1. One year since we met

    August 16, 2013 by The Rippke's

    I’m trying to figure out what time it is in Ethiopia right now. What were we doing exactly a year ago? I think, after laying awake a good chunk of the night, we were waking up for our second day with Elsa Banke. I seriously can’t believe a year ago today we met our sweet girl for the first time. So much anticipation. So many days waiting. So many moments wondering what she’d be like. What did she sound like? Was she short? Oh gosh, would she just totally freak out? What if she is terrified of us? Could you blame her? What does that giggle sound like? What does she smell like? Everything happened so fast. After waiting and waiting and waiting everything happened in the blink of an eye. Just a few days before I was standing in my living room crying while our social worker was on the other line of the phone saying to book tickets right away and get our bums to Ethiopia for court, praising God for getting us in before the court closure. The day before the closure actually. How did we go from waiting for what seemed impossible to standing at the gate of the orphanage in less than a week?

    Wait, I hope they know we’re coming…do we just tell them we’re Banke’s parents? It’s so quiet, where is everyone?

    Thankfully there were two US volunteers hanging around the courtyard. Nap time, well, that makes sense.  Introductions. Yes, we’re Banke’s parents. Oh, we’re saying her name wrong? Got it.

    And then we’re led into the building. The building our daughter has been living in for months. We’re walking down the hall and kids are waking up. There’s a new girl, she’s only been there three days and still looks lost. I want to hug her. Sidenote: she’s nine and waiting for her family, in case it’s you. The door is closed so we quietly sneak our way in. Familiar faces of friend’s kiddos that are waiting for their mommy and daddy to come back for them. Tewabe tells the nannies why we’re there and they walk us over to her bed. And then this…

    The first moment we saw her. Most surreal thing ever. She’s real. Like right there in front of our faces real.

    We let her finish up her nap and waited outside talking to the staff about AHOPE and Banke and ourselves and Ethiopia. I thought there would be some warning that she was up and ready to see us. But nope. No warning. She just came running around the corner yelling “Abapa!! Abapa!!” and straight into his arms. My goodness sweet girl. I hadn’t even prayed for such an amazing meeting. I’m sure we said some poorly pronounced Amharic or something. I really don’t even remember. I do remember her skin and hair being the softest thing ever. And that first hug she gave me. It was a long one. Maybe we were both waiting a long time for it.

    The moment we met.

    And a year later we continue to be in awe at the work He is doing in all of us. He’s working. Always. She’s our daily living reminder of that. We celebrate things I don’t think we ever expected to celebrate as hugely as we do. A new letter sound. A new food. Falling asleep in a bed. Hearing “I love you too mommy/abapa.” or “I love you THIS much!” with arms outstretched. A prayer thanking God for food and family. Wearing the ergo until my back is screaming. A successful redo or time-in. Her made up songs about how it’s ok because abapa and mommy are with her. Settling into our new normal. Going on a date night after six months without one. Welcoming grief instead of fearing it. Being introduced as mommy and daddy by her sweet little voice. Singing “Jesus Loves Me” together while washing her growing hair. God is good good good. Good. And so, we begin again. But more on that later…


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  2. Letters of Love: And The Winner Is…

    June 18, 2013 by The Rippke's

    Thank you so much to everyone that has donated towards reuniting the Jernigans, and helping them out with whatever steps are ahead in bringing their son E home!! I don’t have finished pictures of the painted E yet, so I’ll post those later. But I wanted to get the winner of the Kindle Fire posted as soon as I could so you weren’t left hanging! So, to make this short, the winner is…

    Yay Jenny!!!!! I’ll get in contact shortly about the shipment info. Thank you again to everyone!! I took video of the drawing, but it’s too large (and a pain ha!) to upload…but if you really want to see it let me know and I’ll send it to you. ; )

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  3. Letters of Love – Last Call!!

    June 17, 2013 by The Rippke's

    OK, last call for the E and the Kindle Fire drawing!!!! Thank you to everyone who has donated towards reuniting all three Jernigans!! Elsa’s going to be wrapping up painting the E this week and we’ll be sending it on to Lauren and Bryan. And don’t forget that today is the last day to be added to the Kindle Fire drawing, so any donations made before Midnight tonight will add you to that list and give you the chance to win. For every $5 donated your name will be added to the list once. Use the link below to donate!

