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.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

A free bird leaps  /  on the back of the wind  /  and floats downstream

till the current ends  /  and dips his wing  /  in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks  /  down his narrow cage  /  can seldom see through

his bars of rage  /  his wings are clipped and  /  his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings  /  with a fearful trill  /  of things unknown

but longed for still /  and his tune is heard  /  on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze  /  and the trade winds soft

through the sighing trees  /  and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands  /  on the grave of dreams  /  his shadow shouts

on a nightmare scream  /  his wings are clipped  /  and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings /  with a fearful trill  /  of things unknown

but longed for still /  and his tune is heard  /  on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou


The caged bird sings of freedom.  Oh man, that line stops my heart a little.  I can’t read this poem without picturing 8-yr-old Maya telling the story of her life, and my heart aches with brokenness and sorrow at the memory of her struggle. But it also holds on to hope and grace, because the caged bird DID sing. Because the little 8-yr-old refused to let anyone else author her destiny — and her beauty and her courage and her LIFE created this significant, lasting, unimaginable legacy. I share the sentiment of much of the world as we mourn the passing of a magnificent light, and am grateful she fought so hard to be heard.  Grateful I had the opportunity to hear her.

But today, reading these words, I also can’t help but think of my boy, whose wings are clipped and feet are tied. And the millions of other boys and girls who stand on the grave of dreams, longing for things unknown. For a family, for love, for a life worth living.

Honestly, as I keep trying to write down how I feel about all of this, or even just explain some of the basics, words escape me. I want to pull up other blogs to show you – I want you to read everything I have read and see everything I have seen. Then maybe you will understand how we got here. Why my heart breaks for these babies, singing of freedom against all odds, defying bars of rage. I don’t feel like my words will be adequate enough to honor these children. I don’t think I have it in me articulate so many emotions.

To start, we can talk about children with disabilities in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. The fall of the Soviet Union left many nations struggling with independence and financial instability. Thirty-five percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Combined with years of ignorance about disabilities, centuries-old social stigma, and misinterpreted religious dogma, a culture has been created that sees children with disabilities as worthless. Literally, not worthy of life.  Think about that for a minute. In Asia, there are similar issues, but added factors are the one-child policy in China, and the cultural preference for having a male child (who will care for you in old age). Giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome (or any other disability) is financially and culturally crippling. No one will offer a voice of hope.  No one will offer help. It is more common to abandon a baby with Down Syndrome that it is to keep him/her. (I don’t say this to judge. I have also read that in the U.S. 90% of pregnancies diagnosed with DS are terminated. These are just facts. This is just the reality of the situation).

If not terminated, left for death at birth (or killed), these children are placed in baby homes. As true for any country struggling with extreme poverty, these orphanages are underfunded and understaffed. Even the best baby homes will struggle with proper nutrition and medical care (because let’s be honest, if there is a cultural mindset that says this “type” of child is a burden, void of hope and unworthy of a future, top-notch medical care (early intervention, therapies, etc) is not going to be a priority. Not to mention how much stimulation the child misses from the natural attention of a parent. After a certain number of years (it seems to vary from 4-8ish), the child is transferred. Usually to an adult mental institution, where they often don’t make it through a year. Here are some before and afters of children who “aged-out” of baby homes and into institutions:

1002183_10151866716809783_311141061_nbefore and after

They are often given adult dosages of sedation drugs and then left in cribs.  Period.  Forever.  I think this post does a good job of summarizing the common scenario.

But let’s be honest, even for children without disabilities, or even minor disabilities, aging out of the system later (in your teens), doesn’t offer much more hope. Most of the children end up being used in various illegal activites, most commonly drug and sex trafficking. Older children have spent their entire lives waiting for someone to come for them. I have read a number of families’ blogs who have taken a chance and adopted teenage boys – boys who still long for a mama to love them and a family to call their own. In China, children are unavailable for adoption after they turn 14. This birthday is no celebration for these children, who have forever lost their chance to be called son or daughter. I have read (and can’t find right now, I’m sorry! Just start Googling and don’t stop!) letters from children begging for a family, for a chance, for someone, ANYONE, to just believe in them. How can we not see their faces in Maya’s Angelou’s words?

Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.  -David Platt

Go to Reece’s Rainbow.  Look at all the caged birds.  Watch this documentary about Ukraine’s forgotten children (okay, okay, I know it’s long, but save it for slow night…knowledge is power).  We have to hear them singing, and we have to be willing to do something…anything. I have more good videos on my FAQ – The Heart.

But JUST LOOK at the difference a little love can make.  These photos come from one of my favorite blogs, called No Greater Joy Mom (her hubby has an awesome site called No Greater Joy Dad).  They are both worth your time, I promise.

This is Dusty, who weighed only 20 lbs when he came home and went right to the hospital for malnutrition. Only 10 months later, Dusty looked awesome at 30+ lbs.

This is Dusty, who weighed only 20 lbs when he came home and went right to the hospital for malnutrition. Only 10 months later, Dusty looked awesome at 30+ lbs.

