December 23, 2012

it's been one year! - anniversary post

It's been one year.  One year since who you know as "The Four" has come home.  One crazy, hard, fun, year.  The past few days have been full of reminiscing over the things we have forgotten about the first days home, as well as the days leading up to it.  When I think back to December of last year, I can still remember every little detail, as if someone caught it on tape and is replaying it for me.

While I was in Ethiopia, I wrote this post.  "When words fail, pictures will have to suffice."  Those were my words, and they were (and still are) true.  That week in Ethiopia was an emotional roller coaster.  It was pain and joy, frustration and laughter, anger and eagerness.  This post is going to be a baring of my soul.  It is time to write the details of that week, and the things I was feeling, the little things that happened.  You need to hear them.  Thank you so much for your support, your comments and encouraging emails, and thank you for your tears and prayers.  They meant so much to me.  This story is my way of thanking you.

3:00 am
i hadn't slept the night of december sixteenth.  i couldn't.  and when i got up, i knew i would regret it, but that didn't matter because i was flying to ethiopia.  it was cold and way too early, but a family friend picked us up to take us to the airport.  we got to the end of our driveway, and my best friend and her dad pulled up.  i hid the tears that came when i saw her smiling face.  with all the excitement, stress, and exhaustion,  i was so happy to see her.  it was the perfect way to be sent off.

the guesthouse
we rested the afternoon that we arrived - the 18th, i think.  i was jetlagged, but sleep would not come.  after visiting in 2010, it was so good to be back in a place i loved and missed.  as i lay in the bed i would share with my dad for the next few days, i was thinking about them.  wondering what they were doing that very moment.  wondering what our meeting would be like.  finally, it was time to get up and go see them.  i remember the bumpy ride, the questions we asked about them, and the familiar sights from a year before.

the transition home
sadly, i don't remember much from our first visit.  it was overwhelming.  it was exciting.  there were hugs, translation, and smiles of recognition.  and a huge weight was on my heart, because suddenly it was real.  faces i had seen in photos were now children on my lap.  this was happening.

thoughts afterward
i want to share with you something i wrote in my journal.  something i haven't shared before.  "what if we regret doing this?  what if it's too hard?  i want my family to stay the way it has been for my entire life, but it won't....i'm feeling guilty for thinking these things.  for thinking that we will regret this....i believe it's going to be fine.  it will be good.  it has been amazing to see the way God helped us get tickets, supplies...He has been helping us prepare the whole time."  surely something worked this perfectly by God would not end in regret and grief.  

the last hours in ethiopia
after we passed through embassy, the kids came to the guest house.  everything was new - the room was clean, there were beds with pillows and blankets, there was a shower and flushing toilet.  and as i write this, i am crying.  they were so scared, so new to everything that i had taken for granted.  we played, took showers, put on new clothes, packed.  our flight left on the 22nd of december - just three days before christmas.  it didn't feel the christmas when we were there.  in fact, i didn't even think about christmas the entire time we were there.  all i knew during that last day was what time our plane was leaving and realizing that it was going to be a LONG flight. 

the realization hit that day, the 22nd.  these kids are real, and they have faults just as i do.  they are my siblings now.  (do you know how hard that is?  to realize that with a woman in the embassy giving you a smile, you now have four new siblings.)  they know five english words, and i know ten amharic words.  that's not going to get us very far.  i can't think about the next few days.  all i can think about is the next few minutes, how to tell them what they need to know, how to prepare them for this.  and i didn't know what they were feeling.  worse than i was, i'm sure.  my dad and i could not prepare them for an airport, an airplane taking off, the upcoming arrival to a cold, dark, and entirely new place that was now forever home, but not the home they had known forever.

thankfully, the airplane was somewhat empty, and we were able to stretch out and sleep that night in the air.  it brought a respite from the struggle to communicate and the fact that EVERYTHING had to be taught - from how to use the plastic fork, to how to open the bathroom door, how to wash hands, how to tie shoes, etc. etc.  it was a very long 14 hours.       

washington d.c.
this was where we touched down in the united states.  i remember smiling and pointing out the window.  "look.  we're in america."  america was a word they understood, and it took on a whole new meaning when we stepped off that plane.  welcome to america, kids.  two hours in line to get through immigration.  hallways lined with restaurants and stores.  so many people.  white people.  this was where the frustration and anger begins.  with an announcement, we learned that our flight home (which should have left three hours after we got to washington d.c.) was now delayed.  the four were tired, intrigued, and impatient.  so we wandered.  my dad and i struggled to entertain as the flight was pushed back hour after hour.  i was ready to cry, and i did a few times.  i struggled to keep the tears back, because i would not let anyone see me cry.  we were exhausted and done.  done with airports and uncomfortable chairs and questions and stares.

finally, home
after eight hours in the washington d.c. airport, our plane finally took off.  i closed my eyes the minute i sat down and fell asleep.  i awoke as we were landing.  the littlest of "the four" was crying. she was scared and in pain from the pressure in her ears.  the sun was setting and i knew we were finally home.  i remember walking out into the dark, the family waiting, and my mom standing on the sidewalk.  i walked to her and began to cry in her hug.  i crawled to the back of the car, trying to control the tears.  we were home, finally.

