My mother has been bothering me for years to write a blog. Every year I have the same answer… “What would I have to say that people would want to read?” I tell her when I have an answer for that question, I will write a blog. I seriously don’t know how people have time to write them. I don’t even have time to take a shower. Literally. It’s a problem. I don’t know how all these women out there write blogs. Not only are they writing blogs, they are writing blogs about all the crafts and food they make. How are they finding time for that? And most of them have more than one child. I only have one, and I need a shower, badly.
Now, I have something to write about. It’s been a long time coming and I stay up at nights thinking about it. I have been waiting for the perfect time, and I realized, there is no perfect time. I have to stop wasting time and do it …now. Four years ago, I went to Africa. Four years ago I made promises to people there that I would not forget them, that I would tell their stories. Four years ago. What have I done in four years?
My mom thought of the title “Before and Africa” and I actually love it. There are a lot of things my mom and I agree on, but usually when she has an idea “for” me, I politely turn her down. But this title struck a chord in me. I thought about all the blogs out there about style and fashion and craftiness and I thought about how my blog would probably be the antithesis of that. Maybe I do always buy the same long sleeved shirts at the GAP every three years when the old ones get holes in them. Maybe I do still have the same tennis shoes I bought for 30 bucks 6 years ago. Maybe I do only get my hair cut once a year. Maybe I am in desperate need of a style makeover, but I think this blog is more of a before and after of my soul. My soul before and now my soul (after) Africa…
So thanks mom, for the title and for recognizing there has been a change in me and that even though I have a hard time finding the words, it’s time to start trying.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


“Can there be a God? A God who graces with good gifts when a crib lies empty through long nights, and bugs burrow through coffins?  Where is God, really?  How can He be good when babies die, and marriages implode and dreams blow away, dust in the wind?   Where is grace bestowed when cancer gnaws and loneliness aches and nameless places in us soundlessly die, break off without reason, erode away.  Where hides this joy of the Lord, This God who fills the earth with good things, and how do I fully live when life is full of hurt?  How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out?
-Ann Voskamp A Thousand Gifts

It’s a rare quiet morning.  I am up before everyone else, this doesn’t typically happen.  Most mornings we hear our door swing open and Max will be standing there holding something up triumphantly.  A book he would like us to read or a toy he is ready for us to play with. I usually roll over and hope he will go in his room and play.  I am not a morning person.  I love to sleep.  I haven’t been sleeping lately as my mind won’t shut off.  I can’t stop thinking about Moses.  I have been so focused on wanting him home.  

I wake up out of a dream where we are in Africa just minutes from him but no one will let us see him.  I write this:

To know would be rest for my soul,
To know would be bliss
To know would be as sweet and as soft as a kiss from your lips
To know, oh just to know
But to know would mean
That we wouldn’t need
That we wouldn’t lean
On the All Knowing One
Who brought us here
Who brought us thru
The days of not knowing
And without Him we wouldn’t know you
So we’ll stay in the unknown
Until He makes it known
Or until we have grown
To know Him more
To trust Him more
To let go of our grip
And give up what is His
We’ll stay in the midst
And know His love
It’s more than enough
To get us to
When we hold you

Then as I read the words I wrote, illegibly through sleepy eyes, I realize, He will be enough.  He has always been enough.  If we lose our son, He will be enough.  When we lose jobs, and family members, and dreams.  He is enough.  What a hard lesson to learn.  But what peace it gives.  Grateful. 

Every long hard day has a sunset.  Even the longest winter will melt into spring.

When Max swings that door open and holds up his books to read, and all I can focus on is my sadness and my exhaustion...  inward.  The past week, as God has given me His grace and peace, He has been telling me “The life I have given you now, is enough.”  I heard someone say last week, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”   Ok ok Lord, you got me.  My heart could be broken, but I know who’s holding the pieces, and you have still blessed me far more than I deserve. Outward.

 I vow to never forget the peace of knowing He is enough, and maybe that’s all He wanted.  Gratefulness.  This week, as we gather around the table, as we look around at the faces of those He has blessed us with, I will know deep down, that if we lost it all, I would still be grateful.   Because He is truly all I need. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meeting Moses

Journal Entry Monday August 11th, 2014
We just spent our last 24 hours on airplanes to get to you.  We are literally within the hour of meeting you and it doesn't even seem real.  I have no idea how I'm going to feel when they put you in my arms.  Your dad and I have been praying for you for so long and now we've traveled across the world to meet you.  This is your dad's first time in Africa and this is my first time in central Africa.  Lots of sites and sounds when we stepped off the airplane.  We waited 2 hours for our luggage then drove through the crazy traffic past slum villages and women holding massive things on their heads.  Impressive.  Everything is green and brown here.  Flying into Kinshasa all we could see was green jungle.  Truly breathtaking.  But nothing will take my breath away like you are about to.  I can't wait to start our story with you...our precious Moses.  All the paperwork, all the fundraisers, all the hours of waiting, all of this has culminated to this moment.  God has planned it all in advance.  You were always meant to be a part of our family.  See you soon sweet boy!
Ready to go!

