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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Normal

           Today wasn’t great and it was.  Max started first grade today and I feel like I am so mad at time right now.  Emotions are heightened in our household lately.  We’ve all shed tears this week.  Not sure if it’s the transition from one season to another, if it’s the feeling we are “moving on” without Moses, if it’s trying to decide what next steps to take with our family, I don’t know…maybe it’s all of it.  For some reason we are all a mess.  Tony and I had a long conversation today about what we do now when it comes to our family and we are both gun shy when it comes to all the options.  We are scared of taking the wrong steps again.  In retrospect we may have rushed into a few decisions…one of them being the agency we picked.  We were in a hurry to pick a new agency when ours closed their Ethiopia program and we wanted to find another that had an Africa program.  I saw a Bible verse on the website and saw some reviews and off we went.  I was na├»ve in thinking that any organization with a Christian vision, wouldn’t lie to us, wouldn’t knowlingly take kids away from their bio families with deciept and unkept promises.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know.  We don’t have regrets but we feel we have learned so much and now it’s like we know too much.  It’s like we are paralyzed to make a decision because of the things that “could” go wrong.  The things that DID go wrong.  

             And Max may be picking up on our emotions, and I am pretty sure he is going through some grief of his own.  Telling him he no longer had a brother that would live with us was not our favorite day.  I told Tony that it was so hard because it was the first thing we had to tell him that would shake up his little safe world.  It was his first big disappointment in life.  We have been telling him since he knew what a brother was, that he had one and that one day he would come live with us.  I can’t count the times we said to Max, “When Moses gets here you can show him that..” or “When Moses gets here you will have someone to do that with…”  He told people he had a brother and a sister…he was so proud to be Moses’ big brother and he was ready to help teach him English and show him how to ride a bike.  His reaction when we told him that wasn’t going to happen was not what we expected.  We thought he may cry or be sad…but he was angry.   Angry at us specifically.  A visceral anger that surprised us. He was mad that we got to meet Moses and he never did.  He sobbed on his bed and told us to leave him alone. Tony kept trying to rub his back and he kept throwing his hand off and telling us to leave him be.  So we went into our room and told him we would be there when he was ready to talk.   I sobbed on the edge of the bed…he finally came in.  We told him we were so sad too, that we didn’t want this either.  He said “does this mean I don’t have a brother anymore”  and “Will I never get to meet him?” Both questions broke me as a mom.  It sucks to not be able to take away your child’s pain.  To have to deliver a message that you know will shake their foundation.  And now I don’t know if it’s grief or being a 6 year old or the end of summer mentality but his anger has been real and shocking.  He has always had such a sweet heart but now we are seeing anger manifest itself in our son and honestly I have been so busy dealing with my own sadness and anger that I have NO idea what to do with his.   But after the outburst happens there HE is again, my sweet hearted boy…we cried together tonight after one said outburst.  He laid on my chest and we both cried…hard. And he promised to do better and I promised to do better.  We prayed that God would help us do better.  I see his heart in those moments and I know we will get through this…and he’s maturing but he’s still a little boy and I just want to do right by him.  I just want him to feel heard and loved and like he can be who he is supposed to be.  When a mom is dealing with grief….how exactly can she be the best mom to her kids as they are dealing with their own?  I have no idea.  Any suggestions, cuz I am drowning a little bit here.  

              We had a great morning dropping Max off to his first day of school…we prayed over him and watched him light up as he saw his “buddies”.  Grateful for the kids in his class that will help with the lonliness of a brother lost.  Grateful for the teacher that will help him learn God’s word as a foundation when his is crumbling.  We are starting our new “Normal” this year as we all accept we are a family of 4 and not 5.  I will hold these kids close and know that we are getting through this together, as a family as four people who love each other deeply and are surrounded with countless others that lavish love/support upon us too.  Happy first day.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The final update.

I have been delaying writing this post.  It just feels like it will be final when we tell everyone.  I don’t want it to be over.  But we feel like it’s time to close the door on this adoption.  We made our last effort to make it happen and sent Tony back to the DRC.  His trip was unfruitful and we realized that the family is not going to let him go.  All this time we thought they agreed to this adoption.  They have given him up several times…but now we are left with so many questions.  They had told us if they could meet us then they would be satisfied.  But they didn’t even show up. 

