"I will not leave you as orphans. I will come for you!" John 14:18

Our hearts have been burdened for a baby girl in Ethiopia....follow along as we go get her!

"I will not leave you as orphans. I will come for you!" John 14:18

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, baby girl!

Today is Audra's 1st birthday!  Crazy!

It is strange to have a baby turning one, but she has only lived with us for a little over three months.  My goodness, this little girl is such a blessing and I'm so glad that we never had to miss a birthday!

This morning, we had a hearing to have her name changed from Selam William Koen to Audra Grace Selam Koen...much better, huh?!?  Also, we petitioned to have her adoption recognized in Texas so we can now get her a Texas birth certificate.  All went well and it's done!  Very simple.

Today has felt a little weird to me...and let me explain.  Usually on the 1st birthday of babies, mommies recount what they were doing the entire day....when they went to the hospital, what all they did during the labor wait, the moment they finally saw the new baby, etc.  I don't have those memories with Audra and that feels a little weird.  I have no clue what I did on this day last year.  I do know that half way around the world one year ago today, another mommy gave birth to a baby born just for us!  I've thought a lot about her today...I hope somehow she feels in her soul that her baby girl is ok.  Thriving.  Has plenty of good food. Has gained 7.5 lbs.  Rolling crazy fast.  Can feed herself a bottle.  Sleeps through the night.  Loves to make a mess while taking a bath.  Does not love to have her clothes changed.  Can throw a good fit when she's hungry. Has eye lashes to die for! (I wonder if she does, too?)   Can wave "hi" and "bye bye."  Claps when we say "yay!"  Loves food!  All food.  She can make some seriously silly faces!


                                                             Has fabulous big brothers.

                       And 2 parents who got just what they needed when she finally got home!

Adoption is such a gift, and today I am reminded of that even more.  I wish somehow I could convince everyone to adopt a child b/c truly, the experience....ALL of it....changes you when you didn't even realize you needed changing.  In good ways.  Opens your eyes and makes you love a country and the people in it so very much...and this coming from someone who had never left the US until this past December.

There is a piece of my heart in Ethiopia and I don't care to get it back.  It needs to stay there. A constant reminder to me of where this sweet girl came from and who she was from her start...on her "birth" day.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

One week....and what I most want to say...

Our Audra Grace has been home for one week tonight....and it truly feels like she's always been here.  She's just a perfect little fit.  The transition for her has been so easy...she is so happy and calm all the time (except if she's hungry!  then she turns into a little siren!) 

I am so thankful for how God formed our little family together.  I was thinking the other day about how all my babies are little miracles...Micah and Caleb - twins!  What are the odds?!?!  Grant - pregnant with him 3 weeks after a miscarriage!  What are the odds?!?!  And Audra Grace - given by one mommy for another mommy and daddy to love and care for when all she could do was love.  All my babies are miracles.  

We have tried, in our adoption process, to make the cause of the orphan known. I firmly believe that ALL Christ followers are called to care for orphans in some way, shape, or form. [I believe that Christians could solve the orphan problem if we would just respond.] But I deeply hope beyond all hope that more Christians will respond to welcome the orphan into their family and call them "my child". I pray you'll go all the way. I believe that some of you are called to adopt, and I hope you will. I hope you will trust God with your fears, the finances, the barriers. I hope you will say "yes" to one of the most amazing journeys you could experience in life. I would wish adoption on anyone. It has changed the core of who we are and we are so thankful for that.

Here are a couple of sites I like that refer to caring for orphans in scripture....orphan adoption is not just "so sweet" or "so lucky for your little girl"....it's a biblical mandate.  It's not something we did b/c we just thought one day "hey, you know what might be fun......???"  It's a calling and I hope many people listen.


I'm not sure how much more I will blog now.  I just really don't feel like a "blogger"....but I have enjoyed documenting this little journey for our baby to one day look back on and get just a little picture of what her mommy was thinking.  It's been fun and I am so blessed!!  Thanks for following along!

Monday, January 17, 2011

She's home!!!

January 15, 2010
Absolutely one of the BEST days of my life!!!  
So proud of Matt for bringing our baby girl home!
We feel complete and it's amazing.
Thank you for helping us pray her home!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I totally stole this blog....b/c it's awesome! Thanks Courtney!

My friend, Courtney, wrote a great blog the other day!  It said everything I've wanted to say (except fill in "daughter" where she put "son") but haven't had the time or mental concentration to do so.  Luckily, she apparently has!  YAY!  Her and her husband brought home their son from Uganda in the fall...their story has been so beautiful to follow!  I'm so glad that my adoption coordinator set us up....she's a blessing!!  Enjoy!