Belle was adopted when she was 3, and little miss weighed only 15 lbs.  Thirteen months later, this beautiful soul was up to 26 lbs and filled up with love.

Belle was adopted when she was 3, and little miss weighed only 15 lbs. Thirteen months later, this beautiful soul was up to 26 lbs and filled up with love.

You can also watch a SHORT clip about the Cox family, who brought home Mia home from Ukraine in 2011.

These children aren’t worthless.  They deserve to claim and name the sky just like any other child. To dream, to laugh, to love.  But we have to believe that.  Really believe that.  We have to be willing to do something about it.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.

Keep singing little man.  Mama hears you.

Monkey in the Middle

My sweet little baby boy is almost two, and it honestly feels like just the other day that he came screaming into this world, then I blinked, and here we are. Oh, this boy. This beautiful, big-brown-eyed, infectious giggle of a boy. He’s my tender-hearted warrior and I can’t wait to see who he becomes. Mark my words, he’s going to be amazing.

Snug as a bug in a rug

Snug as a bug in a rug

His birth was really special for me. I had tried for a natural birth with Sissy, but somewhere is my 24-hr labor I lost my mind. Drugs were the only solution. I don’t regret it, and she is no worse for the wear. But I wanted a different experience the second time around, and we opted for a birth center. His arrival just felt so much calmer (minus a few epic moments during transition), peaceful and intentional. I know a huge part of it was because I knew (at least somewhat) what to expect. But it was also telling of his nature. He is happy to go with the flow, take his time, and snuggle with Mommy.

Cheee!

Cheee!

I have SO many of these pics because this boy just loves to cuddle up. I can’t stop myself from these selfies because I don’t want to forget this time. My girl wasn’t big on snuggling until, well, actually, until he came along. 🙂 So I’ve just tried to soak up every minute of it. I love feeling his little warm body on my lap and smelling his hair. I still let him drink warm milk because I know it means I’ll have a few minutes of quiet and cuddles. It still feels like he’s my baby, despite his nearing birthday.

Daddy is SO hilarious!

Daddy is SO hilarious!

E2 also LOVES to laugh. He will be at the top of the slide by himself and I can hear him say, WEE, then giggle as he comes flying down. If you want to feel funny, he’s your man. He just likes to be happy. If someone else is laughing, he joins in. He absolutely adores his big sister, and goes out of his way to try and make her happy too. He will bring Sissy her shoes, or her water, or her lovey – and then it hurts his feelings if she doesn’t want it. I just can’t get enough of this bug. Oh, one more cute thing, and then I’ll move on. If he gets hurt (or Sissy hurts him), he will hold the offended body part and come looking for me, whimpering. It’s a soft cry, and he will do it until the moment I kiss/hold/acknowledge his hurt. Once I see it, he can move on. I love that – he just wants to be known.

Sometimes, she let's me play with her :)

Sometimes, she let’s me play with her 🙂

But he’s also a wild child. As he runs into full-fledged toddlerhood, I see my baby disappearing before my eyes. He’s revealing a stubborn side, and learning quickly from Sissy how to drive Mama crazy. He loves to do everything by himself, and will point to places at the playground I can sit to give him space. If I try to “help” him on a scary part, he will get down and start over again. I will probably have a heart attack before he starts kindergarten. He also loves airplanes, like his Daddy, and getting dizzy. Recently, when we were at the park, Daddy K was spinning both kids like crazy in a tire swing. I literally had to look away because it made me queasy. E1 buried her face in Daddy’s shirt and said, “Too much!” Bug threw his little head back and laughed. We are in trouble.

Why would I want to sit?

Why would I want to sit?

All of that to say, my little Bug is the coolest almost-two-year-old I know. His brother is also almost two, and a part of my heart worries about how bringing a “twin” into our family will affect him. To be clear, when I use the word “worry,” I don’t mean it in a way that indicates we think we might be making a bad decision. We are absolutely convinced we are doing exactly what God wants us to, has called us to, and will see us through. But as I try to prepare my heart (and my childrens’) for this change, I think about my Bug often. There are a lot of ways that the adoption process feels like a pregnancy to me. This is one of them. I’m sure I’d be just as worried about my Bug if I was pregnant. Sissy has already adjusted once to getting a younger sibling. Will this still be hard for her? Of course. But she will still have her “place” as the older sister, and Mama’s girl. Today she told me that having two brothers would be difficult (what 3-yr-old says difficult?) because it would be a lot of stinky diapers. Truth.

