Thursday, July 21, 2011

We are ALL designed...

Kenney and I get LOTS of questions regarding adopting. I have found this time the questions are bigger. Maybe its because we already have three children. Maybe it's because we have already adopted once. Maybe it's the money, or maybe its the fact we are adopting two children. Amazingly though, the big questions come when people find out we are adopting children with "special needs."

What are "special needs"? The Webster's dictionary adoption answer is:  a problem, usually medical, that a child has, that prevents him or her from being adopted as a healthy normal child. Special needs can be ANYTHING. Children who are blind, deaf, have HIV/AIDS, missing limbs, sexual ambiguity, heart problems, and downs syndrome, would be considered some of the more serious issues. Then there is the list of problems that are "correctable." Things like cleft lip/cleft palate and clubbed feet. Even more sadly are the children who are over the age of 3, as they are no longer considered "desirable."

I have a special place in my heart for these kiddos.  I do not know why.  I know God must have put that there.

I look at websites like Rainbow Kids and my heart breaks. These are photo listings of children that desperately need mommies and daddies. These children are the un-desirable of the un-desirable. They are the children never chosen, or chosen last. When parents fill out paperwork to adopt, these are the children no one chooses. They can not be adopted unless someone specifically requests their needs, their problems, their issues. They wait, usually to never be chosen.

The number of orphans in the world is staggering. 147 million. Stop. Read that number again. 147 million. Ouch. For me, that number stings a bit, it hits me at my core, and makes me feel a little queasy. It bothers me. 147 million kiddos, with no one to tuck them in, kiss their foreheads, and tell them mommy and daddy will always love you.  Who teaches them to love? Who teaches them about Jesus? Who teaches them about forgiveness?   Do you know how many of them get adopted each year? In the USA, about 120,000. That's it. The United States leads the way in adoptions, if the other 5 continents adopted the same amount as us, (which they don't) do you realize that yearly not even a half a percent of these children are adopted?? Millions and millions of children are left alone.

The subject of orphan care and adoption specifically is not the point of my thoughts, so in an effort to prevent myself from running all over the place with my thoughts, I will save those specific topics for another time. My thoughts tonight are surrounding special needs.

If you are an orphan your chance of being adopted is slim to none, and if you are an orphan labeled as "special needs" the chance is almost non-existent.

My little China girl...she doesn't get to be adopted because she can't walk, because she is deformed? No one loves her like a mommy and daddy because she is physically broken? Other little girls get to go home to mommies and daddies, but she doesn't? All because her body is not perfect?

ALL children are made in the image of God. They are image bearers, each specifically designed to glorify God. God loves them. Shouldn't we?

James 1:27, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. That applies to the orphans with special needs too.

Oh, I could ramble. Lord knows I could keep on going. I could keep on writing about verse after verse where God loves ALL of his children, ALL of his creation EQUALLY. No matter our disability, we are LOVED. We are LOVED by God. Verse after verse about God using our weaknesses, using our disabilities to bring glory to His kingdom. Verse after verse about advocating for the helpless, advocating for the weak, instructions to care for the least of these.

The babies God chose for us to bring home have disabilities. They are weak. God will use them to glorify and grow his kingdom. This I am sure of. We will love them, just as we love Tommy, Noah and Audrey. We realize the challenges we will have. We are very aware of the daily struggles we will incur. We are scared. We know though that our fear is unfounded, because our God, my God has chosen us and has told us to fear not.  

Isaiah 41:9-10
You whom I took from the ends of the earth,
   and called from its farthest corners,
Saying to you, "You are my servant,
   I have chosen you and not cast you off";
Fear not, for I am with you;
   be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The List

Quite often when people find out we adopted, one of the comments I hear is "He is so lucky to have parents like you and finally be home."

I'll tell you, honestly, the comment has never sat well with me. I never know how to respond. I think first, luck has nothing to do with anything. I then think humbly, we are not the greatest parents. Then, a myriad of other thoughts run through my mind. However, the response I usually give is just a smile. I still don't know how to respond. I did however find an interesting exercise a social worker made his pre-adoptive parents go through. I think it helps puts things in a bit of perspective...

First, write down the name of the most significant person in your life.
     1. Kenney

Write down your most important role.
     2. Wife

Now, write down your greatest support group.
     3. Family

Write down your heritage.
     4. American?

Next, write the word "knowledge."  This represents the information that gets you through the everyday tasks of your day.
     5. Knowledge

Then, write down your favorite place.
     6. Home

Now, write down "Cultural Information."  This represents everything you know about your culture.
     7. Cultural Information

Now, write down "Resources."  This represents all your material possessions, everything you own that has worth.
     8. Resources

Next, write down "Values." This represents your faith, concepts of right and wrong, priorities, likes and dislikes...
     9. Values

Last, write down the activity that brings you the most joy.
     10. Spending alone time with Kenney and the kids

Now, which four things on this list could you live without? Mark through them now.

