Did you know it’s not about me?

Last week both kids came down with some type of virus. It was short-lived, thankfully, but still resulted in late-night wake-ups and overall grumpiness. Combined with Bug’s new potty skills, which motivate him to wake me up (by screaming) to change his pull-up if he realizes it’s even a tiny bit wet, I went for a week straight without getting more than 3-4 uninterrupted hours of sleep. It reminded me of having a newborn, and if you and I have ever talked about those tiny, precious and perfect proofs of God’s glory, you know they’re not my favorite.

I love to sleep. I mean, I really love to sleep. I am a wreck if I’m tired. I used to stand in the back of the classroom in college (I’m was trying to be respectful) so I could force myself to stay awake, but then I’d end up sliding down the chalkboard, getting chalk all over my uniform (navy polyester pants, people). I once fell asleep WHILE my computer science professor was leaning over my shoulder, trying to show me how to program my system. I’m the worst, I know it.

So our week of madness was rough. And as I was changing the boy’s puked-on sheets at 4 a.m. during what was my fifth visited to his room that evening, I panicked. I literally can’t do this, I thought. At least not alone. And then it hit me – I have ANOTHER ONE coming. And nothing changing in our home life. Sheer terror froze me for a second. And then I did what mamas do, and carried on. Clean sheets were snapped on, dirty pajamas exchanged for fresh ones, and a little love rocked until he drifted off to dreamland.

I groggily stumbled back to my haven of sheets and blankets, a warm pillow beckoning like a siren in the night, and promptly…PRAYED my frazzled heart out. Lord, help me do this. And by this, I mean, LIFE.

(Did you know I have to feed these children THREE times a DAY, every day, like FOREVER???!!!)

If there is one solid lesson I re-learn every time Daddy K is out of town for an extended period, it’s this: I need Jesus. I know, right? Duh. I’m a slow learner. But the Lord has been gracious to me to show me some pretty cool things lately, as well as being gentle with my thick-skull and defensive attitude, so I figured I’d share them with you.

Because since sweet Daddy K isn’t here to listen to my scattered ramblings, and our FaceTime connections mostly consist of the kids fighting over who gets to “hold” him, I have no one to listen to my random thoughts. (Babe, read this, and then let’s chat!) And if I leave it all stuck in my brain, bouncing around and crowding out what little space I have left after keeping small children alive for almost four years, I might actually go crazy. So, blogland, my apologies. And you’re welcome.

(If you are here for the adoption-only, nitty gritty posts, stay tuned! I hope to get some of my thoughts down on that sometime soonish. And to be matched with the cutest little boy in all of Eastern Europe.)

Last year, I think the main theme God was trying to teach me was, “It’s not about you. Seriously.” Starting out this year, I felt like His message was more, “You are not in control, I am in control. Repeat that back to me.” But apparently I needed a refresher on it not being about me (surprise!), so this fall He’s back at it.

In our small group we were recently working through the first part of Exodus 17 (1-7), and talking about how and where we see Jesus in those Scriptures. Anyway, if you read my post about Moses, you won’t be surprised that the Israelites were complaining. This is actually before the moment where Moses loses the promised land, but similar in that the group is in the desert thirsty with nothing to drink.

But at group, someone brought up the point that the Israelites didn’t end up in that exact spot on accident. God was leading them by day and night. He LED them to a place where they would be thirsty. He WANTED them to be put in a position to sin. And I just kept thinking about that, and wondering what it was He wanted them to learn.

I pulled out my journal from Redemption Group, and found these notes:

We tend to say, “I’m sinning because of my circumstances.” But in reality, the circumstances merely reveal the sin that’s already in our hearts. The pressure of our circumstances basically squeezes the sin out.

And He brought them there. To squeeze out their sin. Sin is essentially worship distortion. To worship something other than God. And I think He brought the Israelites to this spot so they would recognize that they were worshipping the blessings (the manna and the quail) instead of the ONE WHO GIVES the blessings.  They were actually satisfied with His provision, regardless of if they had his Presence.  And He wanted to expose that truth in their hearts, and to remind them that only He truly satisfies.

They thought it was about them. Being led, being fed, being set apart as His chosen people. And I love learning from the Israelites because any time I start feeling judgmental towards them or shocked by their disbelief, God always whispers (okay, sometimes shouts), “Hey lady, that’s YOU. YOU’RE the Israelites.” :) So I try to absorb as much  as possible from their story, to maybe avoid needing a real-life lesson.

I read a book a while ago (Jesus Wants to Save Christians) about the journey of the Israelites.  The basic gist (and obviously I’m REALLY summarizing here) was that as God blessed the Israelites, they began to feel entitled to those blessings. That somehow they had earned it. They deserved it. And they start worshipping themselves. And so God shows them what they actually deserve (nothing), and they go back to worshipping God for awhile. And that cycle repeats a few times over.

And we see in Exodus, God gently reminding them that they are entitled to nothing. They have earned nothing.  He shows them the sin in their hearts that says, “Where is my stuff?” instead of “Where is my God?” He reveals Himself and reminds them He is always there, always with them. Even if they don’t see the physical proof, even if they aren’t being overwhelmed with what they’d consider blessings.

And I do that all the time. All. the. time. Where is my husband? Where is my help? Where is my sleep? I picture myself stamping my foot like a petulant child, arms crossed. But wait – God LED me here. On purpose. To reveal sin in my heart. My ever-present belief that’s it about me. Even just a little. (See, this is why my heart breaks for Moses).

And an elder in our church recently talked about the three temptations Jesus faced in His forty days in the desert (much like the wayward Israelites 40 years in the wilderness.) Anyway, I’ll skip two of the three, but the second one is where the devil has Him stand on the highest point of the temple, and says,

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Matt 4: 6-7

And I was tossing and turning in bed that night thinking about this temptation. He didn’t spend a lot of time on it in his discussion, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. What was the REAL temptation for Jesus there? To TEST God? Maybe. But maybe even more than that, it was the temptation (like the one Moses gave in to, the one I give in to on an almost hourly basis) to make it JUST A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HIM. Just a little. Just for a minute. About him and not God. If he jumps, angels will save him. That’s a hard thing to turn down.

