2013 at 7:05 am | by Nicole Whitacre
One year ago today we brought Jude and Sophie out of the orphanage. We took them to lunch. We went to the Embassy to submit our final batch of paperwork. We had ice cream. We played soccer. We gave them baths and tucked them into bed.
We were their parents. And we loved it.
And every day since that day, we love it even more.
In the past 365 days we’ve had lots of ice cream, played lots of soccer, given bubble baths and tucked them in each night.
Today we are more amazed than ever that our infinitely kind, creative, and generous Heavenly Father has blessed us with these beautiful children.
And we love that we will be Jude and Sophie’s parents, every day for the rest of our lives.
2013 at 9:15 am | by Nicole Whitacre
This is a big week in the Whitacre home. One year ago today Steve and I landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Tomorrow, February 28, we will celebrate “Gotcha Day”—the day we brought Jude and Sophie out of the orphanage. And Saturday marks the first anniversary of what we have declared “Whitacre Day”—the day our little family was finally all together, complete.
Before bringing Jude and Sophie home from Ethiopia, we asked a translator to tell them their new names. We got two sets of raised eyebrows, which are not a sign of skeptical surprise as in American culture, but rather an indication of strong approval. They liked their new names. (Many raised eyebrows later, we learned that they also liked pizza, chocolate, and swimming.)
Jude and Sophie’s names—like the children themselves—were chosen long before we met them. They express so much of what God has done in bringing them into our family.
We wanted to name our son Jude after my dad preached a series of messages on this short book of the Bible during the same month we applied to our adoption agency. Under attack from false teachers, Jude urges the believers in Christ to stand firm and put their hope in God “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). We named “Jude” in praise to God for his sustaining grace in our lives, and as a prayer that our son will come to know our faithful God who is able to keep him to the end. Also, Jude’s name is a derivative of Judah, and the fact that “The Lion of Judah” graces Ethiopian currency is a small but significant reminder of his heritage. And Jude, eight-year-old boy that he is, likes that his name has something to do with a lion.
Sophia, of course, means wisdom. As I am fond of telling her: “I asked God for wisdom and he gave me Sophie.” Following the two difficult deliveries of our biological children, Steve and I were still desirous of having more children but were unsure if it was safe for me to risk my health and maybe even my life. There were many questions and no clear answers. This was a wisdom issue. But many Scriptures did apply, and when we asked, God was faithful to provide all the wisdom we needed in His Word and the counsel of doctors and other believers. “If any of you lacks wisdom,” it says in James, 1:5, “let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Sophie’s name is a reminder of the wisdom God gave to us that led us to her, and I pray she will grow into her name and become a wise young woman who follows the Savior.
Recently, I looked out my window and saw Jude playing his own imaginary game of football (the American kind) in the backyard, complete with his own play-by-play. “Jude Whitacre scores!” he yelled triumphantly as he carried the football in for a touchdown. I really like the sound of that, son. I thought.
Jude and Sophie’s names express our praise to God and our prayers for their future. They also describe our first year together as a family. God has truly been faithful to sustain us and we marvel at his perfect wisdom in bringing these two precious children into our family.
We love you Jude and Sophie!
2012 at 4:28 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Biblical Womanhood 52home Motherhood Adoption
Jude and Sophie have been legally our children since that happy day in Addis over a year ago now, when the Ethiopian judge declared “They are yours.” Today we visited a court in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to finalize the stateside process.
“I’ve got three grown boys of my own,” the judge informed me. “Do you realize that motherhood isn’t just until they turn eighteen but for life?” she asked. “Yes.” I answered. “And do you want to be the mother of these two children for life?” she asked:
Huge smile. “Yes!”
2012 at 11:25 am | by Nicole Whitacre
Biblical Womanhood The Gospel Motherhood Adoption Young Children
When we brought Jude and Sophie home—before we could even speak the same language—we had two simple priorities: show them we loved them, and teach them to obey.
The first one was easy. We said “I love you” non-stop in English and Amharic. We gave lots of hugs and kisses and smiles of approval. We bought new clothes and books and bikes. We took them sledding (a first!) and played legos and put together puzzles. We made it clear, through our actions and attention, that they were every bit as much our children as our biological son and daughter.
