderfully, we can let you know another time would be better. We have also found shorter visits to be best for her and for us as we continue to journey through the attachment process.

>Bedtime for Violet is 7:00pm.  We did not create this schedule, but for the survival of all we stick to it!  It makes for a much happier family when everyone is rested, and that is just when she needs to go to bed.  Believe us, she is wiped out by then!

>Do not be offended if she does not want to be hugged, squeezed, or held by you.  In fact, we prefer that she doesn't!  You are a stranger.  Again, for attachment to be at its best we need to be the ones to hold her, feed her, change her, etc., for a while.  There have been a few rare instances where she has gone to someone else of her own accord because she particularly favored them, so we did not stop her. We want her to know she is loved and our friends are safe.  But too many hands make for confusion in a little mind that is used to many caregivers, so just know those moments for now will be few and far between, even with extended family.

>Toddlers are finicky and also aren't big on graciously sharing their space in general.  So imagine Small Toddler Person being taken from Surrounding A, given to some strange people and taken to Surrounding B, then flying across the ocean to Permanent Surrounding C.  In this new place, they have things that are all their own.  Then Strange New Child comes and tries to invade this space and play with said things.  Getting a clear picture? So if you come with your little ones, just be aware and understanding that all of this is still new.  

>Our expectations right now are not really focused on perfect behavior and modeling good playground etiquette.  So if our Small Toddler Person wants to hold all three of the balls when Suzy is over to visit, we will probably let her.  We will gently explain to Suzy that we are happy to find something else for her to play with while she is here that will not cause weeping and gnashing of teeth.    Eventually we will get around to explaining all of the rules of preschool life.  For now, our goals are for Violet to feel safe and know she is loved and that her needs will be met.  And that's about all!

Thank you for loving our family and for celebrating this time with us.  It's exhausting, it's beautiful, it's messy, and it's good.  And we couldn't do it alone.

I read an older post by Jen Hatmaker this weekend that I absolutely loved.  So for the last part of my post, I am sharing what she wrote about 'after the airport.'  While all of it doesn't apply to our situation (mostly the adopting older kids part), I surely do love her honesty and the parts that do.  I consider it a worthy Public Service Announcement.

Supporting Families After the Airport

You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.) 

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things: 

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for awhile. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair. 

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries. 

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from. 

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better. 

5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here. 

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days. 

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jetlag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jetlag. 

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart. 

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process. 

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine. 

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here. 

Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy. 

Because that day you brought us pulled pork tacos was the exact day I needed to skip dinner prep and hold my son on the couch for an hour, talking about Africa and beginning to bind up his emotional wounds. When you kidnapped me for two hours and took me to breakfast, I was at the very, very, absolute end that morning, but I came home renewed, able to greet my children after school with fresh love and patience. When you loved on my big kids and offered them sanctuary for a night, you kept the family rhythm in sync at the end of a hard week. 

Thank you for being the village. You are so important.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sunday in Usaquen

Sunday we walked with Lucy from the apartment to the area of Usaquen.  In Bogota on Sundays from 7am-2pm, they have Ciclovia which means some of the bigger streets are shut down to cars and opened to people cycling, walking, skating, etc. We set out around 10am and were able to walk down one of the main avenues.  It was so much fun to see all of the people out enjoying the day.

                          Some of the cyclists as we started out on our walk.
 It's hard see from this photo, but the street was filled with people walking and cycling.

It was a pretty good walk, but we had a lot of fun talking with Lucy and just taking everything in.  Then we arrived in Usaquen.  Lucy explained to us that as this area grew over the years, they were not allowed to change the architecture.  It really is very beautiful.   

 Just a few of the many gorgeous houses that line the streets there.

We then came to the area with the flea market.  It is only open on Sundays and was packed with people and vendors of all kinds.  We were told his is 'the place' to buy a lot of handmade traditional items and to also find some fun gifts to take home.  We spent a couple of hours here walking around and shopping.  We stopped for coffee in the upper area of the market, and then we kept going!  I cannot imagine going here without Lucy as she was a great negotiator and also told us which things were good and which were not.  There were also street artists and musicians along the way.  