We are frustrated, heartbroken, devastated and confused.  I am mad at myself for always believing this would end another way.  I always held onto to the hope that he would end up in our family.  I always thought this journey would one day lead to that much anticipated airport welcome with all the people that have spent hours praying and sacrificed their time and finances to this adoption.  I get sick when I think about people giving to this adoption that has failed.  I am so angry Tony flew all the way there just to sit in a hotel room for eight days by himself and never even get to see Moses.  He gave away all the clothes/toys we had brought for him and packed up the suitcase that held so many hopes and dreams for us.  He said he felt so sad packing that suitcase.  He came home.  We talked and prayed about how to tell everyone…how to tell max.  

I honestly don’t know how to let go.  When you hang on to something so tight for so long…letting go feels like a betrayal…it feels like we are forgetting him. But now there are times I wish I didn’t even know him.  (not a lot of times, but there are times)  Like when I first felt the finality and I wanted to smash the pictures on the walls and burn that stupid bunk bed in Max’s room.  Or when I unpacked that suitcase and I felt the sting of never seeing him again.  But deep down I know that I don’t want to forget him, and although my prayers for him will change, they will never cease.  Every night since we knew Moses’ name we have prayed with Max “Keep him safe and bring him home” .  Although the words will be the same, the meaning will change “Dear God keep him safe and bring him HOME."  And HOME is where we will see him again someday.  I know the prayers for this little boy will not go unanswered.  I trust that although we may never bring him home to our family, we will see him in our heavenly home someday. 

I am so sorry for everyone that was excited to meet him.  I am so sorry you gave and never got to see the fruit of your giving.  I am so sorry things ended this way.  I am so grateful that you supported us, even though we failed to bring him home.  This journey is over but we are anxious to see what God has in store for this family. 
Please keep Moses and his family in your prayers. We wish we had a happier ending to share.  God bless you for prayers as we grieve.  Thank you for the meals, texts, calls, rides from the airport, giving us a place to stay or a shoulder to cry on.  You are the best people. 

It felt like the floor was suddenly gone from beneath my feet and the foundation we had built was dissolving.  How could it be he would not be in our lives? How could we tell our son that he no longer has a brother? It feels like death..but I know he is living and breathing and I breathe in deep and thank God for that. ..if that’s all I can feel thankful for in this moment.  I think “I am blessed…You blessed me with two beautiful children…how can I not be grateful for what You have given?  You give and You take away and I trust you in this, although right now I feel hollow and broken and empty and sad and angry and all these things wrapped into a huge blanket of deep sadness that I fear I will never shake.  It will always hurt when I think of him.  It will always feel like my child was taken from me.  It will always feel like we had a family that never got to be a family.  And people will move on and their lives will go on the same and I’m stuck on this island…alone…without him, the one I prayed for for so many years.  And what was the lesson in this?  Because everything is foggy and sad and I can’t hear You.  I can’t see Your face in this.  I know who You are.  You are good. You are sovereign. You are still You.  But who am I? I was his mother and now who am I?  I had three children and now who am I?  I’ve lost part of who I am.  I don’t want to be here without him.  My heart is bleeding and I cry everyday and I feel nothing and everything.  But You are good and You are God and I breathe deep and I cling to that.  If there is nothing else to cling to, I cling to that.  You asked me once “would You be enough if everything else was taken away?”  Now I face the answer and I know You are. In time I wonder if I will see the ways in which Your hand was in this.  Will I be grateful for this? Will it not burn in the back of my eyes and spill out in tears? Will I feel peace? Will I feel content?  Will I ever move on?  People say “at least you can grieve and move on now.” At least….at least.  There is no “at least” because it’s not a consolation to move on…it’s not a gift.  How can I see it as one?  The only true gift in this was the way I felt You near in the despair and the way he called me “mama” even if I will never hear it again. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tony goes to Africa...