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  4. Letters of Love – An Update and a Surprise

    May 30, 2013 by The Rippke's

    First of all, thank you to everyone who has been so gracious to our dear friends and helped us get “Letters of Love” going!! I’ve got some pictures of Elsa getting all caught up painting the dots, and we’ve got more to do here in the next day or so so keep them coming!! It is so fun, and the more dots there are to paint the more she gets to squeeze the paint bottle, which might be one of her favorite things. Or glue. Or glitter paint. But anyways…dots. Fun stuff with these Es I tell ya! So thank you so so much for being a blessing to the Jernigans during this time. More trials have come up even since my last post, and I can’t thank you enough for all the prayers on behalf of them, and I know Lauren and Bryan have been floored as well.

    But now, now we have a fun surprise!! One of our other super amazing mutual friends, and waiting adoptive family, has generously decided to make “Letters of Love” even more fun. By donating a Kindle Fire to raffle off!!! Yes!! So, now not only is each $5 donated a dot on the E, but it is also an entry into the raffle to win the Kindle Fire. Awesome. And if you’ve already donated, you’re already on the list!!  

    You may remember we raffled one off back when we were waiting for Elsa to come home. Nate drooled over it (but not on it Debbie ha!) every single day it sat in our house. They’re pretty cool. And the Jernigans are cool. And Elsa thinks painting is cool! So click the paypal link below to help the Jernigans get reunited with their son and let’s get the E covered and this Kindle raffled off!!

    So here’s how to win…

    To enter just make a tax deductible donation of $5 or more towards the Jernigan’s adoption using the paypal link below. For every $5 we will put your name on the list once. So, $10 will put your name on twice… $15 three times…$20 four times. Easy enough right?

    Here’s how it works…
    When you donate through their paypal link it will automatically send us your name and we will put it on our list next to the number your entry corresponds with (so if you’re first and you enter five times you’ll be spot 1-5). On June 18th we will use a random number generator and if your name is next to the number it picks you win the Kindle!!!

    There you go! The giveaway ends midnight on June 17th and we’ll announce the winner on the 16th! So get entering!! Use the paypal button below and let’s love on the Jernigans!!

    Here’s a link to more info about the Kindle Fire: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Fire-Amazon-Tablet/dp/B0051VVOB2

    And here’s the link to the Jernigan’s blog. http://beingbeautifullywoven.blogspot.com

    We’ll use a random generator like we did for ours that looks like this, and draw the winner June 16th!

    If you wish for your name to be put on the list for the kindle drawing without donating to our adoption just email me at arippke@gmail.com and I will add you to the list.

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  5. Letters of Love – The Jernigan Family

    May 22, 2013 by The Rippke's

    I swear almost every single day I think “Tonight I’m going to update the blog. Yep, tonight’s the night I work my way towards being caught up.” And you know what? I don’t. Something else always comes up after Elsa goes to bed. Work. Laundry. Me just wanting to sit on the couch and do nothing for five minutes…or two hours. The nights add up, and before you know it you’re coming up on six months home and have written down hardly anything. We’ve taken a bazillion pictures. But the writing just hasn’t happened. So in short, we are doing well. Very well. Elsa is the sweetest, most precious gift ever, and we are enjoying her so much. She’s hilarious, and cute, and filled with so much joy. But this post isn’t about us. I promise to post soon, but not this one. This one is about another little “E” we love. He lives in Ghana and is a year or so older than Elsa.

    And we love his mommy and daddy. Big time.

    I hope that everyone can say they have friends like the Jernigans. You know, the kind that check in on you at just the right moment, that you can call in the midst of chaos because they “get” your kind of crazy, the ones that mean it when they say they’re praying for you, or the ones that go and do something super crazy awesome like sending you your favorite ice cream from when you were a kid packed in a box full of dry ice so that it makes the multi-state trip the week that you come home from Ethiopia with your daughter and you feel like the world has just been turned completely upside down and you can’t even see strait. Whew, run-ons. But that ice cream…that ice cream just might save the world.

    Those friends. Lauren and Bryan are those friends.

    And over the past several months God has asked them to walk through a lot. A lot lot.

    There have been unexpected losses, delays, trials, and costs. There have been days that we’ve just sat on skype and cried together. And there have been days of rejoicing. The roller coaster ride of adoption is long…and kind of like one of those crazy wooden ones you think might just fall apart at any second so you hold your breath and pray the entire time. But all the while they have been an example to us of what it means to trust in the Lord and lean on His understanding. Because sometimes you just can’t understand.

