Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Juliet Elshaday Galvan

It is the proudest moment of a mother's life when she presents her daughter to the world for the first time. And tonight I have had that honor.

Today, in the earliest morning hours, halfway across the world in a small court room in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia you were forever brought into our hearts and lives. As I prayed through the night, I knew that somewhere over there....there were clerks and couriers and judges and all manner of busy business taking place to ensure that we would become a family.

My little darling....how long we have waited for you. You are the answer to my prayers. We welcome you in to our lives with open hearts and open arms. You will receive so much love...so much that it will be pressed down, shaken together, and running over. It will be your purpose to give that love back to the world.

I will teach you to walk in the footsteps of our Father God and in those of His son Jesus. I have given God my promise that if He will simply answer my prayers for children that I, with the heart of Hannah, will teach them to love and to serve Him. My beautiful baby....if I can do nothing else for you as your mother, then it will be to show you how to do that.

You have been given a purpose. And it will be your life's journey to discover that purpose. And already, whether you realize it or not...you are already bringing glory to your Father God. Your story is being told to so many and they are hearing of God's mercy to two mothers. One who cried out for God's salvation of a child, and one who cried out for the filling of her empty arms. You and Savannah have filled my arms, and you and Savannah have been the answer to my longing and prayers. And you and Savannah both help to fulfill the beautiful portrait of adoption which reflects what Jesus has done for us. Because of His sacrifice, we have been adopted by our Heavenly Father....and it is our testimony as a family of the power of sacrifice and salvation that already has and will continue to speak to so many people. You have been chosen for our family to be of glory to God.

You were born to a beautiful Ethiopian woman who was unable to provide even the most basic necessities for you. She chose to relinquish you in order to give you a chance at a full life. You are one of only a 1/100th of a single percent of children from Ethiopia that was adopted this year. Your life is significant in that you have been given life. This year in your birth country 30,000 children will die every single day from malnutrition and preventable diseases. So it was the sacrifice of this beautiful Ethiopian woman who gave you life...not once...but twice.

Before she relinquished you to the care of your orphanage, she gave you a second gift. It was your name. Your Ethiopian name, Elshaday is the Amharic word that comes from the Hebrew El Shaddai. In Ethiopia, names are given and they carry tremendous significance. So when you were given that name it was because your birth mother was saying that she was "trusting in the Almighty God" to care for you. When we were first given your picture and told your name, we knew that we had been called to a very important task. She was trusting in the Almighty God to protect you, to care for you, and to see that you would live. And He has answered that prayer and given me the privilege to to do just that. You will be so loved, and cared for and more importantly you will know your Heavenly Father who has called you out of Ethiopia.

We have kept your African name, and we have joined it with a new name. Often times when God would make a significant change in a person's life in the Bible, He would begin by giving them a new name. Your name Juliet was chosen for you to signify that you have been brought into your forever family. While you share your name with your father...your name was uniquely chosen to be a name that is all your own. You are my little Juliet. And that name was laid on my heart many many months ago.

So even in your name, you will see the power and the beauty of your adoption story. We have given you the new and we have kept the old. We honor your beginnings and we give you new life.

You were born, as far as we can guess, on about January 1st, 2010. And while we may never know the exact date, we do know that you were born in 2010 and that you were only about a month old when you came to the orphanage on January 27th. How significant that you would be born at that time. On that morning, we turned our backs on a dark year and we ushered in a new year. How gracious is God that he renewed us with a beautiful new life to signify the beginning of a new start. I can't think of a more amazing way to ring in each and every new year from this day forward than to celebrate your life!

I long to hold you my sweet baby girl. It won't be much longer. And tonight.....it is my honor and privilege to call you for the very first time.......(and I can officially say this now)..... my daughter.

Here We Go Again

Ok! Round two!!! Will today be the day?

The odds are in my favor. And I am at complete peace. This is a good day to become a mom for the 3rd time.....