Reflecting on 2010

Well, if you are reading this...it looks like God has blessed you with another year - like me!  That is great news, right?  I've never been real big on resolutions - though I do like the fresh new start that comes with another year. It feels almost like a do-over.  Another opportunity to be better at what I am doing...in every aspect of my life.  I often try so hard...and then feel bad that I didn't succeed as much as I thought I was supposed to.  This year is a little bit different.  I still like the fresh, new start we get with another new year.  In fact...I am going to embrace it. However, this year, more than ever, I am also going to look back at the year that was 2010.  WHAT A YEAR. I had no idea where it would take us last January.  And look at where we are!!!  God is so incredibly amazing...and I am a fool if I think that I can even begin to figure out what and where and who I will be in December of 2011.  So, with this fresh, new start...I am going to try REALLY hard NOT TO FIGURE IT ALL OUT.  I am going to REALLY try to live one day at a time.  Appreciate that day.  Challenges and all.

Reflecting on the past year, I have learned the following lessons about myself (of course this is just a few of many):
1.  I don't know much of anything.
2.  I LOVE my daily shower.  I love to let the water drip into my mouth and flood it and spit it out.  LOVE it.
3.  I have too much stuff.
4.  I have too short of  a fuse.
5.  I am uncomfortable.
6.  I am changing...growing...being molded.
7.  I am learning who God wants me to be.
8.  I am appreciating that this life is only temporary.  And praise God for his son and the fact that I get eternity in heaven.
9.  I have the most amazing children.  REALLY.  They are so...inspiring...determined....smiley...beautiful...everything I want to be.
10.  I have an incredible husband - who is the head of our household...and I am happy about it.
11.  I have been blessed with an open minded, accepting, loving, beautiful family that I wouldn't change for anything.
12.  I am rich.
13.  I REALLY love coffee.  A LOT.  Ok...maybe I already knew that, but I am reminded over and over!
14.  My friends are more like family.
15.  People love us so much.  They loved us enough to help us bring our son home.  That is A LOT of love. And time.  And donations.  And PRAYER.  People made a difference in our lives.   They did things they didn't have to do.   Went out of their way.  Made a WORLD of difference to us.  They are and will always be a part of our family.
As you can see...some of these lessons have been BIG ones and some have been smaller.  Some have impacted my life forever and some have always been an impact on my life.  Perhaps the biggest thing I have learned and come to appreciate was toward the end of this year and it is this:  GOD DID NOT PUT ME HERE TO BE HAPPY OR CONTENT.  I can't find peace in this world.  I am not going to feel "accomplished" or like I have gotten where he wants me to be.  And I don't need to.  But, what I CAN rest in is the fact that if I am uncomfortable...feeling stretched at all ends...almost desperate...then I am right where my amazing God wants me to be.  THIS IS WHERE I GROW THE MOST.  I get lost in the day to day.  In the easy stuff.  Where I am FORCED to find peace in God is at the times where I can't handle it on my own.
When I first realized this it kinda freaked me out...like who wants to live the rest of their life in strife?  Isn't there really an easy button?  But, now I really can kind of feel great about it.  God is using me.  THAT IS WHAT THIS LIFE IS ABOUT.  I am not always sure what he is using me for...but he is with me always.  And HE IS ALL I NEED.  When I live life for HIM...I am able to really appreciate the blessings that come with every day.  And instead of living happy...I get to LIVE.  Really...LIVE.  It is so different.  And so much better.
I like who I am today. Wife.  Stressed.  Mom.  Flawed.  Daughter.  Overwhelmed.  Sister.  Laughing.  Friend.  Loving.  Person.  Caring.  I have the rest of my life to work on me - or rather to let God have his way with me.  I know that He has big plans for the rest of the years to come.  I am so excited about it.  I hope every person reading this (and those who aren't), realize that God has GREAT PLANS FOR YOU TOO.  You may have NO IDEA what kind of things he is planning on doing with you in 2011.  Please let me know if I can pray for anything specific.  My email is to the right of my posts.
I would love to leave you with pics...but our computer is a bit of a mess right now and I can't download them.  So...hang tight...more to come soon!
Happy New Year!  May your  2011 be as wrecked and beautiful as our 2010 was!  God bless!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas to us!! We got an Embassy date!