it was december 23rd, around 7 o'clock.  i walked into my house, and all eleven of us walked through the rooms, showing "the four" around.  we settled in for the night.  after a shower, i sat in a dark room downstairs, curled in a ball on the chair.  and i began to sob.  for some back story, i've never been very fond of change.  i don't handle it well.  i just don't like it.  and this change...this was the biggest change i had ever experienced.  i realized that my family would no longer be the family i had known for fifteen years.  i was mourning - already - for what i had lost.  it was selfish, but all the adoption books said it would happen and it needed to happen.  christmas passed in a blur, and we began to become a family.  there was screaming and crying and anger.  there were blank stares, hatred, and pain.  six days later, i wrote this in my journal:  "christmas and the first week of this adoption have flown by.  truthfully, i don't even want to be writing here right now.  i barely know what day it is."   our new life had begun, but it did not end the way it began.

If you have followed my blog since then, you know that this story is redemptive.  And if you don't know, let me tell you.  This experience has changed me and every single person in my family.  It has brought me so much closer to God.  It is a story of difficulty, pain, mourning for what was lost, and learning.  Everyday there is grace and mercy from our Lord.  There is love and joy (most days) in this house now.

Adoption is not easy.  It's not.  It will never be easy.  But I would never change it.  I would never go back.  The pictures of four kids in Ethiopia have become four siblings that I love very dearly.  And tonight we are all sleeping by the Christmas tree - all eleven of us.  It feels like home, and it feels like family.  It feels so right.  The Christmas my dad and I missed, the Christmas The Four didn't understand, is now a time to create traditions and a time to enjoy each other.  This story is redemptive and for that I am so thankful.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading.  My writing is not even close to being perfect, but I needed to write it down.  Disclaimer: this post is brutally honest, but I will not sugar coat this story.  I strive to be real - on my blog and in my life.  So, that is what I did.  Thank you, again, for your support and encouragement this past year.  It means so much.  Merry Christmas, friends!  I'll be posting again tomorrow with some photos!


  1. wow... just wow... I really almost cried reading this. what. a. beautiful. story! thank you for being so real and honest, with your pain and grief and hardships of adoption. I feel that people don't really talk about what adoption is really all about, how your family had to teach four kids to do the simple things we are used to, for example, and I bet those things are hard. so thank you for sharing this. I'm an only child and there was a point that my family almost adopted a little girl. I guess because of my family's "almost adoption", this subject captures my attention and heart. so inspired to read this, really. what a beautiful family you have now! :) I pray that the Lord will give you all strength and unity for this Christmas and the ones to come. Merry Christmas to you too and to your loved ones! Enjoy your family :) oh, and just out of curiosity... how are the four doing with their English?! As a future ESL teacher I get interested about this... :) haha
    - Gabi (

    1. Thank you Gabi! :) They are doing pretty well! We looked for an ESL teacher for a long time, but couldn't find one. The two oldest have accents (obviously), but for the most part, they are doing well! :) The biggest issue is grammar and pronunciation.

  2. This is beautiful! So encouraging. Thanks for sharing :)

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  4. ohmyword I love you and your heart. <3 this is all raw and real and I can't wait to meet your family someday. :)) and I'm laughing thinking about your other story ;)

  5. Thanks for sharing your beautiful and very honest story. Hope 2013 is a fantastic year for you all.

  6. so amazing Olivia! can't wait to hear more and see more pictures!

  7. This is perfect. It's amazingly honest and raw, and it really touched me.

    You have a beautiful family. :)

    ~ Abby

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. Merry Christmas! :)

  9. Oliva,
    This brought tears to my eyes, happy tears. Thank you for writing this.


  10. This is beautiful. I love how you tell your family's story. I love how you brought your four siblings home. I love your honesty about the trials of adoption. I love how you love your family. I love this.

    Congratulations on one year and here's to many more sweet years to come.

  11. This is BEAUTIFUL in every way + that picture is soso cute!

  12. Oh Olivia! This was so special to read! I was close to tears when reading it. I love you best friend, and I am so thankful for you!

  13. This story is so beautiful Olivia. God is SO wonderful. It reminded me of His adopting us into His family and His love and how adoption on this earth is so special. Your family's adoption story is so encouraging and inspiring. I only hope that I can adopt someday too when/if it's God's will for me to get married and be able to do so. :)

    Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this story. I'd love to hear more if you ever want to share.



  14. What a truly incredible story - you and your family are an inspiration. Merry Christmas, dear girl! xo M
    ps. love that first picture of the eleven of you!

