On this day last year Dustin and I were meeting our son Jonas for the first time. You can watch the video* here.
We travelled with an awesome group of people who will forever come to mind at Christmas. We shared such amazing, life changing events together. I wish somehow I could hug them all today and share once again the joy of our experience.
You can visit some some of their blogs:
*Disregard the date at the beginning of the video. We were in Addis for a week before meeting Jonas working with some friends at Hope for the Hopeless. All those busy days bled together. When and I made this clip after we got home I guessed at the date and got it wrong. Thankfully sources more reliable than myself straightened me out.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
On this day last year Dustin and I were meeting our son Jonas for the first time. You can watch the video* here.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
I receoved an email from our Social Services Coordinator. She informed me that our home study (HS) has been submitted to corporate for their final review. The catch is everyone is out of the office for the holiday season. They get back the 3rd of Jan. She doesn't arrive until the 5th. If our HS been reviewed by then and is waiting in her inbox on the 5th she will submit it to the court.
I'm not holding my breath that the HS will have been reviewd by the 5th but I do hope and pray that it will be review before the end of that week. It would be very lovely if the court would have the approved HS back to us by February.
Ooooh I get tingles thinking about being able to request a court date soon!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I was recently reminded again of a special conversation Dustin and I had before we were married. Actually, I'm sure we had this conversation several times but I seem to be able to recall one in particular. We were doing as young lovers do, dreaming about our approaching wedding and the life we would share together. We talked about how we love our large families and dreamt of the one we hoped to build.
It was during this conversation that Dustin and I determined we'd like to have 5 children. At that time the number seemed a bit random. For some reason we couldn't explain we knew we wanted more than four. And six, well, that seemed like too many. But 5, well now, that was a number we could manage.
Then, we had our first child, followed closely by our second 16 months later. We wondered if maybe two would be enough.
Over time we grew more proficient in the art of multi tasking and confident that we were, in fact, decent parents. That was about the time the Lord decided to add baby girl #3 to the mix. By the time she was born we were convinced the main reason God brought us together at such a young age was to have enough energy to raise all the children He would give us.
When Dustin and I began our adoption journey that fateful May 2007 we knew from the very beginning we'd be adopting two boys from Ethiopia. Our intention for this was not simply to achieve our goal of five kids (the idea never crossed our minds), but more out of a desire that the boys be close in age so as to have each other as playmates. We knew it would be important for them to share the common bonds of adoption and race within the family.
As sure as we were felt that May about adopting two boys we didn't feel we should request two at the same time. We knew it would be less expensive for our family to adopt two boys simultaneously. We knew that bringing home two kids at once would be a tall order but not impossible. But, we just didn't have peace about it. So we requested a single child and waited to be matched with our spunky, sweet Jonas.
Whenever people would mention that they were requesting two boys at once I'd feel a strange twinge of something. I never did know what to call it... doubt, maybe? Often I wondered if we had made the right decision. Mostly, my concerns had to do with money and whether we truly would be able to afford to go back to Ethiopia and adopt a second son. I knew there would be more sacrifice involved for our other children in order for us to complete a second international adoption ( i.e. College fund? What is this thing you speak of?)
Last night I was overwhelmed at the realization of all the Lord has done to build up our family, and all the details He orchestrated to bring us to this point. I realized: Even when Dustin and I thought son #2 would be on the back burner for a while God was designing a way to bring him home. Not just any boy number two, but OUR number two. The RIGHT #2 for this family- A*.
It was surprising to us (but not the Lord), when shortly after we arrived home with Jonas we began to feel a pressing urgency to adopt again. It felt so sudden that we would immediately feel drawn to kids with special needs. When, through a series of twists and turns we ended up looking over AWAA's waiting child list right before Jonas' six month post placement visit with the social worker (SW) it felt to us as if the timing couldn't be more awkward. Who does that anyway? Who looks at a waiting child list like one day before the SW is due to arrive for their 6 month PP visit?
Apparently we do, because, there A* was. The just-right boy for us.
As we sat and talked with our SW during her visit about the idea of pursuing another child so soon after bringing Jonas home our vision suddenly became clear, and we realized that the Lord had been preparing us for A*, his HIV, and the care he would require all along. I found I was reciting a list of reasons why our family was the right match for A* and was surprised and how logical and sensible it all sounded coming out of my mouth. It was as if the Lord was speaking to me and through me at the same time. Our social worker responded in a shockingly agreeable way. She, too, seemed to believe we were a good fit for A*.
... You know the rest from there. You know how the Lord provided the finances we needed to make this happen.
Last night, I turned to Dustin after I had been sitting quietly thinking and said out of the blue, "Oh my goodness! If we had requested two boys at once we never would have gotten A*."
"I know." He understood without skipping a beat, seemingly having read all my previous thoughts.
"How horrible would that have been!?"
"I KNOW!" (That's my man of few words for ya.)
It was then that I understood, possibly better than I ever have before, how everything HAD to happen this way.
The Lord has been preparing a place in this family for A* long before we ever realized it. Not just A*, but all of our children. He's timed each one of their entries perfectly, divinely. While I've always know that, somehow, I comprehend it better now. Little did Dustin and I know the night we dreamed- a little over a decade ago, now- of what our future held that we truly were meant to raise five kids after all (with another two waiting for us in heaven). The seeds of all our hopes for the future were planted in us by God. They've been watered by His faithfulness ever since.
Soon our family will be complete. A* will come home and that feeling- that unfinished feeling- will be gone forever.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
I received an email around 7pm tonight (someone's working late!) from our family coordinator (FC) that we have permission to send A* a care package. YEAH!
I had a hunch today that I ought to get started on a photo book for him just in case. The email came as I was finishing up. I made ours at Shutterfly.com. I was able to include lots of photos of our family, our home, an airplane, airport scenes, cars, etc., in an 8x8 hard cover book.
A* can at least have an idea of what to expect once we arrive there. I was able to include some Amharic too. Not much, though. It took waaaay too long accomplish the little I did. (um, like most of the day) I had to edit photos and create overlays with the Amharic font since Shutterfly wouldn't allow me to copy/paste it into their program. I had to scan the text as a photo and then edit it unto the other photos. I was able to do only a few words like, dad, mom, sisters, brother, airplane, my home, my journey because the process took so long.
Oh well, it's the thought that counts. At least the nannies can read those few words to him. I know several of the care takers can read English. I have no clue if they often have contact with our boy, let alone enough time to sit down and read to him. Even without the text in English, the pictures will be beneficial.
I'm so excited!
Our THANKS to the Shaw family for offering to bring over the care package for us. They will be traveling very soon to get their precious little girl!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
It's been so difficult for me this second second round with AWAA simply because the YG (yahoo group) has grown so much that I find it difficult to get to know new families to the program. So, I made it my mission today to spend time tracking down paperchasers and recent DTE-ers (that's Dossier To Ethiopia in adoption speak) and get to know their families a little bit. It's my way of trying to bring back some of the personal relationships that made our first adoption experience so special.
I'm sharing a list of some of their blogs here:
Two very special families I've grown especially fond of who are about to travel in January:
Thursday evening I received the draft of our Home Study (HS) for review. After looking it over I was able to give the green light for our Social Worker (SW) to submit it. I'm not sure the timeline for submission- she may have to send it to corporate for a once over before the court here receives the final draft. Again, we're shooting for about one month for approval.
After approval, well hold on to your seats, things should start moving quickly. Our dossier is ready to go! Once it arrives in Addis Ababa our agency will request a Court Date (CD) for us. They tell us a CD could happen 4-12 weeks from the date of their request.
Of course, We're always praying for a CD that is sooner rather than later in interest of A*'s health.
Since we signed on again to the program we haven't been able to receive any updates on A*'s health, nor any pictures of him. The reason for this is because we don't have an approved HS and since we have no HS we can't have an official referral (and still don't because we can't sign for him until the court approves our HS) I've written our Family Coordinator (the women who oversees our entire adoption from dossier on down) to ask if she would permit some friends of ours, who will travel early Jan to pick up their positive daughter, to take some photos of A* and deliver a care package to him from us. She is checking into it. Oh my, I'm praying so hard the answer is yes!