The view from below the upper market area.

We walked by and he was starting his drawing. 

 About an hour later we walked back by him, and this was the result. Absolutely amazing.

                                   Yes, that is a person.  A very still person.

Some dancers inviting people into their shop. 

We were all very happy with our purchases and with the company we had.   We were able to find a few things for Violet that will either go in her room or will be hers when she gets a little older.  That was very fun for me--finding some special things from her home country for her.  
These are a few of my favorite finds. 

         We found a sweet little handmade dress for her and also a pillow case that will go in her room.

                                Tiny zapatos for the Colombiana!

At our hotel in La Mesa, there was one wall outside with several of these.  I loved them and told Victor I wish I knew where to get one.  Oh, happy day for me to see them at the flea market!!  One is for our wall; the tiny one will go in Violet's room on her shelf.  To see and appreciate the attention to detail, below is an actual house on the street where we are staying.  The tiny flowers and the signs over the doors are some of my favorite things.  Each little house has a Colombian flag near the door.  So pretty!

We ended the day at a restaurant called Sopas y Postres.  It was fantastic, either because we were so hungry or the food was amazing...or both.  This photo commemorates the moment when I was so thankful I had purchased a t-shirt at the flea market since Violet pooped through her clothes and onto my shirt.  Nothing like changing all of the people in the restaurant  bathroom to make lunch exciting!

  We so enjoyed being party of the city for the day!

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Friday we had what is called 'Sentencia.'  This means that you go sign all of the papers to make your child officially, well--yours!  Our day started very early.  The hotel in La Mesa was kind enough to make breakfast for us before the driver came to pick us up at 7:30.  This way we had a good start to the morning.

We arrived at court and waited until it was our turn to sign everything.  There were two other families there, both adopting from the same orphanage as our family.  One family was from Denmark, and we had met them earlier in the week.  The other family was from New York.  It was nice to have others to talk to while we all waited.  Once the papers were signed, the next step was receiving the birth certificates.  This became a little bit complicated as one of the attorneys was ill and unable to be there. So all of the families waited together across the street at a cafe while Jairo, our driver and guy-who-knows-all-the-things, got everyone's paperwork in order.  This took awhile, but we enjoyed our time there and got to know one another.  And had coffee which is always lovely here.  We then made an odd sort of taxi/car caravan to an office in Bogota where all of the birth certificates were issued.  We also got to visit another cafe there while we waited (notice a theme here?), but at the end of the day it was all done!  Violet Lilliana Faith became ours forever.  In case you are wondering, she has three names because she came to us with three names and we felt that was a very good tradition, considering! In Latin American cultures, children have the last name of both their mother and father. Since she will only have one last name, we chose an extra middle name just for her.  'Violet' is the name she was given by her birth mother, just changed a bit for spelling and ease of translation.  Once we saw her little face, we knew that name belonged to her.  'Lilliana' is the name we have had for all of these years as we waited for her to arrive into our family.  'Faith' is what held us as we walked on this journey, and it is what will continue to keep us as we parent all three of our children.  God has each of them in His hand, and He has most certainly brought our daughter to us.

Our picture at court is not the greatest as by that time we had been waiting and she was not really in the mood for a photo shoot!  But--it's our first 'legal' family photo, so we'll take it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Our Time in La Mesa

We arrived here in La Mesa on Tuesday. After leaving Bogota around 9am, it was about a three-hour drive into the mountains.  The drive was interesting as we saw a lot of the city and then the countryside…and then the mountains where there is very little except a few hotels and small stores.  However, the drive was also long as there was construction on the mountain road and we spent quite a bit of time sitting still.  Sitting still with an 18-month old in the back of a taxi can get very tricky. 

Our Bogota Traffic Jam  Faces
Headed into the mountains.

