We got INCREDIBLE news today at 3:07 pm! WE PASSED COURT TODAY!!! For the first time...introducing our sweet baby boy, Mekonen Jack Oren.

I actually made this slideshow last night and this morning with great faith that we would pass court! Hope you enjoyed it! Our hearts are so full of excitement and joy. We are incredibly blessed by how God chose to display His power today in Ethiopia. God's goodness is not our definition of goodness...we have been clinging to that truth this whole time. We prayed and sought the Lord, asking that His goodness and greatness would be best displayed in us passing the first time. Thank you Jesus for hearing our prayers and answering them. We owe you EVERYTHING, ALL the glory and ALL the praise.

Still waiting....

Ahhh! Still waiting on pins and needles! I couldn't stand the waiting any longer so I called our agency again. They said they still have not received the court results from Addis Ababa and are expecting them at noon Seattle time, which is 3:00pm our time. Oh my... another two hours to wait.

My heart has been full of joy this morning as I know deep in my heart that God is working out what is best for Mekonen, for us, and for His glory. I have such a deep peace about that, no matter what the outcome is. Even still though, I am anxious, nervous, excited, etc, etc, etc.

Hoping Today is the Day!

It is 12:26 a.m. right now in Indy, which means it's 7:26 a.m. (Monday, the 29th) in Ethiopia. We are unsure of the exact time our case will be heard in court today, but we were told the courts probably open and begin moving around 8am. Whoa. In a half hour, our case could be heard and decided! We are anxious, excited, joyful, nervous, ready to celebrate, longing to celebrate. We had 3 of our dear friends here this weekend (Ronaldo, Kelli, and Demetrius). We believe by God's sovereign design they were here the weekend before our court date. We spent some great together tonight gathered around our dining room table praying for court, praying for Mekonen, and praying that God will do whatever brings the greatest glory to him... even if that means we wait for another court date. We were blessed greatly with such godly friends who lifted us and our growing family to the Lord tonight and thank all the family and friends who have sent us encouraging notes, phone calls, and messages that they are thinking of us and praying for us.

So it's already passed midnight and I'm not tired at all. Sleep anyone? We probably will not find out the verdict of our court hearing until noon our time tomorrow.

I'll post as soon as I hear the good news! ;)


4 Days!

Wow! Only 4 days until our court date! Again, nausea hits almost every day (and again, no I'm not pregnant). I couldn't sleep last night because my stomach was full of butterflies. We got a new video of Mekonen the other night and it is simply precious!!! He was practically asleep in his nanny's lap and was drinking his bottle. As soon as the two nannies realized some of our friends were taking video of him they tried waking him up. They were snapping their fingers right in front of his face and waving this really loud rattle at him. He was blinking his eyes like crazy and was very confused. I felt bad for him because he looked so sleepy, but I was so glad because he woke right up and was looking all around, so curiously. They got a super clear, close-up shot of his face and wow, his eyes are so big, and super dark. It doesn't even look like he has pupils. Oh I just looove it. I've watched it about 50 times!
4 Days Until Court and here are 4 things I've been doing to keep busy!
1. Graduate School - I'm in a two week class now (ending tomorrow) and another session
July 6th-15th. Right now my class is on International Education.

2. Baby Carriers- searching for the two baby carriers I decided on: the Beco Baby Carrier and the Peanut Shell. I have been on a daily quest to try and find them used because they aren't
Here I am with my niece Jane in the peanut shell. My sister and I opened it up in Babies R' Us and I carried her all around the store in it to give it a test run. I found out later the fabric is supposed to be a little more spread out across my shoulder. I loved it though and Jane seemed to really like it too!

3. Friends- hanging with my friends in Ohio who are letting me live with them during grad.
school, and then getting to hang with more friends from PA this weekend who are coming to

Naomi and her girls Ali & Claire who I've been staying with in OH. (Sorry Brian, I couldn't find a pic with you in it too).

Some of our dear friends from PA who are coming to visit this weekend! Ronaldi & Kelli.