It is amazing what a difference a week can make. I am excited, and filled with the spirit of adventure. I am ready to sprout my wings and fly over to Africa.

Africa. Wow....I will really be there in a matter of weeks. I had only pictured being in Africa in my wildest dreams. I knew that it was a place that I wanted to see once before I go to heaven....but if you had asked me a year ago if I would be planning to leave in a matter of weeks...I would have raised an eyebrow. And if you had told me that I would be going by myself....I would have known you mixed up my fortune with someone elses. I would NEVER have believed the adventure that was about to be in store for me.

Anyone who knows me well knows that this is not my nature. I am never excited at the thought of travelling. Usually I am petrified. Maybe that will come...but right now, I am so excited. I think that is because there are finally some things settled in my heart. And I think that I am able to be excited because I have finally come to terms with the most important aspect of my life.

I have struggled so much over the last few years at really putting my trust in God. Whether it was because I was struggling for the belief in His existence to whether I was struggling with the belief that I was His child or whether it was that I trusted Him to take care of me. I have run the gamut.

While I have, for as long as I can remember, been a believer; never have I been plagued by so much doubt as I have been these past few years. I have scoured and searched to find proof and every time, I fall short. But in my search, I have come to realize two simple truths.

First, there will be no proof great enough that time won't destroy. If God himself took His small finger and swirled around the stars to read "I am here"..... we would find a way to discredit it. We would reason and rationalize explanations. Maybe it was only particles in the atmosphere giving the illusion. Maybe there are lifeforms on other planets which are trying to communicate with us. Maybe it was someone on earth who pulled off an elaborate hoax. And in time, not only would we come to question how that miracle occurred, but our memory of it would become fuzzy as well. We would question if we really saw what we thought we saw? And we would wonder if it were just a dream. So even if we had the most concrete of proof, it wouldn't be enough. Aaron who had seen God even forgot Him temporarily standing at the base of Mt. Sinai and he turned to gilding statues of calves from melted gold so that he could WORSHIP them. I am no better than Aaron.

Second, I have realized that faith comes down to a choice. You have to at some point simply say "I choose to believe" or "I choose to reject". Once that choice is made, you begin to believe in faith on what evidences that you do have. You choose to believe that everything that you observe adds up to the promises that we have been given. And while it is OK to keep searching until you are ready to make that decision, ultimately not making a decision or putting it off is the equivalent of a rejection.

And my excitement for doing something so adventurous has come for one reason only. I have come to the point in my life that I have made a conscious choice to believe in God. I have examined all the evidence I can find, and while I was not able to find definitive proof, I have chosen to accept His Word and His very existence on Faith. And it is this choice which then allows me to also put my faith in His promises. And He has promised to take care of me. He has promised that He will give me salvation. And He has promised to care for my children.

This is not to say that I don't have my days when that old familiar doubt likes to creep in and destroy my peace....but for the most part I can remind myself that I have deliberated and I have chosen to place my trust in God. I can remind myself that the evidences were stacked in Gods favor and ultimately I have to act upon a body of belief. With a simple nudge to my spirit, I act upon the supposition that God is there and that His Word is true and that He keeps His promises.

So, what does this have to do with Africa?

Prior to this decision, I could never have stepped on that plane. For a thousand reasons. I could not have risked not being in control of my destiny. I could not have trusted the safety and security of my daughter and her future to others in my absence. I could not have flown 8000 miles in fear of the thought that I could die and possibly go to Hell because I didn't have the assurance of salvation....or even that I could die and simply cease to exist. I had fears of being forgotten, and fears of being stolen. I have had every fear from every angle and it would have completely destroyed the joy of making such a journey.

But coming to terms with my faith and my trust in God's promises allows me such freedom. I can step on that plane. I can know that my life is in God's hands and regardless of the outcome...He will see His perfect will come to fruition. Should I not make it home...I can know that He is still in charge of taking care of my husband and my daughters. He will complete the good work that He has begun in their lives. No mom necessary if the circumstances warrant. I can travel more than 8000 miles knowing that no matter what happens at home or in the air or on the African continent, I am in His care and all things will work together for the good of me because I love Him and I am called according to His purpose.

