Meeting Keza

Monday, May 31, 2010


Keza went to get her Medicals done today. Here's the scoop:

Keza is 23 inches long and weighs 11 1/2 pounds! I knew she was little, but somehow I still felt shocked when the nurse rattled off the numbers. 11 1/2 pounds at 5 months! My first baby was 10.6 pounds at birth, so as you can imagine, this feels so strange to me. I was feeling a little distressed about it and was imagining that the doctor would tell me how completely unhealthy or problematic she might be. I was pleasantly surprised.

The  doctor was a fiery red-head from Germany. She was a great doctor and it was obvious that she is very good at what she does. After examining Keza she told me that Keza looks awesome- better than most kids from institutions. She said that Keza is on the small side of things and whether or not that is due to living in the orphanage is unclear. What was clear was that Keza did not seem malnourished. According to her height she is in an OK weight range. She was pleased to see what an appetite Keza has and predicted that she will most likely gain weight pretty quickly. Keza was charming as usual and showed off her great social skills and responsiveness which the doctor was happy about.

I feel blessed. And reassured. And surprised. I was fully expecting that any child I was referred would undoubtedly have some health issues at first. Keza seems great at this point. I am excited to get home and see what my own wonderful doctor has to say about little Keza Noella.

Thank you, God, for good health and easy medicals.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Here and There

Keza Noella
My sweet baby girl
Hanging at Nairobi Java House
Hanna & Keza

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The last time we visited the orphanage was on Thursday when Keza and I went back to say our goodbyes. We had been to the Home of Hope many times and had by now frequented the baby room to pick Keza up for the day and then mournfully return her each night.

We walked with a Sister through the entire orphanage and adult home. I loved the men and women's wards. Old, wrinkly, mentally unstable, physically handicapped: the forgotten lined the rooms. The women and men alike had tears in thier eyes when they looked at Keza in my arms. We traveled to each bed and waited for a dry, wrinkled hand to touch her. One woman took my own hand and smelled it. Another kissed my arm. Another wouldn't let me go. It made me think of Rwanda, of the hundreds of thousands who have died, of a country where the median age is 18.5 because mothers and fathers are dead. These rare old souls, I realized, were once Rwanda. Now they are withered and confined. And how could they not love her, sweet little child that belongs to them, that started in them?

I loved the room of handicapped children. We all did. After leaving I thanked my mother for raising us the way she did. We were surrounded by the mentally and physically handicapped. We welcomed them into our home and cared for them. We were taught to be fearless, because they are people just as we are. Talking and touching these children my belief that God's holds people such as these in the center of His heart was magnified. They were so beautiful and so sweet.

The baby room was the hardest for me. Because Keza is only 5 months old, I didn't expect her to react a certain way while we were there. But, to my surprise, it was the hardest place for her as well. We walked into the room and were greeted by the workers and the cries of babies. Keza's lips and chin immediately started quivering and when the nuns and workers, sweet as they are, tried to hold her she burst into tears. It was obvious that she knew where she was, that she didn't want to be part of this room, that she was ready to leave. I held her tightly and whispered that she never would have to lay in this crib again and that she would always be mine. As I spoke to her I saw her brothers and sisters stacked in rows. Children that look just as she looks, that smell just as she smells, that sound just as she sounds, that need families just as she does.

The Sisters at Home of Hope are incredible. They love these children and care for them well. They do everything they can do. But it isn't enough. The babies never leave the room. They are held long enough to be fed and changed. How many hours might that take a day? One total? Maybe? And what of the other 23 hours? They lay on their backs, in a hot, stuffy, crowded, noisy room. They listen to the sounds of other children crying and being cared for. They don't have the kisses and the skin on skin. They don't have tickles and raspberries blown on their tummies. They don't have the security of parents and of family.

And I want them. I want them all.

After leaving the orphanage our Power of Attorney told me that every time she walks through the orphanage children ask her, "Are you going to bring me a family next?" I wonder if the little boy who held Heidi's hand asked that. I wonder if he knows he is HIV positive? I wonder if the little girl with the blue dress and bottomless brown eyes asked that? And I wonder, how many families could love these little ones if only would open thier eyes and see.

