Thursday, April 29, 2010


Today's spring breeze makes me mindful of all that we should be thankful for. As we drive to and from our activities, practices and school, etc it is impossible not to notice the trees in full bloom. They are spectacular and I am always amazed how long we wait to see the flowering trees at their peak.  We wait all year through many chilly days to see nature take over and the trees to do their magical thing. We patiently wait for the grass to green up and the frogs to surface. At our house we wait for the leaves to fill in the forest and the Shrek Swamp behind our house to become a fuzzy shade of bright green.

Spring schedules bring fresh sports and the wrapping up of all things learned within the school year. There is spring sing at school and the planning of field day. Kids are running track and the choice between baseball and soccer is a tough one. Spring is such a season of renewal and anticipation of the lazy days of summer. We are waiting for the days to be long and the air to be hot. We wait on the absence of structure and the rules of homework and bedtime to fly out the window. Spring is the most amazing time of year and I never want to forget running out of the house without mittens and coats, leaving the screened- in porch door open, the sounds of ten kids playing soccer in our front yard and the smell of fresh woodchips that sit for days in our driveway until we can carve out time to get them all spread. 

So here are a few recent photos that scream spring. I am grateful to witness the changes in seasons and I am grateful for my love of photography so that I am able to capture a few rare moments in time in the lives of my precious children. We wait for you little baby girl and we know that someday you too will love the beauty of spring!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Listening is never easy. Sometimes listening is not so much fun. Sometimes listening means we need to turn off our own agenda and hear something we may or may not want to hear. Such is the case with our last few weeks. It was only a few weeks ago that we as a family began to celebrate the news of a daughter and a sister who would soon be coming to our home. We were happy, eager, smitten and even a bit scared as we learned who would become a part of our forever lives. All that emotion and the sharing of our big news and we never stopped to imagine the struggle and challenge that would soon be right in front of us.

Adoption can be a crazy thing.. and it is especially interesting when you choose to let go,  follow your heart and believe that God is partnering with us as a family and with our agency to find a child that is just right. We thought when we received the referral call from our caseworker that this long wait would be over. We would be headed to Ethiopia, sliding in just before the change to two trips. We thought we would have our little girl home in time to have a summer of chaos and bonding. :) Not the case. You see those were all of our thoughts but they were not God's intention on this one. I even had a friend this week who reminded me to relax and not to worry as we were going through the pediatric review phase. His words were, "God is not gonna let you get all screwed up with the wrong child." That comment has stuck with me all week as we moved into the phase of knowing that Baby M deserved a calmer, quieter and perhaps less active family. I can tell you I did feel like God was letting me get all screwed up. I don't feel that way today. Today I feel relief and gratitude for my trust in God to carry us through all the madness and questions. I feel gratitude for the communication with my family and friends and all the supportive fellow adoptive parents out there.

After many hours of discussion with our international pediatrician, family, friends and our agency and through many moments and hours of prayer we now know that the dear little one who was referred to us needs a different family. Baby M has needs that we as a very busy family of five may not be able to meet. This discovery brought on terrible heartache as we searched for ways to fit her into our world. We pleaded this past week to understand why we were meant to endure this heartache when we have waited for nearly two years (after one year in the Nepal program) to adopt our daughter.  We cried, we yelled, we blamed and we searched to understand what we were supposed to do. It felt very strange to be feeling like the referral of this sweet child was not the right fit for our family. After all there is little talk in the adoption world of what it feels like to have to say "no." There is little discussion about immediately falling in love with a child before knowing what an international pediatrician is going to share. It is a very strange part of the adoption process and one that I can only imagine so many families endure as they go through the agonizing discovery phase of the child who has been selected for them. I have now learned that nearly 50% of the time children referred are not the right fit for the family or the family is not the right fit for the child. No need to be judgmental on that one. I am simply stating what we recently learned.

So after days of pleading and asking why, we needed to decline the referral of a little girl who had already stolen a piece of our hearts. We know that the very best family for Baby M is still waiting for her.  We know that we sit here now still waiting for the right child to be revealed to us. It may sound funny to say the "right child." It sounds funny to me. Is that really true that there is the perfect child for us? We are choosing to believe that with all the children of Ethiopia in great need of families, that YES there is one child still waiting for us. She does not yet know us and we long to know her. But rest assured if we can get back to opening our hearts and opening our ears to hearing God's promise well then we will surely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all if the past few weeks was worth every second. Maybe it was God's way of testing our faith and checking in to see if we would release our own agenda and get back to listening when we needed to most. We do need and want to listen even if the the answers are not always what we want to hear.  Maybe we endured such struggle in order to help another family as they endure their struggle on the adoption path.

Tonight I sit on my screened in porch listening to the wind chime (pictured above). I brought home the wind chime this week to help us as a family to remember sweet Baby M. Yes it is painful and the wound is still fresh but we want to hear the chimes and be reminded that Baby M and the many other orphans of Ethiopia need us. They need us to lift them up in thought and prayer. They need us to lift them up in our actions, be it mission trips, donating or even adoption. We are always striving to hear God along this winding road and God is not through with us yet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Big News... our referral story!

Hello All:
Welcome back from a lovely spring break week and we hope your family time and/or travels provided you with some well deserved  R & R.

