Saturday, November 23, 2013

Happy Adoption Day!

Exactly one year ago today, we met this beautiful girl for the very first time.

And we have been so very, very blessed to watch her grow this past year.  So very blessed to have her as our daughter.  

And it seems so fitting, on National Adoption Day, that we celebrate Lexi's adoption day.  Our family is so much better for having you in it.  Happy Adoption Day, Sweet Girl.  I love you so much.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Break My Heart For What Breaks Yours

"Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like You have loved me.  Break my heart for what breaks Yours- everything I am for your kingdom's cause."  As I sang these words this morning, I couldn't hold it together any longer.  This has been my prayer for a long time, and God has answered it.  He has shown me need so deep, it's nearly incomprehensible.  And He has given me a heart for His children around the world.  And my heart is broken, for what breaks His.  

And now the question comes, "What now?"  My heart is broken.  I lay crumpled and beaten down, and I'm hurting, in pain.  And I cry out to Him, "Abba, I can't do this anymore!  Please, please help!"  Because asking to be broken is not the same as experiencing it.  Sometimes I wonder that people can't see it written all over my face.  I'm broken.

I've been healing from this loss of a child, this loss of David as a part of our lives.  I've been at the point that I'm ready to move on, have needed to move on.  And for the past few weeks, we've been considering two other referrals.  Two beautiful boys that need love and a home and a family. And now, it comes down to it, making the choice of which boy to make ours.  This week, preparing a care package, planning to accept a new son, it aches deep inside, a wrenching debilitating loss.  In choosing a son, I feel less that we are choosing who to make a child of ours, and more as if we're choosing who to leave behind.  To add to the pain, I'm sending items that I've set aside for David.  As much as I try, I cannot convince my broken heart that I am adding a son- I feel instead as if I'm losing two.  

And yet, I know that I can't adopt them all.  And my heart grieves for those left behind, just as my Abba's does.  Break my heart for what breaks Yours, that's done. And now I ask for healing and grace and peace in this monumental pain, this insufferable suffering.  There are times when having my eyes wide open is agony, and I can only ask my Abba to cradle me close as I grieve. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Time Marches On

I've been avoiding my blog for the last couple months.  There's so much to put down, and so many emotions to sort through as I share our grief with friends and family.  So many highs and lows.  Pain, and anger combine with praise and thankfulness.  Throw in daily doses of normal life, that continues on and on, regardless of times I've just wanted it to stop and allow me to grieve and process.  But there is homework to do. Hair to style.  Dance class and teacher meetings and housework. Life goes on.

Two months ago, I felt it, for the first time.  A sincere, panicky, from the gut feeling that David, our son, wasn't going to be ours.  I had no reason to believe that things weren't still right on track, but I couldn't shake it, this ache in my heart that acknowledged that this beautiful boy wouldn't be ours.

And then came the phone call with our agency director, where she told me that David's mother had been found.  And more than that, she wanted to parent him.  And it was so, so hard.  Because as much as we wanted David to be ours, he got to go home!  To his mother, that loved him and wanted him.  Our agency took another couple of weeks, investigating, making sure that this was truly what his mother wanted.  And when official word came, we celebrated.  Because this is a beautiful story.  A story of God's grace and provision- an amazing story of reunion.  And David is reunited with his mama.  He is right where he belongs.  And for that, we are truly, sincerely happy for him.

But this has come at a cost for us, for our family.  There is loss, and grief, and anger, and sadness.  We've lost a son.  A brother. A grandson. A cousin. A nephew.  Emotions have been high. But when it comes down to it, there are so many kids in this world that don't have a family that wants to or can take care of them.  David is so blessed to be loved by two families.  And how amazing is that.

But less than two weeks following the loss of our son and my children's brother, we also had to put down my beloved dog, Molly.  She came into our home ten years ago, long before we had children.  And our family was left reeling at the loss of two very important members.  The losses were very different, but the double whammy has left this enormous ache in my chest.  It hurts.  And there's been moments where I've felt that I can't breathe.  That I've literally had to sit down and wait for it to pass, because I literally can't draw a breath, because my chest is so tight.