That tendency is so overwhelming and all-consuming for me. And I was thinking, really, that WAS part of the very first temptation with Eve in the garden, right? They were living the good life and things were awesome but everything was about God. And the liar came in and said, “Hey Eve, why don’t you take a little reward? Make it about YOU for just a minute. One little reward for being so awesome. One bite.”

And the consequences were eternal.

So then I started thinking about Solomon and how for a time he was so obedient and honored God and God gave him everything. Jerusalem was shining in all her glory and Solomon had more riches than anyone. But it wasn’t enough. Because it wasn’t about him. It was all about God.

Man, that little seed of pride destroys kingdoms!   And Jesus had every right to make it about Him, but He never did. Not once. Not even for a second. Not even when he could have. It was always about His Father.

And again my mind circled back to a Redemption Group teaching where our primary teacher said one of the main things he wanted us to walk away with was the realization that behind every sin is a finger-wagging accusation against God.

Meaning, we tend to want to categorize our sin as a passive response to something, like, “I’m just struggling to believe God will provide _______.” In a way, we like to let ourselves off the hook (see, I’m sinning because of my circumstances). But in reality, we are shaking our finger at God, accusingly, saying things like, “You’re not good enough or powerful enough to give me what I need.”

And I was trying to think about what the accusation was in this case (the make-it-about-me case that I struggle with so regularly). And I realized, heart-sinking, it’s saying to God, “You’re not worthy.”

Wow. You’re not worthy of ALL the worship, because I should get a little. You’re not worthy. It kind of broke me, because I KNOW I give in to this temptation all the time, however unintentional or subconscious it might be.

I am so thankful for grace, and Jesus, and new mercies.  I am so thankful He IS worthy, so I don’t have to be.  Amazing grace, how truly sweet the sound.

So, yes, another little toddler boy will soon be filling our house with noise, and mess, and laughter, and chaos. And I will feel overwhelmed and underarmed.  And yes, chances are that I will be changing THREE sets of sheets alone at 4 a.m., desperately fighting to hold on to my sanity. Begging Jesus for just a little more sleep. He might say no. But that’s okay, because it’s not about me. To Him be the glory.

(See, I’m learning. Okay, slowly, but still, I’m getting there. Maybe You could hold off on these particular lessons for a bit? ;) )

Where We’re At: September 10, 2014

I kept stalling on a blog update, thinking that sometime soon a “Where We’re At” post would be in order. Hoping we’d actually be somewhere, anywhere, so I’d have something significant to report.

But today, “Where We’re At” is waiting. Waiting, constantly waiting. Basically, not a single step further than my last “Where Were At,” which was THREE MONTHS ago. And the truth is, that’s hard.

It makes it feel like this whole thing isn’t real, which makes you start thinking about all the reasons why maybe it shouldn’t be. How much easier it might be if we just forgot about all of this. There’s a children’s book about adoption (When God Found Us You) I read to Sissy a lot. It’s about a little fox who was adopted by his Mama Fox, and she’s telling him the story of the day he came home. I change some of the words to more accurately describe our situation (i.e. one part says, on the day you came home you made me the happiest Mama in the world, and I always read, on the day you came home you made us the happiest family in the world). Anyway, the last few weeks, there is this one part that always chokes me up a little:

“Did you ever want to give up?” Little Fox asked. “Sometimes,” Mama said, rubbing Little Fox’s cheek with hers. “But I trusted that God knew you, and knew me, and knew when we’d fit perfectly together.”

I always stop for a second trying to catch the tears, the crack in my voice, but Sissy busts me every time. She will sweetly hug me and say, “Mama, don’t be sad about Boo. I love you.” And the truth is, I do trust that His timing is perfect. I can honestly say I have peace about everything. I am appreciating all of the extra time it gives me with my two babes at home, and how much they will grow and mature while we wait. I know that, and I trust that the wait is good.

But that doesn’t stop the little inefficiencies from frustrating my flesh. For example, specifically for us, our 1-800A (Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) sat in a “queue” for almost six weeks before someone even pulled our file. As I was calling to check on it, they couldn’t give me any idea what sort of timeframe I was looking at. All they could tell me was the date it arrived to them (which I knew, because I gave UPS my left kidney to overnight and track it). But no average numbers of cases worked per day/week/month was available, no date ranges of cases worked the previous week was available. Literally, no hint as to when ours might actually be reviewed, but I could call back every day.  Awesome. Finally, there was good news. Sort of. They said my file had been pulled (yay!) but it looked like it wasn’t approved (once pulled, it’s usually a pretty quick process to approve and send the required paperwork back).

So instead of the LAST document I needed to officially apply for my boy, I got a piece of paper requesting more evidence. I think I’ve explained before that part of what USCIS requires is a child abuse clearance from every state you’ve lived in since the age of 18. Daddy K and I had about 6 states each, and we passed those on for appropriate documentation. Well, I forgot about Ohio. Because I turned 18 in February, and didn’t leave for college until May. That was four months of unaccounted “adult” time.

And Ohio, it turns out, is not at the top of their game in this arena. The same day I received the “request for evidence,” I immediately submitted a form to Ohio asking to have my name run through their Child Abuse Registry. Every state does it a little differently, but I made sure I followed all the requirements exactly. Then I waited, assuming my results would come back in a week. When over two weeks had passed and I heard nothing, I started to stress. I called a help desk number for several days, but no one ever answered. I finally found (online) a random email of someone who worked in the department (or a related department, but that was all I had). I sent her the nicest email I could muster, just asking to at least confirm that my request had arrived. She was very sweet actually, and immediately located my paperwork. It had, in fact, arrived two weeks prior, and so she processed it that day and immediately sent me the results. While I truly appreciate this particular person’s help, and I understand I don’t really know how this office is supposed to function, I can’t believe my stuff was literally just sitting there. And I can’t help but wonder how much longer it would have continued to sit. May I (politely) remind everyone that there is a CHILD waiting on the other side of this paperwork? I’m not buying a new car, or a boat, or a pretty sweater. We’re working for the right to introduce a child to family, and love, and hope. But I digress.☺

So, eventually I get all required documents back in the mail to USCIS and I beat their 45-day deadline by a couple of days (you can thank my right kidney, and some kind neighbors, for that UPS overnight). If you miss the deadline, they consider your case abandoned.  Then I got to restart on the every day calling gig.  I finally got word we were approved on Sept 5, but I don’t have the physical proof yet.  Which means our dossier still hasn’t been submitted.