I came across this checklist which details questions that are helpful for parents to ask the caregivers who worked with their adopted child in the orphanage. Since international APs can't assess whether or not their child has delays in his native language it is highly beneficial they utilize the help of those who know their child. Especially since a child's development in their native language can be a good indicator of how well he'll do learning a second language.
Friday, December 18, 2009
We didn't have to worry much about language with Jonas. I had expected and planned for speech delays but, turns out, the boy is a chatter box and naturally seems to be a more verbal person. (Especially for a boy; which is great because he's just another loudmouth in a family full of 'em.) Jo is caught up with his peers in terms of his vocabulary. His speech becomes more and more clear every day. Every indication is that he will continue on this path making strong gains into the future.
I am now turning my sights on what life will be like when A* arrives home. I've got a lot more research to do. For now I thought I'd share the helpful article I stumbled across.
I believe I've mentioned here before that I'm working on picture cue cards for A*. It is my hope the pictures will be helpful for him as he learns his new routine with us. I'll definitely post here once we get to try them and let you know if I found them helpful or not.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Here's a link to a list of antiretroviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV.
This list is specific to treatment of pediatric HIV. Some people will find this list helpful for figuring out cost of the drugs whether on their insurance plans or private pay.
A friend on Facebook suggested Jotham's Journey for good family reading during Advent, so I picked up a copy. I'm glad I did.
I have been amazed at this writer's story telling capabilities. Our children have been enthralled, and, more surprising than that, my husband actually complained at the end of a night's reading when we couldn't read on. You have to know Dustin to know he's not easily hooked into emotionally investing in a story, so this speaks highly of Jotham's Journey and the story's powerful message.
I just discovered the book is part of a trilogy titled Jotham's Journey Trilogy. The other two titles can be found by following the link I've posted above. I plan to pick up both of them for use during Advents to come.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Hi bloggy friends. I've got lots to catch you up on.
First, we had our final post placement visit with Jonas's social worker. The remainder of our annual reports (until he turns 18) will be self written. I can't believe we are officially finished with adoption paperwork. Yahoo00!
The good news is Jonas's social worker will also be A*'s social worker, so we get to keep seeing her. This makes us happy. (I think I've mentioned a few thousand times how much we adore our social worker.)
A*'s homestudy isn't yet complete. There have been a few delays with revisions. We're waiting patiently for the review copy to arrive here any day. If it all checks out on our end they will submit our HS to the court. We're praying for a speedy approval by the court. To have the HS returned to us in one month would be awesome.
We continue to pray for A*'s health and that the Lord prepare his little heart for all that is about to happen to him.
I haven't had much time to learn more Amharic phrases lately (I've only got so much room and my Scripture memory of the book of James is using most of my brain power) but I hope to get crackin' the first of the year. I will also be making laminated picture cards of our daily schedule for A*, including cards for when he will need to take his medicine. Again, all of this to happen quickly after the New Year.
I addition to all this, lately, I've been writing. The Lord really inspired me to write a children's picture book about adoption (you'll be hearing more about it in weeks to come.) It is basically finished (still tweaking the last few bits) and I am preparing to launch my little baby out into the world of literary agents and publishers. (Eeek!) I'm looking to join a critique group but have to figure out when I could possibly fit that in with everything else I've got going on.
Oh, and our middle daughter Rory has been very ill. She's missed more school than any parent would ever feel comfortable with. You know, enough to make her sisters jealous and to ruin her from ever wanting to return. (She groused about her first day back to school this morning, informing me that she felt sure she wouldn't mind staying home forever) This Wednesday we'll followup with an ENT to see if her tonsils need to be removed. She's pretty adamant that she will NOT permit any such thing. It will be interesting, indeed, if the doc does decide she requires surgery.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Recently, a post by Russell Moore titled Jesus Has AIDS has caught the attention of many people. I have been pleased to see such a positive reaction to the message.
When I saw Sean's picture I immediately thought of this man. I'm sure Nick's parents shudder to imagine missing out on the joy and richness life with their son creates.
If you can't parent a special needs child would you consider helping a family who can? Look for ways to donate to special needs adoption grants, such as Reece's Rainbow or others, and gift the blessing of parenthood this Christmas to a family with a heart for these kids.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
My friend Lenka worked hard on an awesome post that has links to all kinds of GREAT shopping for Christmas gifts. The best part is that you can give gifts this year with a purpose. Each of these "stores" use their profits to do greater good. Buy something fun and help a great cause at the same time. What could be better?!
My friend Mark and his wife make the Dynamic Deal Duo. Mark made a list of free Christmas music. It was too wonderful a list and he spent too much time on his post to keep this treasure to myself. So friends, enjoy!
BTW- Mark works for World Orphans. Maybe you want to check out the work they are doing and write him to see how you can join in?
Friday, December 4, 2009
I've mentioned Sassy Granny- Kathleen- before. She's written another precious post I just had to share with you here. Her words are such a wonderful reminders of what this season is all about.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
There is a wonderful family with our agency (America World Adoption Association) whose patience and endurance are inspiring to me. I had asked my readers to pray for them once before when they lost their daughter Julianna Ashure unexpectedly after they had passed court and while they were waiting to travel to Ethiopia to pick her up.
Now, the precious Reed family has no more than just stepped off the plane returning home with their second Ethiopian daughter, Maura Ruhama, and are faced with another dark trial. Maura Ruhama is suffering from a very serious cardiac condition that was only discovered upon her first US doctor's visit. Currently, baby Maura is in the hospital while doctors are determining the best course of action for this beloved child. There was mention of a possible heart transplant.
Please, friends, pray for this family. Pray especially for Maura Ruhama. Seek healing for her and wisdom for her doctors. Pray for peace for a little girl who has just had her universe rocked by the transition out of the only world she's ever known into the loving arms of gentle parents who are just beginning to become more than strangers to her now. Pray for her as she faces more strangers armed with pokes, machines, and anxiety inducing procedures. Join me in asking God that for every tiny measure of suffering and pain little Maura is enduring that a double measure of His Spirit would be poured over her. Maura Ruhama belongs to Jesus and we rejoice that He is taking care of her!
You can meet the faithful and inspiring Reed family at their blog, here:
Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)
6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
World AIDS day is today. In an effort so raise awareness and combat the sigma associated with HIV/AIDS I'm participating in the Tell 2 Campaign. The goal is for every person to share the facts about HIV/AIDS with just two people. Together we can make an impact and increase awareness about a virus which is ravaging the globe. Together we can eradicate the stigma which burdens so many suffering with the disease.
Please join me by dedicating your status on Facebook today or a post on your blog to this topic. Then, tell at least two people about it. Ask them to do the same.
Here are some facts about HIV.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and it is the virus that if left untreated, can progress and develop into AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and occurs when HIV advances and weakens the immune system to the point that the body can no longer fight off illness and infections.
There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS, however, the medications that are now available to treat HIV are highly effective. HIV is now considered a chronic yet manageable condition in the United States and in other countries where treatment is readily available. Children who receive the proper treatment and medications are expected to live well into adulthood and have close to normal or normal life expectancies. Many people are now living with HIV for indefinite periods of time without developing AIDS.
HIV is not spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, changing diapers, bathing, swimming or any other causal way.
It has been proven that HIV and AIDS can only be spread through sexual contact, birth, breast milk and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles). HIV is not transmitted through urine, stool, snot, tears or sweat.
The lower the amount of HIV virus in a persons body the lower their risk of transmitting their virus to another. Think in terms of HIV being like concentrated orange juice. If you mixed orange concentrate according to the directions into a pitcher of water you would have more parts orange concentrate to water as compared to mixing that same can of concentrate into a swimming pool. Your odds of running into an orange concentrate in the swimming pool are greatly decreased as compared to in the pitcher. People who are managing the virus effectively with medications arel ike the swimming pool while those who do not receive treatment continue to see the concentration of virus in their bodies rise.