    We can’t stop the ache they feel to be reunited with E. We can’t tell them what that reunion looks like or what’s to come. We can’t fix the difficult things outside of their adoption journey that God is leading them through right now. But we can walk along side of them. And one burden we can help carry is the financial one. Until you go through the adoption process you just can’t imagine how these things add up. I bet we spent a thousand dollars on shipping papers back and forth alone. No joke. Sometimes you hear people say things like “Things got drawn out and we had to take an extra trip.” Do you know what that actually means for that family? What “an extra trip” to across the ocean means? What even the “regularly scheduled” two or three mean? Until we found ourselves flying across the ocean to meet Elsa I had no idea. Guys, the tickets, ouch. And that’s just a part of it. Passports, and visas, and time off work, and unpaid days because you’re out of vacation at your job, and lodging, and food, and all the things you need to travel (safely at that), and drivers, and someone to watch your pets (ha, poor izzy and bean), and travel agents, and baggage fees, and so on and so on. I refuse to even look back and add all of ours up. All I know is God provides for these families. He provided for us. And He will provide for Lauren and Bryan and sweet little E. Whatever them being together looks like, He will provide for it. And we feel led to be a part of that. So here’s our plan.

    We’re calling it “Letters of Love” and it involves two big wooden Es. One for the Jernigans for their E, and one for our Elsa…because let’s face it, she’s three and she wanted one too. After all, her favorite letter is E too. Simple as that ha. For every $5 donated towards the Jernigan’s adoption Elsa is going to paint a big dot on each E. And I will write the names of the donors on the back. The idea is to COVER this thing. We want to make it a super bright, colorful, joyful reminder of all the people that were praying for all three Jernigans during this time. And I think we can do it. I think God’s going to transform these plain wooden Es into beautiful reminders of his faithfulness in all of this.

    Now, I’m not naive, Elsa is three after all. Some of these “dots” may be more like squiggly lines or big smears. I don’t know what to expect really. Does it matter? Nope. Let’s just get this thing started and we’ll see the final result when we get there!

    Ok, so are you ready?! Are you ready to bless the Jernigans in a big way? Elsa is. She’s been practicing painting all week. We’re ready to get messy! So here’s how to donate: See that Paypal button right down there? Yep, click it. That’s their button. Not mine. Theirs. It goes strait to their Project Hopeful fundraising paypal account, and it’s tax deductible. TAX DEDUCTIBLE ok? Ok. So, get clicking folks! I need to work with Elsa on her colors this week and this would be a great way to do it. We’ll put an end date on this of JUNE 18th, so that gives us almost a month to get this thing beautified! Now go!

    Love you Lauren. Love you Bryan. Love you E. We’re praying for you guys.

    You can also find this Paypal link, and more of their story, on their blog. http://beingbeautifullywoven.blogspot.com


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  6. Elsa Banke: Home week 1-4

    February 19, 2013 by The Rippke's

    Ok, so let’s just say I’m a little behind. Like eight weeks behind. I really do want (and need) to keep this up to date because the days are blurring, things change so quickly, and someday (like when we start the adoption process again) we need to go back and read these and say “Oh. My. Goodness. Do you remember when she did this?! Or that?! And how we were pretty sure things were never going to get easier even though we knew they would? Crazy. Ok, we can do it again.” Ha!! And let me just start out by saying, we were (are) very aware that adoption takes work. Like crazy amounts of it. Amounts that only God can actually give you, and then sometimes you’re so sleep deprived and confused that you kind of forget to look to Him for it until you realize you’ve derailed and need Him to get you back on there and moving forward.

    Let me also say that we count ourselves very blessed. And really truly believe that we have had a very “easy” first 11 weeks home. We have far more good days than bad. Far more good moments than bad. Far more hugs and kisses than bites and hits. We have from the second we met her. We know that is not necessarily everyone’s story. So we are beyond grateful and thrilled that things have gone as they have. And we are amazed every day that Elsa continues to grow in her attachment to us, her comfort level in our home, and her ability to adapt to her new surroundings. Nate and I have looked at each other more than a few times and said “How does she do it? How does she allow herself to be happy? To have fun here? To eat here? To sleep here?” I’m pretty sure if my world had been turned upside down the way hers was I’d still be crying…but I’m not as amazing as my daughter, so I guess that shouldn’t surprise me.