But time is passing, and the ache is subsiding, slowly but surely.  And our family is starting to move on.  My kids still talk about him, and how hard it is that he'll never come home to us.  But they're stabilizing, and the tears and tantrums and inappropriate reactions to small things are tapering off.

We're opening up to the possibility of a new referral, a new brother, a new son.  And I'm starting to feel hopeful again, because at the heart of things, David has a family.  And that's exactly what we wanted for him.  We've never wanted to take someone's child away- never been in the adoption process to fill our own void.  We want another child, but we also want to provide a family to a child that doesn't have a home.  And I CANNOT wish that David's mother had made a different choice.  Loving him, I want the very best for him, and I believe that that is his mother, who loves him very dearly.  And I am so, so very grateful that David is home with his mama.  Regardless of the cost to myself and my family, I am overwhelmingly grateful that he is home, exactly where he belongs.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lexi's month of firsts!

This has been a crazy month of firsts for Alexis.  She performed in her first school programs and graduated Kindergarten!  

She went to her first American wedding.

She had her first sleepover at Grammy & Grandpa's.

She went in a hot tub for the first time.

AND, today she celebrated her very first birthday in America!!  We marked the actual day (Wednesday) with a trip to the family cabin, and today she had her very first birthday party (that she can remember)  

To top it all off, on May 23rd, she'd officially been in our arms six months from our Gotcha Day!  

We love you, Alexis Mbo.  I'm so very glad you're mine!  We are so blessed to have these "firsts" with you!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Apparent Project Bracelets

As important and amazing and necessary as I believe orphan care is, there's another side to the coin, which is: helping prevent children from becoming orphans in the first place. I venture to say that one of the biggest reasons for orphans in third world countries is simply that families cannot support their children.  One of my favorite organizations is the Apparent Project, which gives parents in Haiti the skills and opportunity to sustain their family.  Sustainable families= fewer orphans!  

As part of the Apparent Project, men and women in Haiti make jewelry using recycled materials, such as cereal boxes.  These brightly colored boxes are cut into strips and rolled into beads, which are then used to make bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.  This does two things for these families: first, it gives them a sustainable living, and second, it gets trash off the streets of Haiti!  

The Apparent Project recently announced that they are offering some of their bracelets as fundraisers. To help raise money for our adoption, we are selling bracelets made by the Apparent Project.  That means that every bracelet sold not only fulfills the function of helping families in Haiti and getting trash off the streets, it also helps us provide a home for orphans.  Guys, I can't even tell you how jazzed I am about this project!  

One of my very favorite parts about this is that with every bracelet, there's a tag, with a picture and the story of the artisan who made that very bracelet.  It makes it personal, seeing exactly who was touched by your purchase.  

The bracelets are all very brightly colored, and no two are the same.  There are many different color combinations, but they're all beautiful, whatever color you choose!  




Earth Tones

Bright Multi-Color
Subdued Multi-Color

Each bracelet is $10, with $3 shipping for as many bracelets as you'd like to order.  Again, this supports the adoption of our son as well as parents in Haiti.

I accept Paypal at

Thank you so much for your support!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

This Mother's Day

It seems fitting to write on our blog today, on Mother's Day, that we are adopting once again.  This time, a beautiful new son will join our family.

Our boy is five years old, and we are so thrilled, knowing he'll be the completion of our family.  I've had this thought in my head for the last two years, a picture of what our family can be.  Our children: two black, two white.  Two adopted, two biological.  Two boys, two girls.  Two from Congo, two from America.  Everyone has someone like them.

We talked about him, and prayed about him, at great length.  And it took over a month before we officially decided that yes, he is our son.  This is not without some fear, understandably.  We're tired.  It's been a long, financially and emotionally difficult two years since we started the adoption process.  But oh, how excited we are to bring home our boy!

Our family is doing really well, almost five months home.  How crazy that seems!  On one hand, I can't believe it's been that long, and on the other... well, was there ever a time Alexis wasn't my girl?

Looking back at our time in Congo and first home, Alexis has come so very, very far.  Her English skills are astounding- I can hardly believe it.  And she is learning so much in school; just this week, she's improved so much!  But more than that, she's happy, and warm, and loving.  She has a sweet heart, and a fantastic sense of humor.  She loves her family fiercely.