In the end, we are delayed at least 45 days for this paperwork issue. Which hurts my heart, and my brain, and my Type-A personality. And ok, it’s possible it also hurts my never-ending need/desire/fight for control. To be totally honest, I feel a little fried friends. I’m sure it doesn’t help that Daddy K is on an extended work trip. Or that my TV broke in a freak storm power surge, leaving my kids to Lord-of-the-Flies-it over the iPad. Or that Bug is potty training and super clingy and whiny 24/7. But I really don’t want to take these things for granted, because when we bring Boo home, life will inevitably speed up for a while, and these quiet moments will take a backseat.

I know, oh I know, that joy comes in the morning. I know, even though I can’t always see it, He is moving. Aslan is always on the move. My boy is coming home eventually. And we will be all the more ready for him because of the waiting. And him for us. Because let’s be honest, we are a lot to get ready for. ☺

Adoption Arguments: Do we REALLY need a blog?

I think there is a checklist item for families starting the adoption process that says, “Start a blog.” At least it seems like most families who adopt feel like that’s part of the process. We are no exception. And I think a lot of families do it because it’s a great way to fundraise, and then allow people who are partnering with you to follow your journey. And it’s a great way to share all sorts of new information with everyone at once, instead of re-telling the same story over and over. For military families (and many non-military families in today’s transient society), it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and family who are far away, because you can only make so many phone calls. All that being said, we still had a few rounds of discussion on whether or not we needed to add yet ANOTHER adoption blog to the interwebs.

Daddy K is fairly private and I am, well, basically I’m not :) So in addition to him thinking it just feels a little self-important, he didn’t love the idea of everyone knowing all our business. And I totally understand that, which is why we keep the blog to mostly adoption and/or parenting topics. Although to be honest, we don’t hide our business from people close to us – we have been learning how crucial living authentically in community is to our relationship, our health and our life. And if I ever thought he might be concerned about something, I would always run it by him.

But he also worried that it might put unnecessary pressure on me to keep it updated. He knows I’m somewhat (cough) Type-A and he didn’t want me to feel an obligation to write things when I didn’t have time, energy or ideas. He didn’t want the blog to become more important than the experience itself, if that makes sense. That I would spend so much time documenting the journey that I would lose a little of the joy that happens along the way. I am a mamarazzi, so it’s not a completely unfounded fear. I love capturing the moment, but have been learning to put the camera down and just be IN the moment, savoring a sweet time. The memory is no less sweet if I don’t take a picture of it, or if I don’t share that picture on social media. And I’m really growing in that area, but I did understand his concern.

At the end of the day, we decided that the benefits to the blog outweighed the potential pitfalls. And since we went in with eyes wide open to what possible stumbling blocks with the blog might be, we can pray about that and are more likely to see it happening. I really felt a responsibility to share our story in case it made a difference in the life of even ONE person. I just felt I had gained SO much from the blogs of others – and not because they were amazingly written, profoundly insightful or passionately inspiring (although many are!!). They impacted me because they were real people writing about their real lives and the impact adoption had on them – I could see our family in their family, and I felt encouraged.

Admittedly though, I was also worried that I might feel pressure to “perform.” And I really couldn’t stop thinking about Moses, and what an amazing example of servant leadership he was. And how he tried so hard to obey and love God. And how heartbroken he must have been to know he’d never enter the promised land. Man alive, Moses breaks my heart and heals it all at the same time.

So I feel like I need to give a quick rundown for those of you who might not be super familiar with the story of Moses. Be forewarned, this is Ali-style rundown, not biblical scholar rundown!

***

When Moses is a baby, the Egyptian pharaoh gets worried that his slaves (the Israelites) are starting to have too large of a population and might either revolt or ally with his enemies (which history has shown IS generally what happens in that scenario).

So he goes ahead and orders that all Hebrew baby boys should be killed. Moses’ family hatches a plan, and sends him down the river in a basket where an Egyptian princess is bathing. Luckily, she’s a woman of compassion, and she takes pity on the baby and raises him in the palace as her own.

moses_in_the_bulrushes_zoom

But Moses always knows he’s more like the slaves he sees than the royalty he lives with. He knows who his people are and one day when he sees a slave being abused by his taskmaster, he kills the master. Not a great choice, but nevertheless, you’d think that the Hebrews would be thankful Moses stood up for them and enacted justice (albeit his own). But the next day when he stops two Hebrews from fighting and asks why they are hitting fellow slaves, they taunt him, “Who made you the ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14) So much for thanks, right?

Welcome to the story of the rest of Moses’ life. He does everything in his power to rescue the Israelites from slavery, not just from the Egyptians but from themselves. He tirelessly works to bring them to the promised land, all the meanwhile honoring and obeying God with all of his heart. And instead of being thankful, they complain and whine and insult him for a lifetime. It’s exhausting and baffling, and from an outsider’s perspective, honestly maddening. But then God reminds me that I’m the Israelites here, and that shuts up my inner judgment for a while. But I digress, back to Moses…

After his run-in with the two Hebrew slaves, he fears for his life and flees Egypt and spends 40+ years in the desert tending sheep. But God does the whole burning bush talking thing, and convinces him to return to Egypt to SET HIS PEOPLE FREE. (Please picture me bellowing that out and then singing, Let my people go! to myself over here.) So Moses gives up a calm, content life to go back and lead his people.

mosesbush

But at every turn, they question him. He petitions God, God answers big, the people are amazed. Something goes wrong, the people forget, Moses is to blame. Lather, rinse, repeat. God uses the man to PART THE RED SEA for goodness sake, but what do the Israelites say on the other side? It was better in Egypt when we ate from meat pots. Ummmm, talk about romanticizing the past!