Medications can reduce the amount of HIV in a person's system to the point that the HIV is considered "undetectable", meaning there is only a very tiny amount of virus in the person's system. This does not mean the person is cured, it simply means the virus has been managed effectively through medication so that the amount present in the body cannot be detected by tests.
It is always recommended and wise to use universal precautions when dealing with blood spills.
It is also helpful to know that the risk of transmitting HIV through a bloody nose or skinned knee or something of the sort is minimal. This is especially true for a person that is on HIV medications.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I'm a people person to the core. That is not to say I typify a people person, (sometimes I can be introverted and reserved, shy even.) only that I value relationships above anything else.
People are some of God's best gifts! One of my favorite things to do is to thank God for his handiwork in making people. I love to take attributes that I enjoy in others and thank our Creator for them. I think God enjoys this act as much as I do.
I discovered something about myself a few years ago. I realized that I have an ability to express my emotions with ease and that it would be beneficial for me to take my inward act of thanking God for people and make it a bit more public.
It rarely costs me anything to give a compliment, in fact I enjoy it. I never flatter. I have only trained myself to say what I naturally believe to be true. It seems so silly to me that I should ever withhold a kind word from anyone who might benefit from it in some small way. And so I have given myself permission to speak my mind freely in all matters concerning the positive attributes of others and my emotional fondness for them. I assume that the Maker of my BIG mouth has a purpose for it and that purpose is to use it in a way that honors Him while blessing others. So, I use my mouth often. I'd say as often as I can. (wink, wink) My intention is to love Jesus by loving others through words (at least. But not only).
This week I've felt God nudging me over and over again to consciously apply my efforts toward continually thanking Him. I tried to do this for as much as I could think of. I decided on a whim early this morning that I wanted to write each of my Facebook friends and express my gratitude for having them in my life. I have 291 friends on Facebook which meant that I would be typing out 291 personal notes. No copy and paste garbage for these precious folks.
I have been more blessed by this expression than I ever could have imagined.
As I took time to think about each person on my friend list I was blessed to recall the richness they have personally brought to my life. Fond memories, shared struggles, common bonds all came flooding back to my mind resulting in a deep and satisfying gratitude toward God and a genuine worship of Him.
But, it's just like God to never to be out-given. He's placed so many truly wonderful friends in my life that they all began writing me back and sending me kind words to bless my socks off. Thus they increased my thankfulness and joy a million times over.
Glory to God!
2 Corinthians 9:6-15*
*I know this passage is speaking about financial giving but I believe it applies to the kind of giving I referred to above; That kind of generous expression of good will and love toward others. I am also reminded of Galatians 5:22
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
"He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Who says miracles don't happen? They're crazy.
People, I haven't written to relay our good news, because, well, I've been speechless for a while now. I've been treasuring things in my own heart. I've been enjoying thanking God quietly, just between the two of us but I can't keep quiet any longer. I have to share our wonderful news.
Between the donations we received for the garage sale, some generous Paypal donors and some Just Love Coffee sales together with the generosity of certain married couple who are humble and extremely generous donors the Lord has provided for our dossier submission fees. ALL of them.
*GASP* I can't even believe I am able to type that sentence out!
Who does that kind of thing?
People who care about orphans more than they care about themselves. That's who.
We are so humbled. It's hard to find the right words to express the amount of gratitude we feel for such gifts. It won't keep me from trying, though! It's super important to us to make sure people know just how much we've benefited from the faithfulness and support of others. We couldn't have done this alone.
What more is there to say than THANK YOU!? Thanks to all of you for loving us and for loving A* even while you don't know him yet! Thank you for living life with your eyes, hearts and hands wide open and with a willingness to live a faith that bleeds. WE. LOVE. YOU.
Thank you God our Provider for answering our prayers in an unmistakable and unexpected way. May You receive ALL the glory, honor and praises You are due!
We are still saving for our travel fees and airfare but are confident that we are able to cover those expenses quickly. I feel as if a weight has been lifted off knowing that money will not prevent A* from coming home in a timely manner.
This is another door flung wide open to prepare the speedy arrival of our second son.
I'm in danger of becoming a broken record but I have to say it one more time: God provides for special needs kids and the families that endeavor to rely on Him to meet their needs!!! If you are a family that is standing on the edge of taking a leap of faith for a special needs child I encourage you to keep praying for God to move mountains and watch what He does!
Galatians 6:2- Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
John 13:35- By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
1John 4:7- Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
John 13:14- A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another.
Our official theme song for this adoption:
Thursday, November 19, 2009
We met with some of the team at the Bill Holt Clinic today. They will be treating A*'s HIV.
The Doctor was so gentle. There's no other way to describe her but that she has a sweetness about her that I imagine translates extremely well with children.
The one nurse I was able to meet was very informative and supportive.
Together they informed us of what to expect and how things will progress when A* comes home.
As we slid into our private elevator Dustin and I waited until the doors closed to begin sharing our excitement and thoughts about the meeting. By the time we got to the ground floor Dustin looked at me and said,"I'm ready"
I responded with the redundant "For what?"
"For A* to come home!"
My thoughts exactly.
PS- As I type this our SW is typing up our Home Study. I know this because she's emailing me with questions about the proper spelling of our doctor's names, etc., as she types. If she can get this thing submitted before the end of the month we hope to have the HS back before the end of Dec (which may or may not be realistic with the holidays). Then, we can submit our dossier and it should be in Addis Ababa before the end of Jan.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I was just made aware of these books published in Canada for children living with HIV/AIDS. I plan to purchase two of the titles- Hope, Wishes, and Dreams, as well as Bye-Bye Secrets. I'll be sure to review them here once I finish them.
I've been discouraged to find that there are few books written for children living with HIV/AIDS. If anyone has suggestions for children's books on the topic I'd love to hear them!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Today I'm making one of my favorite seasonal dishes. If you like pork chops and apple sauce then this slow cooker recipe is bound to please.
2 cups Apple Cider
1 1/2- 2 lbs Pork Loin
2 Large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 whole butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I use about half of that)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
Heat 1 cup cider in hot skillet and sear all sides of the pork tenderloin.
Season pork with salt & pepper. Add pork and juices to slow cooker. Add second cup of cider to slow cooker.
In a bowl combine apples and squash with raisins and seasonings and toss well.
Cover pork with apple/squash mixture.
Cook low for 5-6 hours. Makes 4-6 servings
To serve: Slice pork thickly and serve topped with apples/squash mixture
I like to serve this dish with a side of mashed potatoes. I use the left over juices to make a tangy-sweet gravy. If you need more liquid for gravy simply add chicken broth. The key to a yummy gravy, in my opinion, is lots of pepper. It balances out the sweet of the cider.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The Bible teaches us the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1- Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Not to qualify the language of that verse, but I like to include in my mind the thought that I ought to be actively taking steps in my life that are congruent with my sure and certain faith. In other words I like to recall to my mind James' counsel on the subject:
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James' point was highlighted for me recently in an unexpected way.
My mom and I were in a cafe enjoying each other's company when she asked for a full update on all things concerning her eldest child. As I recounted for her all of the great need Dustin and I had, and all of the many trials we were facing my heart grew heavy. Her first response was, "Wow, that's alot!" She immediately followed up with, " I can't wait to see how God works through all of this!"
In that moment my conscience was pierced. Somehow, since those first weeks of stepping out in faith in pursuit of A*'s adoption I had allowed myself to feel sorry for our circumstances. And in my feeling sorry for myself I had allowed my faith to slip off track. It wasn't just that I didn't verbalized things in the same way my mom had, it was something deeper. I was no longer moving forward expectantly, actively looking for God's glory in the situation.