Lexi's favorite color is yellow, "because it's so pretty!" and she loves to wear pretty dresses and care for her babies.  She cannot wait to start school in the fall at "Robby's school," where all three of my babies at home are registered for next year.

Like all our kids, Alexis isn't perfect, but I believe she's perfect for us. She went out of her way to show me that I was important today.  Oh, how I love that girl.

Ella and Robby love their sister, as passionately as she loves them.  They play and fight and sing and dance and yell and hug, all within the same five minutes.  There are times that Ella struggles with sharing everything.  It's very different having a sister to share with, instead of a brother.  That's not to say there aren't benefits- as much as Alexis gets to share Ella's toys, Ella gets to share Lexi's!

Robby, on the other hand, is struggling with wanting to share more.  In our family right, Robby has always been the social one, the extrovert.  He loves nothing more than to be around people.  So it's hard for him some days, wishing his brother was home to share a room and toys and clothes with.  More than anyone, Robby desperately wants his brother to come home!

There are days when money is tight and we get stressed, but I feel so incredibly blessed.  We have been given such amazing gifts in these three (soon four!) kids, and I don't know what I ever did to deserve them.

My Abba is good!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fighting the Apathy

I've heard, many times, about people struggling to reintegrate after seeing extreme poverty.  And I've known about it, seen pictures, and grieved piteously just from looking at the websites in the aftermath of people's journeys.  I prepared myself for it, this fight to figure out what it all means.  Maybe I've prepared myself to well.

I feel hardened.  I feel like I cannot allow myself to process the things I've seen or allow myself to dwell on them, because really, what happens if I allow myself to REALLY, TRULY look at what is going on, in my daughter's homeland?

I'm struggling to figure out where to go from here.  Because I don't know what I can do from my comfortable, stable home to make a difference in the lives of children there.  Because the corruption in Congo is overwhelming at times.  But that hardness is tearing me apart, because I NEED to do something, for the children, and for me.   For my own heart.  For my own peace of mind.  I can't sit here and do nothing.  Adoption is fantastic, but it's such a small part of orphan care around the world.

This weekend, a friend of mine visited orphanages in Congo.  And in one of the homes, they were present for the kids' one meal of the day.  ONE meal of the day.  And it was a small piece of bread that they dipped in tea for flavor, to fill their small bellies.  They lined them up and fed them this small amount of food.

It's heartbreaking, when you actually stop and think about this idea.  One meal.  Bread and tea.

But it gets harder.  What the picture doesn't show is the "older" kids.  The ones who are around 4.  The ones standing in the back, with nothing to eat, because the orphanage ran out.  And the little ones need it more to survive.  Think about that, really think about that for just a second.  The ONE meal of a day, and there isn't enough for all the kids to eat that day.

Oh, Friends.  That hurts.

I can't tell you exactly where I'll go from here, but I can tell you this:  things have got to change.  Because I'm fairly certain that I won't survive the stain on my heart from doing nothing.   Will you?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Unexpected Grief

Anyone who's adopting internationally can tell you, information about their child's family ranges from very little to non-existent.  There's a likelihood of biological siblings, either current or future, that the child may or may not have been raised with.  It's a blip on the radar, something that is disregarded, for the most part, as inevitable.  

I've had this ridiculous, pie-in-the-sky dream about finding Alexis' family.  Meeting them, sending them pictures and updates.  Once I arrived in Congo, I understood why that was such an unrealistic goal, as Kinshasa has close to 10 million people living there, many of them homeless or close to it.  

Today, I saw a picture of a little boy up for adoption.  And for the very first time, since laying eyes on my daughter, someone looked like her.  Having been to Congo, I've seen thousands of beautiful brown Congolese faces.  And I can honestly say that I haven't seen a smidgen of resemblance to a single person that I've come in contact with.  But this little boy is the spitting image of my little girl.  In fact, he looks so much like her, Alexis first thought that it was a picture of her that I was holding.  (So did other people, in fact).  

This mommy began to speculate, began to dream.  What if, by some grace of God, I'd stumbled upon my daughter's brother?  