All these things were hugely important. In hindsight, though, I think they felt our love most of all through our gracious authority.
It didn’t feel that way at the time. To train them to obey we started with a few simple guidelines that were easy to understand: No TV until right before dinner (4:45 pm to be precise), no getting up from the table until being dismissed, and no hitting or biting.
They fought back at first—pouting about no TV or sitting at the table with their legs stretched out to the side, poised to bolt. Some days we were tempted to give up. Were we being to strict? Would they grow to hate us forever? What was the harm in letting them watch a little extra TV? But a well-timed word of encouragement from Mom always strengthened our resolve.
So we kept telling them “I love you” and put the remote out of reach.
A funny thing happened. Instead of becoming more resentful toward us and unhappy with the rules, Jude and Sophie became more compliant and obedient, and what’s more, they grew happier by the day.
Recently it dawned on me. One of the main reasons Jude and Sophie seem to have bonded with our family so quickly (in addition to the sheer grace of God!) is because the clear boundaries helped them feel like they belonged. They know the rules, the way things work around here. And so they feel comfortable because they aren’t on the outside trying to understand how this family works. They are “on the in” of the Whitacre family. Because they know what is required of them, they can relax and concentrate on other important things such as soccer and coloring and learning to read.
Don’t get me wrong, like every family, we have plenty of areas that need work. But this morning, as I write, Steve is downstairs going through our Advent devotional over breakfast. And tonight we will be able to sit down at the dinner table and talk and laugh as a family.
Now that they understand our words, and can sit still long enough to listen, we can tell them the greatest news of all: through Jesus Christ, they can join the family of God.
Obedience is the gateway to understanding the gospel.
“‘For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:6-11 ESV).
2012 at 7:10 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
One year ago Saturday, on August 25, 2011, we saw these two little faces for the very first time.
Today we can’t imagine not seeing their sweet faces every day.
We love you Jude and Sophie!
2012 at 3:05 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Yesterday at lunch, while eating leftovers from my first attempt at Ethiopian cooking, my son Jude told us stories of orphanage life. How the nannies washed all their clothes and shoes by hand and the water flowed like a rushing river over the orphanage ground. How the girls showered first in the mornings while the boys watched TV—but not on school days, mind you. How he loved to play soccer and tag with his friends. How at night, after the nannies had put them to bed and closed the doors, he and the other boys would get up and play, only to rush back to their beds when they heard the nannies coming. How he ate lots of macaroni and spaghetti.
This morning I cuddled with Sophie after she woke up and discovered that her feet are very ticklish. This little girl is full of life and joy, so different from how quiet and clingy she was in the orphanage and our first few weeks at home. Sophie charges into a room with a yell and has absolutely no concept of “inside voice.” I instruct her a lot about using an “inside voice,” but recently it got lost in translation. I told her I would give her a drink once we got “inside” and she thought I meant to ask for the drink in an “inside voice” and so repeated her request in a whisper. Oh well.
Right now as I type, the four kids are running around like crazy downstairs because it is Daddy’s day off. As my husband recently wondered: how is it that twice as many children make more than twice as much noise? Already, it is hard to imagine what our family was like without these two precious children. I am so grateful to all of you for your prayers and encouragement along the way.
That’s all I have to say. Just, thanks. And that adoption really is wonderful.
2012 at 4:19 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
I resonate with Justin Taylor’s post from last week where he explains that:
We don’t regard our transracial adoption as something especially noble or sacrificial, or anything like a social statement. This is simply the way that God in his providence has designed our family to expand, and we sense his great grace in the way he has knit our family together.
We do indeed sense God’s great grace! Each day I look at my children around the dinner table or in their beds or playing in the backyard and marvel at the how fearfully and wonderfully God has designed our family. And I feel the weight of responsibility He has entrusted to us to raise these four precious children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
But, as Justin acknowledges, some may also be wondering if we are wise to choose transracial adoption. Justin’s answers are wise and biblical and I couldn’t agree more. Please read this entire article if you are simply curious or if you too are considering transracial adoption.
