Visiting Lalibela

Visiting Lalibela

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

on the road to Ethiopia!

Hi my name is Elli I will be blogging for my Mom this week while she is in Ethiopia. She and my Dad will be landing in Ethiopia about 2:00 North Dakota time. They will get to meet the kids on Wednesday. There court date is not until friday, so they get a few days just hanging out with the kids. Please pray that they will pass court the first time and that there would be no delays. Mike and Stacy Sweeney

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ready to roll

Mike is actually on his way to Billings to catch the plane. This travel has come so very quickly, I hope we got everything done that we needed to..

Last night some dear friends came over and prayed for us. I have to admit, even though I know, "Perfect love casts out fear," I have been a little fearful, in leaving my other kids here, while we travel half way across the world. Since their prayers, I have felt nothing but peace. I am so thankful for the words and prayers shared with us last night. Larsens and Goldades, you have no idea how much you ministered to us. We are so appreciative.

I've got a bit of last minute cleaning to do before I leave in the morning and then look forward to seeing Mike in Addis...

For my kids here- I am so proud of you!!!

Prayer requests:
1. For Layne and Gavin's hearts. They are literally breaking as we prepare to be away from them. I pray that they would learn to lean on Christ this week and really feel his love in their lives.

2. For E, J and K: That they would continue to have the upbeat attitudes that they already have.

3. For my friends watching my kids this week: You are such a gift to us and we so appreciate the love you lavish on our children.

4. For our kids in ET: That their hearts would be open to accepting the love of a Mom and a Dad.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

My stateside kids..

Janika, Kael and Ellison will be 12 this next Saturday- I can't believe it! Their love for their new brothers and sisters amazes me- their generosity amazes me. This morning, we took Elli to Wal-mart. She has been saving money for a year for donations to orphans (all of the other kids donated a little too). This morning, she spent $175 on new shoes for Robel's street kids, so they might have good protection for their feet, as they go through life without a Mom and Dad. She also bought new shirts, jumpropes, underwear and socks. When we got home, all of my kids helped load them in tubs to take with us on Monday. They all had great joy on their faces, as they packed things for other kids--not thinking about themselves in the process.
I know that leaving them will be so tough, yet, they are all so helpful around the house and with Layne and Gavin, that my mind is at peace. I am so proud that these three kids are our kids. They have blessed us so much and taught us so much about love and generosity.

Happy early birthday Kael,Janika and Elli!! Your Daddy and I love you very much!

Layne and Gavin have been drawing pictures for their new brothers and sisters all week. It will be so fun to take the pictures to them and explain them to our kids in ET. These two little ones bring such joy to our lives, constantly smiling and laughing together. L and G- your Daddy and I love you very much too!! We can't wait for us all to be together soon!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Travel soon!!!

Mike and I are thankful to say that our kids here are on the mend. We are so thankful that Bert is staying with them while we're gone. I can rest easy on the trip knowing she has years of medical background as a nurse, mom and grandma.

We both fly out Monday and will meet our kids on Weds. Unfortunately, we will only be able to see them for three days before we head home. Hopefully, though, the second trip will come quickly and they can all come home very soon.

I'm sad to say that I won't be here for Elli, Kael and Janika's birthday next Saturday. We will plan a celebration when we get home, but being away from them on their special day will be tough. They don't even seem to care, though, as they're so excited for us to keep moving towards bringing their brothers and sisters home. I would love it if they could get inundated with birthday wishes (hint, hint) on July 3!!
Our prayer requests for the next week:

1. Safe travel for both Mike and myself
2. Preparing our children's hearts to meet us on Weds.
3. The judge will pass our case the first time Friday, July 2.
4. Our kids at home will feel well loved and at peace while we're gone.
5. All of our kids will experience good health during these transition times.
6. This one is very personal- please pray that Mike and I will extend grace to those who make rude or unwarranted comments about our family. This is an area where I feel I need to be covered with prayer. We view children as a huge blessing, not a burden or a handful and it is hard sometimes to not respond in the flesh when comments are directed towards us.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Calling all prayer warriors

We always expect some issues when we are moving forward in the direction that we've been called. ALL of my kids except Gavin here are sick. We need an army of prayer warriors to carry us to Ethiopia, to intercede on behalf of our kids here and cover them while we're gone. We need that same army to cover our kids in Ethiopia and prepare them for meeting us.

