Tuesday, March 5, 2013

God is providing!

John & I are excited to share that we are the featured family on the Give1Save1Africa blog! Click the link below to view our adoption video. We are on day 2 & have already received $2,700!!! That is incredible & absolutely blows my mind! God is using His people to bring Him glory through the adoption of Sha. How amazing is that!? We are expecting to be submitted to Embassy tomorrow & plan to travel 2-3 weeks after that when we clear immigration. I (Brittany) will most likely be going to pick him up this time since John went to get Bek for the 2nd trip. Although I am so eager to get our boy the thought of flying that far alone is a little overwhelming. I can't believe that in the past 6 months we have brought Bek home & will be welcoming another son into our family! If I wasn't the one living this life I would think the people doing this were a little nuts. I wouldn't have it any other way!

Check out our video here!

Monday, December 17, 2012

God had different plans

We thought we would wait another year or so before adding to our family after bringing Bek home. He needed time to heal and transition, we needed time to get familiar with our new son and family dynamic. Everything changed when Bek came into our family. Most of the changes have been welcomed & have brought joy into our lives, others have added unique challenges. They say the first year of having an older child home is the hardest. All parties involved are learning this new way of life & getting to know each other. There is a lot of learning through trial & error and that brings forth stress more often than not. Despite the added stress & challenges that come with expanding your family there is always so much more joy that accompanies it. Those challenges we've experienced with our son have made the sweet moments with him that much better. Through his grieving we're learning to be better, more patient parents. We've learned the importance of unconditional love in a child's life and have been able to experience the type of love God so freely shows us. We don't deserve His grace yet he lavishes us in it.  We didn't do anything to receive His blessings yet He loves seeing His children smile.  We didn't choose to be born into the situation we're in yet there is a reason He has placed us in it. The blessings we've received come with responsibility.

John & I try to live our life in a way that brings glory to God. The love we have for Him influences our choices & the way we live our life. Since we started dating we both expressed interest in adoption. God had opened our eyes to the need in this world and we both wanted to make sure the person we married was on the same page. At that time we had no idea what our future held, we just knew adoption would be a part of it. It has been amazing to see how God is growing our family. I say God because He is responsible for bringing our children into this world & uniquely weaving them into our family. John & I definitely didn't anticipate adopting older children when we had that initial dialogue over coffee years ago, but as always He has better plans. Plans to bring us on a journey of healing, learning, loving & raising beautiful children.

With that being said He has opened the door to add another child to our family. A couple weeks after having Bek home John & I had talked about adding another older boy into our family in the future so Bek would have a brother closer to his age. We in no way anticipated to adopt again anytime soon but knew it was something we hoped to do in the future. During the first month of having Bek home we were having a chat about his friends in Ethiopia. Since at that time he spoke VERY little English it was pretty hard to communicate using words. Since we were talking about his friends I decided to show him our adoption agencies waiting children's list (WCL) hoping he would be able to show me some of his friends from the orphanage. As I was scrolling through the pictures of these beautiful children he kept shaking his head saying "no" to the children since he didn't recognize any of them. When we got to the very last picture on the list he looked closer at the picture on it & enthusiastically said "Yes! Sha****!" as he stared at the picture he smiled. A few moments later he looked at me and said "I love him" which about broke my heart.

See, I had seen this boy's picture on the WCL months ago. It was the same WCL Bek was on. I remember seeing his picture but didn't feel that same tug on my heart like I did towards Bek. I almost feel guilty looking back. God had different plans & at that time it wasn't to bring this other little boy into our family. Little to our knowledge that was yet to come. A few days went by after we saw Sha's photo. If I thought for a moment that we would bring another child into our family anytime soon that thought was immediately ruled out by my more sane & logical side. However Sha's photo was in the back of my mind daily and Bek started to share more about his relationship with him.