1. Kenney
2. Wife
3. Family
4. American?
5. Knowledge
6. Home
7. Cultural Information
8. Resources
9. Values
10. Spending alone time with Kenney and the kids

Now, give up two more.

1. Kenney
2. Wife
3. Family
4. American?
5. Knowledge
6. Home
7. Cultural Information
8. Resources
9. Values
10. Spending alone time with Kenney and the kids

Now, go ahead and give up two more.

I couldn't.  I couldn't imagine life with any less than this.  To give up my faith, my Kenney, my role as a wife and mother, I just can't.

I teared up a little.  I was surprised at the deep sadness that gripped me.  Beyond empathy.  Beyond compassion. I think it was mourning.

I mourned all that the children I don't yet know will give up to become my children. 

Children go through a loss to get to their forever families. Adoption is about a loss, a loss that is painful and not beautiful. The place where adoption begins is ugly.

The good news is, adoption ends well. Children have mommies and daddies. They have more than their basic needs met. They will have someone to unconditionally love them. 

I know where I was before Christ adopted me. I know these children are in places we can not imagine before someone adopts them. I know it was not easy (and still I struggle) to let go of my old self. I know it won't be easy for my children to forget the pain in their past.  I do know for certain, that Christ alone can heal any and all wounds. I praise God for healing me, and I praise Him for the painful, yet sweet beauty of adopting me. I pray for healing in my children. I pray they know the pain of their past is gone. We love them. We always will. God loves them. He always has.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Exactly Three Years Ago

I have no idea what prompted us. I can not remember what I was doing or where I was. Our son Tommy was a little over a year old. I babysat my niece Corrine during the week.

Yes, Tommy is holding a bra...don't ask...

Tommy only woke up a couple of times during the night. I had planted my first "real" garden that summer. My life was starting to become less crazy (anyone who knows us, knows my little Tommy was not the easiest baby... he would rank in top five of worst babies ever!!!) I do not remember doing internet searches. I do not remember really anything about the exact beginning. I do know that we filled out a contract with European Adoption Agency in July of 2008. That is where it began.

Before Kenney and I were married, I had mentioned something about adopting one day, just because it seemed like a good thing to do. Kenney said okay, and the conversation was over.

We just assumed that when we were "all done" having biological kids, we would then adopt.  I remember one day asking Kenney what he thought about adopting now.
Little did I know that God was speaking to our hearts and we didn't even realize it. We didn't know that God already had a little boy planned for our family. We didn't know he already existed. We didn't realize that God had a plan, a plan a bit different than ours.
Kenney likes plans. Kenney is a planner. He keeps plans. He makes plans. One thing he doesn't like to do is CHANGE plans. I remember him asking me why I wanted to change our plan. I remember telling him, that it isn't good to be so set on our own plans, and maybe God had a different plan. I know a couple weeks went by, and during that time I lovingly, okay maybe that is not true, I guess I just pushed the "adopt now" idea. (I recomend the lovingly way though, it works better!) One day Kenney just agreed.

Kenney researched adoption agencies and we talked about what kind of adoption, and where we would adopt from. Adopting a baby seemed logical because we were used to having two babies around. Russia just seemed to be the place God put on our hearts. The ratio of boys to girls in Russia was 7 to 1, so a boy seemed logical. The idea of children in orphanages bothered us, and we felt that is where God was sending us.

We just jumped in. I know we did not really talk about adopting with anyone else. We did our homestudy, initial paperwork, completed a dossier, all while keeping it between us. It was special for us. God used that time to bring us closer. We talked about all kinds of things together, that maybe if the world knew, we would not have talked about. We just might have been consumed with everyone else and their questions and thoughts, that we just might not have had the opportunity to talk between us. We talked about poverty, Russia, birth control, abortion, orphanages, foster care, orphans all over the world and much, much more. We had real conversations about big important issues, and it was between us. It was special. I do not recommend NOT talking about things to others, but for us, it was special, it was something that was just ours and no one elses. It was God's plan for US.

There was no scripture verse or sermon at church that promoted us to adopt. We got pregnant with Tommy before actually "trying". We had no fertility concerns. I had not had a miscarriage (which I did have one in September of that year, however our decision to adopt had been made long before the miscarriage occurred.) Our God can choose to motivate us however He wants. We were and are no one extraordinary. We weren't "super christians." We didn't lead a bible study, or volunteer every week at the food pantry. We had arguments and fights between us. We didn't parent Tommy perfectly. My point is this, sometimes, you just hear God speaking to you. Sometimes it is in no special place, at no special time. It's just when God wants to speak to you.  Our plan was not to adopt till years later, we would have never come up with adopting at that moment in time on our own.