    Please don’t hear me saying that there isn’t a lot of work to be done though. There is. There always ALWAYS will be. Always. There are deep wounds that may never heal. There are “behaviors” that may not resolve for a very very long time…ever? Maybe not. Our sweet daughter has been through, in her three years, what most of us don’t experience in a lifetime. As much as we want to we can’t fix that. We just have to remember it (every. single. day.) as we parent her and help her process through these things. Confession: this is the hardest part…this is where our personal sin is by far the most visible. 

    But I want to take some notes about the first month home so I don’t forget. They may be fragmented now. So here’s what I do (and want to) remember for Elsa Banke from the haze of that time…

    • I had never been more excited and nervous in my life. Ever. You are the most precious thing ever. Full of joy and sweetness. It is abundant in you. I know this because it shines through all the fear, anger, grief, discomfort…all of it. At the end of the day everyone who knows you and meets you KNOWS how full of joy you truly are.

    • You make us laugh. A lot. This is a short point, but you really do. Always have. You are a hilarious, cute, joyful little girl. With an awesomely kissable belly and the softest hair there ever was.

    • You changed outfits at least seven times a day. True story. But they were all awesome. We have the pictures to prove it.

    • We didn’t sleep much that first week and a half. Like at all. You slept for 16 hours the second you got in the car at the airport, but hardly at all for the next 9 days or so. I’m not sure how any of us survived haha. ; ) Whew. That second night…when I sat in your room with you from 2-10am…that was something. Jetlag, fear, and stress are sleep killers. Melatonin is a miracle. And now we all sleep. Enough said.

    • There were real moments of fear and grief. REAL moments. And all we could do was sit there and hold you until it passed enough for you to open your eyes and breathe again. Puke happened. Tear induced puke. This mommy, who hates puke more than most anything, didn’t even care. Although since all you ate was Ethiopian food we were pretty sure we’d never be able to enjoy it again. Everyone in the house was sick. The place smelled like a pile of puke, poop, dirty laundry, and ethiopian food. We were all way too sick and tired to even notice. Sorry for all of you that brought us meals those first couple of weeks…we must have been a sight.

    • We started seeing healing from day one. You attached very quickly, especially to abapa. Grief happened, but you came to us for comfort from the very beginning. A good sign. You got overwhelmed, but you asked us to come with you and you removed yourself from the situation (started at week two). Also a good sign. Even in those first couple of weeks we had a lot of hugs, a lot of kisses, a lot of laughter.

    • The whole dog situation worked out a million times better than we’d expected. They were boarded for the first few days (best decision ever!) because let’s be honest, dachshunds can be annoyingly barky…and needy. They came home four days in, and by the third day they were home the three of you could be in the same room as each other and you were petting them. Honestly, this transition as been far harder on them than on you. Stubborn doxies.

    • Eating was never an issue. Thank you Lord. You ate from day one. A lot. That tapered off and normal portions started around week 2-3. You’re so awesome at the table. Spoon, fork, hands…you can eat with them all and drink out of an open cup with one hand. Like I said, the first week or so was all Ethiopian food, but you started branching out sometime during that first week and trying new foods. Oh, and everything was room temperature. No hot or cold of any sort. I swear it all had to be between 70-75 degrees. Your “too hot” or “too cold” reaction is quite cute though. : )

    • Our lives were one giant game of charades. We went from about 30 words to 2-3 word sentences during the first month. Your language development is so amazing and fascinating. You also gained quite an attention span in the first few weeks. This was quite possibly our favorite new skill.

    • Oooo, or the carseat. That was a big deal too. You hated it. HATED it. But only for about five days. Thank you again Lord. We played for hours in the car. You would climb all over it, getting comfortable in it, “driving” in the garage. And then one day you pointed at the seat and said “Mine?” in Amharic. Yes! Yes, yours! And that day you decided to get in. There was no going back. You’ve loved the “beep beep” ever since. In fact it’s how you fell asleep for the first four weeks. I don’t blame you…I don’t like falling asleep in a new place either. Nights are hard.

    • Bathtime went from being kind of scary to super fun. Like hours a day fun. Three, four baths a day. Didn’t matter. We just wanted you to feel safe and comfortable and have fun in the tub. Girl, you LOVE duckies. Your first few baths were what I would call freezing (I like my showers on the burny side). Not because I wanted them that way, because you did. I felt bad that they were so not warm, but each time we would warm it up a little tiny bit and by the second/third week you were taking baths I didn’t feel so badly about you being in for long periods of time. Now you’re like mama…you like the bath hot…but back then, whew.