Bug will not be the baby anymore, and he will have to share a lot of attention (from Mama, Daddy and Sissy) with someone else.  And we will never know if something is happening because we added a third child to our family or if it’s specifically linked to adoption. Meaning, we will probably ask ourselves, “Would this exact same thing/emotion/issue have occurred had we delivered a little brother? Or is this because we chose adoption?” But there will never be a definite answer to that question. And truthfully it doesn’t matter. Because a son is a son. But I guess I want assurances that these feelings are totally natural no matter how your baby stops being the baby. 🙂

Pony like my big Sis

Pony like my big Sis

I remember when I was pregnant with E2, I told a friend I just honestly didn’t think I could love another baby the way I love her. And she just said, You will. Your love grows and stretches and somehow manages to change and stay the same all at the same time (paraphrasing, but that’s what I got from it). And when he was born I totally had these moments of guilt where I would just be soaking him in and Sissy would “catch” me loving him. I didn’t want her to feel replaced, and I hated that she might feel hurt. But we all adjusted. We all survived. We are all better with Bug in our lives.

I’m sure the same will happen with our Boo. I will feel guilty. I will feel enamored. I will feel torn. I don’t want my Bug to feel replaced. He is truly (and obviously) irreplaceable. I can’t stand to think of him hurting. But we will adjust, and we will survive. We will all be better with Boo in our lives. But my first little guy might still be drinking warm milk on my lap a year from now. Don’t judge. 🙂

Nothing like warm milk and my Mama!

Nothing like warm milk and my Mama!

Lee Greenwood, World War II and international adoption

I apologize, friends, for my radio silence. I just spent two weeks working in our nation’s capital. I recently accepted a new Reserve job at the Pentagon, which necessitates traveling to DC twice a year for two-weeks a pop. This was my first time out, and I have to admit, I had a great time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough energy to update the blog during that time. And our process has stalled out a bit, so I think I was feeling a little discontent. A two-week break from everything is exactly what I needed.

I also think, even though I promised myself I wouldn’t, I started worrying about writing my blog posts in the exact right way, and making sure people liked them. But that’s not the point of this blog, and not why I started it in the first place (not to mention ain’t nobody got time for that), so hopefully I’m back to just sharing what’s on my mind.

Which is a lot, according to my new Air Force colleagues, ha ha. I just learned (after 34 years!) that I apparently narrate my entire life, which isn’t always awesome for those around me. One guy told me (and don’t blame him, poor dude had to work with me on everything for two straight weeks), “You don’t just wear your heart on your sleeve, your whole soul just oozes out of you.“ 🙂  So, there’s that. At least here on my blog, you have a choice about listening! Consider yourselves lucky! (And warned).

One of my favorite things to do in DC was ride the metro. I feel so grown-up when I ride the Metro. Being responsible for two tiny humans completely dependent on me doesn’t do it, but when I ride the Metro, I feel like I’ve arrived. I also had the opportunity to catch up with a lot of old friends, which I really enjoyed.  I appreciated the chance to re-connect, especially in our busy lives when there isn’t always time to slow down.

But I also got an entire Saturday to myself. Did you hear me, people? An entire Saturday to myself! It was really exciting. So I rode the Metro (surprise!) down to the National Mall and wandered around aimlessly. I saw the Hubble 3-D Imax at the Air and Space Museum, and then the Jerusalem 3-D Imax at the Natural History Museum. Our world is honestly amazing, friends. I am in awe of its greatness. I took a pit stop in the Art Museum to recharge my phone (lost without GPS, sorry art lovers!) and then I headed toward the Washington Monument to find the Vietnam War Memorial. Instead, I stumbled upon the World War II Memorial, where a bagpipe band was performing in front of the fountains. I honestly don’t know why it made me so emotional, but as I walked around the memorial, my hand tracing state names and my eyes lingering on mementos and stories left behind, I started sobbing. The bagpipe band began playing Amazing Grace, and it was just. too. much. I stood, alone, in the middle of that memorial, frozen in time. Completely overwhelmed. I’m not sure with what…gratitude for the sacrifices of others, heartache for those who have lost, pride in our nation’s servicemen/women, awe of the legacy that generation left behind…it ALL just crashed over me. I stood there smiling and crying at the same time. Like a crazy person.

800px-Wwiimemorial

The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home.

The thing is, I honestly love the United States. I know we can be hot mess sometimes, and there is always room for improvement, but man alive, I believe in the heart of this nation. In her people, in her premise, in her promises. It’s why I still serve, and why I’m proud to be part of a family that serves. I secretly love Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, and I can still remember wearing a gold ribbon on my overalls (only one strap connected!) at recess during Desert Storm. The colors of our flag entrance me,  and I can’t hear The National Anthem without catching my breath (or wanting to yell, Go Birds!) for a second.

So when I hear (or read this type of sentiment on the internet) the question, “Why would you adopt internationally when there are so many children who need homes here?,” I bristle a little. To be honest, it’s usually not said in a nice way. The subtle intimation that I am not patriotic, or that I am somehow letting this country down, is misplaced. It’s grossly presumptuous, and often ill-informed.