They grew up next door to each other in their rural village in Ethiopia. Their mothers were best friends & they would play together growing up. There are more extraordinary details to their relationship that I am choosing not to share since this will be Bek & Sha's story to tell someday but needless to say both John & I were blown away with their connection to one another. We were so taken aback that we started to have more serious discussions about what it would look like to add Sha to our family. We initially just didn't think WE could do it. All of our reasons were valid having just gotten home with Bek but we just couldn't deny the connection they have & felt God revealed it to us for a reason. He was exposing yet again the need one of His children had for a forever family & we couldn't say no. So we didn't. We prayed & God answered. He put the pieces in line to make it happen one of which was getting our agency to allow it since they normally make families wait a year before pursuing another adoption. On a side note I can't say enough amazing things about our agency, AWAA. Everyone we've worked with has been wonderful. They are a Christian based adoption agency which was super important to us since our faith is what led us to adopt.

We believe as Christians we are commanded to care for "the least of these" & reach out to the hurting. To us that means adopting. To others it may look different but since we are at a point in life where we want children it just makes sense to us. Ok, back on track....So after several discussions about adopting again John & I decided we would pursue bringing Sha home.  However there were still many obstacles to overcome at that point. We prayed that God would either open or close doors & just like He did with Bek He flung the doors wide open! Our case worker & adoption agency were supportive. Our businesses were blessed to make it work financially & our family although a little hesitant were overall extremely supportive. I also have to mention how fortunate I am to have married an incredible man who loves the Lord. I am usually the one gets the ball rolling in regards to our adoptions but he is the one who makes it happen. He is the one who chases the paperwork, discusses countless details over email & phone with our case worker & works his butt off to make enough money to pay the expenses associated with adoption. I have heard so many women tell me they have a heart for adoption but their spouse just won't consider it. That breaks my heart. I am encouraging John to be more active on his blog which talks about adoption from a man's perspective. As far as I'm concerned there is NOTHING more attractive than a man who fearlessly loves his family & others. Sometimes that means taking a leap of faith & hearing your wife out when she tells you God might be leading her heart to adoption. I know I got way side tracked again...sorry!

So here we are. Waiting for a court date to fly to Ethiopia to meet Sha & adopt him. We are praying we will be there in early January & back home with him sometime in March. Sha does know he has a family & from what we've heard he is very excited about that. He was happy to see Bek would not only be his life long friend but brother soon. Praise God for His plan & for blessing us with another son! We know the road won't be easy, we know his little heart has been hurt & his beautiful eyes have seen more than any child ever should but we believe in a God that heals & restores. We are looking forward to seeing another child blossom into the person they were created to be. Please pray for Sha. Pray God will prepare his heart for the transition that's before him as well as the rest of our family as we prepare to welcome another kiddo into the mix.

God never seizes to amaze me with His plan. I am thankful that despite all my shortcomings He has chosen me for the special job of being a mama to these little humans. I love my people!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grieving is complicated.

The reality is I'm hopeless when it comes to blogging or any type of writing for that matter. Although I enjoy sharing our story & more so than that I find it very therapeutic to express my feelings through words I am just not disciplined enough to be consistent with it. So hear is my seemingly weak attempt at updating you on the craziness that has been our life the past 3 months...