And so I am looking forward with anticipation making my journey to bring home my sweet little girl.

Today is our day sweet heart!!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

While I Wait

After spending an evening trying to remain prayerful regarding my own adoption, I have awoken to so much sad news. Most disheartening is the news that Russia has closed its doors to adoption for now. The hope is that it is only temporarily suspended.

I am grieved for all of those families that are so close. I can't imagine being possibly hours or even minutes from finishing my adoption and having the program shut down around me. I don't want to even think about it.

How cruel. And how terrible for the children and for the adoptive parents. And it grieves me because I believe adoption is a good thing.

It makes me pause.

Adoption is a good thing. God gives good things to His children. But today these adoptions have been stopped. Where does God come in now? Why didn't God stop this from happening? Can't God control things and make it so all these children in desperate need will find a forever family? Why allow a small act affect the good of so many?

Today I am not really asking those questions. I have come to terms with it. But I can only imagine that had I woken up to the news on the morning of my court case and had I been adopting from Russia...those old familiar doubts might have come flooding into my head.

I don't claim to know the answer. But I do know what His word tells us.

First, I can only imagine that God too is grieved. He sees us down here on this lonely planet. And when He set the world on its foundation, He made a beautiful and perfect world.

All men have sinned and have fallen short of the standards of God. When we did, we created a separation between ourselves and the ability of God to remain near to protect us. Sin separates us from God. He can not be where sin is.

Without God's presence, we live in a world in which all things break down and deteriorate. An old car in the sun. A two month old orange. A human body. And even social order.

We are in a constant state of deterioration.

But when we draw near to God, He draws near to us. And He gives us a new life. And He restores the life within us. And He makes all things new. This is in His Word. He makes all things new! Nothing deteriorates with God.

So how does this matter to the state of affairs in Russia this morning?

First our world has pulled away from God. As a result, we live in brokenness and deterioration. Bad things happen to people and most often at the hand of other people. God has given us free will. He has given free will to both the saint and the sinner. And that free will is a double edged sword.

While we have the freedom to act apart from God, we also have the ability to act purely for ourselves. One selfish motive from one selfish person can, like the butterfly effect, destroy the lives of thousands.

God didn't want that. But because of the gift of free will....he chose not to stop it. Instead he has given us a backup plan.

His word says in Romans 8 that "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

On many sad occasions, I have had well meaning friends quote only a portion of that verse to me in some form or another. Unfortunately it has been reduced to a trite mix of little things we say to comfort ourselves and each other.

"God is in control and he will make everything work out for good."

Tell that to the Russian PAP this morning.

This situation is not good. It is anything but good. So the well intentioned friend would then say.

"Well, we don't know Gods plan."

Once again...true. We don't.

But then where is my security? Because now...I am in a situation that is definitely not good and I don't know God's plan. Surely there are those that will find no good thing in the end of all this mess.

And the truth is that there are many who experience no good thing. There are many who only experience pain and fear and sadness. There are many who's lives are cut short and those who know only sickness. How does that work together for good?

That is the hard question. But I think the same verse holds the answer. And I think that as a believer we have to realize that the end of that verse holds the key. "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

God is a master weaver. And we are constantly poking holes or tying knots in His tapestry. Each of us has our own loom on which we fabricate our lives. God has said "if you will allow me...I can fix this". That is the key in that last verse. It says that God works everything together for the good of those who love Him.

That means that while bad things happen, He can fix them. But God is not going to take your loom by force. He is not going to demand that you allow him to hand it over. He says "if you let me....I can fix this."

How many of us allow him?

No...not all things work together for good for everyone. All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.

We must be willing to walk in His purpose. We must truly know and love God. Only then do we have the reassurance that these bad things will be taken and fixed; that our broken shattered hopes and dreams will be put back together and our lives made new.