So God isn’t in love with all the complaining either, and He decides that He needs to test their faithfulness. Instead of taking them straight to the promised land, He makes Moses take them the long way around, essentially wandering aimlessly though the desert for another 40 years. Nothing really changes. But Moses stays faithful. He endures and takes the heat and bears the brunt of their anger. He actually loves them despite their crazy. Well, maybe that’s just God, Moses might be over them already. :)

So there they are, singing the same old song. Again. They are thirsty with nothing to drink and lamenting that they wished they had died with their ancestors in Egypt. And Moses asks God, What do you want me to do this time? And God tells him to talk to a rock in front of the people and it will pour out water. And so Moses steps up in front of this crowd of ungrateful, incessantly whining, aggressive and hostile people, and he disobeys God. BARELY. BARELY, friends. Instead of speaking to the rock, he strikes it with his own staff. Twice. Water still pours out. And the Bible doesn’t really address what was going on in Moses’ head at that moment, or why exactly using his staff was such a deal breaker. But it’s a monumental moment for Moses.

moses_water_rock_strike

Because we read in Numbers 20:12 that the Lord immediately tells Moses and Aaron that because they didn’t trust Him enough to honor Him as holy in front of the Israelites, they wouldn’t be joining the group in the land of milk and honey. After all that time, all that effort, he wouldn’t see the fruit of his labor. The land he dreamed of for forty years. Well, I take that back – he WAS allowed to see it, just not enter in. A lot more happens before his death, but in the end, Moses dies on the plains of Moab, at THE THRESHOLD of the promised land.

***

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t a quick rundown. Sorry, not sorry. And possibly not the most accurate summary you’ll ever read. Forgive me.  At least I added pictures! But on a serious note, when I finally finished reading through the account of Moses’ life one night, I just stayed in the shower for an extra ten minutes. Crying. My eyes out. I wept for Moses, who lost the promised land in ONE MOMENT OF WEAKNESS.

I came out a bumbling mess and poor Daddy K didn’t know what to make of it. “What happened, babe?” You know he’s thinking, I mean, it was just a shower. I sobbed, “I just feel so bad for Moses.” “Moses in the Bible?” “Who else?” What??!! Ha ha, poor man.

Of course, I had spent the week prior crying over Freddy on House of Cards, during which time he kept reminding me, “Honey, Freddy isn’t REAL. He’s just a character on a TV show.” “But there are Freddies OUT THERE. I’m sad for all the real Freddies.” He’s a saint, really, being married to me.

But back to Moses and my aching heart :) Decades of obedience and self-sacrifice were marred by one weak moment. I’ve read some accounts that claim he was denied the promised land because of lots of sins late in life, but that’s just not how I read it. And I know I’m not an expert, but it seems clear to me – he may have committed many sins in his life (who didn’t/hasn’t/won’t?) but it was this ONE sin that cost him big. Because lots of sinners walked into that homeland. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that today I have Jesus, and that changes everything. But I think for me, Moses’ story is just such a clear picture of how easy it is to ruin everything when WE MAKE IT ABOUT US. I make it about me all the time. Even when I think I’m making it about God, I find that I’m making it about me. And that’s a dangerous place to be. And a dangerous thing to do. And a dangerous (not to mention miserable) way to live. And I think my soul just commiserated with Moses in that moment, because I GET IT. I so get it.

For just one moment, for just one second, he wanted them to appreciate him. To understand all the good he had done and see him as worthy. Just ONE time, he wanted them to respect him. Just for this ONE miracle, he wanted it to be a tiny bit about him. And it was probably subconscious. He probably didn’t get ready for this moment thinking, I’m going to show them, I’m going to strike that rock and make them think I delivered the water. His heart longed to obey and glorify God in his calling. But as he stood there, hearing the same old groaning, same tired complaints and same personal insults, his imperfect heart couldn’t take it. I’d argue that none of ours could. I KNOW mine couldn’t. I would never have made it that long.

And for me, that’s such a common temptation. To take something that is supposed to be about God and make it about me. Subtly, slowly, subconsciously. Accidentally and intentionally all at the same time. It’s the war within described so poignantly in Romans 7. So, my friends, what on earth does all this have to do with an adoption blog? Ha ha, good question.

Well, that was, and is, my fear with writing something that other people will read. I started a blog for the sole intention of helping others.  To help families who might be following the same path and want more information…children who might get a chance at new life because one random person heard just the right word at just the right time…people who just don’t know much about adoption and might now be more equipped to talk about it, support it, or encourage others. I didn’t want to share our story so people would think we were awesome, because despite the fact that the Israelites drive me b.a.n.a.n.a.s, I KNOW I am more like them than like Moses. I’m just not that great. Christ in me is my only hope of glory.

And yet, I knew that if I felt people “liked” what I wrote, I would feel like I needed to please them. I would feel good about my writing, and then feel obligated to keep writing things people can resonate with. But that just doesn’t work for me. When I have something weighing on my heart, and I finally just get it all down, that’s when it tends to be something that speaks to others. Because it’s real and honest, unprompted and unscripted.

But when I TRY to write something that will resonate, I’m terrible. Because I can’t seem to help making it all about me. I am blown away by these women who write incredible truths week after week, always finding ways to inspire, connect, relate and empower. I just don’t have that in me.  But it’s okay, because I wasn’t meant to. That’s not my calling. And when I think it needs to be, I’m subverting the purpose God called us to in this blog in the first place. It’s a space for others.

So I have stopped trying to blog if I am tired, or drained, or uninspired. I’m trying to balance that with just not being lazy, which is also a bad habit of mine. I want to remember that if God is giving me something to say, it will come. If I’m forcing it, it’s probably because it’s about me. I’m sharing our story so that others feel invited in — welcome in our home, our family and our lives. It’s generally not welcoming when a host is obviously stressed out, unable to relax or doesn’t take time to connect. For those of you still reading, thanks for hanging in there with me!

mount-nebo-03

Incidentally, Moses wasn’t as offended as me by his refused admittance to the promised land. I literally scanned ahead (Daddy K and I are reading the Bible in a year), looking for parts that talked about his anger, or frustration, or gave clues indicating how he REALLY felt about being left out of this pinnacle moment for God’s people. But Moses, although he knows he’s not going to set foot in Israel, continues to lead God’s people faithfully, urging them toward their fate. He doesn’t whine, or complain, or make it about him. He serves. In Deuteronomy 34, God takes Moses from the plains up to the top of a beautiful mountain summit, and shows him the land his people will inherit. To me it is such a painful scene, but to Moses it was also grace. A bittersweet moment — a culmination of his life’s work realized, mixed with sadness that he would not fully experience it. And yet I see him standing peacefully on that mountaintop, drinking in his panoramic view. Confident, and secure. Because HE KNEW, that although the physical earth on the other side of that mountain was as beautiful as he’d ever imagined, spending his life walking with God was his Promised Land all along.