    • You liked to look at things from Ethiopia and wear your dresses from Ethiopia. You still do. Almost on a daily basis we look through pictures of your/our time in Ethiopia and at AHOPE. We’re also fortunate enough to get to skype with some of the people who cared for you so well before we could be a family. These aren’t scary or sad moments for you right now, but almost happy. We’re excited and anxious to hear what you have to say about these things as your language develops.

    • The very first book you picked up was your “Jesus book.” This was amazing to us. It’s still one of your favorites. Without any language we were able to add the name Jesus to our conversation without having to try very hard. Amazing. Now it’s mommy and abapa’s job to do a good job nurturing that. Confession: you’ve reminded us to pray more than a couple of times…

    • Christmas happened. And it was awesome. Somebody is definitely the first grandchild on both sides. And how nice it is to have family that supports us and loves us and LOVES us and you so so much. LOVES you loves you loves you. We know how huge of a blessing this is, and we will never take it for granted. But seriously, it was awesome having you home for Christmas. And truly awesome having both families come visit us. We know it wasn’t an easy trip for anyone. But you love them all so much…I think they were happy to make the drive. ; ) Lots of fun moments, hugs, kisses, hilarious faces, and trying new foods that grandma made. Oh and GG, you and GG are quite the pair. Week four ended with my parents leaving. Week five started with Nate’s family getting here…so they’re up next…









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  7. The Airport

    January 23, 2013 by The Rippke's

    I really need to get better about staying on top of this…things are starting to get blurry and it’s going to bum me out if I forget some of the details of these first weeks home. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first moments home though.

    Nate’s trip was such a whirlwind of events. Things were stacked so close together and happened so fast I don’t think either of us slept much at all that week. He was there doing all the leg work…meeting Elsa, jumping through the hoops to bring her home as quickly as possible, dropping off donations, meeting our friends from fashionABLE for the first time, picking up keepsakes for her, hanging out with some important people in her life, playing with the kids at AHOPE, and celebrating with them all at her going away party before taking her into custody and back to the guesthouse with him for a night before making the long long looooong trip back home. I was trying to live in both time zones. Like I said, internet access was limited, so I was trying to make sure I was catching and answering emails from the embassy and agency and then calling Nate in country to let him know what was going on. It all happened very fast until their airplane ride home. And then time crawled. The first flight was almost 17 hours. From Addis to DC. Waiting to hear that they had landed in DC was killer. Being on the flight was probably worse…

    I had made all the travel plans for Nate and Elsa to leave on Thursday once we got clearance on Wednesday. The timeline was crazy. An hour and a half to get through customs and immigration and to the next flight from DC to Charlotte, but the next best option included almost 10 hours of layovers once in the states…and I knew neither of them would be excited about that. Fortunately we have some of the greatest friends ever (and fellow adoptive family) that live in DC. They offered to go to the airport and wait outside of customs to meet the two of them and help in any way they could to get them on that next flight. Friday morning I woke up to a text at about 6am my time saying that they (Family L) were at the airport and the flight had landed over an hour early. Good news. However there were five flights in customs, and no one from their flight had exited customs yet. Bad news. You can’t turn your phone on back there, so we had no idea of knowing where they were in the line or what was happening. Now that I know the behind the scenes it’s insane. God put some amazing strangers back there that are the only reason Nate and her made that next flight. And some amazing baggage people that for some unknown reason took Nate’s bags and checked them. Something we were told he wouldn’t be able to do until he left customs and rechecked in upstairs. Not to mention that they had printed ALL of their boarding passes in Ethiopia so since the baggage people took the bags there was no need to recheck in. Amazing. The details still give me chills. There’s no explaining it. God’s hand was ALL over getting those two home. L and I texted back and forth for an hour and a half. It felt like 24 hours and 30 seconds all at the same time. Then all of a sudden, with less than 30 minutes before their next flight took off, a text came through saying something to the tune of “They’re here! They made it!” and then these two pictures followed by a phone call saying that she had no idea what had happened, but Nate had no bags, no time, and her husband and the two of them were running like crazy people trying to get them to the next flight. Of course they couldn’t go past security, so for the next hour and a half we all waited to hear from Nate to see if they had actually made the plane (which left on time) or if there were stuck in some line trying to rework their flights.