We have BIG NEWS around here... and forgive us for using email but we thought it the best way to share the next step with all of you.
First we have to share how grateful we are that God shows himself in the details.
Now that we are back on US soil from a family vacation we won't soon forget, we are able to share with you that we received a referral while trying to make our way home from Costa Rica last Friday. It is quite a tale and one that only God could have orchestrated!

I must say I had a feeling this was all going to go down while we were away from our "usual technology" so as we neared the end of last business week I decided to email Julie, our caseworker,  just to let her know we were not available by phone. Our emails literally cris crossed as she was emailing me to let us know our new number. By Thursday night we were feeling a little hum drum about our number but feeling deep gratitude for the time we were having experiencing a new country, a new culture and many quiet discussions with our three boys. On Friday morning a new email came through from Julie saying that she was needing to talk with us. Needless to say she had Big News!  The entire wait, the energy, the work, the endless prayers and tears were all worth it when we were lead into this sweet little girl's file and into her world. There have been more details than I can even remember which have lead us to the gates of adoption, details that have lead us to spend an entire year wait listed in the Nepal program only to feel God pulling us toward Ethiopia, details that helped us heal after spending a year taking care of a family member who went back into a dark marriage and who nearly caused us to have to give up our adoption dream, details in which other Ethiopian adoptive parents were placed in our lives to help guide us when we needed it most. God's hands have been all over us. HE has been holding us in the palm of HIS hand and teaching us each and every day to LET GO! 

Finally God's plan has been revealed and we see who our hearts have been yearning for. So much of this journey is grander than anything any of us could hope for and for that we feel deep gratitude and sheer joy. Is there fear? Of course there is fear. We have questions like any parents should, but we know that she has been chosen for us and we have been the family chosen for her and after all, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see." -Hebrews 11:1.  So remember to hold fast to the dream that God places on your heart. We are all on this road for a reason and whether you are frustrated with all the paperwork, waiting on a fingerprint clearance, hoping to receive a number this week, planning to travel soon or waiting to head to the mailbox for the piece of mail you so desire... remember this... God knows! Really God knows! I never knew until this past 36 hours just how much God truly knows but trust me... If you trust in HIM and LET GO, the desires of your heart will come to you and HIS child will become yours.

The child that drew us in from the moment we saw HER precious photo is approximately 15 months old. SHE is from the southern region of Ethiopia and SHE was brought to Hannah's Hope on March 26th, 2010 after being at a government run orphanage for some time. SHE is tiny for her age and needs the love and care of the Special Mothers of Hannah's Hope to help nourish HER. We are told SHE points to what she wants and SHE enjoys interacting with the other children. SHE babbles and changes toys from hand to hand. 

So the call, the day, the weekend has been incredible! We are all over the place with emotions but I am so grateful that there we were so isolated in San Jose, Costa Rica as one family unit. It was just Bob and I sharing a single hotel phone and watching our reactions in the Hampton Inn mirror. The boys were outside the door in the hallway with snacks playing their new favorite, hearts. They were troopers as we had the good thirty minute talk with Julie about the history and the medical information of the precious little peanut we hope to soon bring home. Bob could feel me shaking and I could see him breathing. It was a feeling like no other as we listened. It was a feeling like no other when Bob opened the email with her pictures and information. Bob was amazing just staring and taking her all in. I loved watching him react to seeing her almost more than seeing her myself. 

 For us this journey has been long... nearly five years long in total from the time we seriously began to contemplate adoption. I remember the days years ago when it was me and me alone who wanted to adopt a child. Then came numerous hardships and family situations that required all of our energy and time and then it seemed to be Bob who helped to keep the adoption dream alive. Next it was both of us feeling called to adopt but not on the same page as to where our daughter should come from. We explored domestic adoption, we considered fostering children and we grappled with the choice between Nepal and Ethiopia. We chose Nepal and spent endless hours of energy and work only to sit on the wait list for an entire year with neither of us feeling like things were right. It was Ethiopia all along... It is THIS child that we have waited years to find. SHE is the reason for our journey and our faith and our faith is the reason we are certain SHE is the ONE. SHE is the daughter of our hearts! 

Please join us in celebrating through prayer this awesome journey. We would welcome your prayers for the following:

1) Pray for the team at Hannah's Hope. That they may continue to nurture and nourish her in many ways.
2) Pray for the doctors who treat the children of Ethiopia. They have an enormous task in making certain each child's medical records are complete and accurate and with far fewer resources than we  have available.
3) Pray for HER birthmother. That she feel our heart's desire to raise this precious gift of a child and that she make her way to the upcoming court appointment to relinquish her fully. Pray for her continued courage.
4) Pray for us as a family that we might grow to know how best to bring this little one into our world. Help us to slow down and truly be open to a new sister and daughter.
5) Pray for HER. Pray that she continue to develop and grow and that she is loved and protected as she waits for us at Hannah's Hope.

Today I have wanted to call each of you personally and tell the story over and over... Of course that is not possible so I am happy to have this blog to share our news.  Each one of you reading this has in some way touched our lives and our hearts as we make our way down this winding road called adoption. Nothing has been easy and of course we realize that bringing HER home may not be easy. International adoption is tricky business, a place where rules constantly change. We thank all of you for being there as our greatest treasures of support, caring, hope and understanding. Let's bring this little one home to her forever family. We cannot wait to share HER with all of you!

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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