Drowning in Expectations

photo 1-1

The kids and I are one day away from completing a two-week swimming lesson “fast track,” designed to teach children how to stay safe in the water. The focus is not on having fun. The last time we took swim lessons was when Sissy was under two, and Daddy K called them singing lessons since we’d spend most of the 30-minute class singing and jumping around. :)  Our current class is an entire hour, and even the singing involves dunking your child under water before flipping them on their back. I think I’m still in a little bit of shock.

After a rough start, Sissy has done amazing. She honestly has blown me away with her progress throughout the two weeks. She spent the first two to three classes screaming her face off, desperately and pitifully calling, “Mama! Maaaa-maaa!” She is in a class on her own with her peers, and the instructors just press right through their tears and keep teaching. Today, my girl jumped in the pool and turned over to float on her back for ten seconds, before flipping back over and swimming to the wall. BY HERSELF. It was amazing. I had a hard time enjoying the moment though, because Bug was practicing his “I’m enraged and you better do something about it” scream at the loudest possible decibel directly into my ear.

It has been a long two weeks for my boy and I. He threw up overnight once from swallowing a lot of water, and caught some sort of bug from sharing the pool with so many friends. Short naps exacerbated the issue, and he now cries, “Out, please, towel, please,” about 5 minutes into our requisite 60. My nerves are shot and my heart is raw and I’ve been spending some time trying to figure out why this has all been so hard.

And I think what it all boils down to is that I’m letting myself be significantly influenced by other people’s expectations. And the funny thing is, I’m not ever exactly sure what these “other people’s expectations” are. They might have absolutely no issue with our time in class, and take Bug’s behavior with a grain of salt. But I feel SO defensive in that water, friends. I think every eye is judging my boy, and worse, my parenting. That he would be acting differently if he just had more discipline at home, or that I am babying him and he will never learn. And I hate to admit that all of these COMPLETELY MADE UP expectations actually made me start to feel resentful toward my own child. My grip on his arm tightened, and my patience tank dropped to absolutely empty. “Just do what the other kids are doing,” I silently pleaded. “Stop crying for the love of all things holy!” I not so silently pleaded. And I felt a swirl of ugly emotions, including, guilt, shame, anger and hostility. Directed at everyone around me and everything within me.

The second we get out of that water, all my boy wants is to be wrapped up in a towel and snuggle on his mama’s lap. With a lollipop. Which I have tried to threaten not to give him if he screams the whole time, but, I mean, he’s not even two. Not this week, anyway. And my boy, he’s incredible. He’s sweet and loving, and when he’s not at swim class, he loves the water. And yet somehow I’ve turned what is supposed to be fun thing for us into a power struggle that makes him think his mama is disappointed in him, angry at him, and possibly even not safe for him. All because I was worried about meeting other people’s expectations. It’s so ridiculous really. I am a grown-up, and I am his mama, and not only am I the one responsible for raising him into a man full of compassion and strength, but I am the person who knows him best. Who cares if they think he will never learn to swim? Who cares if they think I wasted my money? Who cares if they think I have no discipline and let my kid have too many lollipops? Sadly, this week, I did, and it nearly broke us both.

If I could do it all over, we would still stay in the water during swim lessons. And maybe I wouldn’t change that many of my outward actions, but I’d change my heart. I would relax and appreciate the experience for what it was – a hard class for him, but a good introduction into water safety, and learning how to stay afloat in case he falls in. It’s an important lesson here, where we spend a lot of time in or near the water. But it’s not important enough to make me shame my child into conforming to someone else’s expectations. I would spend more time early in the first week praying about and thinking through my goals for the class, and determine what I felt comfortable with. I feel like I let him down this week, but he’s forgiving. Mama is learning, and we’ll get better together.

I think that’s a constant struggle for me in parenthood – this tendency to use shame as a motivator. It is absolutely NOT something I want to do, but it seems to naturally be my go-to in times of anger. I don’t mind my children feeling guilty if they have misbehaved or disobeyed, but I don’t want them to feel ashamed. Last year our community group talked a lot about the difference between shame and guilt. And the idea was that guilt is about something you did and shame is about who you are. I think guilt will lead to repentance, with a chance to apologize and work through the issue, finding alternative solutions. But I think shame leads to hiding, and fear, and a natural armor and defensiveness to correction.

I can only imagine how important this will be to our Boo, who will constantly have other people’s expectations thrust upon him and used as a measuring stick. It’s good that I’m learning now, and working though some hard now, so that all of my children will benefit later.  I’d say, “I can do this!” but the truth is I can’t.  But I know Jesus can, and He won’t let me down, and He won’t let them down, and He will be strong when I am weak.  So thankful for that, especially when it comes to my babies.

I read this somewhere recently, and I think it’s from Hands Free Mama, and I wrote it on a note card and taped it up in my kitchen:

Shame abandons, encouragement believes.

Condemnation paralyzes, compassion frees.

Exasperation quits, patience prevails.

Yelling silences, communication opens up.

Blame hurts, grace heals.

Faultfinding destroys, praise builds.

Rejection loses, unconditional love wins.

I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

photo 3

 

Next summer, I’ll make sure it’s laminated and bring it to the pool.

Happy Birthday Boo!

Dear my sweet little Boo man,

Happiest of birthdays to you, my love. I am so sorry I am not there to scoop you up and kiss your sweet face, singing softly in your ear and asking for birthday wishes. Today you are TWO. For two rotations around the sun you have lived and breathed and made the world more beautiful. I wish we had found you sooner. I wish a lot of things actually, love, but the truth is, our God is bigger than any of my wishes. And His story is undoubtedly far better than any your mama could pen, and so I’m just doing my best to trust Him. But the waiting is hard. For you the most.