When Bek came home at the end of September we were still living at my parent's house while our house was being built. They were kind enough to allow us to stay in their winter home for 5 months while they were still up north. It wasn't ideal bringing home an older child during this transitional time but we really didn't have another choice. In hindsight I don't think it impacted him that much moving into our new home shortly after he came home to America. As expected we have witnessed so many firsts with Bek. What I didn't expect is how much fun that would be! He has embraced American food & has appreciated my attempts at adding a Ethiopian twist to our family dishes (adding berbere). He immediately & naturally fell into the big brother role with Cruz. They already have a unique bond & Cruz copies him as much as he can. These eyes can see nothing sweeter than when my 2 boys interact. The first few weeks were an amazing honeymoon with our new son! It was short lived but OH SO WONDERFUL! But it wasn't real life. Everything was new & exciting. We didn't have to be real parents yet because we didn't implement discipline & boundaries those first couple weeks. We just wanted to get to know our new son & have him familiarize himself with his new life & family. We had so many fun moments together during that time, moments where I thought that maybe this was how it was going to be forever but I knew better. I had spent endless hours educating myself on bringing home older children & was aware that there were going to be many challenges on the horizon. Oh those first few weeks were sweet though. They abruptly ended when we brought up the plan for Bek to eventually attend school. We weren't sure when he'd start but we wanted to start a dialogue with him about it. That initial conversation brought about many raw emotions in our boy. He had a bad experience with a teacher in Ethiopia (that we were unaware of at the time) & has disliked school ever since. Insecurities about his inability to speak English came forward & his lack of friendships made the idea of starting school terrifying. This was the first time I saw him sob. You have never heard crying like a child who is grieving. It's like a moan mixed in with a heart crushing cry, it takes over their entire being & causes irrational thought. I kick myself now for bringing the school subject up so quickly after getting home but at the time I was clueless as to what he had experienced. After that first "incident" the honeymoon had officially ended. I was sad to see it go but knew it had to in order for our son to heal. He needed to grieve before healing could take place & grieving he is still doing. Grief is a complicated thing. It rears it's ugly head at the most unusual times & takes over our son's entire being when it comes. It normally is triggered by something small & can bring about anger, sadness, anxiety you name it we've seen it! Two things that seems to trigger it is our inability to effectively communicate due to the language barrier & telling (not asking) Bek to do something while watching TV. Already John & I have learned to parent our grieving child more effectively but that's come with experience & time. Even though we have read several books on the topic when the craziness of grief is going down right in your living room it rocks you to the core. I am thankful I did educate myself beforehand though because we were able to start implementing some of the tools I read about & that has made a HUGE difference. Another resource that has been so helpful is the Facebook adoption groups I'm a part of (shout out if you're in one!!). Connecting with fellow adoptive mothers has been an amazing source of encouragement. Knowing there are others who have walked this road & are currently on it with you is a blessing to say the least. Before adopting Bek I educated myself on how to help him deal with his grief & making his transition as smooth as possible. I did little to prepare myself on the changes that would have to take place within my own heart & daily life. In the past few months in order to survive & stay remotely sane I have had to alter my expectations I subconsciously placed on our son, become more patient, learn to let go of control (not all but some), leave the dishes & housecleaning behind to spend more time with my children & not to feel guilty for taking time away from my family to regroup. Another thing I've learned is that it is never good to compare your child to others who have gone through or are going through the same things. You never know their full story & comparing places unhealthy expectations on your child. I hate to admit it but I have done this. I have asked myself "Why isn't Bek doing this like so & so's child"...terrible, I know. I'm learning. I pray God will continue to grow me as a mother. I am so grateful He has entrusted me with such incredible blessings. My hope is to not screw them up too bad! Although we are still healing & grieving I am seeing glimmers of God's redemption take place in our boy's life. The "grieving episodes" that can look alike like defiance are getting shorter, his confidence is increasing, he initiates physical contact with both John and I & many more little but important milestones. Parenting a child who comes from a traumatic background must look differently than how you'd parent a biological child. I always tell John that basically you take what your natural parenting instincts tell you to do & do the complete opposite! Maybe you're naturally better more patient parents than us but this is what we've experienced.

Most days are really great but we have several hard days mixed in. Those hard days just make the ones that are good that much sweeter. Bek is truly a sponge. He is learning English quickly & understands a lot more than he lets on. He is one of the sweetest kids his age I've ever known. While around the house he seeks out hugs & affection (which melts my heart every time). He has recently started saying "I love you" first & he loves family time. While in public he grabs for our hands (unless we are around other kids his age). All of these things make being his parents so sweet! We are also getting excited to have another big boy in the house which I will share in another (long time coming) post!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Are we crazy?