I am so thankful for the many blessings (luxuries, really) that I have been afforded because I was born in the United States. But I don’t think I deserve them more than anyone else. And I just can’t buy into the idea that a child is more or less deserving of a family based on the borders into which he/she was born. More or less deserving of having their basic needs met…their thirst quenched, their hunger satisfied, their souls LOVED. I can’t. I won’t. And I don’t think Jesus does either.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galations 3:28

I AM called to love my neighbor. And I guess I can see trying to make a case for other Americans being my neighbor. But then there’s the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37).  Jesus talks about a man who was stripped, beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite passed by, but didn’t want to deal with the problem, so they actually crossed the road to get some distance from the man, and walked on. The priest and the Levite were his “neighbor” in the traditional sense. They were his people — he was one of their own. The Samartian then walked by and was moved with compassion for the stranger (as one could argue, ANYONE should have been). He treated his wounds, and took him to shelter, paying for his care. The man wasn’t one of the Samaritan’s people. And yet he saw a need, and he met it. Because he could.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? ”The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

So, am I saying we shouldn’t do anything to help other Americans in need? Of course not. I think, as believers, we should always do what we can to ease the suffering of others. And there are obviously tons of ways to do that right in your own neighborhood. If you are ignoring the needs in your own backyard, and then traveling abroad to meet needs instead, maybe it’s worth examining your heart. But for me, choosing whose needs are worthy of meeting (or at least trying to meet them), is simply not dependent on what citizenship they hold. How could it be? I honestly don’t understand.

Without a doubt, children without families in the US also deserve our attention, our heart, our resources. Foster care needs loving families to step up, and it’s possible that will be part of our story one day. It’s a beautiful story to be a part of. But it’s not ours, not right now. And I don’t think it helps anyone to pit needy children against one another, shifting blame and casting judgment.

If your heart aches for these children, please consider turning that into action. Not everyone can (or should) adopt, but there are lots of other ways to be involved. I’m hoping to get it together enough to do a post on some easy ways to make a difference soon, as well as some basics on the reality of the global orphan crisis.

In the meantime, you can read this post for some more thoughts on who deserves our aid, or check out these few posts (statistics, making sense of the numbers) for a little more general orphan info.

Listen, I get that adopting one child isn’t solving any worldwide problems. I actually don’t think it’s my job heal the entire world…I don’t think I’m that important. But I think sometimes we can be so overwhelmed with the realization that we can’t fix everything, that we end up doing nothing.  And nothing is never the answer.  We have been called to do what we can, where we can. And we CAN bring our little Boo home, make him a part of our family, and love him forever.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.  Isaiah 61:1

Adoption Arguments: What’s in a name?

Just in case you think that a couple in the midst of the adoption process must have it all together and always speak gently to one another, agree on everything, and constantly bat their eyelashes in the presence of the other, I figured I’d share about our some of our differences. I think that sometimes WE even think we shouldn’t have one single disagreement ever if we plan on adopting, but I know that the enemy uses those kinds of thoughts to give doubt a foothold. He hates adoption, and he is not only a liar, but he’s smart and crafty as all get out. So I figured I would talk about a couple of different issues (over time) that we’ve been debating throughout this process.

Obviously, the first one is related to our Boo’s name. Basically, we disagree on whether or not to keep his given name once he comes home. It is a native name, and though not totally un-pronouncable, somewhat foreign to the American tongue. I said, “Listen babe, the kid is going to be dealing with adoption and DS already, let’s cut him some slack on his name.” Daddy K says, “It’s HIS name, it’s part of who he is. Everyone else can deal with it.” So, I did some research, and really there are no clear answers.

There are definitely a few considerations that we have processed through in regards to either keeping or changing his name.

What are the benefits to keeping his name?

1.  Connection to past/heritage/history. For many adopted children, their name is the only surviving link to their past. It’s part of their story, and sometimes, when taken, only heightens awareness of how different they are. Or it could signal to them that their past was “bad” or “unworthy” in the eyes of their new parents. Their name can be a tie to their country of origin, and studies show that feeling connected to their culture is hugely beneficial to adopted children.

2.  Link to birth family. If a child has lost his/her parents through disease or death (or other possible reasons), the name his/her birth parents gave them could be very important to them. It reminds them of a family who loved them, that although now gone, is still hugely important.

3.  In many cases, it is their only constant. EVERYTHING else in their world has suddenly changed, and having the same name can be a comfort.

4.  It’s how they identify themselves.  I read a book once called Someone Knows My Name about the slave trade in early America (it’s great, you should all read it!!) and I will never forget this moment in bottom of the slave ship when someone recognizes Aminata (the main character) from her home tribe and calls her name. She rejoiced, because SOMEONE knew her real name.       They knew who she truly was, and she felt anchored.

Why would we want to change his name?

1.  There are many instances of God changing a person’s name in the Bible when He gives them a new identity (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul, Simon to Peter, Sarai to Sarah, etc.). He is giving them a new life, and a fresh start, and He gives them a new name to signify this rebirth.

2.  It is part of welcoming him to our family.  Choosing a name for your adopted child can help them to feel more like part of your family – their new parents had the honor of choosing a name that they felt would represent them for life and/or tie in with family history/culture.

3.  It’s possible he’s not super familiar with his given name at this point. Studies seem to say different things to this end. Some say that children three and below are fine with a name change. Others say two and below only. Still others say that for non-verbal children a name change is less of a big deal. I think it’s a judgment call in the end.