Thank you!!

Court Date next week!!

I got back from Sheridan and found out about 10 minutes later that we leave for Ethiopia this weekend!! Our court date is Friday July 2. We will most likely leave Sunday or Monday, spend a few days with our kids before court. We can then fly out after court Friday night...I'll be busy buying plane tickets tomorrow morning and finalizing our kids' plans for the week. We are excited and a little shocked..We would appreciate your prayers.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I just read the best quote on Facebook. It was written by a fellow adoptive Mom who said that her husband was hot for giving up the things of this world, money, prestige, comfort, safety, to become a father to the fatherless. I don't think I could have written it any better.
I've known Mike since the 5th grade..I've always considered him cute- then as we went through high school with our lockers only 2 apart, I thought he was more than cute...Then, we started dating and got married. I really didn't think my feelings could grow any stronger towards him, until he became a Daddy, and what an awesome Daddy he was!! Then, he knocked my socks off again when he let God break his heart for the orphan.. He became the father to the Fatherless...He became a Daddy to 6 more kids who needed the love of a Daddy - a protector, a provider, a comforter, an ear, a spiritual leader.. I see all of my kids thrive with the love of a Daddy, who continually affirms them, continually showers them with the affection only a Daddy can give.
Somebody close to me this weekend referred to a family who had two children biologically and one by adoption. He referred to the two biological children as their own children...I am so thankful that my husband sees all of our kids as his own. He is their Daddy- I may be biased but I think this ranks him right up there with the hottest men on the planet.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The results of good nutrition

Today was VERY fun. Layne and Gavin had a follow-up with our eye doctor in Sheridan. She ran retinal pictures of all of my kids last year and the difference between them all was so interesting. You could tell by Gavin's pictures, that his eye health was very poor. Further, he couldn't see much beyond 6 inches in front of his face. Well, this year, his long range vision has improved --HOORAY!- but more importantly, his eye health has improved. Dr. Bileyu pulled up both pictures side by side and was amazed that he has new tissue growth in his eyes. We've been supplementing all of our kids with fish oil this past year (for lots of reasons) and the results really are positive. Once we got past the fish burps, it's so easy to swallow those important pills every day. We also make sure that Gavin gets alot of essential fatty acids in his diet, since he most likely didn't get many at all for a long time (he wasn't allowed to have milk or eggs because he was too big - when there's a shortage of food, 37 pounds is too big). I am so thankful we are able to provide him what his body needs to grow and heal from years of malnutrition.

Layne's eyes look great too- but you can definitely tell she was a preemie by the nature of the blood vessels in her eyes. I'm thinking these scans would make the most intersting science fair project for my kids.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No court news yet

I've been asked several times if we know when we're traveling. Unfortunately, with the change in the Ethiopian court system requiring parents to come to court,there has been a major slow down. We're still hopeful that we can travel in the next month and pass court before the court closures that occur in August and September. We're still hopeful we can bring our kids home this fall, before school starts.

I'm sitting in our mountain cabin, with Layne and Gavin still sleeping. They had a wonderful day yesterday, each mastering casting their fishing poles. Sadly, no fish were interested, but they had a great time anyway. Gavin is a master rock climber and is so patient with Layne as she tries to follow him everywhere. I'm sure Kael, Janika and Kael are having a wonderful time at Camp Bethel. The weather on the mountain has been perfect- bright sunny skies and about 65-70 degrees. We are so blessed...Mike continues to grow our business back in Williston, working tirelessly so that we all can have these little adventures. I'm hoping he'll show up this weekend and enjoy some mountain time himself. In two days we will have been married 16 years!! Happy Anniversary if you're reading this Mike! I love you!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shepherd's Crook

Since we are adopting a sibling group of older children, we qualify to have a fund through the Shepherd's Crook Ministries. This fund will help us defray our adoption expenses and are set up specifically in our children's names. All donations are tax deductible and again, go directly to our adoption expenses, which could include travel, time in country, post placement fees, etc.