I wondered how my thoughts and emotions could translate into faithful deeds during this time of testing? For if they couldn't would my faith be genuine at all? I wondered even further: How could I go from telling anyone who would listen that Dustin and I were full of confidence in God's future grace for our family and His sustaining provision to wrestling hard with feelings of discouragement?
Talking the talk and walking the walk.... well, you know which is easier.
In that very moment I came to believe God was demanding some deeds out of my professed faith. I became very aware that there is a very fine line between lamenting and grumbling for me and I didn't want to cross it. I knew the Holy Spirit was pointing me toward being very careful about how I chose my words as I relay our current struggles in the future. Why? Because Matthew 12:34b says- Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
My mother's inadvertent statement of faith that God would work through all of our difficulties stood in cheerful contrast to the dim emotions I had been feeling deep inside and was convinced was bubbling up through my speech.
Since that lunch date with my mom I've worked hard to express my faith through deeds by tempering my thoughts and speech with thankfulness for blessed opportunities to walk this faith walk.
I'm not here to say that expressing anything other than a chipper expectancy that God will work all things together for a person's good is what is required of anyone facing trials. I'm simply saying that, for me, my faith expressing itself through deeds happens to require that I make constant deliberate decisions about how I will frame my circumstances in thought and verbalization. For, how can I say I'm confident in God's future grace out one side of my mouth and then say woe is me out the other side? Either God cares deeply about me or He doesn't.
I'm happy to tell you today that I am grateful for God's redirection of my attitude. He has shifted my focus off of our circumstances at present and on to Him. His gift to me in all of this is Himself and the comfort I find in knowing Him. I love that God is able to shepherd me even when my emotions wander off on a tangent. His faithfulness is so comforting!
Through these trials, while all the strings are still left dangling, and the questions are yet unanswered, God is refining mine and Dustin's faith and developing our perseverance. That's a good thing. And so, I'm still working hard to:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~James 1:2-4
*In an unrelated note I wanted to tell you that christianaudio.com is offering free downloads this entire month of John Piper's Desiring God audiobook. The coupon code is DG2009. (just enter the code at checkout)
I've just begun the book but can tell you that I already love it. There is a lot to process and pray through.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Anyone who knows me in real life knows I'm super forgetful. I don't know what the deal is. Obviously I can be thoughtful at times but there's a whole other side of me that is absolutely out to lunch. I mean it.
So, when I decided to start up a Wednesday Bible study group and commit to memorizing the book of James (Yes, you read that right, THE ENTIRE BOOK of James) for the purpose of hiding the word in our hearts and developing a new discipline, I was excited but lacked confidence that I could, in fact, pull it off.
As you might suspect I didn't have many takers joining my group. But, 3 brave, beautiful souls signed up to take the crazy challenge along with me.
We're a no guilt group. That means we have a rough outline of the number of verses we'd like to have memorized each week, but life happens and if something gets in the way and we don't have everything memorized for the week we press on guilt free. No looking back. Only looking forward.
One tool we've used to keep each other going while reinforcing what we're learning is to type emails to each other from memory going as far as we can. Then we either self check our work and underline the parts we need to work on or send it off for others to check. It's been immensely helpful for me.
To this day everyone in our group has done an amazing job memorizing and has made major progress!
For my personal progress I am pleased to announce that for the first time in my life I have enjoyed real success in my attempt to memorize Scripture. I have now officially committed to memory the first chapter of James and I was able to do it within two weeks. Thanks, in large part, to our group's emailing system.
Now the real feat will be in securing it there and seeing to it that nothing goes running off!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Often when people talk with me about our adoption they want to know what it is like to have to open your home to a social worker. I can relate. Before Dustin and I took the plunge our main source of apprehension came from the idea of having our lives scrutinized under a microscope.
Dustin and I are not perfect people. We both have "histories". We were terrified we'd be judged harshly by a social worker. We didn't feel warm fuzzies at the idea of being graded on our acceptability as parents. Social workers seemed to us to be some kind of checklist loving nitpicks.
Turns out we had it all wrong. A social worker's job isn't to judge perspective adoptive parents. While they are there to determine your accceptability as parents it isn't what you might think. A social worker wants to support families and encourage their success. They want to help determine what needs parents will be best able to meet for a child/ren. They want to equip parents and to be a resource for them. They are not the enemy.
Most refreshing of all, our experience with social workers has been that they are surprisingly realistic. Turns out they don't walk through your home doing white glove tests to ensure your housekeeping is immaculate. Nor do social workers care if your home decor is modern or country in style. The don't mind sitting on a couch that a child has drawn on with crayon. (Trust me) It seems they only want to know your home is filled with love and is safe to place a child in.
So, if you've been tossing around the idea of adoption and apprehension about the home study process has been a hang-up for you I want to encourage you to contact me. You can pick my brain about the process, types of questions asked, anything. Truly. My email is in my profile info. Feel free to write any time.
In similar news I finished my last visit with our family's super awesome social worker today. We are one step closer to bringing A* home! Yipee! We also have our 12 month post placement visit with her scheduled for the beginning of December.
A friend cracked me up today mentioning how insane we are to be doing another adoption while we are finishing up paperwork from the first one. I totally agree! Whose idea was this anyway?
Monday, October 26, 2009
Of all the HIV resources I've devoured while researching and preparing for A* to come home this book earns my vote, hands down, for the fastest read with the most informative bang for your buck.
May I recommend*: 100 Questions and Answers about HIV and AIDS
This book is written in a conversational style which makes it a breezy, engaging read while doing a great job of providing the required amount of science. The questions are cross referenced which I found to be very helpful. The book also contains helpful information about the various types of ARVs and their side effects, etc.
I'm planning to give it as a gift to all the grandparents this Christmas.
* I have not been paid in any way to promote this book
Also please note the link to the right for our online Coffee Store at Just Love Coffee Roasters. $5 from every bag you purchase at our store will go directly toward our adoption expenses. Happy brewing :-)
Friday, October 23, 2009
We went to our appointment today at USCIS to have our biometrics recorded for A*'s visa. Unbelievably, we made it in immediately and were completely finished within a half hour. Amazing! So, that's it. Done.
Next Tuesday is my last HS visit with our SW. Just waiting on that HS to be approved by the state court and our dossier will be finished :-)
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Seeing as ours was an interracial family before we brought our son Jonas home from Ethiopia (my sister-in-law and brother-in-law are an interracial couple with bi-racial children) our extended family already had experience dealing with various curiosities and questions about interracial marriage.
I have often been asked how we plan to raise our sons to select a wife. It seems to be an intriguing idea to people (surprisingly, not trans racial families but others outside of the adoption sphere.) One questioner in particular was implying that they expected we would steer our boys toward black women exclusively.
I've heard some pretty wacky things come out of people's mouths (people who are even close to me. Christian people who wouldn't think of their ideas as being racist) regarding why they believe it's better for the resulting kids if people don't marry "outside their race". Another annoyingly ignorant position is this crazy idea that the races should remain "pure". Whatever the heck that means.
I'm appalled at people's notions to be blunt. I've struggled within myself to remain calm as I've felt the heat rising in me during these conversations, to temper my inward reactions with love, and to strive to come up with a way to clearly express what I believe is the truth about interracial marriages and families. I've been burdened to pray for friends who, I believe, are behaving in ignorance on the subject.
It's difficult for me because I'm a fight or flight kind of person. It's often the case that I either throw off my gloves and go at a conflict hard and heavy or shy away desiring peace. Truth cannot be sacrificed to avoid conflict and so it must be spoken. I realize that, on this subject, I cannot give peace where there is none and so I must learn to handle myself well. I need to figure out how to operate somewhere between fight and flight.
John Piper has written an excellent article which addresses the issue far better than I ever could. His words have helped me to frame my response to the totally wacked out stuff I hear. It's my prayer that every time I'm confronted with opposing ideas my response will be refined and my message will become clearer.
I encourage everyone, not just trans racial AP's, to follow this link :
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I love this video on the dignity of life, God's sovereignty and disabled child made in the image of God. Take a moment to watch how Chuck Colson and R.C. Sproul view their special needs grandchildren.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I've got the final visit with our SW on the books for Tues the 27th.