 Before we take off in Washington D.C.

Flying over Africa!

Landing in the DRC

 Journal Entry Monday August 11th, 2014
So...there is literally not much in this world more heartbreaking than someone telling you "this is the day you meet your son" and then finding out it's not.  Your dad and I were waiting with two other families for our kids to arrive.  We were all exhausted from the trip but I had so much adrenaline pumping through my body I could barely contain myself.  I couldn't wait until that van pulled in.  We sat in plastic chairs listening to all the other little children run around in the rocks with their parents.  It was so surreal knowing we would be one of those families in just a few minutes.  "Is this really happening?" I thought to myself.  "This can't really be happening."  My thoughts were interrupted when someone said "Here they are!!" A black van pulled in, one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.  It crept in slowly and I wanted to run and pull you out, but I waited.  First to jump out C----- with a burst of excitement like I've never seen.  This precious little five-year old practically pushed everyone out of the way to jump into her mother's arms.  I teared up immediately.  Then came six-year old F----- and his little four year old sister E------.  They walked up more timidly to first time parents A---- and T-----.  The director of the foster home where you all live (Sunshine House) gently pointed out to them "Mama" and "Papa" as they scooped them up and held them.  They buried their shy little faces into their parents shoulders.  We kept waiting but no Moses.  You weren't there.  There was some confusion and the director of Sunshine House thought we were arriving later that night, so he had planned to bring you in the morning.  My heart fell into my stomach.  When you think the day you have been waiting on for four years is here...and you are wrong...let's just say, one of the biggest letdowns ever!  He gently told us you would arrive in the morning.  Your dad hugged me as we watched the new families enjoying each other.  A----and F---- started kicking around a soccer ball while T-----and E-----started in on a coloring book. We took some videos and pictures of them before we went back to our room to unpack.  F----and E-----came from the same region as you in Bandudu.  They probably were on the same 12 hour bus ride with you.  In that moment, they were the only connection I had with you and I studied their beautiful faces as they interacted with their mom and dad for the first time.  K---- who teaches English at Sunshine House told me she briefly met you and you were "sweet". "If I remember right," she said "he went to bed early, He's just a little guy."  That made us feel a little better knowing it was almost your bedtime anyway.  We cannot wait to meet you tomorrow!

 Outside our room
 Our kitchen
 Our Room

Journal Entry Tuesday August 12th, 2014
They said you should be here between 8:00 and 9:00 am.  I was up at 6:15...giddy...Today is the day! Hopefully...
We woke up to the sound of birds and a soft breeze blowing through the palm trees.  Outside the gates we could hear African music playing.  It looks like it could rain today.  Are we really in Africa? It doesn't seem real.  I unpacked and folded all your little clothes last night and really cannot believe you will be wearing them soon.  We only get 8 days with you now.  It just doesn't seem right.  8 days to learn all we can about you.  8 days to hug and kiss you.  8 days to let you know we will be here for you forever.  I wish more than anything we could bring you home this time.  Can't wait to see you buddy! I love you so much!
 Mama's first time holding you

 Daddy's first time holding you

Journal Entry Friday August 15th, 2014
     I wish writing about the last few days in this journal would be enough to express to you the way I have been feeling.  I'm not sure I'm able to express my feelings on paper.  I couldn't sleep the night before you came.  I slept maybe a few hours and was up early with an electric excitement rushing through my body,  I walked around outside breathing in the African air, taking pictures of this place where we will meet you for the first time.  The light breeze blew through the palm trees and the rocks crunched under my feet...but loudest of all was my beating heart.  They said you would arrive between 8 and 9 am.  The van pulled in around 9:30 I think.  The windows were tinted so we couldn't see you until they brought you around the back.  Then suddenly, there you were.  You looked so small. Your dad let me scoop you up first.  He was the first one to hold your brother so maybe he was giving me a turn. :) You felt so tiny and I could not wipe the big grin off my face. You looked so serious.  You must've wondered who these strange white people were.  I pulled you in close and kissed your head and the tears came as my excitement was overrun with the emotions of tangibly holding the son we had prayed so long for.  I passed you to your dad and studied your beautiful face.  Your almond shaped eyes, your perfect little nose, your soft tiny lips.  Is this gorgeous boy really truly our son?!
    We took you to our room and just stared at you for awhile.  You seemed so unsure of us.  It would only be a day or so until you were calling us Mama and Dada.  Your dad stood you up on the bed to see if you could stand.  You stood all by yourself and we were shocked.  Then we thought maybe you could walk so we set you on the ground and you were walking around.  You just looked too small to be walking.  I've never seen a baby that small walk!  We were so proud of you already.  You have been through so much and you are so resilient.  We started right in changing, feeding and playing  with you.  Soon you seemed sleepy.  I picked you up to rock you to sleep and you were out in seconds. You slept three hours that first day.  When you woke up you were smiling and giggling.  You're smile is so joyful when you show all your teeth and so mischievous when you don't.   It's like you know you are getting away with something.
Playing with us for the first time and our first snack time together

Falling asleep in Mama's arms for the first didn't take you long!

