Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory

This is John Piper preaching a sermon called "Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory" on June 20, 2004. It is about 35 minutes (much shorter than most of Brad's sermons!) but still definitely worth watching!

You may also click here to view the manuscript to this sermon which is a quick read with concise points of his sermon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Let's Hula!

We had Isabella's 5th birthday party today! Everyone met over at Granna and Poppy's house because she wanted a "Luau Pool Party"! She has really learned to swim well so she wants to spend as much time as she can in the pool, hence the "pool party"! We decorated the outside with a "Luau" theme, we cooked hotdogs and hamburgers for lunch with of course, Hawaiian Punch to drink! Everyone had nametags with their "Hawaiian" name and that was fun to see how everyone's name was translated!

Isabella and Elijah got to wear their special clothes Granna and Poppy brought back from Hawaii which included a hula skirt for the birthday girl! I love this picture because Elijah is always grabbing Isabella's face to give her a kiss and Isabella always acts so annoyed even though she giggles afterwards!

She gave bright woven fans and hibiscus hair clips to all the girls and everyone got a special lei to wear! We had luau music playing in the background and even caught a few doing the "hula" dance!

It was incredibly humid and hot, so everyone was eager to get into the pool! After we played in the pool for a little while, we all gathered around the pool and ate lunch. Then, Isabella started to open her gifts after we cut the cake.

Here are all of Isabella's cousins (except little Ava and Isaac): Rachael, Isabella, Eli, David, Brett Austin

Isabella (after swimming) about to cut her cake that Mommy and Aunt Brittany made for her!

She received so many wonderful gifts and was especially excited to see her new bicycle from Mommy and Daddy!! After a few tries (and a few falls), she decided to put the bike away for a while. She said she would like to try it again "when I am 7 or 8"!

We all had a fantastic time especially when it was time to swing at the pinata! Everyone had many chances to take a "whack" at our little hula girl pinata but it was a little scary at how hard all the kids were hitting the hula girl pinata and laughing when her legs broke making her do the splits in mid-air! Actually, the adults got a bigger kick out of it, I think!

I love all these pictures of the kids swinging at the pinata!

Elijah and Isabella swining hard at the hula girl pinata! Someone needs to tell Elijah he needs to open his eyes so he can HIT the pinata!

Rachael taking great aim and David's face is priceless as he hits it with all his might!

Precious little Ava tapping the pinata and Brett Austin hitting a "home run" on the pinata!

And at long last, the poor little hula girl doing an impressive split jump while waving!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Our little birthday Princess!

Today is Isabella's 5th birthday! She has been eagerly waiting to turn 5 for some time now! She asked me if there were going to be balloons in her room when she woke up this morning, and I said without blinking an eye, "Of course!" (trying to remember if having balloons in her room on her birthday morning was something I did last year). I decided to go with the flow and early this morning before she woke up, I quietly taped the balloons to her bed. I also was able to take some pictures before she woke up which was amazing because she sleeps like a cat!
This is a picture of her bed with the balloons and you can see her little head barely peeking from the covers!
Isabella still asleep with her "lovey" P.J. (a gift from Daddy several b-days ago)
After waking up and getting clothes on, she took some balloons off her bed to play with! She LOVED waking up to the balloons! Looks like we started a birthday tradition!
Today was a day of "favorites", so she got to pick our her favorite cereal to eat for breakfast, she wore her favorite pajamas all day (except for about 3-4 changes of "favorite" outfits she changed into), we played her favorite games, and she got to eat her favorite lunch, and then Aunt Brittany brought her another! She absolutely LOVES getting flowers! Brad has kind of spoiled her on that! We ended the day with her birthday dinner at her favorite restaurant, Fuddrucker's, and a special cookie cake (you guessed it, another favorite!)
Every year on the kids birthday, I take a picture of them with something special of either mine of Brad's to show how they have grown through the years. Isabella wears my veil and Elijah wears one of Brad's West Point hats and his West Point ring. We always take Isabella's picture at my parent's house because that is where I keep my veil and other wedding things. This year, Isabella happened to be in her favorite pajamas she wanted to wear all day today when we took the picture! I love her expression in the second picture!

I don't know what has been so magical to her about turning 5 years old, but it has made me realize how quickly it has seem to pass! I feel like it was not long ago when she was born and how I couldn't even fathom her being 2 years old much less 5 years old! So, I decided to write 5 reasons why I love my little "angel face" (and of course, there are more than 5 but trying to tie into the whole "5 year old" thing!):
  1. I love her because she loves Jesus so much and always wants to talk about Him!
  2. I love her because she is so incredibly generous to others, always trying to help!
  3. I love her because she is so sensitive and compassionate toward others!
  4. I love her because she has such a great sense of humor and makes everyone around her laugh (and she has a wonderfully contagious laugh!)