4. Lists- I am making a lot of lists!!!

  • Things we still need for Mekonen when he comes home.
  • Things we need for our trip to Ethiopia
  • Packing lists
  • Lists of where to find what we need to buy and price comparisons for them (haha, yes, I have a lot of time on my hands during this grad. class).


Who's Waiting for Mekonen?

6 Days until court baby Mekonen! Here are 6 important people who are anxiously waiting for you to come home! We love you! Praying hard you are fully OURS on Monday!

1. Mommy & Daddy- Here is a picture of us the day we got engaged on December 25, 2004!!! Can you tell how happy and excited we are! We fill exactly the same way waiting to bring you home! 2. Grandma and Grandpa Castro- "Grandma Missy and Grandpa Jack" (although Grandma really hates the name Missy. hehe).
3. Uncle Meade, Auntie Amy, and your cousins Manny & Aderyn

4. Uncle Tom, Auntie Rebekah, and your cousins Natalie & Jane

5. Grandma and Grandpa Oren- "Grandma Magz and Grandpa Dig" (although Grandpa hates being called Dig).
6. Uncle Josh and Aunt Meghan, and your cousin Owen

7. Aunt Lindsay, Uncle Jeremy, and Uncle Aaron (sorry Aaron, I didn't have a picture of you on this computer!)

We love you and can't wait until you come home! Hang in there little man. We'll be there soon!


Some Baby Love

Whoa! 8 days until our court date! I am full of so many insane emotions I can hardly sleep! I'm anxious we won't pass the first time, and then all the other emotions are super excited and happy ones that go along with the thought that we do pass! A group of friends from my AAI group just returned this weekend with their babies! We have new pictures and video coming soon! I cannot wait! It brought tears to my eyes reading about them arriving home with their sweet little ones. I cannot wait to be in those shoes! Soon.... very soon.

In the meantime, here's some sweet baby love about Mekonen from my traveling friends. Oh how I have loved these updates while they were there in Ethiopia. They all hugged and snuggled my little guy and told him his mama and daddy are coming soon!
June 15th- Rachael, Mekonen is such a sweetheart. Sean and I got some pictures today and I shot some video. Oh, what a doll. He was a bit cranky from just waking up, but so sweet (from Elizabeth).

June 16th- Mekonen! Rachael, he is so adorable. I came in to see him today and he was fussing in his crib so I picked him up. He just melted into me. What a sweetheart. He has such wide, expressive eyes! I got him smiling and laughing. He has a bit of chest congestion right now and was a little wheezy, but the nurse is aware so don't worry about him. We'll make sure he's okay. I put him back down and he cried, so I picked him up again, walked around and bounced him and he feel asleep! Oh my he's adorable (from Allison).

June 21st- Mekonen is in the room just next door to Eden. He is in with E* and
S*. The nanny in his room was one of my favorites you can see her kissing
on the babies in one of my pictures. He is a tiny boy, I checked his clothing
size and he was wearing 3-6 months and I think he will be in that size for
awhile. He loves to be held and Elizabeth had a tough time putting him down.
He is adorable, really a handsome little man (from Allison).
And here is a little note about Mekonen from back in March. A fellow AAI mom just emailed it to me. I'm so excited to have all these people who have met my baby and can give me little stories about him. I'm putting them all in his lifebook!
I only spent a little time with Mekonen at Wanna when I was visiting Y* in March, but he was such a little snuggler. He really seemed to want to be held and to relax a lot when picked up. I think he maybe had just arrived, and maybe he wasn't really settled in there yet, but I think you have a little guy who will LOVE being held, carried in a sling/ carrier, having baby massage, etc. I really noticed that when I picked up Y*, he immediately scanned the room like 'great, I can finally get a good look around, who's here?', but when I picked up Mekonen, he was really tuned into being held. I'm not sure if that makes any sense! But they struck me as very different personalities. Y* is my first so I am not really speaking from experience, but a lot of what I've read about attachment talks about touch, and Mekonen was very responsive to being touched and held (from Irene).
As we near court, my dreams about him are almost every night! Oh I can't wait to snuggle that boy! I'm off to another week of grad. school. I'm glad I have something to fill the time.

