I can't even begin to tell you the emotional day that this was. It's a day that I had been anxiously waiting for over the last 3 weeks. The last 2 years. But really the journey goes back further than that. Courtney and I have been friends since junior high. (Wow - that's a LONG time ago). We're both planners by nature, and so we talked alot about what our lives were going to look like - our families, our husbands, our children. Of course, we talked about living in the same neighborhood with underground tunnels that connected our houses too, but that hasn't exactly panned out...yet! :) But adoption is something that I remember talking about as teenagers. About "wouldn't it be cool if" or "maybe one day". We both went to college, got married, had our first children. We would continue to have these conversations sporadically. Then we started talking a little more specifically about things - she became very passionate specifically about Africa. About clean water in Africa. A family friend went and stayed in Africa for several months. All kinds of different "coincidences". I knew that Africa was going to be a special part of her heart for a long time. They "officially" began the adoption process 2 years ago. I know many of you have followed their story on her blog. She has been incredible real and honest about the process. It is not an easy one. It was not always a fun one (and I think she'd say the same thing). But it is unmistakably what God asked of Courtney and Pat to do, and they said Yes to God. 3 weeks ago they kissed Sawyer goodbye and handed him over to the grandparents to care for while they boarded an airplane with Hannah (Courtney's younger sister) and their other 3 children. They flew 17 hours away to get Lincoln and Levi - the two boys that God chose for their family.
I have never checked a blog more frequently than I have these last 3 weeks! Constantly checking to hear updates on their health, on status of passports/VISAs, to see pictures of the boys' precious faces, to hear how my sweet friend was holding up in the midst of this incredible stress and pressure! Once they had their flights scheduled, I called David and my Mom to say that I had to make this trip happen! Mom was gracious enough to let us come up a bit earlier in the week to squeeze in a quick visit with her, and David took a day off to make it workable for us. I just knew that even though I live 2 states away, I needed to be there that day. I knew I'd only get to see them for a brief little bit, but I just HAD to hug my precious friend and kiss her sweet family!!
The night before, my friend Jenny and I were texting back and forth for hours. Checking the status of her plane once she left Ethiopia, trying to figure out the crazy time differences between Ethiopia, Rome, and VA, and trying to make sense of the crazy flight status postings that were online. Every site we would check (airline, airport, FAA sites) would have a different arrival time shown for their flight! It was crazy and hilarious all at the same time.
As my family was driving to the airport that morning to wait for their flight, I had a HUGE knot in my stomach. I told David that I felt like I could throw up! He said "did you eat something bad yesterday?" :) No - it was just the feeling of pent up anxiety while my dear friend was a world away on a life-changing trip!!!
I was relieved to get to the International Arrivals area and see her mom, dad, and Sawyer. Her dad was taking Sawyer upstairs to look at the planes and I had a few precious moments with her mom. We had a few moments to ourselves before EVERYONE began arriving! There was an incredible excitement in the air. It was so special watching SO many people arriving that had supported Courtney in so many ways!!!
Courtney's sister-in-law arrived with her family. Lots of cameras were out!
My kids were a little nuts-o that morning. Granted it was early. Granted we had a BIG long day the day before at the waterpark. And granted they didn't TOTALLY get why were sitting at an airport for a few hours and not actually getting on a plane ourselves (although Jacob asked me several times - "can we go on a plane and get US some more kids too Mom?" :) ), they were struggling big time in the attitude department. Very frustrating.
When their flight popped up on the board that it was in customs, we knew it wouldn't be long!!!
My kids LOVED seeing Jenny's kids!!! Her Jackson is 4 like my Callie. Addie and Caleb are just a few months apart. And then she has a new cutie pie baby named Henry that my kids could NOT get enough of! It was SOOOO great to get to see them for a bit!
There was probably 75 people there to welcome them home. Maybe even more. It was crazy!
As we were standing here at the barricades, people starting trickling out. Several families came through with their new children that they had obviously recently adopted. It was incredible to see these reunions with other families. Knowing that everyone getting off that Ethiopian flight had a story. You don't just fly to Ethiopia for vacation or for work. I would have LOVED to hear all the stories of the people on the flight.
Addie and her sign
Jenny will probably have a heart attack seeing these pics of my kids "loving" on Henry. They LOVED him. Seriously. And Henry is obviously used to having people up in his personal space all the time because he was totally chill!
Jackson and Caleb watching with their signs :)
Courtney's sweet dad and Sawyer. Sawyer stayed with Pat's parents for the first 10 days, and then Courtney's parents for the last 10 days. He had a great time and was SO loved by all of them....but I know he was missing his family. Courtney's mom often posted about him "pondering" and I think that sums it up perfectly.
Finally the doors opened and out they came!!!!
Courtney couldn't get her hands on Sawyer fast enough! 3 weeks is a LONG time to be separated from your child!
Levi was on Courtney's back and Lincoln came out ALL smiles and laughing and giving high-fives. He was hilarious - LOVED all the clapping and all the fuss!!
Sawyer's brother and sisters missed him too!!
Courtney's mom giving Lincoln and Hannah a hug. Hannah was SUCH a huge blessing to them on this trip. I am SO thankful that God worked out the details for her to be with them on this special trip!
I don't have a lot of words to describe what I knew Courtney was feeling getting this hug from her dad. A lot of love. A lot of support. A lot of relief.
Lincoln meeting Pat's dad.
me and jenny :). Love this girl. SO thankful I was able to get a mini-visit in with her at the airport!!! :) Not long enough for sure!
Their first family picture of 8!!! LOVE Courtney's face in this one - laughter!!!
Oh my dear friend. How I love you and am SO proud of you and Pat in your obedience to the Lord's calling. He will strengthen you each day and give you what you need as you continue to follow. I know that the journey is only just now beginning, and I know that while the road may not be easy, there will be JOY along the way! I am excited to see what God continues to do in and through your family!
Yep. Henry still chilling!
Jenny's husband Dave is an incredible video guy (i'm sure that's not EXACTLY his title, but you get the idea). He video'd it and their finished product is on Courtney's blog now. it's amazing.)
Courtney's dad holding Lincoln briefly (Lincoln doesn't tend to stay still very long!! :) )
A celebratory and RELIEVED hug from 3 of the grandparents! Their babies were back home!!!
Jacob held himself together pretty well. He was reading to Jackson and Addie here :)
Courtney hugging a dear friend, Ali, who surprised her by coming from Richmond to be there!
Courtney's mom talking with Rebekah. I was able to talk with Rebekah for about 5 minutes and LOVED hearing her perspective on the trip. She is a special girl - with a huge heart. God has BIG things in store for this little girl.
Grandma getting a huge from Bailey
I got a high-five and a hug from sweet Lincoln. Kissed his precious face and it was SOOO good to see him running around and laughing!
Welcome home Cassadas. You are SO loved!