    My whole family had driven down from Iowa and Minnesota to meet them at the airport with me. It was the longest and shortest morning ever. I had had plans to get a good night sleep the night before, but there was no way that was happening. We all went to bed around 3am…too excited. So 6am was early. Once we finally heard from Nate that they had landed in Charlotte and were on the last flight time seemed to fly. Everyone got ready right away so we could head out and grab lunch before heading to the airport. Oh the airport. Time had gone too fast so we’d grabbed our food to go. I drove our car with the carseat so I hadn’t eaten. I was starving, but way too nervous and excited to eat. We were greeted by so many of our dear friends. Elsa had quite the crew of friends waiting for her arrival. So many little, and big, ones from all over the world. Biological families…adoptive families…a really beautiful picture of the community God has placed us in over the past couple of years.

    The flight was about a half hour late. Felt like forever. When it got close to time I headed upstairs with our friends Jamie, Erin, and Kat who had graciously agreed to photograph and video their arrival. I could hardly stand it. I hadn’t seen Nate in almost a week, I hadn’t seen Elsa Banke in four and a half months. And when I actually had gotten a few seconds to talk to Nate, between US flights, all he could say was “That was the worst thing ever” (in regards to the 17 hour flight from Addis), so I was ready to see him and thank him for traveling across the world and back to bring our daughter home.

    And then they were here. And I cried like a baby. Big ugly baby tears haha. It was so good to see them both. Our precious daughter was home. And happy. And alert. And running right towards me. Awesome. Thank you God for that moment.

    We headed downstairs to introduce Elsa Banke to her family and friends that were waiting. This part got a little blurry because I was trying to take in everything she did, while making sure we made our way around to everyone…I was seriously excited to introduce her to everyone who’d been waiting and praying with us for the last two years. She was amazing. She loved the cameras, and the people, and the attention. She was happy and giggly, and snuggly, and perfect. Once things calmed down we headed towards the car. And the carseat. The first decent size hurdle on US soil. The struggle wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but she certainly wasn’t excited about the idea of getting in it. Eventually she did. And half way home she crashed. Hard. For the next 16 hours. My family came by that night and everyone passed her around like a newborn baby. : ) She sleeps so hard, she was totally out. It was a perfect answer to prayer. We wanted family to get to spend time with her, and hold her, we just figured that there was no way that would happen just hours after getting home…but God provided, and it was awesome. And then we woke up the next morning…and things got real…

    Photos above: Jamie Wright

    Photos above: Erin Morris

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  8. reunited, clearance, and home again – a rather late update

    January 14, 2013 by The Rippke's

    Ok, so I knew I’d fall behind with the blog once she got home…but seven weeks?! That’s excessive. This is rare event is happening on our living room floor right now, so I’m going to try to get a quick (ha!) update published.

    A quick rundown of what took place in Ethiopia seven weeks ago. Nate landed in Addis Ababa in the morning (Monday) and went strait to the guesthouse, dropped his things off, and then pretty much headed strait to AHOPE to see Elsa Banke. Because there were some people already at AHOPE that he couldn’t have contact with until after the embassy appointment he didn’t get to see her until later that afternoon, but he got to spend the day with some of the volunteers and staff we’d met on our first trip. After her nap Elsa Banke came out of her room and her and Nate got to see each other again for the first time in 15 weeks!

    Monday’s meeting went well, and we were cleared by the US embassy on Tuesday. They got Nate in for his appointment on Wednesday, and he and Elsa were back on and airplane heading to the US Thursday night. Home friday around lunch time. It was fast. Really fast. Exhausting (physically and mentally), overwhelming, exciting, fun, scary, all of it. I was here in the states, with better internet access, so I could answer emails and arrange things with our travel agent and the embassy.

    But Nate did all the hard work.

    He is THE definition of a “super amazing rock star best ever couldn’t love him more” papa and husband. Those 30+ hours home with our daughter were harder than any of us will ever be able to imagine. Especially that first 17 hour long flight. Nate still doesn’t like talking about it haha. The recovery was long for them both. Both of them were sick. Neither of them slept. Lots of tears. Lots of prayers. A giant sigh of relief when they finally landed in Nashville. Did you know they make seat belts on airplanes that allow you to buckle your kid to you if they won’t sit in the seat on their own? Either did I. But Nate found that out…

