Friday, September 25, 2009

ART Rules!

Where to begin? I'm sitting outside in the crisp fall air near downtown Grand Rapids and feeling like life doesn't get any better than this. This city is so vibrant, so alive, so on it's game. Having lived here since I was seven years old, I often feel caught up in my daily routine, my driving shortcuts, my usual grocery and coffee run. I forget to jump outside my own lines. I forget to leave the dishes {I did that this morning :} skip the laundry and just spend my alone time traveling new paths. I'm at the Wealthy Street Bakery this morning watching all the people moving about and feeling a bit like a live in a big city. Sometimes I feel like I missed that stage of life. I'm watching dog people, coffee lovers, moms with little peanuts and the tourists here in town to view the 1300 art pieces shown all over downtown for the next 15 days. ARTPRIZE is in full swing in Grand Rapids, MI and I see and feel a sense of energy, enthusiasm and unity that isn't always in play. It makes me grateful to see that we do have a diverse and rich culture right here in GR. We were downtown last night for piano lessons and I loved hearing my boys, ages 7 and 8 beg me to take them to check out a few of the big ARTPRIZE sites. How could I possibly say no to that request. We loved roaming around, viewing a speed artist demo, watching a man creating moses out a tall piece of wood, finding Nessie and the Sticks table above the blue bridge. People have poured their heart and souls into this competition and we plan to embrace all the art we can fit into our busy lives. Art gives a glimpse into someone's heart. Art helps us think and wonder. Art helps us get in touch with our inner selves and Art reminds all of us that diversity and uniqueness is so good!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What's our number?

We are on the wait list! Can you guess what number we were given? We had the best night with our boys tonight and we had to top it all off with these silly photos. Below you will see our post with yesterday's big news and what it all means in terms of a timeline to learning who our daughter will be. It is so exciting and we feel so blessed to know we will have another little being in our world and in our hearts. Her brothers will be amazing and although it is tough to help them better understand adoption, We know that God will give us the tools and the dialogue we need when we need it.

It was a day of celebration in the life of two families also working with our agency, AGCI. Both of the families were called today with referrals. The Pratt family received a call about a 6 week old baby boy and the Andersen family, who were placed in the number one spot on September 4th for both a girl and also for siblings, received a referral of twin 6 week old girls. It was a busy night on the list serv, where many families all chat and share news. It is a supportive group of people who amaze me with how they live their lives and their faithfulness and service to others. There are so many families we wish we could get to know. There are so many families who are willing to open their eyes to the orphan. I learn new things each and every day by following their journeys.

So all day I've been thinking that somewhere tonight there is an Ethiopian woman who recently gave birth to a child or children she will not raise. She perhaps chose to relinquish the child into the arms of strangers who have more resources or options than she. Or maybe the same woman knows that she will not survive the years it will take to see her child grow. Maybe she is ill or lacks support and basic needs to live and thrive, therefore choosing life for the young child. Whoever this woman is we may never know. But each day I stand in awe of the many women worldwide who carry babies inside their bodies only to be faced with the ultimate challenge of knowing it is best if she lets he or she go. Someone who works in the arena of adoption once told me to pray for birthmothers. I do. I pray for them to find courage and peace and I pray for them to somehow know down deep what a gift they have given to another, both birth child and adoptive family. May they in some small way feel the love that many families are yearning to provide to the young heart of a precious and helpless orphan.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Drumroll please...

We are finally on the list! Our agency assigned us number forty-four today. That means there will be forty three other referrals made before we receive the special call from our case manager, Julie, when we will hear the words, "I have a little girl I would like to talk to you about." The referral should take anywhere from 8-10 months. After we receive "the call" we will immediately be given access to her picture, her story and any health and background information our agency can provide. So getting on the list means we have made it through all the hoops to get to the point of being ready to adopt from Ethiopia when the right child is meant for our family.

Going through an entire redo of all paperwork in less than a year certainly has presented us with challenges but the paperwork is done. There will be little for us to do now except wait and pray. We can now begin to prepare for her. We can slowly begin to prepare her space, further prepare our boys and prepare our hearts to endure the joy and challenges that international adoption can bring. Waiting to know her will be hard but now it feels real. We really are adopting our fourth child, a little girl from the beautiful land of Ethiopia, into our family and into our lives forever. To many it is only a number, but for us it is a milestone and a marker as we continue on our faithful journey.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Another Overnight Delivery