A quick personal update: God is giving us much strength and wisdom, and life in our home seems to get more comfortable and joyful every day. We still have our challenging moments, but we as parents are better rested and the children are all settling into life as one friend called us, “The New and Improved Whitacres.” A few days ago at lunch the four kids were counting family members in order of age: One Daddy, Two Mommy (I didn’t bother correcting them that I am actually older than Steve!), Three Jack, Four Jude, Five Tori, Six, Sophie. Then they smiled in satisfaction, the counting complete. These are the members of our family. All six of us.
2012 at 9:11 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Fun Stuff Friday Funnies Motherhood Adoption
This week’s Friday Funny comes courtesy of my wonderful husband:
So every night for the last three weeks, from the very first night we got Jude and Sophie from the transition home, I’ve tucked them into bed with a very affection bed time saying:
This is Amharic for “night, night!”
Or so I thought.
Tonight, we ate at our local Ethiopian restaurant. The owner took a liking to us and wrote down some useful Amharic phrases, including a phrase meaning “time to sleep.”
I mentioned my nightly ritual: “mah-TAH, mah-TAH!” Her eyebrows went up. My heart sank.
“I think you mean MAH-tah, MAH-tah. That’s how you say night, night.”
So what does mah-TAH, mah-TAH mean?
Turns out, in my zeal for cultural sensitivity, what I’ve actually been saying is:
This could explain at least some of the bedtime grumpiness.
2012 at 2:29 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
So I’ve been trying to write this little update for over a week, but I am very much in a “new mother fog” right now. Exhausted. Can’t remember what day of the week it is. Trail off in the middle of my sentences. The past two weeks have been magical, grueling, and a little blurry.
Thus far, things have gone even better than I expected. The children are adjusting remarkably well. It brings such joy to my heart to look around our breakfast table at my four children, to watch Jack and Jude play soccer in the driveway or Tori and Sophie splash together in the bathtub. I love it when they run to the door as a pack to greet Daddy when he comes home from work, or when they sing songs from our “Slugs and Bugs” cd in their beautiful Ethiopian accents. My favorite time of day is after morning school is cleaned up and all four children run around the house laughing through their daily game of “Tori’s It!”
We’ve had our challenges to be sure. They are learning to respond to our loving authority. I quickly discovered that “embi” repeated over and over means they do not like what I have decided—and I have to stop myself from nonsensically replying “no embi” (literally “no no”). When we served them vegetables the first night they were home you would have thought we had shoveled dirt onto their plate! And all four children are learning to be kind to one another. But considering that they have left their country, family, friends, every familiar sight and sound and smell and taste, and come to live with our family—including two siblings very close in age—they are doing amazingly well, and I am so grateful for God’s grace.
I am sure we will have more challenges in the days ahead. The adjustment period is only just beginning. But for right now, my prayer is very simple: strength and wisdom. I desperately feel my need for both. Strength to get out of bed in the morning and finish the dinner dishes before 9pm. Strength to insist on obedience for my children’s good. Strength to still be smiling by the end of the day when my husband comes home from work. And wisdom. Wisdom to know how to handle a myriad of moments with two precious children who don’t speak the same language. Wisdom to know when to comfort and when to correct. Wisdom to know which child takes first priority when all four our vying for my attention at once.
The Proverbs 31 woman is “clothed with strength” and “speaks with wisdom.” I’m a long way from either but I know that God is eager to answer this simple, desperate, prayer on behalf of this helpless, happy, mother.
2012 at 9:03 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
Steve and Nicole reached home in Louisville, KY late Saturday night. They had left Louisville one week earlier with two children and returned to Louisville with four! The last two days have been full of fun and craziness as they settle into their new life together.
The Mahaney clan gathered on Saturday morning to meet Kassa and Mulunesh for the first time. It was an unforgettable morning. I will be posting pics from our time on 52home this week.
We are so grateful to all of you for your outpouring of love, support and prayers for Steve and Nicole and our entire family! God has been so good to us.