This week has been a mess of anxiety and hope as a few very big things have come together.  We have been waiting for Tony’s visa to get into the DRC for over 9 weeks now, and had heard from the embassy it may take months.  We wanted one of us to be there for an embassy appointment with Moses’ biological aunt.  She has expressed that she wants to meet us and will give up her rights once she comes up for the embassy appointment.  So we applied for Tony’s visa thinking it might take two weeks.  When it was taking so long, we weren’t sure if we should go ahead with the interview without one of us there.  This is a risk, we are afraid she could not follow through if she doesn’t meet us.  But we were prolonging the approval of our adoption because we were waiting on a visa.  So that was our dilemma.  We decided to step out in faith and schedule the embassy appointment if Tony’s visa wasn’t here by the end of June.  Then we gave it one more week.  Nothing.  So we set up the appointment for this past Thursday.  Just after I wired the money for our lawyer to go down to the region where Moses and his aunt have been living to bring them back to the city….I got an email that Tony’s visa would arrive last Saturday…and it did!  Wow.  The timing, as always, was crazy. 

SO…we booked a ticket and Tony is head to the DRC…THIS SUNDAY.  As of now we don’t know how long approval will take after the interview so we don’t know if Tony will be coming home with Moses.  What we do know is the interview is scheduled for July 18th at 3:00 and Tony will be there the night before.  So right now we need some major prayer.  

Both of us are stressed beyond belief trying to pack and get everything ready for leaving here on Saturday.  We are stretched thin in so many ways...financially...emotionally...physically.  We are excited but nervous.  Please pray for Tony…that he would be safe and that Moses would bond with him….Moses doesn’t remember us, he doesn’t speak a lick of English and he is leaving everything he knows…Pray for Moses too.  Pray for me as I wait from afar…it was a really hard decision not to go with Tony but we decided if things didn’t work out, the one who could emotionally handle that should go.  Obviously it isn’t me. And financially it just didn't make sense for us both to go. 

We have been blown away by the recent support of friends…such a reminder that God is still in this and that he still CARES and so do the people surrounding us.  I got a letter with a check from a friend just this week  that said 
“The Lord your God himself will fight for you” Deuteronomy 3:2
“In life we may not know which battles we’ll have to fight, but we can always be sure of who is fighting them with us.  God’s love and many prayers are all around you—now and for as long as it takes. “

She said “So many times I have wanted to reach out to you but my words were at a loss.  I’ve wanted to help but had nothing to give….I’m so happy to finally send something” along with some other very heartfelt very much needed words.  God continues to provide at JUST the moment I (we) need it most.  

I can honestly say that in the past few months I have questioned if we should still be fighting.  I mean I would die for this boy but how long should I fight for it if I’m not sure of the outcome…As LONG as it takes.  

Thank you Kirsten for reminding me not to give up on God, on Moses, on our family…and for reminding me there are so many people who haven’t given up on us.  

Thank you Denalyn and fam for supporting another DRC mama (and fam) when you haven’t even met us in person.  If you are anything like your brother, I want to be your friend someday (I mean like real friends who have face to face conversations…although I feel like I already know you).

Thank you friends who have randomly felt the tug on your heart to send money and prayers our way…You have NO idea what it means to us to open the letters from you.  It literally keeps me afloat when I feel like I am drowning.  You have supported us financially and with your time when we aren’t even ASKING, you continue to GIVE.  

 If it goes well next week they will approve his orphan status and we can officially apply for his visa.  This is our last big hurtle folks.  My anxiety level is at an all time high as I sit here tonight thinking about all that is about to go down in the next couple weeks.  But my faith is also at an all time high thanks to those of you that have been supporting us.  Let’s bring him home…I really want him to meet you.

With love

The Schmids
I found this luggage tag on the suitcase when I got it out to pack...the last time we used this bag was August 2014 when we met Moses.  Can't believe I am packing it again almost three years later. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Birthday Boy

One year ago tomorrow we were placed on a list of families approved to remove their children from the DRC.  It was the day after Moses’ 3rd birthday.  