On December 23rd, I got the call from Tonya that we had an embassy date...and a fast one!  January 13, 2011....yay!!!  No better gift than to know that Audra Grace Selam Koen is coming HOME for the new year!  Unfortunately, this did not leave much notice with airline tickets, which turned out to be very expensive!  Because of this, Matt (my hero) is going half way around the world all by himself to bring our daughter home.  I am so proud of his willingness to do this, but also incredibly sad that I will not get to go back to Ethiopia.  Who know...this may be the last chance I ever have to go.  But, we are trying to think with our brains and not our hearts and him going without me is the best logical option.  Matt leaves Sunday Jan. 9th and will be home Saturday Jan. 15th.  Please keep us all in your prayers that week, especially Matt and Audra!  For her to handle the adjustment and flight well with her daddy.  I will be a nervous, anxious wreck that week until they are home, but will certainly survive!  I wish I had the appropriate words to let Audra know how excited (that's not even a strong enough word) we are to have her complete our family...the hole in my heart for her will be filled and be whole!  Thank you, Jesus!  He placed this burden on our hearts for adoption, has brought us through this faithfully, and we thank Him for creating her just for us!!!

DADDY IS COMING, BABY GIRL!!!  only 13 more days until you are with him!!!  ....just so you know, you've got the BEST daddy in the world!  he loves you SO much!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Last Day in Addis....written from the plane.



We woke up Wednesday dreading it and ready for it all at the same time.  It was the day we had to leave Audra halfway around the world, but it was also the day we got to get home to the boys….well, we will get home to them tonight.  We’ve been awake for 38 hours at this point and have been on a plane for 12.5 hours will over 5 to go.  Being on a plane for this long, I’ve discovered isn’t so scary, but just makes me want to lose my mind b/c you can’t move!  I’d give anything to be 5” tall and 100 lbs right now! 

Wednesday morning we got up early and went up to Entoto Mountain, where there is a palace, St. Mary’s Orthodox Christian Church, a museum, and nice fresh air!  It was a good break from the crazy pollution in Addis. (I held a mask over my face most of the time b/c all the pollution burned my throat and made me a little nauseous).  We had a great tour of the things up there, but were not allowed to go into the church.  I really wanted to, though, b/c there were some nice drum beats coming from in there!

We went back down the mountain, often following donkeys carrying huge loads of hay running down the mountain with someone running after them.  There were also women on the side of the road picking up dried eucalyptus leaves….not quite sure what they were going to do with them, but they were working really hard. 

On our way down the mountain, apparently it wore our driver’s poor old Toyota Corolla out b/c he had to pull over and change the spark plugs.  Poor guy!  I was just impressed that he not only had extras in his trunk, but that he just changed them right there on the side of the road!  After he was finished and the car wasn’t dying anymore, we went to the Alert Leper Compound to buy some handmade items from there.  There was not tons to choose from, but it was all beautiful and we knew our money was staying there to help out the women who were literally sitting in the yard sewing these beautiful things.  We then went back down to Churchill Street for a few more goodies and then headed to see our girl!!!

It was a rough afternoon with her.  We were trying so hard to enjoy it, but crying on and off b/c we didn’t want to leave her sweet little face….AT ALL!!!  But it was sweet b/c every time I was crying, she would just smile and grab my face, like she was trying to tell me it was ok.  Oh, how I love that baby! 

We probably totally broke her schedule b/c I never took her in for her nap, but just held her outside while she slept.  I did have to take her in a feeding time…she was crying with me.  Apparently I was doing it wrong!  The nanny said “you feed her too slow.  Have to feed her fast!”  and she was right!  She started shoveling it in her mouth and Audra was a happy girl again.  Then, 5 o’clock came and it was time to hand her over.  RIPPED OUR HEARTS OUT!!!  The nanny just kept saying “Don’t cry.  She’s ok.  You be back in one month.  Please don’t cry.”  Oh, how I hope she’s right!!!!  (b/c I’m sitting here bawling on the plane as I type this)

This is one of the sweet nannies a the transition house.  They truly love the babies!!!

8 o’clock rolled around quickly and Dawit, our driver  (I was calling him David al week.  Oops!) was there to take us to that crazy airport again!  Ugh.  Leaving at 11:30pm is rough.  I truly hope we have him again when we got back to get her…he was a very nice guy! 

I’m so thankful for our time in Addis Ababa.  I’ll try to write more about lessons learned later, but right now I’m too much of a mess to do that.  Seeing what you see there takes a little time to process, but I know one thing is for sure….Addis Ababa, Ethiopia changed us and for that, we are thankful.

