Our Journey to Ella
Our journey to Ella began almost 20 years ago and thousands of miles away from home. In 1995, while in Guatemala on a medical mission trip with my mom, the Lord began to plant a seed in my heart for adoption. Two years later while visiting an orphanage in Honduras, He stirred a deep love in my heart for these precious children, as well as one that would one day call me mommy. All during high school and college, the desire to adopt never went away. During my junior year in college, I met Kyle, the man I would one day marry. While we were dating, I told him of my desire to adopt one day. At that time, he had never considered adoption, but expressed that he would like to have biological children before considering adoption.
We were soon married in August of 2004. On our second anniversary, we found out we were pregnant with our first child. During the spring of 2007, our son Jackson was born and we were elated to be parents! Just a few months after Jackson was born, we found out we were expecting again. When Jackson was fourteen months old, our sweet daughter, Avery, entered this world. God had truly blessed our family! Even though our days and nights were busy with parenting two young children, the desire for adoption still laid heavy on my heart. Many nights I spent praying, asking God to show me His plan for our lives and His timing in regards to adoption. I knew that God would begin to impress it upon Kyle’s heart in His perfect timing as well. One night soon after our daughter’s first birthday, the topic of adoption came up as Kyle and I sat and talked. Even though I had spent many months diligently praying about it and felt sure in God’s calling for our lives, God clearly revealed to me in that moment the work he had been doing in Kyle’s heart as well. As I listened to Kyle talk about the verses found in 1 Timothy 5:1-16 and Psalm 127:3-5, he told me that he knew this was God’s will for our family and God would bless our desire to adopt.
For the next 18 months, Kyle and I spent time researching domestic and international adoption options. We attended informational classes through the DHS foster to adopt program, as well as sessions with several adoption agencies that offered domestic and international programs. We felt very overwhelmed at times with so many important decisions to make in beginning the process, but God was always faithful in revealing His plan. After many referrals from other adoptive families and meeting the wonderful team of people in TX, we were excited to finally begin our adoption journey with the help of The Gladney Center for Adoption. We began looking into the international programs that Gladney offered and while our initial interest was in Central America (since that is where our story began!), God made it clear as He began to develop a love in our hearts for the people of Ethiopia.
The fall and winter months of 2010 were spent gathering paperwork, completing homestudy visits, background checks and immigration forms just to name a few. With all the steps and requirements involved in international adoption, we were so thankful for our amazing friends at Gladney who were there to hold our hand and help us every step of the way. After five months of working diligently on gathering information for our dossier, it was complete and we were officially added to the Ethiopia waitlist! At that time, the current wait to be matched with a child was about 9 months. Since we were open to adopting a child of either gender and possibly even a sibling group, we were excited about soon finding out who would join our family.
Soon after being added to the waitlist, we received news that changes would soon be made in the processing of adoptions within the country of Ethiopia. At that time, we did not know what this news meant or how much our patience AND faith would be tested in the years to come. Although the waiting was hard and we longed for the day we would meet our child, we knew that God had brought us to this point and he would continue to be faithful. The months of waiting soon turned into years. As our children grew older, they became more and more anxious as they would ask how much longer until our brother or sister comes home. Every year as we updated our paperwork and completed another homestudy, we wondered if this would be the year.
One Monday morning in the spring of 2014, we were completing our normal weekday routine of getting the kids off to school and then heading into work. We had no idea that this was the day our lives would be changed forever. That afternoon, our eyes were filled with tears of joy as we stared at the pictures and listened to our caseworker tell us of the precious two year old little girl that would soon join our family! Our next few weeks went by quickly as we shared our exciting news with friends and family and began gathering paperwork and preparing to bring our new daughter home.
Every month, we would receive new pictures of her and updates on how she was doing. With every picture we received, we fell more and more in love this amazing little girl. It was such a joyful time as we watched Jackson and Avery prepare for their little sister’s arrival by getting all her books arranged just right on her bookshelf and setting out all her little pairs of shoes so they were ready to wear when she arrived home.
On July 11th as we celebrated our daughter Avery’s 6th birthday, she received her only birthday wish – our case was cleared, we had been assigned a court date, and would leave in two weeks to meet our newest little family member! The next two weeks went by quickly and soon we were kissing our kiddos goodbye and boarding the 14 hour direct flight from D.C. to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Just 24 hours after arriving in Ethiopia, it was time to meet that little girl that our stole our hearts from day one. We were anxious, nervous, and trying to soak in all that was about to happen. As we walked into the room where she was, I couldn’t hold back the tears as I laid eyes on the child I had spent so many years praying for. That afternoon, we had so many amazing moments with our sweet girl that we will never forget. We spent the next few days traveling the countryside in Ethiopia and playing with all the children in the orphanage. On July 31st, after attending our court appointment, the judge informed us that our case was cleared and she was officially our daughter. The next day, it was very hard to say goodbye to her as we traveled back home and waited on the US Embassy to issue her visa. Just a few weeks later, we were cleared to travel back to Ethiopia to bring our daughter home.
On August 28th, 2014, almost four years after we began the adoption process with Gladney, we received a very special gift as we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary – the U.S. Embassy issued her visa and we were ready to take our girl home to Arkansas! We were blown away when we arrived to XNA as she was welcomed with so much love by our friends and family who had come to meet her.
As we celebrate “Adoption Awareness Month” during November, we are reminded of the many blessings that have come through our adoption. The journey to our sweet Ella Kate is one filled with God’s faithfulness, grace, and unconditional love – a precious life for which we will forever be grateful.