And a very special thanks to our friends Chris and Jean Mays. Since the summer they have come by our house every single Monday to leave a note of encouragement and/or gift for my parents. And today was no exception. A huge basket of gingerbread men with the name of each grandchild showed up on the doorstep. I was able to snap a quick picture before the crazy grandchildren went to town. Chris and Jean, thank you! “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
2012 at 5:20 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
[from our adoption blog]
Day 2 was great. This morning we had the great privilege of meeting our kids’ grandfather. We spent the afternoon shopping and playing soccer with friends. Then we walked a few blocks to an local restaurant we like. We are having a wonderful time with Kassa and Mulunesh, enjoying each others’ company and making some great memories. Tomorrow we get their visas and passports and—around midnight—fly home!
2012 at 9:39 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
[from our adoption blog]
Technically, we did visit America today. By stepping inside a far-flung US Embassy, we found ourselves standing on a little patch of American soil. Our embassy visit went great. I’m happy to report that the kids’ visas were approved. We pick up their visas and passports Thursday morning and then fly home late Thursday night. We’ll be on a much bigger patch of US soil Friday, Lord willing. After the embassy, it was a great day. Ice cream, soccer, dinner, baths, and a whole lot of flipping through an Amharic phrase book. The day went smoother than we could have hoped for and we are so grateful to God to be here with our children. Can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow. Thanks again for all your prayers that have made this happen!
2012 at 5:40 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
[from our adoption blog]
After 30+ hours of travel, we have arrived safely in Ethiopia. It is so good to be back! We have an exciting couple days lined up, starting tomorrow. In the morning, we go to the transition home to pick up Kassa and Mulunesh. We CAN NOT WAIT! After lunch we go to the embassy for an appointment related to their visas. We are thrilled to be here and so grateful to be bringing our kids home. Thanks for all your prayers and support that have brought us this far.
2012 at 8:32 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Yesterday we heard from the US Embassy that we are officially cleared to travel. We snatched up the first available appointment and will be leaving next Sunday to go bring our children home! I can’t help but smile every time I see the airline ticket confirmations in my inbox.
The past week has been full of phone calls, paperwork, obsessive checking of email on my phone, anxious waiting for the final details to come together—“just labor pains” Janelle reminded me on one particularly challenging day. But we’ve also been doing lots of fun stuff like hair lessons from a wonderful new friend and adoptive mom, trips to Old Navy and Target for cute clothes, and turning the boys’ sailboat room into a sports room with a few new pillows and accessories. We’ve filled our scabies prescription at Target (just in case!) and scheduled doctor’s appointments. We’ve stocked up on hot sauce (which apparently Ethiopian children love to put on everything!) and bought ingredients for homemade Ethiopian stew. And filled out more paperwork.
Our second trip to Ethiopia will be very quick. The morning after we arrive in country we will be reunited with our children and we will never have to leave them again. They will come with us to our Embassy appointment and then we will spend two days doing fun things around Addis before our visas are issued and we can fly home.
Home. We are bringing our children home.
Thank you for your prayers! More updates and pictures to come.
2012 at 4:39 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
We are counting down in days now, instead of months and weeks. Eight days until the US Embassy in Ethiopia has completed their paperwork and interviews and God-willing, gives us the all-clear to travel and get our children. Eleven days until we (hopefully!) get on a plane, thirteen or so days until the final step—an interview at the Embassy, and fifteen days until we get our children’s visas and fly home. All very subject to delays of course so we would greatly appreciate your prayers that all would proceed smoothly and speedily.
Right now my house is turned upside down redecorating the kids rooms and Jack and Tori talk daily about what they will play or share with their new brother and sister. There’s not much more to tell actually. Isn’t that the way with waiting? It is the uneventfulness that makes it hard. Our agency warned us this would be the most difficult part of the wait and they were right. Knowing our children, having held them in our arms, being their legal parents but having to leave them behind is excruciating. But just as the day and hour of our biological children’s birth was ordained by God, I know that the day when our family will be complete is entirely in His wise, powerful, loving hands. We’ll just be so excited when it gets here.
Thank you for all your prayers.