  5. I love her because she is so talented especially in drawing pictures!

She cried on her 4th birthday because she thought we would have her "baby sister" by then (when we were adopting from China), then she asked if we would have her by her 5th birthday and we told her probably not, but she asked if we would get our referral before her 6th birthday and we told her YES! So we hope that is true and hopefully sooner than that!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I'll Stand By You

Brad and I saw this video back in April during the American Idol Gives Back campaign and it was one of the numerous tools we believe that were used to tender our hearts toward Africa. We can already look back and see the many things that seemed insignificant to us at the time we really "nudging" us closer to Ethiopia. Carrie Underwood traveled to Africa with the Idol Gives Back campaign and filmed this video there:

Friday, June 15, 2007

Home Study phone interview

Our social worker, Beth, called today at 2:30pm for our phone interview. It was really quick and only lasted 30 minutes! She just needed some specific information regarding Ethiopia to add to our home study. We haven't talked with her in a while, so it was nice to catch with her!

She asked us if we had studied about Ethiopia, read any books or done any research on international adoption through Ethiopia. She asked about how we would adapt our family with two new children, where they would sleep, how is Isabella and Elijah handling the switch from China to Ethiopia, etc. We had to answer why exactly we are seeking Ethiopia instead of China now and how we would integrate the culture into our children's lives. She asked a few more quick questions that seemed pretty simple and normal even though we always are expecting really tough questions to surface. She explained a little about bonding and expectations which were really helpful and gave us some great resources. She assured us that she is someone to be trusted and someone we can come to for support and help if we need it. I think social workers sometimes get a bad name for all the sensationalized stories on television and in the movies.

All in all, it was a great visit! We are thankful we are moving closer towards the end of this process so we can bring our children home!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New MOWA rules

We received an email a week or so ago from Mary (from Gladney) about some changes possibly coming soon from MOWA(Ministry of Women's Affairs) in Ethiopia such as:
  1. Adoptive parent(s) must be between 25-55 years of age.
  2. Adoptive parents must be married for at least TWO years.
  3. Married or single heterosexual individuals must have 5 biological or adopted children or less in the home.
  4. There must be a 2 year age difference between the adopted child and a biological child.
  5. Both parents are expected to travel to Ethiopia to pick up their child/ren, unless extenuating circumstances are presented and approved.

However, today Mary sent an email saying that the new changes were approved but families who have already started the program, will be "grandfathered" in. The new rules weren't really going to affect us anyway, except possibly #4, but now these don't apply to us anyway! We are constantly looking for good news anywhere about the adoption!!

Oh! and we paid our Home Study addendum fee of $200 to our old agency since we will be using the same social worker! We love her and she is a precious Christian lady who we really get along with very well!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Enoch's Story

This is the must-see video Brad and I found a while back when researching Ethiopia adoption. Enoch's story not only gripped our hearts but the hope that was brought forth from the Lord's work on his behalf compelled us to pray more fervently about the children of Ethiopia and our role in caring for "the least of these". Enoch's parents, Ryan and Abby, are now living in Ethiopia with Enoch as Gladney's In-Country Representatives and have also adopted a little girl from Ethiopia named Marta! When we travel to Ethiopia, Ryan and Abby will be there with us every step of the way! We are truly excited to meet them and feel the security of someone to "guide" you through the "in country" portion of the adoption!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Withdrawl from China

In order to formally withdrawl from the China program, we must submit a formal "withdrawl statement". We sent this to our old agency we used while pursuing adoption in China. They will notify China and ask that our dossier be pulled from their files and sent back to us sometime within 1-4 months. This has been a bittersweet decision, but one we know is pleasing to our Lord.

We, Brad and Kimberly Baggett, desire to withdraw our adoption application and dossier from the China program. For many years, we have shared the desire to adopt internationally and our hearts have always been tendered towards the countries of Asia and Africa. We initially choose to adopt from China since we loved their wonderful culture and we understood their program was very stable and predictable! We always knew that we wanted all of our children to be close in age, especially those who would be adopted, so as to feel a special sense that they were all closely knit within our family as the Lord ordained. However, as the wait time increased with the China program, not only did it become evident that there would be a tremendous age gap between our children, but the Lord began to tender and lead our hearts toward Africa (specifically Ethiopia). It took us some time to discuss and pray about the stirring in our hearts, but we feel confident that Ethiopia is where we are being led at this time. So, it is with a bittersweet heart that we request that China be notified of our withdrawl as our hearts still love China and the promise of a little girl we lovingly referred to as Scarlett Paige. She is still very much in our hearts and prayers and we excitedly hope for the day we might be able to travel to China to get her! As for now, we are thrilled to receive such blessings from Ethiopia and are walking in faith and obedience. Please know how truly wonderful this experience has been working with AWAA. We have been so impressed but more than that, we have been unmeasureably blessed by your kindness as well as your thoughtful and biblical guidance throughout this process. It is amazing to see the Lord work in adoption as we believe it is truly His heart! This journey for us is not over as we believe the road to China has led us to the children the Lord has for us in Ethiopia "for such a time as this"! We cannot thank you enough and will be praying for the work you do in the name of the Father!