So, we have thought through and talked about all of these things. I think I would feel differently if his name had been given to him by his birthmother. Even though she didn’t keep him, if I knew she has chosen a name for his son that meant something to her, I would be more likely to want to hold on to that. However, in our beautiful boy’s case, we know he was abandoned at the hospital. His name was likely given to him by the first social worker who was assigned his case. And I guess I feel like, as his mama, I want to choose a name FOR him. Daddy K points out that this social worker might have come to his name prayerfully, and we don’t have any idea about the story behind his name, which is true. But we may never know where it came from, or if it meant anything to anybody.

Also, if he was much older I think I would feel differently about changing his name. But he will likely come home at two and a half, and probably not be super verbal at that time. Also, the name we have chosen sounds similar to his given name, which I think will help the transition. Right now we have half-settled on keeping his given name as his middle name. Then, we will give him a first name that matches the E of his brother and sister.

(I know, I know, I seriously wouldn’t have guessed we’d be a family that uses the same letter in all our kids’ names. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I think it’s too late. No offense to anyone else who does this! I obviously do it also, I just surprised myself here. 🙂 )

But of course, we aren’t 100% on this. Time will tell. From everything I’ve read, there is no right answer. So, like everything else, we will just make the best decision we can for our little man, and hope for the best. I trust that as long as we are open to listening to others and our Father, this will all come out okay as well. Happy Friday friends, and thanks for reading!

(Oh, and Daddy K will be single-parenting it for the next two weeks as I head off to do my Reserve annual tour in DC. This is my first time doing it away from home since either of our babies were born, so wish us both luck! And pray 🙂 )

Where We’re At: April 18, 2014

I have been enjoying too much sunshine to have energy for any sort of emotional post this week. 🙂 Sorry, Washingtonians, for mentioning the sun, but please know our door is always open! I’ve HAVE been thinking a lot about my middle boy, in all his sweetness, so I’ll be stewing on the best way to word that soon.

I figured every so often I would post a WWA (Where We’re At) summary to give you an idea of what has been completed and what is still to come.

We are still in the process of completing our home study. Our social worker has done her part and is now just waiting on us to supply the remaining documentation. We only have two forms left that we can provide, and we hope to have those done by the end of this week. Per usual, they both require a notary, so that was the hang up with one. The other form we need to finish is just an Employment form, which is just a little complicated because of my Reserve job and figuring out who can actually verify my employment, and who is willing to do that over at the legal office (on a base I don’t actually work at). 🙂

Once those get to our home study agency, they will just be waiting for our reference letters and background checks to come in. We are required to have a background check from every state we’ve lived in since the age of 18, so as you can imagine, that’s no small feat with a dual military couple. Although I think all of that should be knocked out by the end of next week also. Of course, I just got one of my requests returned today because I filled out the form incorrectly.

After that, I’m guessing it will take at least a week to finalize the home study report. So, best guess, our home study is done by the first week in May. And that’s a HUGE step!

From there, we apply to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) for approval to adopt (officially called the 1-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country). From what I can tell, that takes about 4 weeks from the time they receive your application. Once they receive your paperwork, they schedule you for your fingerprints (about 2 weeks out), and then it takes another two weeks or so to officially approve you after your biometrics are complete.

Once we have our USCIS approval, we can send in our dossier to Boo’s country. Our dossier (official adoption application) will include our home study and USCIS approval, but also a numbers of other things like medical examinations, financial statements, birth/marriage certificates, etc. Once the dossier arrives IN country, it has to be thoroughly translated before being presented to the Central Authority. If the central authority is satisfied (sometimes they request further documents), then we are officially matched to our guy.

After match, we wait for a court date and invitation to travel. I think this timing is a little more variable. It could be four months from match to travel, or it could be six, or maybe eight. Who knows? So, he’ll be home any day now! Ha!

On the plus side, the UPS girls know our family pretty well now, and greet our children by name. So at least we are building relationships in the process! And we’ve been learning a lot through some online training, as well as a couple of great books we have started. I am definintely starting to feel like we are going into this with our eyes wide open now. Not that I was naively idealistic before, but I just didn’t know or even think about so many of the issues we are learning about. I’m so thankful for the knowledge, and it’s helping me be a better Mama to my beautiful babes home now.

Sorry for the boring update! We are slowly working toward the finish line. Thanks for caring about us!!

Our Boo…the man, the myth, the legend

Okay, maybe he’s just a sweet little boy who deserves a family for no reason other than that he was born. I wanted to share a little bit more about this handsome cub, since I forget that not everyone knows as much about him as we do. I think it is easier to pray for him and relate to our journey if you have a more tangible idea of who he is. You can sneak a peak of our little man here, but I can’t share his picture directly on our site. (Reese’s Rainbow chooses “internet” names for waiting children, since their given names are withheld to protect their privacy). But seriously, isn’t he amazing?

So, let’s get down to business: What do we know about Boo?