They usually give me a look with raised eye brows & a half hearted, forced smile and something like "Oh, really. How neat" comes out of their mouths. It's not that I expect people to understand or even be genuinely excited for us when I share with them the news that we're adopting an 11 year old boy from ET.  To be honest I don't know what reaction I would prefer, maybe just a "It's great to see God bless you in that way" I don't know...I am just so sick of blank stares, warnings of what a challenge it will be & in-genuine enthusiasm. Welp, I guess this post already turned into a venting sesh. Sorry. John's out of town so this is what it's come to!  Now don't get me wrong. We have several friends & family members who's support & encouragement is amazingly overwhelming!  They know who they are and if you are reading this our "village", WE LOVE YOU & APPRECIATE YOU MORE NOW THAN EVER!

I am normally not the type of person who lets other people's opinions & words get to me but recently I have found myself getting frustrated. I realize it's not that common to adopt a 11 year old when you're 25 & have never raised a child that age. I realize it's not going to be a cake walk raising him in a completely different culture. I realize our son will have a lot to grieve over with the loss of his first family & everything he's ever known. I realize that our Bek will face ridicule from his peers for having white parents & being adopted. I realize that we will experience many challenges with our new son, some related to adoption others just normal kid stuff. I sometimes want to yell at people who start to inform me of all the struggles we are going to endure I say "DO YOU THINK WE DON'T KNOW THAT! DO YOU THINK WE WENT INTO THIS DECISION LIGHTY?" I usually end up biting my tongue, exchanging the half-hearted smile and try to end the conversation before I burst. If I sound like I am emotionally unstable right now it's because I am...my child is on a different continent & there is nothing I can do to bring him home sooner. It is enough to drive a person INSANE & it's beginning to take a toll on my heart. When people make hurtful comments I want to tell them how amazing our new son is. I want to tell them how this sweet child is deserving a family despite is age...or yet especially because of his age! I want to tell them how kind he is & how wherever we are he runs to get a chair for me to sit in. I want them to see the look he gives me when he makes a goal while playing soccer with his friends, it would melt any heart! I find myself almost immediately sharing a photo of him as if that's going to make them understand. It doesn't but it gives me an opportunity to look at his cute face:) I guess what I'm trying to say is that I know without a doubt that this is the Lord's plan for our family. Are we crazy? Probably. But I think that's a good thing. People thought Jesus was a little nuts when He walked this earth so why should our lives look any different? Why should we not love with reckless abandon or take risks? Why should we play it safe in order to not draw attention to ourselves or make others comfortable or yet risk going through hardship? Although I would never have thought I would have an 11 year old at my age & stage in life I wouldn't change a thing. We are not perfect parents & still have a lot of learning to do but I am always comforted in the fact that Bek doesn't need perfect parents, he needs parents who perfectly love him. That we can do! The Lord freely loves me & shows me grace why can't I do that for a child, my child? I am reading about 1300 adoption/parenting books right now trying to prepare. Often times find myself putting the book down in a daze...although I am doing my best to prepare I can't under estimate the Lord's hand in all of this. He has led us to our son & I fully trust He will guide us through this crazy journey called life.

Praying we get cleared to bring Bek home next week. It's unlikely but God LOVES making the unlikely happen...He's a showoff like that;)

xo Britt

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

So much to celebrate! Updates...

The past couple months have been extremelly exciting at the Hagensen home! We returned from Ethiopia a couple weeks ago where we passed court with the adoption of Bekalu Hagensen "Bek" on 8/7/12!! When we walked out of the court room I lost it. I was overwhelmed with the importance of that moment in our lives & the thought of all that has taken place for our new son's life to come to this point. For us it was a moment to celebrate, like you would a birth of a new baby into your family. For Bek's birth family though, the weight of the decision to "let him go" in hopes of him having a better future I'm sure brought sorrow to every inch of their body. Adoption is not ever an easy decision, never.