OK so somewhere between filling out four or five different financial worksheets during dossier #1 and dossier #2, we made some kind of big error. I think we gave our financial planner the wrong form or somehow he printed out the form we had used for Nepal which of course is different from the form Ethiopia requires. You see there is no uniform process to adoption papers. That would make it far too easy and give we families nothing to require our thinking caps or organizational skills. So here we sit on pins and needles last week just waiting to hear from Julie with our number on Friday afternoon. Oh yeah I think I forgot to mention that she only reviews the dossiers on Fridays and she only reviews them if all the documents are in her hot little hand. So we worked hard and pushed hard to have everything at AGCI by last Friday. It was all there, so we thought. So when the phone rang late in afternoon I was so excited to hear Julie's voice on the other end. We were headed out for a night downtown with the kids to have dinner and take photos. The news of our place in line would be icing on the cake of a very nice family day. Not so fast! Julie informed us that we did not complete the correct document for one of the required financials. WHAT? Her news hit hard. "That cannot be right. You have everything you could possibly need on us and what about the four page document spelling out everything about our financial status.?" Well that my friends is for the home study and even if we were able to mail the correct document, notarized of course, right away, Julie would have to wait to give us a number. AHHHHH! I hung up and fought back a few tears as Bob stood nearby shaking his head. He was kind in not pointing out my mistake. He is one of the few people I can talk to about how nuts all these documents become. The blend together, taking on a life of their own and soon I am so mixed up I cannot see straight. It took me a few days to even get this down on paper. Of course by now the correct form has been filled out, printed, signed and notarized and today I made yet another contribution to the United States Postal System. Overnighting these crazy papers has become my routine and all the ladies at Forest Hills Foods now ask with a smile, "Do you need a copy of that one too before mailing it?"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

His fingerprints are what?

So just when we think we are going "on the list," we get a wonderful phone call from one of the social workers who helped with our homestudy. It is obvious in her tone of voice that she has very bad news. Nearly three weeks ago the state of Michigan fingerprint info was completed and returned directly to her. She was on vacation and we were waiting for FBI paperwork to be completed in order to get the home study completed and on it's way to our agency. The clearance info sat on her desk until yesterday when she turned over the form to find that Bob's prints came back as "NOT VIABLE" You have got to be kidding me!!! I felt so bad that Renee had to call me to let me know that she never looked at the back of the form since the same fingerprint card came back just fine last December during home study number one. Are you thoroughly confused yet? I know we are. Keeping all this straight is ridiculous and if the United States government had even one agency linked to another this would not be such a giant problem. It's completely nuts that we have been fingerprinted four times and cleared through the Dept. of Homeland Security when we were adopting through Nepal, but yet nobody can simply pull up Bob's prints and complete the background check. Yeah let's go back to our local Sheriff's Dept and do the old archaic way of rolling the fingers and then make people wait for weeks only to tell them that the fingerprints will need to be redone because the fingers were not rolled just so. For real?

So I spent another hour of life today figuring out where and when Bob can go to do the machine type Livescan fingerprints {what should have been done the first time}. Now we pay $65.00 and try and rush the review of the prints. Meanwhile I begin working to convince the agency to use the old print clearance {from the Nepal H.S.} so that we can get "on the list" and in line with all the other families wishing to adopt through AGCI. My patience is shot and believe me when I say that I may come undone if one more person remind me that this is just like a new adoption and all of this is just part of the process. Well no kidding but could we learn a bit from some of the many challenges we have faced in muddling through this system? Might we change it up a bit to be more user friendly, more error proof and just all around simpler? I wish I could make it easier on the next family hoping to adopt.

Deep breath......... Whew! So needless to say it has been a long couple of days and we are back to the waiting game. We just want to be on the list people- on the list! Please God grant us patience and give us the ability to find humor in all these little hurdles we have faced. Finding her will be worth every little step. We are certain of that!

Into Our Arms Forever!

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welcome home ava! from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Meeting Ava during our first trip to Ethiopia

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Meeting Ava Ethiopia Trip July 2010 from melanie Strobel on Vimeo.

Korah- Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

During our recent visit to Ethiopia I felt very called to the village of Korah in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. There have been numerous rumblings lately about the tremendous need to help the children of Korah who are growing up in and around the local trash dump. The village was established 75 years ago as a place to send people with leprosy who were said to be cursed. Now there is a 3rd generation of people living in Korah with nearly 100,000 suffering from such things as leprosy, HIV, misc disease and of course malnutrition. There are many children of Korah who have been forced to live and work at the trash dump in hopes of finding food and possible items to sell in Korah's center of town. With the start of the Great Hope Church in Korah and the building of a shelter, along with the ministry of local Sammy Liben and Sumer Yates, there is now a feeding program and a sponsorship program in place to rescue the forgotten children of Korah and send them to boarding school where they can escape the horror of the conditions of living and working in a large trash dump. For more information please visit: or where you can learn more about how you or your organization can help the people and the children of Korah. Please send me a message or email Erin Allen at to request sponsorship information. I will soon be posting the photos of my day recently spent in Korah. I must tell you it was life changing and beyond anything I have ever done to stretch, change and rearrange myself. God helped me to help the people who I met. Much of what I could offer was nothing more than the snap of my camera or a warm touch or an inviting smile. The needs in Korah are beyond our wildest imagination yet God is over Korah and there is already amazing work being done. I invite you to view the following videos to learn more about the beauty and the needs of Korah's people.


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Hannah's Hope Orphanage- Ethiopia

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