    I’m hoping maybe Nate will someday be able to find the time to write about his time in Ethiopia and the trip home. I can’t really do it justice since I wasn’t there. But it was made very clear during his trip and after they got home, and even now as the days go by, that having one of us stay home and one of us go was really the best thing for our family. Even though I ended up getting sick from them, it didn’t hit me until they had started feeling a little better, so there were times when Nate could just go and sleep and try to recover while I hung out with her during the day…or during the LONG hours of the night when she wasn’t sleeping at first. Oh man those first couple of weeks home…

    But that’s another blog post. For another nap. Or one of these nights when she’s asleep…maybe tonight…we’ll see. : ) But she’s home. And she’s amazing. God’s timing was perfect. Just like we knew it would be even when things got hard. Even now looking back we can see reasons why we had a longer than expected wait to bring her home. We are so thankful, and amazed, that God chose us to be her parents. So so thankful.


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  9. On the ground!

    November 26, 2012 by The Rippke's

    Since there’s absolutely no chance of me sleeping for at least a little while longer I figured I’d post a little of what the last couple of days have looked like. After the craziness of Nate’s trip getting bumped up we had about 24 hours before he flew out. In a way these super short notice trips are a blessing because you don’t have time to fully process and freak out about them ha! You know, the kind of freak out you might have when you realize that in less than 48 hours you’re going to be single dad-ing it with a toddler until the embassy tells you you can come home. He had plenty of time to think about that on the 14 hour flight I suppose… 

    He’s going to be so awesome at this. But I know he wouldn’t mind being prayed for. There are a lot of unknowns and unpredictables ahead for their time together in country and for their trip home whenever it may be. And I know as excited as he is he’s also feeling a little anxious about what the next several days look like. I’m praying for him to be brave, and strong, and bold for her…and that he stays mentally and physically healthy. He is in good hands at the guesthouse. Birtukan has already promised me tonight that she will give him a hug for me and feed him well (her food is so good). “He will not lose weight. It might happen in reverse haha!”

    And if she makes her pizza it is quite likely. Mmm. Who knew the best pizza in the world was in Ethiopia?

    At about 11:00 our time tonight Nate landed in Addis, and now an important meeting in our case is about to hopefully begin. My stomach has been in knots about both all day. I don’t think it’s any secret that flying makes me a little nervous…ha! He called a bit ago and said that he had landed. And he just called to say that he got his bags and is on the way to the guesthouse.

    I hope he got some sleep on the plane because it’s morning there now, and depending on what happens today things could get nuts. But as soon as he gets to the guesthouse he’ll be able to get some plans made. And then call me back. Which is why it might be a while before I sleep. That and I’m still hoping to hear from the embassy in the next few hours. Eeep!

    We are so grateful for everyone’s prayers and support through all of this. I have gotten some really touching notes today, and everyone’s texts and FB posts really encourage us while we wait. We have no idea what the next few days bring, but the internet in Ethiopia is not great, or reliable, so Nate will be updating me as he can. And I’ll be updating y’all. Thank you again to everyone who has been praying for us, sacrificed and given so generously to us financially, and have loved us in lots of other crazy ways…like waking up at 5am to help set up garage sales, or driving 12 hours to surprise me for a shower, or bringing us Thanksgiving dinner just hours after our initial plans to leave fell through, or just letting us (ok, me)  call and cry on the other end of the phone when we get really good news or really bad news. I know a lot of people say that the adoption process can be isolating. And in a lot of ways it can be. But I can honestly say that we do not feel isolated. We feel loved, and cared for, and very very blessed.

    So, if you could, please keep Nate and Elsa in your prayers until they come home. I am missing those two!! What a duo… : )

    In the meantime, I’m going to stay busy cooking and filling our freezer full of goodies for after she gets home!

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  10. Ok…take 3…or 4?

    November 23, 2012 by The Rippke's

    Well, this is yet another unexpected update. Unexpected may be the word to describe our adoption process. For us anyways. God saw all this coming…but this morning after waking up super refreshed and at peace with everything we couldn’t help but burst out laughing in disbelief after one of the social workers working on our case messaged me this morning and said:

    “So Nate will take Elsa B on Wednesday” Uh, what? “He will be here Wednesday ya?” Um. No, Nate is still right here sitting next to me. “Oh, well we think he will likely go to embassy on Wednesday.” Um, like in five days from now?!! “Yes. We are hopeful that if he is here he will go that day and you will be done and on your way back home by the end of the week.” Ok…hang on, I should wake Nate up…

    We have the best travel agent. Period. She may be as glad to see Elsa get home as we are after all this rearranging!