The sign in the courtyard of the Home of Hope says, "Make your life something beautiful for God." I've been thinking about that. I've been thinking that I have a lot to give, that I can bring something beautiful to dark places. And that I want my eyes to always be open.


The first time I entered the baby room at the orphanage I wasn't expecting it. The sisters had told me I could take a tour and visit later on in the week. So when I brought Keza back after the first day of having her I was surprised when a distracted nun told me to take Keza to the baby room myself. I was not prepared at all for what I was about to experience.

In years past I have been in orphanages. I have held parentless children. I have seen poverty and loneliness. But somehow, this time, it was all different. Maybe it is because I am a mother now. Maybe it's because it was my daughter I had to leave behind each day. Maybe I am just older and understand now what it means to have a family and to belong and, consequently, what it means to be alone.

When I first cracked the metal door that opened into a long, dark corridor we were swarmed with children like bee's to honey. They seemed to appear out of the cracks and crevasses in the walls. They would run to us and wrap their small arms around our legs until it was impossible to take the next step. At one point I looked back at my sister who was completely covered with children. The only part of her I could really see was her little face, which was beautifully streaked with pain and shock.

The baby room was hot, muggy and dim. Several workers tended to the babies who were packed into the cribs. Some children were crying, others stared at the ceiling above them, the rest slept, blocking out the noise around them. I knew it would be like this. But I didn't know it would feel as it did: the hollowed, emptied well in pit of my stomach, the helplessness, the woman in me shrinking in the backward evolution of understanding, becoming small and just a little girl again, watching and not understanding the world around me.

I searched the room for an empty crib and finally spotted hers, in the center of the room. I laid Keza in her crib and immediately loved the little boy beside her. He was so small and hot, his hair curled and licking his forehead. I touched his head and he didn't move. He just laid there, staring into space. I wanted to run.

We left quickly that day. The moment the metal door shut behind us we burst into tears. It took hours before the tears completely dried, and even now, weeks later, I am still fighting them.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rwanda 2

Rwanda Verses Congo professional soccer. Great fun until a referee got attacked, the crowds erupted, the police had to subdue, riots broke out and the game was canceled. Welcome to Kigali!
Afrika Bite, how I will miss you!
Exploring Rwanda
Keza Noella
We are lovin' Boscos art.
Mom and Heidi
We paid for laundry the next time!
Sweet Keza

Goodbye Rwanda, Hello Nairobi

I promise to publish some good posts soon, but for now, some pictures of our stay in Rwanda will have to do!

The Girls
Heidi Marie
Auntie Nyanja, Keza and Gramma
Kroners and Salmans unite!
waiting, waiting, waiting.
More waiting.
Veiw from our bedroom at Chez Lando. We miss it already.
Walking the Grounds at the Genocide Memorial.

Monday, May 24, 2010


For almost two years we have called our little girl Jubilee. As evidenced by the name of this blog, our conversations with all of you and even the decor in her room, we had settled on that name. It took one look. I understood immediately that she is Keza and she always will be. We will keep her name as it is. Keza means beautiful in Kinyarwandan and was given to her by the Sister who welcomed her into Mother Theresa's orphanage in the middle of the night last December 29th when she was only six days old.

What's most beautiful about all of this is that 'waiting for jubilee' is still appropriate. We will spend our lives celebrating her as all of our children. We have waited for her and dreamed of her and prepared for her. And now she is here. This is definately our year of jubilee.

Introducing Keza Noella

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Do you ever have a secret that you just want to hold onto? Your heart might fold around it, the treasured peices of your life, and you want to keep it forever to open quietly in places only known by you. I have a secret that I have held. A beautiful secret that I am now ready to unfold.

Yesterday I met my daughter. For the first time I opened my arms and empty air gave way to a small, soft little girl. She is perfect. Unbelievably perfect.

How do you tell the world? How do you possibly make someone understand the bottomless brown eyes? What words can wrap around the discovery of small hands as they reach for your hair, nose, lips, eyes? How do you explain what it means to be chosen, what it means to adopt, to cleave, to vow? How do you make someone understand love without a knowing, faith without sight, hope without assurance? And what of joy when love, faith and hope are tried and proven? How do I convince you, world, that a brown skinned, dark eyed, curly haired girl is truly my daughter? That she was chosen by the God of the Universe and placed in my arms?

I am in Africa. It's true.