Sharing in God's passion for the pursuit of His promised children!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Brad & Kimberly Baggett

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Phone Orientation & USCIS

Yesterday, Brad and I had our phone orientation interview at 1:30pm with Judy from Gladney to discuss specifics about the Ethiopia program. She had already sent us a packet of information to read over the weekend so we would be prepared and have any questions for her ready to ask. It went smoothly but we had many questions since our situation is a little different than most and because all agencies have a different process and we had pretty much committed to memory the process for China with our other agency. There is so much information to process even though this is our second time to go through stills seems just as overwhelming as the first time!! However, we were so pleased when Judy told us that we would receive a 25% discount off of all Gladney's program fees since Brad is a pastor!! We so relieved and incredibly thankful!

“I will pour out for you such blessings, you will not have enough room for it” Malachi 3:10

Judy also sent us the new form we needed to fill out (I-824 form) for the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). Since we already have received permission from the government to adopt an orphan from overseas, we just need to inform them where to direct our information. The form has to go through the same approval as the I-600A form, but they will just change the entry city from Guangdong, China to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We will send this off with everything except our finalized homestudy. They cannot process it until they have our homestudy. Hopefully, that will come soon!!

We also sent a request for Gladney's Internation Adoption Application yesterday and sent the payment for it today!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Interesting Info on Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. Fossils of the oldest human skeleton, "Lucy," were found here in 1974. Ethiopia is located in East Africa just north of Kenya and west of Somalia and only a few hundred miles north of the equator. Interestingly, it is the only African country never colonized by Europe (with the exception of an Italian occupation during WWII in the 1930s). It is slightly less than twice the size of Texas. It shares borders with Kenya (to the south), Somalia (east), Djibouti (northeast), Eritrea (north) and Sudan (west).
Roughly 75 million people live in Ethiopia, and thus there is much diversity in food, languages, people groups, and customs. The landscape is breathtaking, from mountainous areas to parts of the Great Rift Valley, known as the "cradle of civilization" and the Nile River. (The picture at the top of our blog is of the Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia.)

Ethiopia is traditionally a Christian nation. Ethiopia is split religiously, with official statistics of 35% to 40% Ethiopian Orthodox primarily in the north, and 45% to 50% Muslim, primarily in the South, and 10% animistic. Ethiopia traces its history and ruling lineage back to King Solomon and the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba. It is believed that the Queen of Sheba went to visit King Solomon and had a child with him. That son became the next Ethiopian king, so every Ethiopian monarch since then can trace their lineage to the throne of David.

During the 1980s, Ethiopia was stricken with crises of war and famine, leading to the still-lingering image the starving children of Ethiopia. Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie wrote a song called “We Are The World” and recorded it with many other superstars of their day. Proceeds from the sale of what ended up being the #1 song of 1985 went to famine relief. Today, Ethiopia faces an orphan crisis, as 4.5 million children have no family, primarily due to poverty and AIDS. Many orphans live on the streets, while others live in public and private orphanages.
It’s still the 4th poorest country in the world making about $160 per family per year. In addition:
  • One in ten children die before their first birthday
  • One in six children die before their fifth birthday
  • 44% of the population of Ethiopia is under 15 years old
  • 60% of children in Ethiopia are stunted because of malnutrition
  • The median age in Ethiopia is 17.8 years
  • 1.5 million people are infected with AIDS (6th highest in the world)
  • 720,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS alone
  • Per capita, Ethiopia receives less aid than any country in Africa
  • In the 90s the population (3%) grew faster than food production (2.2%)
  • Drought struck the country from 2000-2002 (first year no crops, second year no seeds, third year no animals)
  • Half the children in Ethiopia will never attend school. 88% will never attend secondary school.
  • Coffee prices (Ethiopia’s only major export) fell 40-60% from 1998-2002.
  • Ethiopia’s doctor to children ratio is 1 to 24,000.
  • In 1993, after 30 long years of war, Eritrea broke from Ethiopia and became an independent nation leaving Ethiopia landlocked without any major seafaring ports.

Sources: Greening Ethiopia, Ethiopia’s Children, Global Income Per Capita, CIA World Facts

Friday, June 1, 2007

Requirements for Home Study

Today, we received a few emails from both agengies stating what their requirements are for completing our Home Study. We are hopeful that we will only have to complete an addendum instead of starting from scratch with our Home Study. A few more things need to be discussed and decided on. We are trying to wait patiently!

Judy from Gladney sent their International Orientation Manuel for us to look over in preparation for our phone interview on Monday (June 4th). It is a little overwhelming with all the information as every agency is different and handles the adoption process differently. I am having to relearn all the policies, requirements, deadlines and dates, etc. but what is difficult is that I already had our old agency and China's policies, etc. swimming around in my head. Everyone is continuing to be patient and encouraging during this process so we don't feel like we are flying solo which is a wonderful blessing for us at this time!

We are so excited to speak with Judy on Monday and continue our journey to our children! We are trusting completely in the Lord (which has ashamedly proven to be difficult at times!) that He will continue to guide us through this process giving us His strength and His peace!

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." Isaiah 26:3-4.