During our trip we spent most of our time at the orphanage playing with our son & the other boys there. It was amazing to watch these incredible boys interact. I couldn't help but notice how kind, respectful, & patient they are with one another. I realized just how hard it will be for our son to leave his friends, family & culture behind. The thought of it made me also realize the importance of doing everything we can to incorporate the beautiful Ethiopian culture into our family & daily life.

While in Ethiopia we got to meet Bek's living birth relatives. I cannot adequately describe the beauty of our time with them. We laughed, cried, prayed, shared stories & dreams with each other. That time with them with always be carried in my heart. We got to see just how loved Bek is by his family. The decision they made did not come easy in any way. We are blessed beyond measure to get to raise their boy...our boy.

Yesterday Bek turned 11! My heart literally hurts that we didn't get to celebrate his birthday with him. Although birthdays in Ethiopia aren't celebrated to the same extent they are here it would have been another opportunity to show this sweet child just how valuable he is. You can be sure there will be a be-lated celebrating in our home when he arrives! :)

Today we received BIG NEWS in our adoption journey. We were submitted to US Embassy!!! Basically what this means is that our case to adopt Bek is being reviewed but the US & they will either clear him to come home within the next 10 days or request more information. We are obviously praying he will be cleared to come home VERY SOON! Once we are cleared John will fly out a couple days later to ET where he will pick Bek up from the orphanage, go to their Embassy appointment, & come back home! He will only be in country 4-5 days. The decision for me (Brittany) not to go on this trip was extremely difficult to make & one I hope we don't regret. With Cruz, my work schedule, & finances in mind we feel it is the best decision. I am sure I will be an emotional wreck knowing John will be in ET with our newest son!

So that is the newest info! I realize we have been pretty terrible at updating our blog. Thanks so much for your continued support!!! Our God is truly moving mountains to bring Bek home & we are so grateful for that!

xo Brittany

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What I want our son to know...

This period of waiting for our court date is taking its toll on my heart. Up until seeing our son's picture I was very patient with the whole waiting game of adoption. After all, it's one we know well. You always hear the statistics about orphans in the world. Not that a person ever gets immune to hearing the heart breaking numbers of parentless children it just doesn't impact you the way it does when one of them becomes YOUR child! Everything changes in the moment. Everything. He is no longer an orphan but he is our son. He has a name & he has personality (from what we hear a pretty great one). He is wanted. He is loved. HE NEEDS TO GET HOME! I know adopting one child only puts a tiny dent in the number of orphans in the world right now but it changes everything for this little boy and for our family. Since I cannot stop thinking about our son I wrote him a letter today. I wasn't going to share it but I decided to. I want others to know how we are feeling and how insanely excited we are to be a family of 4. Glory be to God!

B (I can't wait to share his full name with you), 
You have been on my mind constantly since I saw your picture almost 3 weeks ago now. When I go to sleep, you are here. When I make dinner for dad & Cruz, you are here. When I pick up the floor scattered with little boy toys, you are here. You aren’t physically here but you are here in my heart. I eagerly anticipate the day I get to hold your hand, rub your back, learn about your life, cook your favorite meals and be your mom. Every evening I think about you in your bed halfway around the world. I wonder what your favorite color is, what games you like to play, what makes you laugh and so many other things. I love you so deeply already. My heart desperately wants to share in your struggles & rejoice with you in your triumphs. I want to be the one you run to when your feelings get hurt or your knee gets scraped. I look forward to watching you play sports, cheering you on from the sidelines. I can’t wait to proudly introduce you to the world as my son! I do realize however, that the reason I will get to do these things is because of loss. Because your first mother whom you love left you too soon, because you’ve had to experience things a child your age should never have to endure, because we live in a world that is filled with pain and suffering, because others have let you down. One thing I know without a doubt, my sweet son is that we believe in a God who loves new beginnings, who can restore our broken hearts, who meets us where we are at in life and fully accepts us, loves us & wants nothing more than to show us His greatness. Our God understands our frustration, feels our pain & eagerly adopts us into His family. It is my prayer that you will always feel loved, that you will always have hope & that you will always know how much God adores you. 
Since the moment I laid eyes on your picture I just knew you were my son. I knew I was meant to be your second mother, I KNEW God had a beautiful plan for your life. I consider it a blessing to be in the process right now of bringing you home to be a part of our family. I love you, son. More than you know.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cruz is going to be a (younger) brother!