Kenney and I agreed on one thing though.  That when God speaks.... you listen. 

Proverbs 3:5-7 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

1Samuel 12:14-15
If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Are Your Tomato Plants Doing?

A word of caution- a disclaimer if you will- I like tomatoes, and even more so I like analogies. If you do not like either of those, you will probably find most of anything I have to say annoying! Proceed reading at your own risk!

I haven't weeded the garden for two weeks. It has rained nearly every day, and when it's not raining the mosquitoes take so much blood from me and the kiddos, I would just assume give blood in the conventional manner.

I weeded the garden today. Scratch that. I tried to weed the garden today. The tomatoes are gorgeous, they have beautiful little green orbs just waiting to be kissed by the sun and drip with juiciness! The leaves are green and nary a bug, fungus, or disease in sight!  

But the weeds, they are starting to take over. Yep, two short weeks, and the weeds are staking claims.

Should I have gotten to the garden sooner? Yes. I rationalized why I couldn't get to it, but I should have. Will I loose my tomato plants? Most of them, no. Some of them, maybe. At least one of them, yes. Could they be better?  Yes. Will I still have a harvest? Yes. Is there still hope for my tomatoes? Yes.

I weeded for hours. I recruited help. I will weed again tomorrow. If I make sure to not let the weeds take over for the rest of the season, they just might all be okay. If continue to neglect my tomatoes I just might loose them. I will fertilize them, and do whatever extra I can do to make up for my mistakes, my laziness, my poor rationalizing.

Analogy to follow... again, proceed at your own risk!

Take out the word "tomatoes" and insert children.  Make the weeds the "world" the biblical use of the word "world". Let the "fruit" be the fruits of the spirit.

Proverbs 22:6  
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it

Do I pull weeds for my children? Am I fertilizing them? Do I tend to their tender hearts, growing so rapidly, on a daily basis? Do I neglect to do the things God wants me to do for my children? Do I rationalize it away? Do I assume Sunday school, grandparents, or friends will teach my children to love the Lord, and grow for His glory?

Lord, help me pull weeds for my children. Help me love them like YOU do. Teach me to teach them. Remind me daily I am here to give YOU the glory. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

If It Ain't Written It Ain't Real

Okay, starting the title with a Dad-ism (that would be number 2.)

I was in my garden this evening. I find I think a lot in my garden. Yes, about gardening, like how to get the Asian beetles to leave my basil alone, and why the perfect tomato staking system really hasn't been invented yet. But, I also find myself thinking about lots of "God" things.  

I told my dad I was starting a blog/journal. I got the ever skeptical - why?? Which I feel I have previously answered at the start of my journal. But, to tell our stories we do not have to write a book, or a blog, or have any form of "social media". Our stories can be told by others and in the daily living of our lives. They can be told through friendships and relationships, and our stories can be our own until God uses them himself.

Why write?

Well Dad. "if it ain't written it ain't real!"

When I write things down I remember them. I ponder the things I write down. I find I don't have time to write down all the little annoying things about my life. Wiping snotty noses, potty training, pulling weeds, bad traffic, no milk in the house, the leaky basement, the laundry I didn't do, the guy that is supposed to have been done painting the barn a week ago, the really high NIPSCO bill...I think you get the point. All these little things, they drive me NUTS. It's those things that I find I focus on way too much. I get hung up on my bad day. But, when at the end of they day I sit down to write, I realize an entire day's worth of writing about the dumb things, are just plain-dumb!

I want to make a conscience effort to be grateful for the zillion gifts I have been given. I want my thankfulness to be a fruit in my life. I want my actions to reflect the thankfulness of my heart. If I spend time writing down the good things in my life, the important things in my life, the things that are growing me for His kingdom - I remember them!! I can look back and reference them. I can have a better and accurate view of the past. Sometimes, its easy to make things out to be worse than they really are. It's easy to forget the good things. I was thankful this morning because I drank a double tall vanilla latte from Starbucks. I was thankful today because we found a huge box of snakes (the firework kind) that Tommy loves, for super cheap! I was thankful today because we completed our fingerprinting for homeland security. I was also irritated, frustrated, inpatient, rude, etc, about things today. If I dwell on the things that are annoying then I find I am just more annoyed, but if I dwell on the good things, the gifts that God has given me EVERY SINGLE DAY, I am just a happier person.   

I will be able to look back at my life and see where I was. I can look back and contemplate where I need to grow and how I need to change. It is a way for me to think out loud and remember. I want to live intentionally, and writing is intentional.

I was thinking about being intentional, and thought about "setting our minds" to do something. I love a good concordance and looked up "setting your mind" - Colossians 3 popped up.

some excerpts...