Well, we know he has Down Syndrome, obviously. We know his birthday, and this little man took his first breath in this extraordinary world two weeks before his brother, in June 2012. We also know he has an open oval window in his heart. What exactly that means, we don’t know. Heart conditions are very common in children with Down Syndrome, but the fact that he isn’t on any medications and/or hasn’t needed surgery for it yet is promising. Of course, until he has a full work-up here, we just won’t know the intricacies of his little body’s engine.

There is a possibility of some hearing loss. The reality is that his hearing loss could range from almost nothing to almost everything. Again, we won’t know until he’s home. Doctor reports indicate that he doesn’t react during hearing tests, but all Kojak children are stubborn. Notes from his caretakers mention responding to their voice, so that makes me think he hears something. Truthfully, this is probably our biggest medical unknown. Are we scared? No. Will we feel better when we have the complete picture and can build a road-map for the way ahead? Absolutely.

But really, our biggest unknown with Boo is whether or not he’s really ours. See, the thing is, his country (for completely understandable, ethical reasons) can’t officially match us until our dossier is complete and has been approved by the central government. In the meantime, another family could be working toward Boo, and we would have no idea. It’s not likely to be an American family, because there is only one other US adoption agency working in our country, and we have committed to him on the most prominent site where he is listed. But there could be a family growing him in their hearts in another country, feeling the same intense love for him that we do. And that’s hard. And scary.   When we learned there was a possibility we could work for months getting everything together only to find out he had JUST been matched with another family, we thought maybe we should be cautious with our hearts. In the end, it will be a blessing for two boys. Because Boo will have a family of his own, and we will be able to adopt another child, who also desperately deserves to go “home.”

It would make sense, we thought, to not get attached to this little dude in the meantime. It would be safer, less emotional, and easier on everybody to keep our hearts guarded. We can fall in love with him once we are “officially” matched, right? But the Lord doesn’t give us a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7), and this snuggle puppy snuck right in.   If I stop to think about all the things that could possibly happen, then yes, I start to worry. But right now, what’s the point in thinking about any of those things? I am being called to love him, and love him fully, recklessly, and completely. Is cautious love really worth it anyway? It’s possible I’m loving him extra hard for another mama, and in the end, that has to be okay. Make no mistake, it will be extremely painful, but still worth it.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

We also know that Boo has lived in the orphanage his entire life. He went “home” from the hospital to his orphanage, and it’s the only family he has ever known. We feel lucky in that it seems like he is being taken good care of, and is loved, and is clearly well-fed. 🙂 But honestly, realizing we will be taking him away from the only home he has ever known breaks my heart a little. Okay, it breaks my heart a lot.

Can you imagine? You can only remember waking up in one room, with children all around you. One of your “mamas” comes to change you and feed you. You have a very predictable day, and a routine that makes you feel safe. Each day, you know what to expect. You don’t feel the loss of a family because you aren’t old enough to know that it’s supposed to be any other way. You just feel like you. This is who you are. This is all you need.

And then one day, two strangers come and take you. You can’t understand what they are saying. They separate you from your room, from your home, from the only people you have EVER known. From the only people you love. You can’t understand them, and nothing looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You heart has been smashed into a million pieces. I hate that. I hate that I have to hurt him, even though I know he will heal. I hate that I will be the source of so much pain.

I think you dream about picking up your baby, and you think SOMEHOW they will just KNOW you are their mama. They will reach for you and (as an amazing soundtrack plays in the background) you will drink one another up, eyes locked, minds melding. Even though I know that’s likely not my reality, I can’t stop those daydreams. But the truth of situation is that I will be a stranger to him. A stranger who takes him away from people who have loved him since the day he was born. And I worry about how that will feel for all of us.

I said in an earlier post that we shouldn’t be afraid of hard, because hard almost always turns into something beautiful. But how do you explain that to a two-year-old? So start praying for his heart now, friends. Please. We will all hurt, and we will all cry, and we will all undoubtedly feel the ache in our bones from the pains of growing as a family.

We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us;  we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C.S. Lewis, Letters to An American Lady

In Redemption Group, we talked about how God’s picture of redemption always includes pain and trial. Say what?? I know, it doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t make sense to our flesh. We like it easy. But if Jesus had to suffer for our redemption, why do we expect it to be easy for us?   Adversity reveals our deepest beliefs about God – it shows us what we are expecting from God and what we believe to be most true about Him.

I can’t help wanting to tell God what MY picture of redemption looks like in this case. I mean, it would be beautiful, it really would. But here’s the thing – it actually doesn’t hold a candle to HIS picture. We just have to be willing to do the work to get there. We can’t be afraid just because we don’t understand, just because it’s hard. And in His story, I will be the source of unbearable heartache for my child. I hate it, but I trust Him. I know the ending (no matter how many years it is in the making) will be more incredible because of it. So I just trust. And obey.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Baby boy, I’m so sorry. I really, truly am. But we just love you too much to let you stay. I know you’ll be scared, and lonely, and confused, and hurt…and I can’t make any of that magically go away, although I would give anything if I could. But I promise I’ll be brave for both of us – I won’t let you go, and I won’t leave you, and I won’t give up on you. One day at a time, it will get better.