Mama is working out really hard right now, so she made "healthy" cookies for your birthday.  Your Sissy and Bug are NOT excited about that! I promise you sugar next year!

Mama is working out really hard right now, so she made “healthy” cookies for your birthday. Your Sissy and Bug are NOT excited about that! I promise you sugar next year!

Especially today, on the day you were born. On the day you should have been rejoiced over, cooed at, snuggled to sleep and loved without end. You should have been gloriously announced, fought for, showed off, and protected fiercely. But instead, your birth day brought shame and guilt and sadness and hurt and hard, hard, hard times and decisions for everyone. And I don’t think I’ll ever understand all of that this side of heaven. And I don’t even want to waste much time crying over it, because today I want to just be thankful you are here. And you are mine. And you are TWO!!

Since your brother is also about to be two, I have some idea what you might be like. And at the same time, absolutely no idea. When I’m feeling sentimental, I’ll open up your picture on my iPad and zoom in really close, then just gaze into those gorgeous hazel eyes, longing to somehow KNOW you. Your sister has the same eyes. I can’t help but wonder what kind of dreams are alive behind those beauties? Did you know, Boo, that you can dream about anything you want? Anything! There is this girl here who just got picked up to play college football – she’s the first girl EVER to play college football as a defensive back. And you know what she said, love? She said, well, if people aren’t laughing at your dreams, they aren’t big enough. You hear that baby? Dream so big that people are laughing, and then your Daddy and I (and your Sissy and brother too) will cheer you on until you make it happen. That’s what family does. And on this miraculous day of your birth, I wish more than anything you knew you had one.

A really nice family got to meet you recently. And they got to touch you, buddy. They actually got to touch you, and love you, however briefly. I want so badly to be able to hold you close. They tickled you until you relented and flashed a shy smile and let out a tiny boy giggle. What your mama would give to hear that giggle! Man, what I would give. She said that they love you at your orphanage, and I hope today there is time to celebrate you. To remind you that you were created by God, all parts of you, extra chromosome and all. You were painstakingly knit together and wonderfully made, by a Creator who doesn’t make mistakes, and delights in your presence.

This is our Boo, mid-giggle. He was a little shy at first, but the tickles brought out some smiles. I am going to tickle you like crazy, buddy!

This is our Boo, mid-giggle. He was a little shy at first, but the tickles brought out some smiles. I am going to tickle you like crazy, buddy!

Next year, Boo, your whole family will delight in your presence. We will spoil you with cake and ice cream and juice and laughter and love and light. Your Sissy has offered to eat any cake this year, you know, just to be helpful! But we are with you in spirit baby boy…celebrating YOU, missing you, and counting down the days until you are home. We love you more than anything. Happy second birthday, little man!

Love,

Your Mama

Where We’re At: June 13, 2014

Okay, it’s been a little under two months since our first update.  It feels like it’s been almost no time at all.  I think at the beginning there was sort of this huge adrenaline rush, and now we’ve just kind of settled back into normal life.  Which is nice, actually.  But also sometimes makes it seem NOT real — like, are we REALLY adopting a little boy from Eastern Europe?  Will he REALLY come home with us someday?

Anyway, as of June 5th, we are officially home study complete!! Woo to the hoo!!! I think we were originally told it takes approximately 4-6 weeks and it took us close to 12.  Not even really for one specific reason, just lots of different little things.  You have to have a child abuse clearance from every state you’ve lived in since the age of 18, so for Chris and I that was a lot.  Some states took a significant amount of time.  But, nevertheless, we are DONE.  And that feels pretty amazing.  One step closer.

We sent off our I-800a to USCIS this week, and it’s supposed to arrive Monday.  We are basically applying to US immigration for permission to bring a foreigner into the US.  This package required a little application, copies of birth and marriage certificates, and a notarized copy of our approved home study.  Oh, and $890 big ones.  Crazy, huh?  The basic application is $720 and then $85 a piece for our fingerprints.  After they have reviewed everything, they send you an appointment to get fingerprints done.  I think it’s like a federal fingerprint database.  From what I can tell, we should get that appointment in about 2-3 weeks.  Once our fingerprints come back clean, it takes another couple weeks to get official approval.

***In the meantime, we will send all of our other completed dossier (official application to Boo’s country) documents to Florida’s state capital, Tallahassee.  They will be apostilled there, and then sent to our adoption agency. (We already sent our birth certificates — Ohio, Illinois and Washington — and our marriage certificate — Ohio — to respective state capitol’s for apostille).  Once our adoption agency has all of the apostilled documents, they will send them to our country for translation.***

At that point, with USCIS approval in hand, we can officially submit all of our documents to the central authority of Boo’s country.  (Hopefully we will have saved time with forwarding the other documents early, and only have the USCIS approval left to apostille and translate).

Then, we wait.  We are waiting for what’s known as a referral — that’s when you are officially matched with a specific child.  Obviously, we are trying to be matched with Boo.  We have requested that already, but there are no guarantees.

Once we receive (and accept) our referral, we go BACK to USCIS.  At that point, we are requesting to bring a specific child into the US.  Once we get immigration’s approval, we are back in the waiting game.  This time we are waiting for a court date from Boo’s country.  Then, we travel.  Yay!  We’ll get there :)

It looks like travel is about 3 weeks.  We are required to spend at least 5 days with Boo before our court date.  Then, after court, if we are approved to leave immediately, it still takes about two weeks to get a new birth certificate, exit physical, visa, etc.  (I originally thought it was two weeks, then court, then one week, but it turns out it’s the opposite).

We are hoping to travel before Christmas, because we’d love to have the whole family home by then.  But, as I’ve already learned, it’s pretty unpredictable.  Another family is in-country now adopting their little girl, who is Boo’s bestie.  They are bringing him a tiny care package from us (so EXCITED) with a photo book of our family, a lovey, and a stuffed animal picked by Sissy.  His birthday is in a week and a half, so it’s good timing.  Can’t wait to hear ANYTHING about him.  But, all is grace, and we are just trusting that Jesus is in control of all of this and not only loves Boo more than we can imagine, but us.  All is grace.