If you feel led to donate to our Shepherd's Crook fund, please send me an email and I can get the information to you. My email address is: We really do appreciate any and all help.

Do I believe in angels?

This is probably one of the hardest stories to write about but is part of our adoption story. Very few people even know that this happened one year ago.

This was Thursday in Ethiopia, the day to visit two orphanages that our agency partnered with. We decided before we even traveled, that we wouldn't take Gavin with us on these orphanage tours. We couldn't imagine how scared he would be, just meeting us, just going with us and then go with us to an orphanage, especially the one he had been in, without any way to communicate to him that he was staying with us. So Mike, Kael, Janika and Ellison boarded the bus and went to Kids Care. They took donations and just planned to love on kids. Gavin, Layne and I stayed at the Guest House and decided to walk one street over with two other families, as one family needed to buy some local baby cereal for their baby.

As we were walking, this young man befriended our group. He seemed to know a great deal about us all, what agency we were with and where we were staying. He talked and talked with us and helped us negotiate the streetside grocery store. We were all standing there, when all of the sudden we heard a very loud sound and a car came crashing across the street and hit the side of the building about 6 inches from my right side. Gavin was in front of me, but I couldn't find Layne. She had been standing just behind me, holding her friend Mallory's hand, as we all waited for our friends to make their purchase. In a frantic moment, I just started yelling her name, as did my other friends, as none of us could find her and she and Mallory would have been right in the path of the car as it careened straight towards us. Suddenly, I heard a man yell, "I have baby, baby is fine. I have baby!" He had seen the car heading our way and had picked up my baby girl and held her in his arms. This was the same man who had befriended us on our walk the store. One of the dads, jumped to help the lady in the car and found Layne's hat on the hood of the car.

Do I believe that an enemy exists? yes I do. Do I know that he is against those things that God is for like adoption? Yes I do. Do I also believe that God sends his angels to protect those who are doing what He loves? YES I DO. We never saw that man again, after this incident and perhaps he wasn't an angel, but to us that day, he definitely was. He saved my daughter's life.

Oh and while we were experiencing this horrific ordeal, Mike, E, J, and K were back at Kids Care, LOVING playing with the children and meeting the four children we hope to bring home soon. Their hearts were definitely broken for the orphan that day.

We will always remember that day. The experience is cemented in our memories. The families that walked through that with me, are forever family..thank you Egly and Jaeger Families. Thank you for helping me get Layne and Gavin back to the Guest House quickly and for praying with me until Mike got back.

I know some who read this will then ask us if we are afraid to travel back to Ethiopia to get our children. I know that they will also insist that we don't take any of our other children with us. I am not afraid to do either. God has already demonstrated His protection over our family in so many ways. We are trying to raise our kids to follow GOD, not fear. He is SO GOOD!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It has arrived!

We just received our I 171H today! For those outside of the adoption world, this is the Department of Homeland Security's notice that they have approved our application to bring 4 children into the country. It's the last piece that we needed before we could travel for court. Now, all we need is a court date!

Yesterday was our meetcha day anniversary. Today is our Gotcha Day anniversary. It was one year ago today that we brought Gavin with us to the Guest House and watched him sleep next to our other kids for the first time--

Today would have also been the anniversary of my parent's wedding, if my Mom was alive. It is so nice to have wonderful news on a day that makes me miss her so. She was an amazing Mom and I'm so thankful to have had her in my life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Meetcha Day one year later

Gavin with his Daddy today.

The first time we saw him smile- on his Daddy's shoulders one year ago.

Our son, one year ago...a little scared with everything that was happening.