I'm not sure how long it will take her to type up our HS but I assume it's going to be relatively quick because 1) she's professional and prompt in all our dealings 2) she has the existing framework of our previous Home Study to work from. All she will need to do is update a few ages and add the changes in request to include A*'s special needs. I don't think it will take her more than 2 weeks to finish and submit to the courts.
As I mentioned before it seems the courts in our state are still returning HS approvals in about a month. If that's the case for us the timeline is proving true. Our dossier should make it to ET by Christmas. Which puts us on track for a court date in the new year and travel sometime early-mid spring.
On the home front the kids are all doing great. We're healthy once more. Finally! The girls are loving school and doing quite well. They've made lots of friends there too.
Yesterday Jonas strung his first two words together and said "it dropped." I was really excited. Of course the "it" was a huge glass of water which splashed all over the floor. Never mind the details, though.
Ever since Jo came home he's enjoyed a particular fondness for the consonant D. Jonas repeats his beloved consonant with various vowel combinations often throughout the day. De, Da, Doh, Duh, Doo, Day is his banter when he's really communicating something important to me. You should see his face. He's so serious about it. He does his Ethiopian head nod and cracks me up! Jonas loves the letter D so much that I'm thinkin' I need to get him a spot on Sesame Street when D is the letter of the day.
Because of his D obsession, dah-dee (daddy) was Jonas' first and favorite word. After learning how to say mah-mee he's now reverted to calling me daddy again. HAHAHA Now Dah-dee is back with a vengeance and, let me tell you, it's kind of embarrassing when, in public place, your son walks around pointing to people all over asking "Dah-dee?" A black man looked at me like "This poor child doesn't know who his daddy is." Then, he saw white momma and really wondered what the heck was going on! hahaha
Monday, October 12, 2009
Our rummage sale yielded $1000.00. I think that's pretty awesome for two days.
We have a few larger furniture pieces left over which I will be listing on Craigslist. Also we have a few specialty items which we realized would fetch more money if we sold them on ebay. I think after those things are sold we'll have close to $1500.00.
Because we are adopting with AWAA a second time they offer a 10% discount on all their fees. We've paid in two months, thus far (including the 10% discount given) : $4,862.25
Our next installment will be a biggie. I calculate that we will owe $11,600.00 in about two months.
We'll gladly accept any and all prayers on our behalf related to the provision we require!
The saying comes to mind: How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Friday, October 9, 2009
We held a garage sale this weekend to help earn some money to apply towards our adoption expenses for A*.
Some friends might remember we did a big fundraising garage sale with 2 other families who were adopting from Ethiopia a little over a year ago. The multi family garage sale we had that year was epic. I mean it. So many generous friends and family gave donations that our ENTIRE carport, back patio, storage room, and several bedrooms in our home will filled to capacity last time. We had so much stuff I was panicking that we wouldn't sell it all. I had no clue what we would do if we didn't.
Start a resale shop, maybe?
Thankfully most everything did sell (and what didn't went to a friend to raise money for medical bills for her mom) We 3 families split $5000.00 for our efforts and were elated!
While our sale this year is a bit smaller it's definitely more manageable for just our family. Though, our same wonderful friends who worked with us last time are back at it again, lending a helping hand. We have some of the best friends!
We are so thankful for your help, Kim, Brooke, Julie and Mark!!!
Have you ever noticed that there's a certain culture to garage salers? They are a breed all their own. The people watching never disappoints at these events.
This year we had many return customers. Some of the more colorful shoppers showed up in full force much to my amusement!
One particular woman who came back again was a woman my dear friend Julie had to get firm with last year when she caught the woman greedily rolling and compressing clothes into a 5$ fill-a-bag we offered. She piled the clothes so high over the top of her sack that Julie just couldn't let her get away without charging her for half a bag while pointing to the sign which said "Adoption Garage Sale Fundraiser." (I realize it isn't reading as humorous as it truly was because you just had to be there to see it. But, trust me, it was a hand-over-my-mouth in disbelief, don't-burst-uncontrollably-into-laughter kind of moment.)
Our over-stuffing friend was back this year dismayed to find we learned from last year and marked items individually. hahaha Of course she still complained that we were selling near new children's jumpers and jeans for fifty cents.(No stains people! Not faded one bit.... worn maybe twice)
The outrage!? How could we?
I guess we're greedy to get our son home like that ;-)
Another woman I'll refer to as Ms Indecisive came back again this year too. She's the one who asked all about items and haggled us down to a really good price only to leave. Then, she'd come back and buy one item at a time. She did this several times at varying intervals from 10 minutes to an hour. Sometimes she even came back to buy some random thing she didn't even act interested in the first time around. One time she parked pretty quickly, jumped out and went looking for some other item that had already sold, much to her dismay.
Seriously, she cracked me up! I guess she's been burned by buyers remorse once to many times and likes to stew on things for a bit. Maybe she has a commitment phobia. Whatever the case she's a hoot.
Then there are the people who steal. We've had them every time. I can't say I understand adults who behave this way. My feelings about people who steal are that if they need it that bad; God bless them. But it should be noted they just stole from my baby boy and I know God's not going to be very pleased with that.
I especially enjoy the garage salers who just love to get out on a cool morning and do some chatting with neighbours and maybe shop a little.
I love to hear people's stories. The older people are my favorite. They talked to me about how when they were a child and how they had a thing-a-ma-bobber just like this and they used it for this or that. Or, they'll just shoot the breeze while explaining to us about some mysterious contraption we're selling and don't know what it is. I enjoy watching them use their years of expertise in the art of being thrifty (for many, like my grandmother, had to learn this art the hard way during the great depression)
Garage sales are sentimental in a way because I enjoy seeing objects our family enjoyed and used going to a good new home. I so appreciate items that were lovingly donated to our cause being purchased by folks who will have their needs met for a good price.
I *may* have let a few items go for less than they were worth (I'm a horrible haggler that way) but there's something in me that's wired to be a giver, I guess. It's so hard for me to charge people for items that we're graciously given to me. I understand I might need some better boundaries but I'd also rather be a softy on that matter than run the risk of being too stingy.
In the end we made $800 for today. Not bad at all!
Tomorrow we wake up the crack of dawn, brew some coffee and do it all again.
Ah, yes, a good garage sale is so satisfying. Especially since the proceeds bring us one step closer to bringing A* home.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Dustin and I received our biometrics appointment dates in the mail. We'll be going October 23rd.
The saga continues.
I case you've forgotten the joys of our dealings with USCIS I've come up with a convenient numbering system to help track our various experiences with the fine folks there. May I remind you of appointments 1.0 (which was so devastating I posted about it twice), 1.1, and 1.2.
We would endure any number of visits, though, because we've got a precious boy waiting on us. He is oh SOOO worth it!
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Okay, so by now I think we all know about how our kiddos adopted from Ethiopia are considered immigrants until readoption in the US.
I wanted to write today about the vaccination requirements for immigrants. To see a list go to: http://www.immihelp.com/greencard/vaccination-requirements.html
In the case of HIV+ children the issue becomes whether or not is is medically profitable for the child to receive these vaccinations. Because of a diminished ability to fight off infection it is often advantageous to stagger immunizations for these children. In the Visa process parents of children 10 years or younger can apply for a waiver HERE. They must attest that they will vaccinate the child within 30 days or "at the earliest time it is medically appropriate." This will allow them to delay their child's vaccinations until they become medically beneficial for their child.
Adopted children who are 11 or older are subject to the immigrant vaccination requirement. This was another cited reason for the FACE Act as proposed by EACH
The issue of the vaccination requirements for immigrants is a heated debate right now as problems surface with regard to blanket requirements. I completely understand the need and benefit of vaccinations. I also see how the CDC might want to consider adjusting their regulations based on age.