In our family we generally do a better job of explaining how we really feel through music, so this one’s for you Boo. Mama loves you.

***Update:  I just recently learned from other mamas from our country that a good number of their babes were listed with hearing issues.  No one has turned out to have significant hearing loss.  Sometimes it has been multiple ear infections and ear tubes issues, but no actual hearing loss.  Of course, this actually guarantees nothing, but I thought it was interesting.  We will love this boy just the same, of course.

 

Adoption Anxiety

Since I said I would be honest, you should know that I sort of spun of out control the last two weeks. Not in a super noticeable way, but in terms of my stress and anxiety levels (which I am VERY good at compartmentalizing and working around). But I have spent MANY hours lying in bed, unable to sleep, thinking about all of the things I still need to do to even make a dent in our paperwork process. I become so overwhelmed with the enormity of it all that I am almost paralyzed by my nerves, and then for a couple of days I do almost NOTHING related to the adoption at all. It’s not healthy, and it’s not necessary, because for the most part there’s not a lot I can do except handle one thing at a time. But I’d like to think it’s fairly normal, as you officially dig into the whole international adoption process, to feel a bit overwhelmed, and wonder if it will actually be possible for you to make it to your child one day.

When you hear people say they are having a “paperwork pregnancy” or are in the “paper chase,” I think it’s hard to imagine what it is they are actually doing. I mean, how HARD could it actually be? And to be fair, it’s not like anyone is expecting me to do advanced calculus, and my anxiety stems from being unsure how I’m going to show work for all my proofs. (Is that even how you say that? I was always terrible at math!) But it can be super tedious, and at times seems pointless, so I think it messes with your mind a bit.

For example, Daddy K and I had our adoption physicals this week. In and of itself, pretty low key. It’s a typical exam, and includes a decent amount of lab work and immunization checks. But here’s the tricky part: the actual original copy of your exam must be signed by your examining doctor in the presence of a notary. And your doctor can’t sign the exam until your labs and blood work come back. And you can’t have the form in the meantime. So you have to figure out how to have a notary come with you (in our case, onto a restricted military base) to your appointment. It’s not impossible, but it’s a logistical nightmare.

Oh, and any form that is a required part of your dossier (a fancy term for the application that is actually sent to the country you are adopting from), must NOT ONLY be notarized, but apostilled. Yep, that’s a real word. And it basically means notarizing the notary. So these forms need to be taken and/or mailed to the issuing state capital, where someone can double check that the notary was, in fact, a real notary for that state. Oh, and don’t forget, the notary’s seal can’t expire within the next 18 months, and they MUST sign exactly the same as the information contained within their seal!!! Um, yeah, it makes my eyeballs bleed.

To further invite you into our exact pain experience, and maybe help you understand why my anxiety took the reins for a bit, let’s chat family birth certificates. For us, those come from three different states. Each person’s birth certificate needs to be re-ordered from the issuing state, since the certificate has to be less than 6 months old. And it HAS to be a pen-and-ink signed and notarized copy with an official seal. I literally just spent $100 ordering 2 copies of the kids’ certificates (because I know I’m the person who would lose one). Then, once I receive those forms, I have to send them BACK to the issuing state to be apostilled. Nope, for our states it can’t be done all at once.  I missed two official “certificate” deliveries in one day.

So, as you can see, it starts to feel a little overwhelming, and I started to panic that I would never remember how to do everything right, or that I would forget something super important and ruin the whole thing.

My Holy Grail

My Holy Grail

I had post-partum depression symptoms after I had Sissy. It was really interesting (although I didn’t think so at the time 🙂 ) in that they didn’t really manifest until she was almost 8 months old. And I think part of it might have been triggered by a medicine I was taking to increase milk production, but the truth is, I’ve always struggled with anxiety. God just choose to use this experience to show me what a vice-grip on control I had… and feeling like I couldn’t mother perfectly nearly wrecked me. I am very Type-A, and I thrive on routine and predictability. My baby didn’t get that memo, and I wasn’t able to go with the flow as easily as other mamas. It was a very tough 3-4 months, but I am super thankful now for the experience.   I met with a counselor (a MFLC — if you are military and don’t know about this amazing resource, please contact me, I can’t say enough good things) who really helped me work through my feelings. She had me read an interesting book about depression, and one section focused on ten to twelve common thought distortions in most people. We worked through them to see if any were pitfalls of mine, and one clearly stood out (although I lean toward a couple, this one was big). It’s the ALL OR NOTHING mentality. So in this specific case, if I had one bad hour in the afternoon (my girl crying inconsolably, or not sleeping well, or refusing to eat, etc,) then for me, the entire day had been terrible. Basically, it’s like it sounds. For me, it was all of nothing.