Last night I got an email from another DRC mom, who told me to check our Lifesong donations.  We have decided not to continue to ask for money from friends and family for our adoption.  We had committed to asking for a certain amount and then once we raised that we would come up with the rest on our own …or just pray that God would provide.  Somehow…every time we need funds …God provides.  We have been financially struggling with the adoption process since our agency was  debarred in December.  We had to find a new agency and with that came many more fees.   

Out of the blue one day, a mom we met in the DRC said there was another DRC mom who knew someone looking to donate to a family still waiting to get their children out of DRC. Well there aren’t very many of us left so she told them about us.  Last night, that donation went through.  We can now pay for our new agency and HOPEFULLY a ticket to the DRC.  I got so excited last night.  I was like “TONY this must be a sign, last year at this time we were put on the list…and it’s Moses’ birthday  and….” Then I had to reign it in because I felt the lump rise and the tears coming.  You see I have had this feeling of excitement and hope before…and been let down.   So instead of getting ahead of myself, I am praising God for my sweet four year old boy today.  I wish I could eat cupcakes with him and watch him open his gifts, but I have to live another milestone without him here.  I am grieving and rejoicing today.  Letting myself watch the videos and look at the pictures today.   I rejoice in the possibility of bringing him home this year,  I grieve in the possibility that we won’t.  I rejoice in his four years of life.  I grieve that I have missed out on those years.  

Happy Birthday Love.  We miss you. 

Moses Birthday from Jennifer Schmid on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Timeline

There's been so much time since we held our times I feel numb to it. Like will I even be excited when he comes home? I know it sounds awful but he doesn't know us, and we don't know him...and it's been this way for three years. There's a four year old little boy across the world that I identify as my son, but in reality...he doesn't speak our language, he doesn't love us yet like we love him, he might even be scared of us when/if he comes home. He might be scared of a lot of things. The day we have been waiting three years for, will be a traumatic day for him...when he leaves all his little four year old body has ever known. 

So instead of letting myself feel all of that I shut it down...and I try not to think about the implications of that day actually becoming a reality. But some days I still close my eyes and feel his little body asleep on mine. I can smell him and feel his shallow breaths...and in those moments, I know the hard days (if we are blessed enough to have them) will be worth it because I will get to hold my little boy again and breath him in.

I realize now I can't protect any of my children from the what the world throws at them...but I will love them
fiercely and hold them when they can't take it. When it hurts too bad. When the grief is overwhelming. I'm no expert, but I've certainly learned a lot about pain. And maybe that is the most important thing to come out of this waiting, maybe that is something I will share with him. Yes our grief will be different...I longed for him and he may be longing for a life he leaves behind. But we will both know longing. Deep guttural longing that makes you feel so alone.

For him, as it has been for me, life will be busy and he won't have time to feel it always, but when the world gets quiet, that's when he will feel the isolation, the loneliness. I know this because that's when I feel
it; in the night when I wake from a dream of him or when I lay under the stars of Max's bunkbed feeling the emptiness of an incomplete family, and the glitter in the stars magnifies in my tears and spills out melting down the sides of my face. I feel it when the world gets quiet, and maybe that's why I don't like to be alone like I used to...I don't want to feel it. And although I can't keep the grief from creeping into his little body, I will be there so he doesn't have to feel alone. And I will tell him how while his mommy waited for him to come home sometimes she felt so alone that her whole body ached. That she cried for him and prayed for him every night. And maybe that will make him feel less alone. And I will tell him that when I felt the most alone, and when it hurt the most, I still had Jesus by my side and that he can too. That He was mommy's hope. Even though I will always grieve my time lost with my sweet boy, I never walked alone.
When the world felt so lonely, I didn't have to hope in the world.  I could hope in what was bigger than the world.

“He shot his arrows deep into my heart.  
The thought of my suffering and hopelessness is bitter beyond words. 
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The unfailing love of the Lord never ends!  
By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.” 
Lamentations 3:13, 19-22

The other day I sat down and decided to write down every significant moment in our adoption journey.  Frankly when people ask questions now, I am starting to lose track.  We have been on our adoption journey for 7 years.  We have known our son for three of the seven years.  When I actually wrote it all out, it sure did look like a big chunk of my life I have been fighting for something that, at this point, I am not sure will ever happen.  This has hit me hard this week. It's actually pretty hard to be hopeful for the next steps when I look back at how many we had to take to get here. But I also look back at those steps and see the lessons God has given me along the way.  I am not the person I was 7 years ago when we started this.  His mercies have kept me from complete destruction...