To read up on how these requirements play out in real life for child immigrants I offer for your consideration a story about how Gardasil was added to the list of recommended vaccines, and became an immigration requirement. It seems like even the advisory council that recommended Gardasil to be added didn't mean for it to be an immigration requirement.
Now that is is a requirement you can see how a girl's ability to gain citizenship was affected when she refused to receive the Gardisil injection. There are two articles about her case. Here and Here
Friday, October 2, 2009
The Lord is so good. I found out this afternoon that Surafel received the money he needed for his trip and that the funds we were going to give are no longer needed. That means we can keep the proceeds from the fundraiser and apply them toward our adoption expenses.
Yahoo for God's provision on both counts!
Have I mentioned this family has been sick almost constantly since the girls began school? (Warning: I'm about to complain a bit.) The third day of school they came home with Strep. Then they got ear infections, then the flu. Dustin and I also got the flu. I had a bonus fever/flu event last weekend. This week I have a constant tickle in the back of my throat and am coughing. We just can't seem to get healthy these days. It's difficult since our family doesn't usually fall ill easily.
My heart has been aching for A* so much during this time. Every time we get a new sickness I think of him being constantly exposed to germs. I pray continually for his health and for the strength of his immune system. I know there have been outbreaks of chickenpox and the ever present, ever deadly pneumonia among the kids in the Transition Home (TH) where A* lives. Please keep A* and all the children in your prayers!
We recently received news that our dear friend Pastor Surafel fell short on money needed for his upcoming trip to Ethiopia. I don't think I have ever posted here about the work Surafel plans to do this October in Ethiopia. He is organizing a trip, a crusade as he calls it, to speak with some 700 pastors about their role and responsibility to care for people suffering with HIV/AIDS. He wants to educate them about the disease and admonish them to reject stigmatizing those in their community living with it. HIV/AIDS sufferers in Ethiopia face living life as outcasts and Surafel's heart is to see the church in Ethiopia step up to take care of God's beloved people. He also plans to travel around the country providing food for people and sharing the Gospel.
Of course, Dustin and I support what Surafel is doing! His work or very dear to our hearts. When we heard that Surafel was $5,000 - $6,000.00 short of the amount he needed for his trip we knew we had to act. We had already planned to hold our fundraising garage sale the weekend of Oct 9 & 10th which would be too late to give them money to Surafel so friends graciously agreed to pitch in the money and let us pay them back with the proceeds from the garage sale.
Some have asked us why we're willing to give up the money from the sale. Dustin's answer is my answer too. "We know that the Lord will bring home A*- it's going to happen! Surafel has a need and it's more immediate than ours. God will provide.... And, think of all the lives that will be touched by the work he is doing!"
That's just it! So many people stand a chance to learn about HIV/AIDS and many people living with the disease stand the chance of seeing a real change in the hearts of Christians around them. I want Surafel's dream to become a reality!
So, while we still don't know how we are going to come up with all the money we need we know we made the right decision. For those of you who donated to our garage sale fundraiser we pray you'll agree with us and see the same value in what Surafel's trip can accomplish as we do. What you gave you gave to the Lord and we know you want to see it used to honor him. We think this is the best way to do it. We thank you again for your generosity toward our family.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Today is all about names. Oh how we've grappled with them since coming home last Christmas. Tomorrow is our scheduled re adoption court hearing, during which Jonas will receive his new name.
I wonder, as my son grows, how will he come to terms with the complexity of his owning many names? Reflective of so much of my young Jonas' life the changes of his name speak to all that he has gained and lost. While his names will never be able to completely define his person they do tell at least a part of his story.
For me, it's just one more instance of how adoption is never simple. Not for any of us involved.
Jonas was given the name Yonas A* Geremew by his birth mother. (I'm leaving out parts of his name on purpose) We treasure his given name because of it's significance and history. Each name was lovingly chosen for him by his first mother and has deep meaning. It is unique that he was given 3 names at birth. To this point I have not known any other Ethiopian with what we would consider a middle name.
In Ethiopia the custom is to name a child and for their second name - what we would call a last name- the father's first name is granted. So, for example, the son of a man named Fikadu might be Yonathan Fikadu. There are no real surnames in Ethiopia.
After the Ethiopian courts granted us custody of our prince they dropped all but his first name, Yonas. As is custom officials gave our son his father's first name. Then they tagged on our last name (I guess this was their effort to Americanize the name) We knew from the beginning that Yonas Dustin wasn't going to stay Jonas' legal name.
We were burdened to make the right decision in renaming Jonas. We wanted to honor his first mother and bestow upon him a place in this family as well. Because Jonas is the English translation of Yonas it's obvious how we came to that conclusion for his legal name though we often call him Yonas or his Ethiopian nickname, "Yoni".
A* will remain the same because it is the male version of his first mother's name, thus we value it deeply.
All the members of this family have middle names which begin with "L", so we determined that Jonas would have to have an "L" middle name too. Liben is an Amharic name meaning "Ethiopian King" which, of course, he is!
We made the tough decision to drop Geremew from his legal name and add Liben instead.
Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what is the "right" thing to do.
There is so much to consider when renaming. We wondered if we should we leave his first name intact. Could altering it to the English pronunciation be something he would grow to appreciate? We also worried that not having an "L" middle name might make him feel left out in some way. I think he will both mourn trading yet another piece of the history his first mother granted him by naming him Geremew and appreciate the common bond of our "L"-ness. I did imagine Jonas growing up with 5 names and wishing we had edited a little so he could be like every other kid.
Ultimately, four names seemed like plenty enough for a legal name. So, the child will be Jonas A* Liben (and our last name). I find great solace in the fact that my nephew has two middle names as well. Thus the two can commiserate when in each other's company.
We will teach Jonas that all the names he's been given are his possession regardless of what any piece of paper says. He is so much more than a name and can never be defined by one (or, in his case seven.)
I pray one day Yonas A* Geremew Dustin Jonas Liben will understand how painstakingly and thoughtfully we attempted to proceeded in choosing his legal name. Then, I pray he'll find grace and peace for all the decisions made which were out of his hands.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
A father speaks at a conference giving his testimony about God's sovereignty and about suffering. It's WORTH your time. Follow the link and click on One Generation Shall Tell Your Works to Another- http://www.childrendesiringgod.org/events/conference2005.php
John Knight (the father speaking) has a blog called The Works of God. You can read John Piper's letter here: http://ow.ly/qSjx
I believe I highlighted this organization before, but it's been awhile. Besides, I've gotten a new blog badge for EACH. I'm a member of EACH because they are working to see that legislation passes which provides equality to children who are adopted abroad by US citizens.
One major push EACH is making is to remove the immigrant status of children adopted by US citizens. If their parents are citizens don't you think that ought to make them citizens? Me too! That's why I support the work EACH is doing. Won't you please sign up to become a member? And, let your friends and family know they, too, can join- EACH is not just for adoptive parents.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Here's a super interesting artile from TheBody.com
This Month in HIV: An Update on the Amazing Story of the First Man to Be Cured of HIV - The Body
This Month in HIV also comes has podcast if you prefer to listen instead. Sweet!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
thebody.com has interesting articles to read. This is one of many about the need for increased education to combat stigma related to HIV. I thought it would be a good one to highlight while encouraging you to consider joining the Tell 2 campaign which began with Erin and whose torch has been picked up by these folks on Facebook.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Today I collected the last document we're responsible for chasing down to include in our dossier. There are two others I need, one being the all important Home Study, but they don't depend on me getting them here. Other folks have to do it. So, basically I'm done.
Can you believe that!? Less than two months from the date we were accepted into the program we're done* paper chasing. Praise the Lord!
Our Social Worker (SW) is waiting to schedule our last visit with her until most of the work related to our HS is complete. That's because the HS has to be finished and turned in to the courts within 14 days of her last HS visit with us. Our last meeting will be my one on one interview. I'm looking forward to it. As I've said before we LOVE our SW. She's just fabulous to work with.