What hope is there for those who do not know nor love God?

Father, I pray for my brothers and sisters who have been devastated this morning. I pray that you remind them that if they will walk in your will....you will fix this. From this trial, may they grown in grace, be strengthened in their faith, and have their hopes renewed in You. Send them love, and comfort. Let news be forth coming quickly. You are in charge of kings and princes....and Russian authorities too. Guide the circumstances around these officials to ensure that they are setting things in order for the good of those who love you and are fulfilling the purpose of adoption that you set before them.

Comfort the mothers. Protect the children. And give strength to the fathers. You have asked us to care for the widow and the orphan. Bless those as they attempt to fulfill that commission.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Power Of Unified Prayer

Twice in my life I have been surprised by the power of unified prayer in my own life. Both times have been turbulent painful anxious moments in which after prayer I have experienced peace.

Today is one of those two times. It can't be described the war that has been inside me today. In just a few short hours my precious little Elshaday's case will be before an Ethiopian court for the first time. This would be a normally stressful event for any adoptive parent.

But like the rest of my adoption stories...nothing is normal about it. Once again we have been thrown into limbo. And the details don't matter. What does matter is that God is giving peace and grace to this girl.

I have been wringing my hands for three days. And for three days I have stood alone in a forest watching tree after tree fall knowing that my tree was about to either be passed and spared or come crashing down with the others. And I have been standing below that tree crying and pleading and desperately searching for ways to control the outcome. Ultimately I have realized that I am completely and utterly helpless to save it. And I have despaired.

But today I have lifted my eyes back where they belong. They are on my heavenly father. And He knows my needs. And He knows my wants. And despite the impending pruning I may encounter He will see me through to the very end. And knowing that and acknowledging that I called for help.

I am not asking God to fix the contest. (Ok....well maybe I am) But before that...I really am asking to be in His will. That is the only place I ever want to be. And after that...I am asking Him to help me to get my heart in line with wherever His will might take me. And then beyond that....yes I am asking for my way. :)

But I have turned to prayer. My own prayers have been sabotaged by doubt. Not doubt in the prayer so much...but rather doubt in my own worthiness to offer a prayer. I have had such a poor attitude and such a sour mouth that I can't fathom my right to ask for something from my heavenly Father. Who am I that I deserve His favor? I am reminded that He loves me just the same. And He wants to give good things to His children. But He does love to be asked.

I am also reminded that He loves to be given the glory. And whether that means that I have to endure something I don't want to....or whether he grants me my request...He wants to be glorified in the moment. And to do that requires me to live this out loud for everyone else to see.

And so with that....I knew that it was time to ask others for prayer. With a heart not yet settled and a secret hope for "magic" in just getting a large number of people praying.....(I know...it doesn't work that way) I called and asked for prayers. And I knew better than for asking for my way...I just asked for two things. God's will and peace.

By the time the phone reached the receiver....He had already answered the one request. I have been filled with peace. Instantly I am feeling ok with whatever the outcome will be. My hope for positive news has returned and my willingness to be an instrument of bringing glory has surfaced......And it is all because of the power of unified prayer.

And the blessing of having my first prayer answered immediately is that I know that now...my second prayer will be too. He has given me peace to show me He is listening. And now He will work all things together because I have been called according to His purpose. And I will walk obediently in His will.....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thirty Amazing Women

Dear Father God,

"I want to thank you for amazing women "


From the time I was a very little girl, I haven' t ever trusted anyone but myself. I have always been an independent. This is not something I am proud of.

To the world, being independent represents strength. Someone who stands on her own two feet is to be admired. A woman who can be a fortress of one impervious to what the world throws at her seems to be a desirable nature. But to God it represents a stubborn heart.

I have such a heart.

I don't usually allow anyone too close to me. I rarely show any emotiveness in front of others. Oh, I cry. But it is behind closed doors where no one else can see. Even in my attempts at worship, I am incredibly private only allowing myself to be free behind the veil of my walls.