    We had planned (seriously, why do we even try to plan anymore!?) to wait until Sunday night before making any new plans for the coming week. Just to be sure. We thought it highly likely that Nate would leave Tuesday, but figured we’d wait so that we could hear what the embassy says. But, if the embassy does clear us after that meeting (which they should, and our contacts in Ethiopia say they should) then it sounds like they are going to try to get Nate in just a day or two later and wrap this all up. Which can’t happen if he isn’t there. So yes, it is a gamble. Because there are never any “knowns” until they are, well, known. And if they can’t get him in next week he could be there a little bit longer. But after weighing all the options, looking at schedules, and talking things through with our contact in Ethiopia, we feel it is worth the potential “risk” (of him being there for longer) for him to to try and get her home asap asap asap. I feel good about this decision. Nate feels good about it. We think the chances of getting her home quickly increase if he is in country. And we are both glad that no matter what happens with embassy next week he will be with her until she can come home.

    So there you go. Our third (or fourth?) plan to get Elsa home. It’s a few days sooner than we expected. But the tickets are booked and he’ll be squeezing our little girl in just a little more than 48 hours. Oh this crazy process…

    Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Now we rearrange the suitcases so that he doesn’t have as many to haul around. And I get to work making lists and labeling what donations go where and all. I told Nate I’d get everything ready for him so he didn’t have to try to figure stuff out or stress about anything before picking Elsa up. To which he responded “Great! Just wind me up and point me in the direction you want me to go.” I married one cool dude. He’s going to be awesome at this.

    Prayers are appreciated for safe travels, a smooth embassy process and clearance this weekend/early next week, and of course for Nate and Elsa B as they reunite! So excited for both of them. : ) Nate will be keeping me updated, and I will be letting everyone know when they will be arriving home so that anyone who wants to be at the airport with me when they get here can be!

    And thank you to everyone who sent us messages and posts and texts after yesterday’s post. I can’t tell you how much it helped us both process through it all.

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  • Our Story

    The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, "Because I drew him out of the water." - Exodus 2:10

    Read More»

  • Our Timeline

    • Application: 10-30-10
    • Began Home Study: 01-25-11
    • Completed Classes: 02-08-11
    • Home Study Approved: 03-08-11
    • Sent i600: 03-18-11
    • Sent Revised i600: 03-30-11
    • Sent Dossier: 05-26-11
    • Dossier Approved: 06-03-11
    • Girl: 103 | Boy: 81: 06-03-11
    • FDL: 06-06-11
    • Girl: 102 | Boy: 78: 06-10-11
    • Girl: 95 | Boy: 72: 07-15-11
    • Girl: 91 | Boy: 68: 08-19-11
    • Girl: 85 | Boy: 65: 09-16-11
    • Girl: 80 | Boy: 62: 10-24-11
    • Girl: 80 | Boy: 63: 11-22-11
    • Girl: 77 | Boy: 60: 12-22-11
    • Girl: 74 | Boy: 60: 01-31-12
    • Girl: 70 | Boy: 55: 02-29-12
    • Girl: 64 | Boy: 51: 03-30-12
    • Girl: 63 | Boy: 49: 04-30-12
    • IT'S A GIRL! REFERRAL! (switched agencies, got the paperwork a few days later) 05-04-12
    • Sent in dossier 05-21-12
    • Dossier approval 05-29-12
    • Requested I-600 re-fingerprinting date 06-11-12
    • Mailed referral paperwork 06-19-12
    • Dossier sent to Ethiopia 06-19-12
    • Got re-fingerprinting date 06-22-12
    • USCIS refingerprinting 07-10-12
    • WE GOT A COURT DATE!!! 08-08-12
    • Left for Ethiopia 08-13-12
    • Arrived in Ethiopia, met Elsa!! 08-15-12
    • Court Date - PASSED COURT! 08-17-12
    • Left Ethiopia for the US 08-20-12
    • Submitted to US embassy 11-07-12
    • BF to US embassy 11-26-12
    • CLEARED! Nate to US embassy 11-28-12
    • Nate and Elsa Banke home 11-30-12
    • Saw his profile 08-11-13
    • Sent AAI our inquiry 08-12-13
    • Said YES and sent formal application! 08-20-13
    • Formal contract submitted 09-16-13
    • Finished home study visits 09-16-13
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    Addis Ababa

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