Colossians 3:1-2
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: ...  anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Journaling is a way for me to keep my mind on things that are above. Writing it all down, is a way for me to put to death what is earthly in me. Writing is a way for me to be thankful, have a thankful heart to God, and to give thanks to Him.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today is Today

My mind is swirling with literally thousands of thoughts. Do I start my story with our adoption of Noah? Do I start before we adopted? Do I describe the process? The paperwork? The time? The details? Or do I write about adoption in general, about how God cares so deeply for the 147 million estimated orphans in the world? Do I write about our life after bringing home Noah?  Do I write about what a typical day looks like to us? Do I write about RAD? Do I write about therapy and behavior after adopting? Do I write about God adopting ME, adopting YOU as HIS own CHILDREN? Do I write about why we are adopting now? Write about China? Write about special needs? I really could go on and on. Where do I start? Do other people who write have these crazy thoughts?

Well a quote my dad once told me (which you will soon find I have LOTS of quotes my dad once told me) is, "sometimes, you just are where you are." On a side note, I tell my dad one day I am going to write a book with all the quotes I remember him telling us. So, Dad, that is quote number one (not in level of importance though, just the first one I am referencing.)

Where are we today? That is the question I think I'll start with and work my way backwards.

Today, we have pre-approval to adopt a little girl born in July of 2008 from China. She can not walk, because she just recently finally had surgery to correct her clubbed feet. She has clubbed hands, and has a possible diagnosis of MOP/FOP. The readers digest version of MOP or FOP is over time, based on injury, falling, surgery, or just plain old time, her muscle ossifies, or turns to bone.

We also are waiting on pre-approval to adopt a little boy from China. He was born in February of 2010. He is diagnosed as deaf, and a little bit behind. He can walk and run and play. We just submitted the initial paperwork to the CCCWA to give us the pre-approval for him.

We have all our documents for our dossier complete. We have them all notarized. We have most of them certified at the state level, however, Indiana made a couple of mistakes, so we are waiting on some corrections on that. Once we receive that all back we will submit all of this paperwork to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago. They can then approve all of the documents and send them back to us. In the mean time, we will wait for our I-800A approval (which is approval from homeland security to adopt.) Once we receive the documents from the Consulate and the I-800A approval all back, we'll submit our "official" dossier to our agency to forward on to China. We'll then wait for China's approval of the dossier.  That usually takes 3-6 months.  Once we receive the "official" approval, we'll get visas and a bunch of other paperwork stuff. We'll send that all in, and wait for approval to travel (usually another 4-12 weeks.)  Our best guess of when we will be bringing our babies home is February of 2012. We'll then travel to go get our wonderful, beautiful, created in God's image, children- whom God specifically wanted us to parent! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Beginning

Tonight I begin my writing journey. I never knew what a blog was untill about five months ago. A much admired older than me friend (meaning she has grand babies and I just have babies), nonchalantly told me I should check out her blog. I did not want to sound like the "I have three kids and have no idea what is going on in the real world" mom that I am, so I dropped a - sure yeah, maybe I will while I'm checking out my other blogs.... (heaven forbid I act like I don't know what I am talking about.) Well, I was hooked. I soon found out that on her blog is a list of blogs she follows. Then I became "click happy", finding myself sailing down rivers of blogdom, and strangely found myself following six blogs on a mostly nightly basis. Even more strangely, or some would say fate, or well I would say the Holy Spirit... the blogs were mostly about adopting.

And so today, I have decided to tell my story. I never thought I would. I had mixed emotions on the subject- feeling a bit embarrassed, or self-criticizing, feeling like- why would anyone care to read my story? Even more so, the world isn't about me, but about HIM, and I surely don't want to put into print pages and pages of me, me, me, me...yadda, yadda, yadda. But then I happened upon a story about telling our stories. Our stories are one of the most precious gifts that God has given us. I know it won't always be easy or comfortable, but God is glorified in the honest baring of our souls, the unleashing of the story that He has written for each of us. I believe God has entrusted me, each of us, with a story, and expects us to steward it well. For some it may not be written, but it must be told. The biggest testimony to our faith and to the glorious working of God's hands in our life is OUR STORY!!

We must tell our story. Only God knows who he plans to have our stories collide with, but it WILL collide. For we are all part of a grand story, the ultimate story that is GOD'S. So tell, tell your story, and steward it well.

“He has made His wonderful works to be REMEMBERED …” (Psalm 111:4).

“They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.” (Psalm 145:11-12)

“Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness.” (Psalm 145:6-7)

“I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.” (Psalm 119:46)
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him … Talk of all His wondrous works! … Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders and the judgments of His mouth …” (1 Chronicles 16:8-12)