We can't believe it's been almost 8 months since we announced we were adopting from Ethiopia! The months have been filled with paperwork, home study meetings, & watching the Lord provide as we have had to meet the financial obligations associated with international adoption. We have been excited about adopting again & had in our minds that it would be around 12-18 months from now that we would be home with our little one(s). Well as any believer knows, God LOVES taking our plans, kicking them to the curb & replacing them with something MUCH better! That is exactly what He has done in our lives recently. We can't give out too many details right now per international privacy policies but we are SO extremely excited to announce that we have accepted a referral for a handsome little 10 year old boy in Ethiopia.

After seeing him a couple weeks ago on our agency's "waiting children's list" I (Brittany) have had him on my mind constantly. At first I told myself that adopting a child of his age wasn't the "plan" and that the timing wasn't practical for our life. After not being able to get his sweet face out of my head & praying about it I told John about him, fully expecting that he would think I was a little crazy. When I showed John the picture of the little boy who captured my heart he immediately had a big smile on his face and remarked that "he looks really sweet". If you know my husband, you know he is very analytical and considering adopting this little boy would cause us to stray from our original plan. I asked him to pray about it & he promised me he would. I wasn't sure at the time if the Lord was putting him on my heart to pray for him or if it was something more, maybe even to be his mother.

One evening when John & I were praying together we were brought to tears as we prayed for the orphans in the world and especially the sweet boy who had left such an impression on my heart. We asked for His guidance & that no matter what, the outcome would be that HE would be glorified. After we prayed John looked at me and said "I really think he is meant to be our son".  I was slightly surprised by the conviction in his voice when he said it.  John has a sensitive heart and loves the Lord so incredibly much but he is not one to make irrational statements so I KNEW that for him to feel like that it was something that only the Holy Spirit could do. The next day we contacted the agency to get more information as we had numerous hurdles before even knowing whether it was possible for us to adopt him.

After a few days our agency allowed us to view more of his information & ultimately provided us his referral. For those of you not familiar with what a "referral" is it's a contract between you & the agency saying you either accept or decline to move forward with adopting a child.  It is in this referral that they provide the potential adopting parents with the child's entire file, which virtually encompasses all information pertaining to the child.  We of course humbly ACCEPTED it! It felt as though I had just found out I was pregnant... with a 10 year old!  The peace & joy we feel in making this decision is indescribable. We are aware adopting any child comes with unique blessings & challenges. We consider it a blessing to be able to adopt again & look forward to meeting our son.  Trust me when I tell you, he is a looker! So cute & he has a smile that would melt the coldest heart. God has changed our hearts & minds and thankfully has made it clear "B" (unable to share his name or picture at this time) is meant to be our son. We strongly believe EVERY child deserves a home no matter what their circumstances. After all, he has adopted us into His family despite our circumstances. How great is our God!!

So what now? We are expecting to have "B" home in 4-8 months. As with any adoption finalization, this does not come without risks and variables, but we trust that God's plan is perfect.  Please pray for our sweet boy & that the process to adopt him with go smoothly.  He has experienced many hardships in his life so far & we realize helping him grieve will be part of our transition. Please pray for his heart to be healed.  If you are still reading this we realize it's because you care & we ask for you to be our "village". One of my favorite posts on the topic of how to support adoptive families is- http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/02/how-to-be-the-village .

We love you guys & know with your support and prayers anything is possible!

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

Britt & John