  15. this is beautiful olivia! thank you so much for sharing this. i'm sure that would've been a huge change. no matter how long you think about it and try and process and prepare it when it happens it's still a shock i'm sure. plus, it wasn't just one child, but four. i admire you and your family for going along with God's will for you. this is such a beautiful story of trust, obedience, real life and how God always knows best. it is my dream to adopt children from Central America (where my dad is from) someday. so reading real life stories about adoption, without the sugar coating is refreshing because you're honest. you told it how it is/was. hard, difficult, trying but worth it. you have such a beautiful family. may God bless you this new year! thanks again for sharing, it really blessed me. your writing is wonderful! xx|natalia.

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  17. I love this so much because of your honesty, and it is wonderful to see how God worked in your life. It is so refreshing to see this kind of raw honesty in the blogging world.

    this is truly beautiful, Olivia.


  18. This is really beautiful..God changes hearts and is always at work. It's so neat to see how He has blessed your family thru this adoption! Love that pic with all you kids and your awesome parents-you guys are fab. ;)

  19. this is so beautiful and wonderful, I have goosebumps everywhere. wow. so powerful.

  20. I'm crying right now, Olivia. Your family went through so much to shelter these children of God. I can't believe it's been one year! Such a sweet anniversary!

    Merry Christmas!

  21. So incredile to see how God has worked in and through you and your family's life. Wow. This is real and raw and I love it.

  22. Oh, Olivia, I'm almost in tears. Your real and so raw words are so powerful. With time comes change and acceptance and growth, and if you think of how much has changed in the year since "the four" have come home, you can only imagine how much will change in the next. I'm honestly just at a loss for words. I wish you and your family all the best, and happy one year anniversary to the precious four for being with their forever family.

  23. It's impossible not to be incredibly touched while reading your story and viewing the photographs. Simply the photograph of all of your siblings in a row is enough to put me in tears.

  24. I think I have been following your blog since about the time The Four came home last year, and I have to say, I think these posts might be my favorite kind. :) When I started reading your blog, it was kind of the first thing to really get me interested in adoption, and since then my family has discussed adopting. I know if we did adopt, it would be so hard...especially since my family already has 4 kids, but I love to hear the raw moments and truth in how hard it is so if we did ever adopt, I wouldn't have this sugar-coated idea of it, only to be smacked in the face with reality. Thank you so much for this, and I hope you have a great Christmas! :)

  25. That was super beautiful olivia! I never realized that adoption could be that hard, but i'm glad you had a little help from God- oh and thanks for being perfectly honest. You are making me think. Merry Christmas!

  26. What an amazing story! Great pictures as well!

  27. ahhhhhhhh. you are SUCH an inspiration in my life, Olivia. thank you so much for sharing this with us. :)

    xxx acacia

  28. I don't know if I've ever said this before, but I completely agree with Acacia, you inspire me in so many ways...and you are an inspiration in my life as well! :)

  29. Oh, Olivia. Honestly, right now my heart is aching with joy for you and bittersweet nostalgia for myself. This story is so relatable and so dripping with honesty. I told you once that we had an adopted sister from Ethiopia, and it wasn't quite as redemptive, though I know that God worked through it and has used it to shape my life. I remember those feelings… the feelings of wanting "normal" back, and being overwhelmed in the translation and struggles of everyday life. the anger and the pain and the beautifully rewarding moments. and i remember the wondering if we'd regret, but only after Tigrai, my sister, arrived. I remember my selfishness, when the pain became too strong, and I remember how, when almost a year had passed-- the hardest year of my life-- we had to consider disruption. And I felt as if I had failed. I thought that after years of praying for a sister, praying to adopt, that wanting to disrupt would be a failure on my part. Even today it still hurts, but it feels more like a dream. It feels so surreal. And when I look at the pictures it all comes rushing back. Even now I'm crying as I type. I don't know what I'm saying… I guess I'm still processing, a few years later, and I'm sorry to ramble. Right now, you're reading my tangled feelings that I'm trying to iron out. But I just want to say how happy and thankful I am for your family's sake-- for the way that God has provided and the way that you are still together, still strong, and following Him. And also if there still are rare times when you're thinking that 'no one knows how you feel', know that I may just have felt those tricky emotions, and if you ever need someone to email or talk or whatever, I'd love to chat.
    Thank you for being honest, and for sharing your story. I still haven't done that, but perhaps someday I will. :)


  30. Woah... Most beautiful post I have ever read. Def. my favorite. So inspiring and emotional. I adore your honesty and how you strive to be real. You are a huge example to me. Lovely, Olivia!

  31. God has definitely gifted you in writing which touches my heart like nothing else.

  32. Thanks so much for sharing, Olivia. This is sooo precious and so are those pictures. =) Blessings to you and your family!

  33. Olivia...this post touched my heart in so many different ways. It's honestly beautiful. You and your siblings are beautiful.
    God works in amazing ways. :)

  34. I appreciate your honestly so much. your story is very touching and whenever I hear the word "Ethiopia", I always think of you and The Four. My prayers go out to you guys this Christmas and New Year. God Bless!!!

  35. this is such a beautiful, encouraging story of grace and redemption. thank you for sharing this, olivia. it really blessed me. :)