Still clinging to God's goodness...
no matter what.


Butterflies Have Taken Over!

Every day I have butterflies in my stomach! (Maybe this is why I feel continuously nauseous! And no, I'm not pregnant). Some of these butterflies are flying around with great excitement and bubbling joy, and others are flying around with some anxiety and fear. I picture what it will be like to hear the words in 1 week and 6 days, "You passed!" and I can't even contain my excitement. It brings tears to my eyes thinking of those words and the fact that they mean we can go get our precious babe!

I have been thinking A LOT about the realization that we may not pass court the first time and the thing that continually comes to mind is God's Goodness. I remember being in college when I first really understood God's Goodness. I realized that when I struggled with believing that God is Good ALL the time was when I was determining what was Good. A professor of mine, Dr. Baumann, really made this stand out to me. He's super smart and I can't even come close to describing it the way he did, so I won't even try. But, he talked a lot about who or what defines Goodness. God is all-knowing, creator of all things, and He is the one who determines what is Good, even when we don't understand. If God doesn't define Goodness, then we are saying something is above God, i.e. Goodness. He loves us and Mekonen more than we ever could dream and wants only what is good and best for us.

In my view of Goodness, which I sometimes falsely believe IS Goodness, we should pass court on the first time, have no trouble traveling or anything, and have Mekonen in our arms, being welcomed by our family at the airport this July.

However, that may not be what God sees as Goodness. I know from the Bible that God works ALL things out for the good, according to His purpose and plan (Romans 8:28). God's Goodness is what is GOOD for us, or to the benefit of others in our lives. It could be that we don't pass court the first time so that God can accomplish His purpose: helping people see God's greatness and the faith that we have in His plan for our lives. Or, maybe His Goodness and those purposes will be displayed better by us passing the first time! Whatever God sees as best, will be accomplished. Even when it doesn't feel good to me, I need to keep reminding myself it IS Good.

While getting ready for class today, I even allowed myself to think of what I would do and how I would react, how I would survive, if God took Mekonen from this earth before we could get to him or anytime after for that matter. This has happened to a few of our friends while waiting to bring their babies home from Ethiopia. Normally, I avoid all thoughts of death and extreme sorrow as much as possible because it scares me so much. But this morning, I was overcome with a bit of anxiety and deep sadness even at the mere thought of such a tragedy and I kept saying to myself, "I belong to Jesus. In the end, Jesus will defeat every bit of death and sadness. All that happens in this life is for my GOOD, pointing to the day when ALL that is wrong in the world will be made RIGHT, and GOOD, and WONDERFUL, when Jesus comes back to claim His own. I just keep reminding myself, in my fleshly misconceptions, that God IS Good ALL the time.

Without Jesus in my life, this makes no sense. Even re-reading it, I can see how people might think I am incredibly crazy. But Jesus has changed it all.


We Have a Court Date!!!!

Woo-hoo!!!!! We are rejoicin' over here!!! We got news today that June 29th will hopefully be a very happy day for the Oren family! June 29th is our court date in Ethiopia!!!! If we pass court on the 29th we will be the legal parents of Mekonen and will travel approximately 3 weeks later to bring him home! The tricky part you ask? PASSING THE 1st TIME!

Common Court Questions
1. Do you have to travel to Ethiopia for your court date?
We do not need to travel for our court date. We signed a Power of Attorney for our agency's lawyer to act on our behalf in court. That way we don't have to travel twice, especially when there is always a chance you don't pass the first time.