We were given several options for where to stay during this time as we awaited our court date.  The hope is that you will be here for three nights, but there is no guarantee; there is another adoptive family here now that has been here longer than one week and are still unsure of their departure.  So you hope that you have chosen well for your stay!  Our attorney told us she had not had any families stay here, but we liked the way it looked online and it was one of our given choices so we decided to give it a try.  If we were unhappy, we had the option of going to a different place.  And so we pulled up around noon, were asked by our driver in broken English if it seemed ok, and were deposited here at the top of the mountain. 
Finca Hotel Paraiso Terrenal

While you are in this area, they tell you that ‘the wifi may be spotty.’  What they really need to say is that ‘wifi may or may not work here at all depending on the day, the weather, and the general mood of the wifi.  Your in-country phone will only work in only one spot, and your personal cell phone will work for calling…never.  Perhaps once a day you will suddenly get all of your texts and messages, and then after that you can wait til tomorrow.’  From this hotel, the closest ‘real’ store was a 25-minute drive each way.  So picture us just being far far away from anything other than the staff and the other guests.  The only ‘other guests’ when we arrived were the other adoptive family--that was all.  And so we again hoped we had chosen well. It was beautiful, that much we knew right away.

The balcony area off of our room.
Part of our view from the balcony.
Waterfalls were very present along the paths.

Part of the view from the main balcony.

The rest of the view!

In the end, it was definitely God’s provision that had us here. Violet had a very upset stomach since the first day she was with us {update: we discovered this week it has been a parasite--hopefully she will be on the mend very soon!}.  We thought it might be the food, all of the changes, the water—we just didn’t know.  When we had the pediatrician visit, she told us to just keep an eye on it.  But shortly after we arrived here, it was clear this was not going away and was probably not related to what she was eating.  On the first day at the hotel, she went through multiple clothes changes and a whole lot of diapers.  We needed clothes changes, as well, after it was all said and done.  At this time, we were still trying to acclimate ourselves to being here and were feeling the stress.  So we called for help, and our in-country person explained what was happening to the hotel staff.  They did our messy laundry with no fuss.  The manager wanted to be sure she was ok and that she did not need anything.  He is the only one of the staff who speaks English, and even then he only speaks a little.  However, every single person we encountered here has treated all of us with such kindness.  They put up with our attempts at their language and for the most part we were able to communicate well.  There was one particular woman who cleaned the rooms and decided to take on the role of abuela and be sure ‘la nina’ was well cared for.  She apparently also decided we spoke fluent Spanish and would give me very long speeches.  I got about 75% of it, though, and for the rest I would just nod and say, ‘Si,’ and she was happy.  She even made Violet some sort of special soup or tea (we could never tell which it was) that was for her ‘estomago.’   They showed their concern and wanted to be sure she received her ‘medicina,’ a probiotic, which she did as the doctor had it delivered on Wednesday evening.  (Praise be for their pharmacies and the places here that deliver, but that’s another topic…)
Seating area outside of the rooms.

Inside one of the rooms.

They washed her sippy cups and toddler spoons for us each day, brought out a tiny plate or bowl for her with little portions on it at every meal, and they helped us feel safe and cared for in a place where for the first 24 hours we felt a little alone and very unsure.  The manager and the desk clerk helped us read the directions on the formula can as they were extremely confusing (he had to have two others help, too, so it wasn’t just our language skills) and then had the ladies in the kitchen prepare it so she would have clean, warm water for her milk.  The owner (the manger’s father) was here on the second day, figured out what was going on, and had them send a carafe to our room with hot water so that we could make her formula up here without going down to the kitchen when we needed it.  Who does these things?  It appears the Colombians do.  They told us the hotel is a family business, and it shows.