What’s your (little) man got to do with me?

Listen, I totally understand that not everyone is in the position (or wants) to bring another child into their family. Not everyone is financially, emotionally or relationally in a place where that makes sense, and I think it’s important to be understand your limits and know your capabilities. But I think everyone is in a position to do SOMETHING to help the forgotten and abandoned children in our world. Some of it’s really easy (and fun!), some of it’s a little more sacrificial. And if you don’t feel led or moved to get involved in any way, there is no judgment here. Everyone has things that they are passionate about, and called to, and I feel like God has asked me to be a voice for these children. But if you do feel a stirring, don’t ignore it. I think if we ignore the nudging of our conscience for long enough, it can go away. I don’t want to be in that place. We were created for community, to share one another’s burdens and sorrows, as well as our joy and our light.

So, to that end, I just wanted to put together a few simple ideas of how everyone (or anyone) can be a part of making a difference for the world’s orphans. I’m not naïve enough to think we are ever going to solve the orphan crisis completely, and even if every single current orphan was adopted into a family today, more would become available tomorrow (not to mention that adoption alone only deals in response, not prevention). But I think there are lots of ways to do something helpful. Doing nothing is never helpful, and ignoring the problem doesn’t make it cease to exist. At the same time, it can be hard to get on handle on what ONE person could possibly do. Hopefully, these ideas give some direction. I’m sure there are a million more out there! I am not even close to being an expert on any of this. If you have any other great ideas, or organizations you support, please feel free to list them in the comments!

CHOOSE ONE

There are so many little faces out there, it can be overwhelming. So just choose one. Go to Reece’s Rainbow, read through their stories, and choose one. Or any other site, I’m just partial to RR because my boy is there, and I’ve spent years looking at those faces. Anyway, choose ONE. Commit to helping that ONE child find a family. Pray for him/her, advocate for him/her, donate to his/her fund. Make the ONE your goal. You don’t have to be all crazy about it, posting a picture every day and bothering everyone you know. But be committed, little by little, doing what you can, when you can. Choose one, and stay with that babe until he/she goes home. After that, choose another one. It’s like the story about the starfish…it will always matter to that one.

Roxie

This is Roxie! Isn’t she the bees knees? Roxie is 4 years old, and rocks her extra chromosome like a boss. She’s ready for a family she can make smile every day!

HOST

Did you know there are opportunities to host orphans? It’s usually offered a couple of times each year, for a few weeks in the summer or around Christmas. You might not be in a place to adopt, but could you make room for a child for a short time? You’re not just giving them an experience, you are giving them hope. You are showing them what love actually looks likes, and that experience might sustain them for years to come. Some families choose to adopt after hosting, but not all children are even available for adopting. It’s just a chance to shower a child in love, no strings attached. I love this blog post about all of the ways your family will be rocked (in a good way) by this hosting.  Trust me, I want in on this, but I’m trying to take things one step at a time.  Well, Daddy K is smartly and strongly suggesting that I take it one step at a time.  :) Check out New Horizons for Children, Project 143, or God’s Waiting Children for more information.

GIVE

I know, I know, adopting families are always asking for money. But the truth is, it takes a lot of money to facilitate international adoption. You can also just donate to organizations and/or grant foundations that support adoptive families. But again, go on to RR and read the stories of the families who are adopting. Find a family that you resonate with, are inspired by or just really needs help. Skip a week of coffee and add some change to their family account. There are a lot of awesome families out there that have the means to take care of these children once they get home, but don’t have 30k sitting in savings to make it happen. Or ask around – support a family you know, or a friend knows. Every little bit helps – and every time you support a family financially, you are partnering with them, joining their team, and you get to be part of the blessing.

SHOP

Okay, this is one of my favorites. Who doesn’t love pretty things? In Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: A Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, she asks, “What if all my silly little individual purchases do  matter? What if I joined a different movement, one that was less enticed by luxuries and more interested in justice? What if I believed every dollar spent is vital, a potential soldier in the war on inequality?”

Make no mistake, how and where you spend your money matters. And I’m not even close to radically rehauling the way our family spends ours, but I’m working on it. And it’s worth learning about, and making tangible changes in order to use your purchasing power in a way that matters. Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there. There is a great blog called Fair Trade Fashionistas that gives ideas for where to shop, reviews items and companies, and tells stories. It’s awesome!! There are also a number of companies out there in the business of empowering women and families in their own communities. It isn’t a savior mentality – they are learning skills and creating products worthy of taking a look at.

If you haven’t heard of Noonday yet, jump on over to their site and check them out. Please! Noonday believes in creating economic opportunity for the vulnerable by giving them dignified jobs at living wages, no interest loans, long-term trade, scholarships, emergency assistance and more. All YOU have to do is shop. YOU create a marketplace for their artisans so they can earn more while working less and keep their families together. And seriously – their stuff is BEAUTIFUL. It’s a no-brainer.

This is the gorgeous Kismet Day Bag, made with love in India.  In India, women are often discouraged from working outside the home, and people with special needs are frequently stigmatized and denied jobs.

This is the gorgeous Kismet Day Bag, made with love in India. In India, women are often discouraged from working outside the home, and people with special needs are frequently stigmatized and denied jobs.

When a was in college, I was part of Campus Crusade, and it was the first time anyone had ever told me about Jesus. I was fresh-faced and hard to convince, and my sweet mentor Lisa spend many mornings pouring over the Bible with me, helping me see connections and answering any questions I had. I will forever be grateful. Lisa never lost her heart for encouraging others, and she created Mavuno Market to empower artisans, embrace orphans, and encourage discipleship. Their plan is simple: they purchase goods, export them, and sell them — the more products that are sold, the more jobs created.

Check out this gorgeous Tazmanian Beaded Bracelet.  Each bracelet is handmade by single mothers in Tanzania. Gertrude has created a micro enterprise training ten other women in bead work.  This gives them a stable income and a way to provide for their families with dignity.

Check out this gorgeous Tazmanian Beaded Bracelet. Each bracelet is handmade by single mothers in Tanzania. Gertrude has created a micro enterprise training ten other women in bead work. This gives them a stable income and a way to provide for their families with dignity.