2. Why wouldn't you pass the 1st time?
There are many reasons why some families do not pass court the first time. This is not due to the adopting family at all. We have already been approved by Ethiopia to adopt and all our paperwork is already signed, sealed, approved, and delivered. If there are problems with our case, it is due to factors on the Ethiopia side. The most common thing lately seems to be the missing MOWA approval letter. If the Ministry of Women's Affairs(MOWA) doesn't send your case in with a cover letter, you do not pass court. The cover letter basically says they approve everything about your baby's case. There are lots of different reasons they don't send cover letters. Many times they don't because they are understaffed and run out of time. Other times, MOWA requests more information about the baby or their background before they will write your approval letter. In the past year the director of MOWA has been imprisoned twice while the government checked on some cases, therefore, MOWA has been extra cautious and making sure everything is done ethically and in its entirety.

3. What happens if you don't pass the first time?
If we don't pass the first time, we are scheduled another court date. In the past, if a family doesn't pass the first time, there have been many, many weeks, sometimes 6 or more between their dates. Recently, make-up cases have been much closer together, sometimes the next week, or just a few weeks out at most it seems. But, here is the tricky part for us. The courts close sometime in early August through early October. So, if we don't pass court the first time and don't get a quick make-up date and actually pass that one, we might have to wait until October for a new date when the courts re-open. That could be the difference of Mekonen being around 9 months + when we get him instead of 6 months when we get him.

4. What happens when you pass court?
When we pass court, our agency will notify us of our embassy appointment in Addis Ababa. This is the day we have to appear at the embassy for Mekonen's visa to travel home. Usually, once you pass court, you travel in approximately three weeks! So, if we pass the first time, our little guy will be home this July! Wow, that is insane! We have SO MUCH to do!!!!

Please, please join us in praying for our court date on June 29th. We desperately want to bring our son home where he can be smothered with our love and attention!


Waiting: Pre-Referral or Post-Referral?

I am in an amazing online group with about 15 families I think it is from AAI who are adopting. Some friends of mine from that group just returned this past weekend from Ethiopia with their babies and we got lots of new pictures and video!! My friend Corrie, who also lives in the Indy area, got some awesome pictures of Mekonen smiling!!! Real big, gummy smiles, with that big dimple right in the middle of his cheek. I can't even handle his cuteness!!! Her husband Andy took video of Mekonen for several minutes, playing with his toys and rolling over, and just smiling away. I can't even count the amount of times I have watched the video already! What an amazing gift to get! They got pictures of his crib, his growth chart, the baby room he's in, and said he's in 0-3 months clothes and maybe some 3-6 months. In the background in one of the pictures, we saw the photo album we sent set up in his crib turned to the picture of me and Jon! I don't know why, but that did something crazy to my heart! :) We are eternally thankful for these gifts of pictures and videos from our friends. I cannot wait to meet their little darling baby girl Macie when we get back to Indiana. Another crew of families from our group are leaving today to go get their babies. Wow! I can remember when we were all waiting for referrals! Hopefully our turn is coming soon!

I was telling a good friend of mine yesterday, who just started the process of adopting from Ethiopia with CWA about the difference in the wait times. During our wait for a referral everyone kept telling me the wait after the referral is the worst than the wait before the referral because you know who your baby is and that makes the waiting extra hard. But I totally disagree. The wait for our referral was way worse. The wait time since referral has been much easier for me. Now I have a little face to stare at, a name to call him, and little milestones to look forward to such as a group assignment, being filed in court, then a court date, and not to mention that I have gotten picture updates almost every 2 weeks from traveling friends, and even video! So I feel like I'm always waiting for another little something to brighten my day, like a new picture. During the referral wait there was nothing to look forward to except our monthly check-in, and the months felt long. However, if our court process doesn't go smoothly and weeks and months end up tacked onto our timeline due to not passing court the first time, then I might change my mind about which wait was the worst. I was also telling her about how I know God has protecting my heart so much in regards to our precious baby boy. God has been filling me up with wonderful, happy, joyful thoughts of Mekonen, and I feel as though he is protecting me from really thinking about the reality that Mekonen is there, in an orphanage, without me. So anyway, I keep trudging along, hoping to hold him in my arms this summer, and PRAYING we pass court on the first try!