As most of you know, we waited months for a referral. It didn't make any sense to us why we were seemingly falling through the cracks. Other families would come and go with their children while we were left waking each morning to the same realization: empty inbox.

We received our referral. At the last minute. And it was different than we imagined. We didn't rush to shout our good news from the rooftops. We didn't get on Facebook and spill our guts. We kept it tucked neatly in the hope of our hearts. I've taken a break from blogs and forums, chat groups and email. I have discovered that sometimes silence really is golden and that sometimes, some of your most intimate moments are worth treasuring in the vault of your heart before they are released.

When I first saw the bright blue doors my hands began to shake. All the sudden I felt as though I was waking from sleep, from a deep dream that I have been dreaming for years. All the planning and hoping and praying, all the work and tears, frustration and antisipation have been leading me to these doors. And then, suddenly, I was there.

The only two moments in my life that compare to meeting my daughter was meeting my Gideon and meeting my Maddox. It was nothing less than spectacular. She saw me and broke into the sweetest smile I have ever seen. I held her as she touched my hair and ran her small hands along my face: eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, chin. She was smaller and more beautiful than I ever imagined. She is dainty and feminine and fits in the crease of my arm perfectly. Only five months old, she is still such a baby. Her head bobbles and she can't yet sit on her own. She reaches to touch everything and is completely responsive. She smiles incessantly. I am captivated. Completely.

Welcome to the family, baby girl. We are going to love you forever.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One minute, mommy.

Maddox misses me. I am right beside him, but I’ve been distracted, my days filled with busyness and running around. Just a few minutes ago I tucked him into bed for his nap. When I bent down to give him a hug he wouldn’t let go of my neck. “One minute, mommy. One minute,” he said. So I laid down, our faces inches apart, and watched him fall asleep. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I listened to the only sound, his breathing. How I love him.

I love my children. I love them more than the next breath of air. Thank you, God, for my sweet babies. Thank you for chubby hands and little wrists. Thank you for big, blue eyes and little boy souls. And thank you for Jubilee, who someday soon I will hold in the crook of my arm. I will fight for her. I will cross the mountains and deserts, continents and seas to find her. I will love her, as I love all my children. My gifts from God.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Let Us In

I feel empty. It is seven am. I am curled on the couch, watching the sun inch up in the sky. Half way around the world the sun is setting on an orphanage in Kigali. And in some small space, my daughter waits.

I was told that Friday, today, was my cut-off day for being able to travel with this next group. Everyone thought we would have a referral since it has already been prepared, since it is sitting on a desk, since it is minutes of effort away from being sent.

This is the 2nd time I have been left behind by a group of travelers. I am so happy that the children that belong to these wonderful parents will finally have a family. I can’t deny my excitement and joy for them. Still, I am left with a question: What about us?

We are still here. We are still available and waiting and hoping. We still have a place in our hearts and in a home. There is still an empty void here. What about us? Why have we been forgotten and pushed to the side for months? What about Jubilee? What about a baby girl who needs a family? What about clean diapers and clean food and medicine and strong arms and a warm bed? What about two brothers and a mom and a dad and a clan of uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents? What about toys and books and play? What about belonging and security?

The frustration is mounting. We cannot change the lives of every orphaned child. But we can change one and we can influence many. Rwanda, let us in. We love the child you hold.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I. am. exhausted. My feet hurt, my back hurts, my head hurts. BUT, we did it! It's over and we had a successful two days despite the rain and 35 degree temperature dip!!!

The total: drum roll...$3, 679.00!

Our goal was $4000. We are still going to reach it! After our great success and the fact that we STILL don't have a referral, another sale is in order! I am thinking we will not only reach our goal, we will blow it through the roof!

We are dividing the proceeds four ways, 1/4 for each persons traveling costs and 1/4 to donate to the orphanage our little girl now calls home. Wouldn't it be something if we had several thousand dollars to donate for nutritious food and much needed medicine? Suddenly my backache and worn out body doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

We will be doing our next fund-raiser sale  in two weeks. THANK YOU to everyone who donated odds and ends to this sale! Your willingness to sort through closets and cupboards means more than you know to my family, to our daughter-to-be and to some of the children closest to God's heart: orphans in need.

Jubilee, we are coming for you soon!