Well I could stare at this forever...
We've been with you for a few days now and these are some of our favorite things:

When we say, "Hugs?" you dive bomb us (if we aren't ready we smash heads!)

When we say "kisses?" you close your mouth (still smiling) and kiss us.

When you laugh really hard, it's more like a scream.

When I put you in the baby carrier you get really relaxed, you put your head back and we just stare at each other.

You are already learning sign can say "More" and "Please"

You are feisty.  When you want something, you want it NOW.

You're a big eat and eat and eat.  Whenever someone else is eating, you want what they have.

You are pretty attached to your Mama.  When I set you down or leave the room, you cry.  It wasn't that way the first two days, but you caught on pretty quick that I'm your Mama!

When you sleep, you sleep with your mouth closed,  it's so precious.

You love to stack things and put things in and out of containers.  (Just like your big brother)
Once you realized we would hold you while you slept, you didn't want much to do with your bed!

You didn't like the cold water, you wouldn't get in any of the baby tubes, but you would let us hold you and you liked to put your feet in.

You are so silly!

 Traveling in style, no carseats here.

Not sure of the exact date but we celebrated your first birthday...we didn't want to miss this big milestone!

 Couldn't bake a cake so Jello would have to do...

 We got to Skype your big brother a couple times, he was so excited to see you!

Our only family picture!

This is my favorite picture of you!

 Some memories to take with us.

Journal Entry Monday August 18th, 2014 (our 7 year anniversary and last day with you)
    I woke up early this morning.  We've been sleeping in late with you most mornings.  Today though,  I was wide awake at 5:30am.  Not sure why, maybe it's because my heart knows it's our last day with you and I want to savor every minute.  You are sleeping peacefully in your little pac'n'play.  You look so content.  Two days ago we visited the foster home you will live in until we get to bring you home. You will sleep on a mattress on the floor with about 10 other babies.  The staff seem nice and I know they will take care of you, but the conditions you will live in are not what we want for you.  We want you at home, sharing a room with Max, having your own bed, where we are just down the hall and can get to you when you need us.  You have definitely attached to your Mama over the past 8 days and it breaks my heart to know that you will cry out for me in the night, and I won't be there to rock you back to sleep.  I hope you remember our voices.  I hope you know we are coming back.  I hope you feel loved.  But most of all I hope you feel the love of your heavenly father who will be the one to watch over you.   I wish I could give you the world, but for now I will be a world away.  Being your mom has changed me.  You have taught me so much about faith and trust.  You have taught me that love is far greater than blood and color and distance and time.  The love I have for you goes beyond all of that.  The love our heavenly father has for us far surpasses all of those things.  His love tells us it doesn't matter that we are different colors, or that we live on different sides of the world, I'm your mother and you are our son...and we will come back for you as soon as we can.
 Sunshine House

This is where we will leave you until we come back :(

Our 7 year anniversary...the day we left you, we went out to dinner that night with another family, we were heartbroken here but smiling for the pictures

Journal Entry Sometime during our 46 hour journey home- no idea what time or day it is
   The day came and they took you.  That was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, hand you back.  As soon as you realized you were going in a van and we weren't coming with you,  you started screaming and the nanny couldn't console you.  It took all my will power and restraint not to jump in the van and pull you in close.  I've really never been so sad.  I'm so heartbroken. And now,  I can't get that face out of my head...I try to because it hurts too much to think about you, but then again I don't want to forget  anything about you.  Not. one. detail.  So I will think of you every single day, until you are home.
    We did have a great last day with you.  We played in the pool, we snuggled, we laughed, you fell asleep as your dad and I swung you on a swing.  I kissed and kissed and kissed you.  I was so happy to still be with you but so so sad as the minutes ticked by.  To be told you only have an hour left with your son and then you have no idea when you will see him again is gut wrenching.  We are still in the Congo after over 26 hours of being stuck on planes.  I'm so emotionally drained.  I want to get home to your big brother, hoping his hugs and kisses will ease this pain.  I have a sinking feeling the pain is a permanent resident in my heart until you're home.

 This is our last picture with you.  You seemed to know what was happening.

Handing you over was the hardest thing we have ever done, but we know they will take care of you.

    This is just as you are realizing they were taking you away from us.  Screaming insued....

Leaving the DRC