Okay, friends, let’s not forget our feet. Two companies I can personally vouch for are The Root Collective and Sseko. I have a blue pair of kicks from both companies, and they are equally amazing.

The Root Collective believes that commerce is a big part of the solution to the issues of poverty, and 10% of each purchase is donated back to one of their nonprofit partners working in the same communities that their artisans live. They partner with NGOs that are concentrated on programs with the goal of independence for communities. They also believing in controlling costs, keeping their mark-ups low and their shoes beautiful.

Yummy!  These blue striped ballet flats are handcrafted by a man lovingly known in the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala City as "Don Otto" (roughly translated "Mr. Otto"). Each one of his shoes is crafted with not only skill, but a tremendous amount of love. His vision is to transform his community through honest jobs and relationships.

Yummy! These blue striped ballet flats are handcrafted by a man lovingly known in the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala City as “Don Otto” (roughly translated “Mr. Otto”). Each one of his shoes is crafted with not only skill, but a tremendous amount of love. His vision is to transform his community through honest jobs and relationships.

Sseko began as a way to generate income for high potential, talented young women to continue on to university. It’s working — every woman who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursuing her college degree or has graduated from university and is on her way to making our world a more beautiful place.

Sseko's ribbon tie sandals have interchangeable straps that can be styled in hundreds of ways. This pair is showcasing red/navy ribbons, but there are TONS of choices.

Sseko’s ribbon tie sandals have interchangeable straps that can be styled in hundreds of ways. This pair is showcasing red/navy ribbons, but there are TONS of choices.

Finally, I also discovered a company called Sevenly. Sevenly uses the catchphrase, Shirts for a Cause, and their goal was to inspire a generation to generosity. They team up with a charity for one week (7 days) to raise funds and awareness. For each purchase made that week, $7 goes directly to the partner charity. Although it’s not always an orphan charity, it’s always worthwhile. We own a handful of Sevenly shirts in our house, all of which get a lot of wear!

This is a shirt they did for Destiny Rescue. an internationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

This is a shirt they did for Destiny Rescue. an internationally recognized non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Listen friends, we are already spending money on these types of products all the time. Why not take a little extra time to find a way to make our economic consumption count? And truthfully, you aren’t sacrificing in product quality.   This stuff is one of a kind, for more than one reason. Shop smart.

PARTNER

There are a bazillion organizations out there working to combat this issue. A quick Google search will provide you with options. But find an organization that you can believe in, that you feel shares your heart and values and vision, and partner with them. Don’t just read about them – become a part of it. You can obviously start by partnering financially, but maybe over time you’ll find other ways to be involved and use your gifts, creativity, and talent to make a difference.

A friend of mine started a non-profit called Somebody’s Mama, and they just finished raising funds to build a maternity ward. Their purpose is to simply bring awareness to issues affecting women across the globe. I really believe that if we empower mamas and empower families, less children will end up as “orphans” in the first place.

Somebody's Mama just raised more than $10,000 dollars to build a maternity ward in Sierre Leone, serving women who would otherwise not have pre- or post-natal care, saving the lives of thousands of mamas and babies for years to come.

Somebody’s Mama just raised more than $10,000 dollars to build a maternity ward in Sierre Leone, serving women who would otherwise not have pre- or post-natal care, saving the lives of thousands of mamas and babies for years to come.

Another organization I just learned about is called Bible Oprhan Ministry, and it was started in Ukraine by a woman who herself grew up in an orphanage. They provide support to mamas who need it, doing their best to keep them from turning children over to baby houses. But they also provide tangibly for the needs of the children in the orphanages, from food to diapers to medicine. They would love, and desperately need, support.

Alla's team was able to visit orphans who are confined to a hospital, and upon arrival learned a few of the kids were escaping.  On this day, a few of the children were discharged, and ecstatic to be going "home," to the orphanage where they have spent their entire life.

Alla’s team was able to visit orphans who are confined to a hospital, and upon arrival learned a few of the kids were escaping. On this day, a few of the children were discharged, and ecstatic to be going “home,” to the orphanage where they have spent their entire life.

Another friend of mine participates in a charity athlete program called Team 25:40.  Their mission is to channel the attention and resources of those blessed with much toward saving children in southern Africa from the devastating impacts of poverty and AIDS.  He is participating by completing 5 major endurance races in 2014-2015 for 25:40’s orphans.

These are just three of many, and of course you could partner with any of the organizations mentioned in the shopping section.  But the point is to find something, anything, that inspires and motivates you, and join the team.

EDUCATE / ADVOCATE

Simply tell people about these kids. Often times when I explain to people what happens to abandoned children with special needs in other countries, they had no idea. And if no one knows what is happening, nothing can be done about it. All you have to do is talk about it – you can start with talking about this crazy family you know (us) and go from there. You never know how the information will trickle down, and some random conversation you have might lead to another family choosing to adopt 5 years from now. Take some time to watch the documentary STUCK (it’s currently on Netflix) and learn a little more about the international adoption process and some common issues.

FOSTER CARE / RESPITE FAMILIES / SAFE FAMILIES

The U.S. decided long ago that orphanage settings weren’t optimal for children, which is why our country relies on foster care. But if no qualified, loving, willing families are involved, the system falls apart.   You can watch the short film below, ReMoved, for a little more insight on what life might feel like for a foster child.

Another option is finding out how to become a respite family for foster families. Sometimes these families just need a night out or a weekend to themselves. Look into your state requirements for becoming a family that offers very short-term care to ease the load for other families.

Something else I have noticed starting to increase are organizations that offer “temporary” homes for children, and support to their families, to actually keep children from entering the foster care system. The one I am most familiar with is called Safe Families for Children, and they exist to provide parents in need with mentoring relationships and tangible support in times of crisis. But ask around in your community and see if something similar exists.

ADOPT

It’s not as crazy as you think. It’s not as impossible as you think. It probably IS as hard as you think, but I’ll keep you updated on that :) But seriously, start praying about it. At least be open to the possibility that God may ask you to open up your heart to adoption. Being open and willing to listen is always the first step!

And that’s all I got. :) As always, thanks for reading, thanks for caring, and thanks for committing to making a difference.