As things stand now we're on track to finish up our dossier before the end of October. We are chugging right along down the potential timeline we initially received (give or take a month or two).
Seriously, WHEN does this ever happen in the world of international adoption? On time? Ahead of schedule?
This must be some alternate universe. Or something.
(Wait! Tell me I'm not dreaming this!!)
* In reference to adoption paperwork the term done is used VERY loosely.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Dustin and I have entered into that space in the adoption process* where, I'll say it as candidly as I can, all hell has broken loose. Literally. I know those who have been through it know exactly what I'm talking about. Stuff just starts to seemingly fall apart. Usually all at once.
All of life's difficulties before this season of life feel kind of like the trial runs that stunt men make before the big feat. You know? The ones where they test out the projection of the ramp and the velocity of speed required to prevent their absolute destruction. Yes, there's danger involved but it's less intense knowing there's a safety net available, a pit of foam waiting for them at the end. It's not quite the real deal.
Dustin and I have learned to relate on some level to Paul's expression of being "hard pressed". Since December 2006 my husband and I have been in some of the most trying times of our entire existence.Since then the gloves have come off of our enemy. It's as if God decided we'd had enough test runs. If I were to list all the trials we've faced I'm pretty confident you'd agree it's been, and continues to be, intense for us. Each individual trial has felt like a debit from our reserves of strength, a transaction which has us feeling weary. Added together I've lately begun to feel bankrupt. Truly broken.
The other day I sat down before the Lord with a pen and paper in hand to list the major life events we've faced on a day when yet another immense trial had risen up before us. As I wrote my list I grieved over the losses, the suffering, the heartbreak, and the pain we have experienced. But, I couldn't deny the HUGE blessings we had also received, and while I didn't enjoy the trials on my list I knew that I'd never want to trade the victories for a smooth path marked by the absence of God's miraculous provision in our lives.
Lately, I've gotten really intentional about studying and living out James Chapter 1. James is no joke. He doesn't ease us into anything... he hits us with truth right away. BAM!
"CONSIDER it pure joy..."
Finally, finally, this week I decided to get to work on engaging FULLY in the act of considering. As I worked at "considering" God showed me so much. He recalled to my mind some parables. The parable of the sower and the different types of soil, particularly vs.8 came to mind. Other seeds fell on good soil, and yielded grain--some a hundred times as much as was sown, some sixty times as much, and some thirty. The parable of the talents also struck me as oddly being important to my work of "considering". (Hang with me here, I think this will make sense)
Our God is a God who loves increase. He's a God of fruitfulness. In my quiet time I was reminded that God, being eternal, has no end. Nor do His blessings and victories. Trials, while difficult, have and end! I desperately needed to be reminded of this truth as I faced another trial straw on top of my suffering donkey's back. I needed God to remind me that without trials I am immature and lacking all that He desires to give to me. So many times I have looked at God's blessings in my life as only those "good" and enjoyable things and called them fruit. It's been easy to talk about increase and fruitfulness when they came with interest on things that turned out "right". When I say "right" I mean things in this life that went the way I wanted them to or in a way that wasn't particularly painful to me.
It's been so much more difficult for the Lord to move me to include in my definition of fruitfulness and increase those blessings which come by walking through suffering with the Lord. It's been difficult to consider pure joy those things which likely will not be added to me this side of eternity. Things like death and the loss of loved ones, the injustice of corrupt people in the world, the suffering of innocents, abuse, illness, and on and on. It requires much faith for me to entrust these things to His care and to hold on until that Great Day.
What God reminded me of through Romans 8:28 is that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. And again, that If God is for us, who can be against us? So if God is inspiring James to tell us to be joyful about our trials it's because we can KNOW that they truly are for our benefit. In God's economy everything is profit to His children who obey and trust Him. Blessings, victories AND even the trials we face equal a net positive to those who belong to Jesus Christ. This truth has made all the difference in the way I "consider" my trials. It somehow takes my focus off the current pain and difficulty and keeps me looking forward to the future!
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him
*I don't mean to say that things aren't going well with the process. Things are moving forward with the adoption and we are anxiously awaiting the day when A* comes home. I'm refering to the spiritual trials that often happen during an adoption.
Friday, September 11, 2009
It's the Ethiopian New Year today called Enkutatash. So if you feel like you need a do-over this year or you want a second chance to keep those New Year's resolutions consider this your excuse :-)
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Heidi Weimer has a way with words! Her POST on expanding our children's capacity to love by pushing the boundaries of their comfort zone is a great reminder that when we step out in faith to serve the LORD we can't lose!
I love the the title of the documentary being made about this special family: We Have Room. Those words are so inspired to me! It can sometimes be tough to make the room in our hearts and our lives for orphaned children but once the work is done it's such a JOY to sit back and see what God will do to fill the spaces we've cleared for Him
My prayer is that God continues to expand our capacity as Christians to love beyond ourselves and our comfort zones in order that we may provide homes for MORE children. Of course, I never want us to extend ourselves beyond our ability to meet our children's needs as parents, but I KNOW that families can thrive well beyond the status quo and the "acceptable" number of children in this society!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
A helpful and informative HIV resource titled Living With HIV by Riley Children's Hospital (I admit, I didn't have a clue where it was and just googled it) was forwarded to me by our HS Coordinator and I thought I'd share it here in case anyone could benefit.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The CDC has an outdated protocol for the admission of children who have been adopted abroad and are coming home to the US. Adoptive families are petitioning to remove the TB testing requirement. Please follow this link to learn why the sputum form of testing is a ridiculous requirement for children.
TB testing directly affects waiting children- like our son A*- and their ability to come home in a timely manner. You may have heard some news about adoptive families being stuck in country when a child's test result comes back positive and denied entry to the US until treatment has been given BUT read the article above. The risk of transmission by children is LESS THAN one percent. With children who already have compromised immune systems the minimum 7 week delay exposes them needlessly to the health risks associated with orphanage life and could be potentially deadly. A family with our agency recently had to return home WITHOUT their child because of TB related issues. Aside from the health risks of staying in an orphanage one day than is necessary and the emotional toll institutional care takes on children these delays also cause financial hardships on adoptive families. That's why it's so important to adoptive families that the TB testing requirement be removed.
If you agree that the testing creates needless delays in bringing children home please read and sign the petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/build-families-not-barriers.html
Please help spread the word.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Our Home Study (HS) visit went well. It was just a quick visit with the Social Worker (SW). She talked with the girls and toured the house. The SW told us this HS will be quick and easy since she is already so familiar with our family. Next Wednesday Dustin meets with our SW for a one on one interview.
The SW remarked at how quickly Dustin and I have been able to turn in our paperwork. He and I are both astounded as well. Like I've said before this experience is completely different from last. Last time it seemed as if every single paper had to be fought for. I'm enjoying the ease of this second paper chase.
I would talk to you about our experience at the pediatrician's office and the "bubble"shots but I'm trying to mentally block the experience out for the rest of my life. It was decided at that time that we would administer flu shots to the children as well. What we ended up with were four kids SCREAMING. Some flailing. A male nurse frazzled and probably considering a life of solitude. And then there was me. I think they finally broke me. Like a wild animal tamed, I have given in to the public embarrassment.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I'm losing my mind. Literally. I've got so much going on right now it's making me senile. I've been busy all week. It's starting to catch up with me.
I know it's time to slow down, for instance, when say, I run around like a mad woman cleaning and tidying only stopping to just glance at my calendar in preparation for the next day's events. It would be a sign that I've got too many irons in the fire when I notice that today isn't Thursday at all. It's Wednesday. Still.
Silly me our SW doesn't come until tomorrow. That's the second time this week I've mixed up appointment days. At least the house is clean. Hopefully I can keep it that way until tomorrow at 4pm. That's when the SW really comes..... at least I think so, anyway.
Don't take my word for it though. I can't be trusted.
Our physicals happened yesterday. It took over 2 hrs to complete them. I don't know what the deal was in that office but no one seemed in a hurry. It felt like eternity to me. Or maybe it was just the fact that our 4 kids were with us.... Ya, I'm pretty sure it was the kids.