So here it is if you are interested. The significant events for the last seven years of our pursuit to follow God's calling to adopt. 


March 2010- Start adoption paperwork with first agency for Ethiopia
June 2010- Almost complete homestudy
July 2010 - Find out we are pregnant put homestudy on hold
March 2011- Max is born
May 2011- Move to Indiana -Find out our agency closed Ethiopia program
May 2013- Find new agency and start homestudy process over because we moved states and had a baby- originally decided to adopt from Uganda then changed to Democratic Republic of Congo
September 12 2013 approved for i600a
September 25 2013 DGM announced suspension on the issuance of exit permits for adopted children (basically withholding the one piece of paper legally adopted children needed to leave the country)
October 2013 Sent our Dossier to Democratic Republic of Congo
December 31 2013 Receive our referral (first pictures of Moses at 9 months old)
January 29 2014- receive updated photos of Moses
July 25 2014 Moses moved to foster care in Kinshasa receive picture of him. He is moved to sunshine house
August 10-22 2014 Travel to Kinshasa to meet Moses
August 15 2014 Receive final adoption judgement from DRC courts
August 25 2014- received photos of Moses at sunshine house with our pics and toys we left him
September 2014 – receive a call that Aunt has taken him back to Bandundu (kikwit) That our adoption is probably over
April 15 2014- 171 Members of Congress sent a letter to the Prime Minister and President of DRC calling for a resolution of the adoption crisis
July 3-5 2014 - Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Biden, traveled to DRC and requested exit permits be issued.
July 8 2014 House of Representatives passes Resolution calling on DRC to end the suspension of exit permits
July 16 2014 Kelly Dempsey testifies to House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa regarding the Department of State’s bias against DRC adoptions and its poor performance in responding to the DRC crisis.
July 16 2014 167 Members of Congress send a letter urging President Obama to engage President Kabila to resolve the crisis
January 2015- Receive photos of Moses who we had not seen since September 2014
January 5 2015- Update our homestudy in Indiana AGAIN
February 9 2015- Approved by governor to move Moses back to Kinshasa but he insists we get approval from DGM (who does not approve)
April 21 2015- Family agrees Moses can move back to Kinshasa in foster care (still waiting on DGM)
May 4 2015- receive one photo of Moses (whom we hadn’t seen a photo of since January 2015)
May 17 2015- Moses has umbilical hernia surgery without our knowledge
May 30 2015- Move to Michigan start homestudy process over AGAIN
February 21 2016 Lucy is born
March 30 2016 – Moses 3rd birthday
March 31 2016 – sent notice that we were on the list approved for an exit permit
June 29 2016- Hired a private investigator (didn’t trust everything our agency was telling us)
July 26 2016- received pics and video of Moses from Private Investigator (whom we hadn’t seen since May 4th 2015 a year and two months earlier)
October 2016- File our i600
November 2016- Update our Michigan homestudy AGAIN
November 2016- Sent a request for more evidence (RFE) from state department (they want a corrected birth certifitcate for Moses and death certificate for his bio mother)
December 16 2016 Our agency is debarred for three years.  Endless phonecalls/emails about what this means for the finalization of our adoption
January 7 2017 Sign on with our third agency
January 9 2017 Receive final documents for i600 request for evidence and send them out to be translated
January 11 2017- Send final documents to USCIS and await final decision of approval or denial of our i600 petition for orphan status
January 18 2017- Start Passport paperwork
February 1 2017- Sent out last RFE paperwork and contract with new agency to state department
February 13 2017- State Department confirms receipt of RFE paperwork and start of i600 processing
February 21 2017- Received approval for i600a (again) Lucy's first birthday
Currently - awaiting approval or denial of our i600 which will determine if we move forward with the adoption or if it is officially over