One year ago today, we met Gavin for the first time. He can tell us now, how scared he was at the time, not knowing who we were, but just knowing that we were smiling and hugging him and kissing him. Gavin didn't speak Amharic, the language of the nannies and staff at AW, so as they told him his family was coming for him, he had NO CLUE what they were saying! I have often imagined the fear he lived through, from those first moments, until the days he started to understand what we were saying. Thankfully, he picked up English really fast, in less than 2 months. Thankfully, the fear has gone away. Thankfully, he realizes how much we love him. Thankfully, he loves us in return. God has been so gracious this past year and allowed us to feel like a family.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sometimes this is just hard...

Sometimes, adoption is hard:
It's hard for the child, who starts to love his new family, even while missing his former family. It's hard for the family, wherever they are, for having to make the decision to give up a child, no matter what the circumstances. AND, even though it's hard for the adoptive parents, that should not be the reason to not adopt.

I've been encouraged this week, by another adoptive Mom, who reminded me that God uses adoption to reveal our own sin, as adoptive parents. There are times, when our children grieve or don't act like we want and we lose patience...that is our own sin. There are times, when people question our intentions and we start to wonder about our calling and then realize that is our own sin--our sin of fear. You see, adoption is a calling. It is something that God uses as a tool to point out our own fleshly desires and sins and then to SLOWLY mold us into who He desires us to be. It is a process. Am I really willing to lay down my life for more children? Am I really willing to forgo some material security to love 4 more children?

I am so thankful that God chose us to go down this road. I am thankful for the work He is doing in my heart, for increasing my compassion, patience and love. It is an honor to be able to say that I love Gavin and will love my new children.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My brother's keeper


Please click on the link above to find out about two young brothers in Ethiopia, one is 7, the other is 8. They are full orphans, living with an Uncle and need a sponsor family in the United States to come alongside them and provide them with support. Thank you!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Miracle Track Meet

Yesterday, we went to Williston's annual youth track meet. It was so much fun! The meet was open to kids ages 2-12. Since Layne and Gavin spent most of this last winter watching their siblings play basketball, this was their turn for everyone else to watch them. Kael, Janika and Elli entered a couple of events too- and Kael really impressed us with his new stick to it attitude, running hard during every race, even when tired. He ran the 200, 400 and relay. Janika was in the softball throw (2nd) and a relay, while Elli ran a relay in sandals- she wasn't going to run and then found it all too inticing when the running actually started..

Now, back to Layne and Gavin...Gavin ran the 100 and 400 and LOVED the 400 the most. I think he could have easily run the mile, because he keeps a really good pace, not speeding up or slowing down, but steady the whole way around the track. He said many times how fun it is to run long distances- his smile showed it all.

Why do I call it a miracle track meet? Well, even as soon as a year ago, I wouldn't have dreamed that Layne would be running in a race, with BEAUTIFUL running form. When she was little and tried to run, her left side had a hard time keeping up with her right- not yesterday, she ran straight ahead, swinging both arms evenly--HOORAY!! The first run she did was the 50, and she got a little overwhelmed at the end, but insisted on running again- so she ran the 100 too. Mike told her that she would run faster if she smiled, so she ran the whole 100 with a big smile on her face--everyone around me kept saying, "She is so cute!" I got to catch her at the finish line for the 100. This Mama and her Daddy were soooo proud of our little girl..what a long way she's come in 5 years!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More pictures!!

We just got MORE pictures of our kids, from the Crowley family. They were in Ethiopia to pick up their cute little boy and they delivered care packages for us. It is so fun to see them opening their care packages, looking through the photo albums at our faces. Their smiles are amazing-- really beautiful. The minute we pass court, we'll be posting tons of pictures of our newest children. I can't wait.

We had a great weekend hiking, hanging out with friends and getting things done around here. We are blessed by living in Williston- great friends, incredible work opportunities for Mike and now that it's warmed up, great outside activities. We hiked a 4.2 mile loop on Sunday afternoon. It was pretty hilly and a bit slippery from all of the rain, but oh was it fun! Gavin and Kael led the way, often walking up ahead of us and then back to us. Gavin ran up the trail and back several times and when we got done, he said, "That was fun! Let's do it again!!" He makes me smile...