This hotel was not perfect.  The power went out every night while we were here, each night at a different time.  In fact, it just went out right now as I am typing (the beauty of using a Word document as there is no internet anyways…).  As previously mentioned, you might have trouble with outside communication.   If you are looking for frilly accommodations and a completely bug-free bathroom, it might not be your kind of place.  You will be warned about the bugs in La Mesa, and that part is very accurate.  There are bugs.  Lots of bugs.  Strange creepy crawlies and then just regular old pests like gnats and flies.  But that is not the fault of the hotel; that is the way it is here because of the more tropical climate.  It rains a lot.  Every morning and every night it has rained while we have been here.  I don’t mind it because it is peaceful and it makes things cooler for sleeping, but I’m sure if you were looking for a great vacation spot it would put a damper on things.  There are many birds here which is lovely until you meet the roosters.  These roosters became my enemies after the first afternoon when we realized they crow at all hours of the day.  All. Day. Long.  I do think the rain is the only thing that shuts their beaks, but don’t be fooled—they’ll be back.  These poor fellows have no idea that their job is to crow in the mornings.   They are an all day show. 

He shall be called 'El Diablo.' 
That being said, I doubt you could find a more beautiful place to stay.  The name of the hotel means ‘Paradise on Earth,’ and they named it correctly.  We took lots of pictures, but it’s simply so lovely and hard to describe.  There are so many different types of plants, flowers, birds, waterfalls, and then there is the simple beauty of the hotel itself.  And the food alone would be enough without all of the rest.   Our meals were included in the hotel stay, and they served typical Colombian food.  However, there was nothing typical about it.  I am seriously going to need to up my cooking game when we get back home as everyone so enjoyed the way we have eaten for the past few days.  Tonight we asked the kitchen staff the name of one of the soups so that I can try to find a recipe, and we also asked for the key to preparing the ‘chocolate’ in the mornings.  Each morning after breakfast, they ask if you would like ‘café or chocolate.’ Natalie and Grant are now ruined and are expecting this magic to appear in the mornings at home.  Since this does not compare with our sad version of hot chocolate at home, we found out the secret and hope to find the right ingredients in the states.  I think they were happy that we wanted to know how to make those things—they were so willing to share.  We want Violet to know the traditions of her culture, and while these things seems small and  may take some trial and error we are going to give them a try.
Enjoying her morning chocolate.
Bemoaning the lack of the chocolate.
A  traditional salad before the meal.

Their larger meal is at lunchtime, so there was always a soup (sopa) before the meal. as well.

Someone was a big fan of the sopa.
Tomorrow morning we leave to go into the town of La Mesa for court.  They are preparing our breakfast early so they we have something to eat before we go.  That is just how it is here.  Then we will return to Bogota to finish our stay.  While we are all anticipating going home, part of me dreads the return back to the busy-ness of the city for our last week.  This is a place where you have to ignore all of the distractions because there are very few!  We have had a peaceful time here once we got the sickness somewhat under control.  We have played games on the game tables set up all around the hotel—pool (billiards), chess, ping pong, giant Chinese checkers.  We have strolled Violet all around the grounds which she loved, and then we have walked for ages while she pushed her stroller all around the grounds again.  (We also really like nap time!)  

We have struggled, but we have also laughed a lot together.  We have taken our time because there is nowhere to go and no schedule to keep.  Well, other than when the next meal happens because you definitely don’t want to miss that.  We have been able to show Violet her first glimpses of what family should be because there are not any appointments and no...anything else!   And it has been surprisingly good.  While I will be thankful for the conveniences of the apartment and the steps that take us closer to going home, I am grateful for the days we have spent here.  There is a small area for prayer near our hotel room.  The Bible there stands open to Psalm 27, so I decided to read it tonight.  
 It begins: “The Lord is my light and my salvation.  Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life.  Of whom shall I be afraid?”  It ends with this: “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Just another reminder that He had us right where we needed to be.  Tomorrow is a big day.  Tomorrow we ‘officially’ and legally become a family forever.  But God has already done this in all of our hearts.  So I go to bed very tired but with a full heart that is thankful for the quiet and the peacefulness here.  And for the gift of tomorrow. Buenas Noches, La Mesa.