The only hint of what is really happening behind this smokescreen are my two most irritating habits. The first would be my extreme fretfulness and the other my attempt at creating order through control. Sadly when asked to be described by even my closest friends....at least one of those two descriptors appear in some form or fashion.

"Your incredibly organized"
"You think out every detail"
"You are a take-charge kind of girl"
"You consider all possibilities"

Nice ways to say.....I am a control freak and a compulsive worrier.

So much for strength. That just leaves me as an independent. And that means that I am a quivering mess of frazzled nerves and buried anxiety that I have to deal with all by myself.

Tonight holds the potential for a complete meltdown. I am about to lose it. We are coming so close to our baby girl being united with our family, and we receive word that the United States government may intervene and cause disruptions to Ethiopian adoptions.

(A disruption in non-adoptive layman's terms means it is over......period. )

Tonight was not the first time that I allowed myself to fall apart in public. Well a public forum anyhow.

I have found safety in my little group of women. There are probably about thirty of us who communicate all day everyday on a continual basis. Sometimes it is for travel tips. Sometimes it is for parenting advice. And sometimes it is for either throwing or catching a life preserver in this tempestuous sea of adoption.

I needed a life preserver tonight. God knew I needed a good word. And there it was. Thirty amazing women who look to each other and cling together when a storm rolls in. Thirty women who have had to cross an entire continent with emails just to find one another. Thirty women who pull together and grab on to the boat after the keel has flipped over.

So God...tonight it is a prayer of thanksgiving from my lips. Thank you for the gift of amazing women. And thank you for helping us find one another. Without them, I would be completely adrift. Only a group such as these can understand what I am feeling tonight. And only a group such as these could hope to bring comfort. There is nothing to explain. No need to go into lengthy explanations of process just to get comfort from a friend. There was no time to call anyone else and try to explain what was going wrong. I didn't want to have to support someone else's frustration and inability to understand exactly what these things meant. These ladies already knew all that...and they too were dealing with the same pain that I am. But we have held hands across the board tonight. And we are holding one another.

Thirty amazing women. That is your gift to us. Trusting you doesn't mean it will work out OK......it just means that "we'd be held".

Father God please place your blessing upon each of us tonight. Allow us to rest in the knowledge that you are holding us and our children. We beg of you to allow us to bring these children home. Don't allow our families to be torn apart by red tape and bureaucracy. You have asked us to reach out to the orphaned and abandoned and we have heeded that call. Unite us with our children and allow us to be patient so that all is accomplished in your perfect timing. Amen

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Letter To My Daughter

Tonight my little love I write my first words to you. Though you will not hear my voice for a few more months I am asking for an angel to cross the waters and carry these words to you and whisper them in your ear as you sleep tonight.

I love you. I have fallen totally in love with you. I praise God for you. You are the answer to my prayers. Receiving your picture tonight at the end of this long journey has given me just a sliver of the glimpse of what our journey to our heavenly Father must be like. I have been on this road for so long. We have waited for you for so very long. We have been on this quest to find you and we had no idea what our journey would be like when we first set out. It was so perilous and it took us through things that had we known in the beginning what we would be asked to endure we would have grown to faint to even begin the venture. But here in the end seeing your sweet face we can look back and say that we would do it all over again if only to be brought to this moment when we have finally seen your face.

Perhaps that is what our journey of life is about. If we knew in the beginning what the quest would be like, we might have been afraid to journey out. But once we see the face of our Father in heaven......we will realize that we would do it all over again just to be brought to the moment when we will finally see His face.

My precious daughter you have already given me strength. You have already made me brave. You have already transformed my life and my heart and I have yet to hold you. You have changed me and now carry with you a part of my soul that will forever bind us together as mother and daughter.

My sweet little wonder please rest in the safety of our Father's love. He will hold you for me tonight and He will remind me as we spend these many first few months apart that you are His treasure loaned to me for safe keeping. And just like Hannah who gave her son Samuel back to the service of God, I too with the heart of Hannah will raise you to love, honor and serve Him. You are His treasure and I have been so richly blessed to be given the honor of holding, protecting, and caring for what belongs to Him.