Addis Ababa - Sunday, Monday, & Tuesday


Sunday, Monday and TUESDAY!!!

Sunday morning we got up and went to the International Evangelical Church, which was very cool.  Not Ethiopian at all, but cool.  The pastor was a guy from North Carolina and it was a typical American service, but the crowd was not the typical crowd I’m used to seeing in church and I absolutely LOVED that!  I think that’s what heaven is going to look like…all different colors singing in all different accents.  It was great!  After church we went to visit Audra for the whole afternoon.  Such a sweetie!  She was very bright eyed and seemed to really enjoy our attention.  

Didn’t seem to mind being held all afternoon, which was fine with us!  At 5pm, they had a little coffee ceremony.  Nothing fancy…just gathered us and another family from Kentucky in a room where they where brewing coffee and then served it with popcorn sprinkled with sugar.  SOOOO delicious!  Then it was time for us to hand her over so they could get all the babies ready for bed.  Great day!

Monday morning we paid a little visit to Faith Orphanage, the place that took Audra in and took good care of her.  This was truly an experience I will never forget, even if I tried.  It was a very nice place and they do the best they can, but seeing that many babies without families does awful things to your heart.  I wanted all of them.   I wanted to call everyone I know and tell them to send in an application b/c these babies need mommies and daddies.  We need to do more.  The director took us down to the kindergarten room, he said something and they all stood and sang us a welcome song.  It was beautiful.  Then they got back to business, which was a little boy leading the others in reciting the ABC’s, holding a stick and pointing to each letter on the wall.  It was so amazing to listen to…Matt recorded it a little bit on his phone.  Nothing better happen to that phone! We also gave that class suckers before we left…it was like we were handing them gold.    After the orphanage, we went to Churchill Street and did some fun shopping!  Got some scarves and purses and baby dresses for Audra and some knifes for the boys (not my choice of gifts…you can guess who bought those) and little toy balls with the Amharic alphabet on them.  The huge downer, but reality, to the shopping trip was the little boy who begged me the whole time.  He waited outside of each shop for us and kept asking for my shoes.  My big size 11’s wouldn’t have done him any good.  He held on to our driver’s car as we drove away.  Wrecks you!

Tuesday (today) was our court appearance.  Gosh, I was suddenly nervous.  I hadn’t worried much about it b/c of all the blogs saying it was not big deal, but it suddenly became a very BIG deal!  Our appointment was at 9am, we went into the judge (a beautiful, soft spoken women) at 9:45 and were done in about 3 minutes.  It ended with her quietly saying “Congratulations, she’s yours.”  Oh what a happy moment!!!

 We celebrated by going to Kaldi’s Coffee (a Starbucks replica) for a mocha frapuccino and a mocha cappuccino…our driver had an orange Fanta.  Ha!  It was so fun!  We had outside and just soaked up being in Addis Ababa, glowing from being new parents again.  

After coffee, we changed and went for a visit with Audra for a couple of hours.  We sat outside and took some really cute “you’re officially ours” pictures.  Then she got sleepy, so I went and put her in her crib and we came back to the hotel to rest for a while.  

Tonight we are going to Yod Abyssinia, which is a traditional Ethiopian restaurant.  I’m pretty excited about it!  Our driver is going to join us so he can tell us about everything on our plates…I’m kinda nervous about the food. 

****The restaurant was amazing!!!  Matt really enjoyed his food (shocker!)…tongue was his favorite meat, and there were a couple of things I thought were good, too.  Not the meat, though.  I actually enjoyed the coffee and popcorn the best.  

This is Matt's plate.  Mine was no where near this full!!

The dancers and the band were so cool!  They played authentic instruments, had great singers who can do some crazy things with their vocal chords, and some dancers that can do things with there necks and shoulders that aren’t natural!  At one point, the announcer said something about the next dance being from a certain region, which is the region Audra is from!  I’m so glad our driver was with us b/c he recognized the name and said, “this is where your baby is from, so video this!” and we did!  He was so helpful all week! 

This is Dawit, our driver.  I didn't know his name was Dawit until after he 
gave us his business card when we left.  Saturday when he introduced 
himself, I thought he said David....so poor thing, I called him David all week.
He never corrected me.  Hope we have him on our next trip!!

This has been a great trip and I’m not sure now I feel about leaving tomorrow.  The people God calls here to do his work must be very tough skinned!