We had to sign a paper for AAI and we sent it off with the new address labels we made ourselves! Aren't they cute! :) hehe.


How to...HUMILITY?

This is the second post in a series of characteristics/values that we would love our children to embrace wholeheartedly. This week is humility.

First of all, humility is the ability to understand reality and adjust accordingly. Don’t confuse humility with a humble disposition. Weakness is not humility either. A humble person doesn’t just agree with everybody (supposed intolerance) or “go with the flow.” Secondly, no person is always humble all the time. Humility is like a mist or a swift wind that comes and goes. It’s elusive. You might witness traces of it here and there, but it is altogether phantom-like. If you just thought to yourself, “Well, I am humble” – ironically you just indicted yourself. Sorry. Our default mode is not toward humility but pride or self-love, self-protection, self-esteem. We think we’re pretty good, and we protect our self-image at all costs. I mean, we’re not like those really bad people in prisons. We compare ourselves with the really bad folks and justify our actions accordingly. We control our system of salvation. But is that reality? Is that humble? Humility is the ability to understand reality and adjust accordingly. The 4th century theologian St. Augustine said, “Pride is the mother of all sins.” If Augustine is right, then creating a self-vindicating reality is just as evil as the local drug dealer on his worst behavior.
I think we all would agree that humility is a desirable virtue. Hopefully, we all agree that we are lacking in this area. (Remember, don’t indict yourself!) So how do we get our children to pursue humility? The danger is this…we can act humble, but not actually be humble. These are called hypocrites. These are the worst parents because they send their children conflicting messages, literally communicating with their lives, “Do as I say, not as I do.” That makes no sense! So how do we get our children to pursue humility?


Our New Favorite Letter!!!

So, can you guess our new favorite letter? Yep, you guessed it! M!!! We got word today that our case was officially filed in court on May 29th and that we are in Group M! M is a good letter for us!
  • M for Mekonen!
  • M for court group!
The adoption cases are filed in court by letters of the alphabet. The court cases are heard by the judge in order of the alphabet letters. Groups K & L are next in line to be heard and their court date is on June 8th! Their court date (specifically Group L) is MUCH sooner than we anticipated. The good news with that is the fact that Group M is next to receive a court date! Maybe we can even get a June court date! Our agency said today that it has been about 2-3 weeks until we hear when our court date is. Once we pass court, we will travel about 3 weeks later to pick up Mekonen! Whoa!

HOWEVER the trick is: Passing court the 1st time! Not all cases will pass court on the first try. We know families who had a very long and difficult court process and many families who passed with flying colors the first time. If we don't pass court it doesn't mean that Mekonen is not ours. It just means that they have to correct whatever paperwork problem there is and try again. We have already been approved by the Ethiopian Government to adopt, so if there is a problem and we don't pass court, it is not because of us or our paperwork. Common reasons people don't pass court are things like, missing paperwork, power outages, birth family not showing up if applicable, a file being misplaced, etc.

So, our current, very pressing prayer needs:
1) A SPEEDY court date- June specifically
2) That we pass court the 1st time!

In the meantime, we are anxiously awaiting videos and pictures of Mekonen! Some friends of ours are in Ethiopia right now picking up their babies!!! How exciting! We got to hang out with our friend Corrie and her family a few days before they left and it was so exciting to see all their luggage packed and the nursery set up! She sent two different emails so far and here's what she said about our darling baby!
Mekonen is beautiful and HAPPY! He rolls over and smiles and giggles when you play with him. An absolute doll. He was sitting in the bumbo today. He really is precious Rachael. I can't wait for you guys to come here. The nannies LOVE the babies and they are always kissing and holding them.

Mekonen is rolling all over the place. Andy got video of a lot of our babies yesterday and I'm gonna get more tomorrow. We got Mekonen smiling and playing and giggling!!!! He is a happy baby, Rachael.
I cannot WAIT to see those videos and pictures. I can't believe he is rolling over! First big milestone. As long as we get to him before he starts walking! :)