Welcome to our family my darling baby girl.

Friday, February 26, 2010


I watch and read about athletes all over the world competing to be the very best at what they do. They have descended upon Vancouver the last two weeks with the skill and ability to do what most "normal" people can not. While I gave competitive figure skating my adolescent and teenage years, I never came close to the kind of drive and mental determination necessary to achieve such accolades. But in the last five years, I have determined that bringing home a child through the process of adoption is a momentous feat akin to such an accomplishment. An accomplishment that no one else can truly appreciate except for those who are also training in the same event.

We watch the grace and the beauty of the figure skater as she takes to the ice. As the music begins she elongates her form and her body begins to move as it has been training to do. If the skater is to achieve perfection she has to both stay mentally focused as well as mentally detached in order to get her mind and body to achieve the perfect fusion of technical know how and instinctive response. Too much thinking and she can psych her self out...not enough thinking and she misses her cue.

What the spectator does not see is that to have even gotten to this point the skater has devoted every moment of the last few years in preparation for the few minutes in which she takes to the ice. Very few can truly understand what it has taken to arrive to at the point of glory in which the music fades, she takes a deep breath and finally she knows that the has accomplished her purpose.

The onlookers can try to appreciate what this skater has been through. They can imagine she is a devoted athlete, rising early in the morning, putting in hours in practice, shaping each and every muscle of her body into perfect form for hours on end each and every day.....and they admire her accomplishments.

But it is only the other athletes, the other skaters like her that can possibly understand what it means to finish a performance and stand breathless waiting and hoping.

This is what it is to adopt. We adopters are not "normal" people as we attempt to do what most people can not. And just like in the Olympics there are the athletes and there are the spectators.

The athlete understands terms like referral, dossier, and LID. Only the athlete understands that it is more than just signing up, getting in line, and decorating a nursery. Only other athletes can understand the real meaning of the word "waiting".

Each step of the way there is the potential for victory and the potential for defeat. The athlete rejoices in the small victories of finger printing and criminal background checks and tries not letting a delayed I -171 break her focus of the goal in the end.

The athlete appreciates the nuances of coordinating a roaming notary with a non expiring commission to a temperamental doctor who refuses to understand why he has to create letterhead while still making sure that the date of his signature is not premature to the date of that which the notary signs. And even with this seemingly impossible feat in the rear view mirror it is only the athlete that has the stamina to go through this type of exercise again and again and again.

Keeping your mind focused and your attitude positive requires a mental determination that most days leaves you completely drained and crawling towards the bed at night. In the mornings the athlete will rise and begin her day with the warm ups of email checking. A good day is a batch of referrals or watching another athlete receive a travel date. A bad day is a delayed court hearing or a quiet inbox. While it is a mundane and unappreciated exercise...it is none the less necessary to help the athlete keep her drive and prevent her from just walking away. And while the athlete must continue to live life each and everyday outside of practice, driving the kids to soccer, making dinner for her family, putting in a few hours at the office...her mind never loses site of her single purpose. It is always there...always present. This drive is what impels her through the day.

But she also understands that to achieve her goal she must stay both mentally focused as well as mentally detached to achieve the perfect fusion of procedural know-how and emotional instinct. Too much thinking and she can psych herself out. Not enough thinking and she may forget to pick up the kids from school.

Each step of the journey is bringing us closer and closer to the moment of our victory. We receive approval, complete our dossier, receive a referral, have our court date rescheduled, get our travel delayed. But ultimately we keep pushing forward.

We do it even though we are exhausted. We push through the pain, we push through the tears and we just grit our teeth and we press on....until one day

we stand breathless....waiting....and hoping.

Our name is called. We step up and we know that the entire journey has been worth this singular moment. And the only difference between the adoptive mom and the Olympic athlete is that ultimately.....

we will all receive the gold....