There's this huge hole in my heart, that aches to give my girl a history, a family connection.  I will never have baby pictures of her.  I wasn't there to see her take her first steps or smile her first smile, and I cannot record those memories for her like I've done with Robby and Ella.  And I ache, so desperately, to be able to give that to her!  I yearn to tell my daughter her story, the small details that make a person who they are.  And I can never do that.  

Alexis told me that she doesn't know that boy.  That he is, in fact, not her brother, as I'd almost convinced myself was true.  And I'm hurting today, for the brother I cannot give Alexis, and the family I can't give that little boy.  Adoption, while beautiful, is loss.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What's in a name?

Three weeks ago, this beautiful girl decided that she wanted to be called her middle name, Alexis.  We've felt very strongly, from the very beginning of our adoption, that any child we adopted from the Congo would be losing enough, without us taking away their name as well.  Thinking about the losses in our daughter's life: her family, her friends, her culture, language, food, people who look like her, sound like her...  I know that we are giving her new things by coming here, very important things, such as a home, and education, and most importantly, a family.  

But the reality is, we've also ripped her from her world. When our daughter looks back on her life, I want her to feel that when she weighs the balance of things, that we've given more than we've taken away.  We've adopted a whole person, with a history and a culture and a name, and those things are all a part of the beautiful girl that we're blessed to call our daughter.  

That being said, we also feel very strongly in allowing our daughter to have as much say as possible in this transition.  Our girl has had so little control over her life, and we've always been open to her changing her name, in whatever form that takes.  So when, during a conversation about names and what we call people, Mbo decided she wanted to be called Alexis, we were open to that.  For the sake of her Idaho birth certificate, she will be Alexis Mbo Hanson.

We know that this might be a journey for her.  She may change her mind, many times over the years, in fact. But we love and support her in this, and in all things.  I am so very proud to be this girl's mama.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Life in the Hanson household

When I was pregnant with Robby, people told me "Once he's here, you'll wonder that he wasn't here all along."  And I found, when holding my beautiful, perfect newborn, that as amazing and strange as that sounded at the time, it was true!  It seemed unbelievable that Robby had ever not been with us.  A part of our family, integral to our lives.  The very same happened when Ella came home.  Our beautiful girl changed the dynamics of life (and the power balance), drastically, but life before her?  What was that?

And Friends, I feel so blessed that the very same can be said of our newest addition to our family.  Be it a honeymoon period or a time of grace or simply our new life as we know it, life with our Congo princess could not be easier.  

These past couple of months have definitely been filled with new things, for us as well as Mbo.  There have been dental cleanings, cavity fillings, doctor appointments, blood draws, fecal samples, immunizations, parasites, language barriers, lost teeth, shared rooms, new schools, changed routines, family additions, social security applications, green cards, re-adoption paperwork, tax questions, workout routines... and on and on and on.  

But through it all, Mbo has reacted with grace and resilience, far more than I'd expect from a 5 year old.  She LOVES her brother and sister, but she's learned to stand up for herself.  When she gets home from school, she flies into my arms with a grin, and she can't wait to tell me all about her day.  While she is growing amazingly fast in her English skills, she sometimes struggles to find the words to fit a situation.  But once things are figured out, she laughs and laughs at the misunderstandings, willing to see the humor in the mistakes.  I sometimes wonder, how did I get so blessed, to be this little girl's mama?  

It seems amazing to me that just over a year ago, I was hesitating to accept the referral of an "older" child.  I grieved a little that I'd never again experience being a mama to an infant or toddler. I worried about what kinds of behaviors we might be bringing into our home.  I ached for the precious years I'd never regain with my child, those early moments.  And while all of those emotions are perfectly valid, perhaps even sensible, my heart breaks to think that I might have missed out on this amazing girl, my wonderful daughter.  

For any of you considering older child adoption, let me leave you with this:  for nine months, we got solemn, somber, sad pictures of a little girl across the world.  She didn't smile.  She didn't look at the camera.  And that same little girl, within a month of being home?  Mbo's happy spirit shines through, every day.  

This is the difference that love makes!