Our Social Worker (SW) comes today for our first of 3 visits, our family visit. The other two visits will be individual visits, one with me and the other with Dustin.
We love our SW. She's really great. She's going to talk with the kids a bit this visit. The girls are very confrtable around her and Jonas has been very outgoing every time he's seen her.
I think the girls have a good understanding of the disease and will be able to talk with our SW in depth. Together they are able to name the ways HIV can be transmitted. They understand how it CANNOT be transmitted through tears, saliva, urine and fecies. They understand they always have to take precautions around blood but that the risk of getting HIV through a blood spill is low especially when those infected receive proper treatment so there is no need to panic if brother sustains an injury and is bleeding. They know that mom and dad will be the only ones to clean up blood in this house until they are much older. The girls also understand that they are more of a risk when they are sick to their brother than he will be to them with his HIV. They know about white blood cells and how they fight infection and understand that brother will have to take medicine to help fight off the virus that attacks his white "soldier" cells (as we call them) to keep his body able to fight off sickness.
It's amazing what young minds can comprehend. I think the SW will be pleasantly surprised by them. What I love most about our kids is their excitment about their new brother and their willingness to love. I feel so blessed that they are well prapared already. I know that will only continue to improve.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Hi friends. I'm so excited to check in with you all and update you about what God's been doing with our family.
The expedited schedule for a waiting child presented opportunities for things to happen so quickly that we feared we wouldn't be able to save funds as fast. It broke our hearts to think that the only thing A* could possibly be waiting for to come home would be finances. With Jonas it was endless bureaucratic red tape and glitches holding up the process. How strange it was to us to think the path for A* was being paved smoothly and finances could be the only hold up. I don't know if it makes any sense to you but to us, after previously having to deal with court issues, paperwork issues, government issues the prospect of money issues seemed trivial. It was as if we were thinking "That's all? Really? Money is a lame reason not to be able to bring A home!" Because, for us, God has been so faithful a Provider for so long we knew that if He was directing us to A* He would certainly provide for our needs. How strange, then, for us to feel so uncertain. It wasn't that we ever doubted that God would provide but we didn't think He'd do it in the time frame we hoped for.
When the Social Worker (SW) called and said she could begin our Home Study (HS) visits right away it seemed too good to be true. The catch was that the full HS payment had to be submitted before visits could begin. If there were any lessons we learned from the last time we adopted it was that God's timing isn't always our timing. So, we thought we were being good students of the past when we told ourselves to brace for delays and disappointments along the way to A*. Evidently, God has some new lessons for us to learn. Apparently, not everything has to be a GIGANTIC struggle.
Let me brag about how AMAZING our God, our Provider, is! We were able to pay $2800.00 in fees THIS MONTH. It's unbelievable to me! And, we even were able to go on our 10 year anniversary trip THIS MONTH as well.
It had been making us sick that we booked the anniversary trip before we knew we'd be adopting again so soon. With everything booked in advance we would lose the money if we chose to cancel which made it senseless not to go (plus we really did need a vacation just the two if us) We were sick at the thought of spending money on a trip that could go toward bringing our son home. We traveled anyway and prayed for God's provision. The LORD sure heard our prayers and poured so much mercy over us and even presented Dustin with opportunities to earn some extra funds. I'm still blown away that we were able to come up with that much money this month. A true testament to us that the Lord really does want A* to come home, and FAST.
I joked with friends that this second adoption with AWAA is as different from the first as day is to night (so far). Things have gone too smoothly thus far. I keep waiting for the huge bump in the road even while praying that for the sake of A*'s health none crop up. With Jonas our motto was hurry up and wait. With A* it's simply HURRY! I'm eager to learn why God is moving in this way but I may never know. I am, however, amazed at how the Lord is orchestrating events. I've never experienced anything like this before. Truly, I feel as though the Lord's hand is upon us and that our job is simply to keep moving forward as He pulls everything together. Glory to God!
We still have GREAT needs in this adoption. The next hurdle will be coming up with the funds which will be due upon completion of the HS report. Since we are pursuing a waiting child we don't have to wait for our I-171h form to arrive before shipping off our dossier. That means as soon as our approved HS returns to us we can submit our dossier. At that time we'll owe about $4500.00. If my estimates are right we'll have about two months to come up with that amount. I can't wait to see what steps the Lord takes next. No matter where He goes Dustin and I are committed to following. Sometimes to follow can be difficult, and others times it can mean being led into miraculous provision or rest. We've tasted and have seen that the Lord is good all the time and are enboldened to take the next steps, wherever they may lead.
We begin our first Home Study (HS) visit next week. We also have family physicals booked for all of us except Jonas. (His will be later in the month) The girls are NOT excited to have another TB skin test. Last time I was completely humiliated in the Dr.'s office. You see, I was inexperienced back then and didn't think to prep the girls for the shots. I figured we'd just spring it on them and they'd have less anxiety that way. WRONG. I paid for it big time when they older two watched the baby get hers first. Rory decided she had seen enough and quietly back toward the door while Rienne burst into hysterics. That about the time Rory made a break for it running down the hall, her sister Rienne hot on her tail. I had to chase after the two screaming maniacs disturbing the ENTIRE office who stared at us mouth gaping. I slinked out of that office HUMILIATED after wrestling them both (with the aid of a few nurses) into receiving their shots. Needless to say we've gotten a new pediatrician since then :-)
This time the girls know it's coming. Rienne asks me every day "How many days until the bubble shots?" (bubble referring to the bump made in the skin by the fluid) Friday is "B" day for the girls.
Pray for me.
Friday, August 28, 2009
We first laid eyes on our son a year ago today. What a special and exciting time for us! After months and moths of praying for our nameless faceless child we were finally able to lay eyes on our beloved! We are so thankful the Lord has given us Jonas Aychew Liben to train in the way he should go.
Son, you are a joy and a privilege to love!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Back to life and reality for us. We had a great trip to CA. Wed we flew into Monterey and rented a car. Drove about 2 hours north to San Francisco and checked into the Parc 55 Hotel. I had read mixed reviews about it after we had gotten a room on Priceline for $85.00/night and was a little concerned but it turned out to be clean and quiet. We explored Union Square that afternoon and right across the street (literally) from our hotel was a great little Italian place my friend Julie recommended to us called Puccini and Pinetti. We enjoyed dinner immensely.
About an hour after dinner, though, I wasn't enjoying my spaghetti and meatballs so much. I had a terrible bout with diarrhea and vomiting followed closely with a major allergic reaction. We're talking my skin was tomato red in color! My heart rate was 155 (what's new about that? haha) and I was itching like a mad woman. I imagined my ears blowing off the sides of my head, they felt so itchy and swollen. Images from the movie Hitch with Will Smith raced through my head. A friend asked if I drank Benedryl from a straw. hahaha Not quite. I preferred mine pushed through an IV. STAT. Needless to say we took a tour of a local ER. Thankfully, it was just a few blocks away from the hotel. Dustin jokes that from now on we just better go ahead and plan to stay near medical facilities wherever we travel. (I have to laugh to keep myself from crying at the thought!) I was in and out quickly and back in vacation mode in no time. I'll be following up with an allergist to do testing to see what in the world caused my first ever reaction like that. I am calling the health insurance company today to see what the damage will be. I don't think they'll cover our little jaunt because it's out of network.
Dining on seafood at Pier 39 in San Fran
Outside the USS Pampanito. We met some of the ships crew members from when it was in service below the ships decks. It was a real treat!
Our friend Christine and her daughters. Birdrock is in the background
Sunday, the last day of our trip, we enjoyed the Liturgical Anglican service on base with Chaplain West officiating. (I don't know if that's the correct term) It was a joy to fellowship with them once again. We left for the airport that day filled with joy and the blessings of sharing communion with friends we love so much. And that, my friends, was the close to one fantastic ten year anniversary trip.