Just recognizing this tendency made a huge change in my life. I feel truly lucky that all I needed to start feeling better was someone to help me work through the WHYS of the way I felt, and assure me they were totally normal. I recognize it almost immediately now, and I try to combat it with the Truth of all the good things that have happened in any given day. This adoption, with all it’s related stresses, has brought out the same tendency. I start to feel like it’s all or nothing. And if I hadn’t checked off enough boxes in one day to feel like I was making significant progress, then I felt like I had done NOTHING productive in the adoption arena. Basically, what I’m saying is that adoption can be stressful. 🙂

Thankfully, I got a sweet email from a new friend who recently came home from our same country with her little boy. They are also a military family, so she understands some of the unique stresses I am feeling. And she reminded me of two HUGE things: One, I should be enjoying this journey. It will take the time it takes, and it does me absolutely no good to dwell on any areas I think I’m not handling perfectly. This should be a fun experience for our family, as we learn so much about parenting and each other, and grow closer preparing for this new chapter. And it that same vein, the second things is that I should ENJOY my children and family now. When Boo comes, things will never be the same. And that’s okay, we are comfortable with different, but I want to be mindful of enjoying our family the way it is. When I was pregnant with Bug, I remember trying to soak up every minute with my girl. I don’t want to waste the next several months of our lives being wrapped up in stress and anxiety. Life is too beautiful to waste playing mind games with myself. And the last few days I’ve been resting in His peace, and I’m able to let all the little frustrations of this paperwork madness slide away. It WILL happen, one step at a time.

I keep these two quotes from Francis Chan’s Crazy Love on a note in my phone, because I need to refer to them often. 🙂

WORRY implies that we don’t quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.

STRESS says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.

The thing is, friends, He really does have it all under control. And I actually don’t even WANT that kind of responsibility. Especially not when it comes to an international adoption. If I honestly thought this whole thing depended on ME, I’d lose my mind at some point. During one of our first conversations, I told the liaison from our placing agency, “I’m actually ecstatic that God is the one in control of all of this.” Now, please just keep saying that back to me for the next 9-12 months!!

Psalm One Million and One

Thanks for stopping by! I’ve added a couple pages of FAQs, both The Head and The Heart.  In part because I love any chance to reference this fantastically amazing group of music makers that hail from Seattle, but also because I think there are sort of two different aspects to all of this.  There are the basic logistical issues (which are actually far from basic), and then there is an emotional piece that factors in to everything.

This week has been an emotional roller coaster. I know it sounds crazy but I almost FEEL pregnant, at least in the sense that I’m experiencing my typical first trimester symptoms; namely, absolute exhaustion and emotional chaos. At least I’m not peeing every 30 minutes!  We had the high of feeling so much love and support when we publicly announced we were “expecting,” to the low of not everyone being as excited as we are (which was expected, and even understood, but still surprisingly painful).  Then we found out our home study appointment has been bumped up two weeks (to THIS weekend, yikes!), which on one hand is great because it means our process is moving along. On the other hand, there is a whole slew of nerves involved in someone coming into your home to make a judgment on whether or not you are good parents. We received updated pictures (taken THIS weekend, oh my stars) of our little man, and I can’t tell you how my heart somersaulted looking at those.  But the same day brought devastating news about another family in the adoption process. So our week, I guess, mirrored real life, in that it was all over the place.

I think when I was younger I thought there would come a time when this stopped – that I would finally have “figured it out” and everything would be even-keeled and good (or at least consistent) all the time.  I’m finding now that even if my life is in a really good place, I’ll still experience these modulations – it’s part of who we are. I think that’s why I love the Psalms so much.  You get real, raw emotion – both glorious highs and desparate lows — that mirror the human condition, which is anything but one note. You read about the psalmists’ joys and victories, but you also feel the agony of his disillusionment and defeat. And that’s okay.  I’ve finally stopped waiting for my life to feel good ALL of the time – I just try to find joy in the present. Somehow, someway. I’m usually terrible at it, honestly.  I think I’m a whiner by nature. 🙂   But I’m working at it, and it really has been a salve to my soul.

Last spring I took part in something called Redemption Group with Soma Tacoma (the concept originally started with Mars Hill Seattle and trickled south to the City of Destiny).  I can honestly say that those several weeks fundamentally changed how I view my identity in light of the gospel.  I am so thankful to the people (and their families – it’s a huge sacrifice) who work hard to make it happen each session.   At the end of your session, everyone writes their own Psalm.  Each psalm is so beautiful and nuanced and honest, and collectively the individual psalms tell such an amazing Story.  I wish I could share each one, so you could taste some of that beauty.  But for what it’s worth, here is mine. This is my song. . .

(I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind…I can’t escape Elton).

 

Psalm 1 million and 1

 (A psalm like all others before it, not worthy of my Father’s ear, but listened to and treasured just the same, because of His great Love)

Father God, the hem of your robe fills the room and I play beneath it

I am not overwhelmed

Pure joy fills my heart as I bask in my Father’s attention

I am surrounded by Your mercy and encased by Your love

You watch in joyful contentment, and delight in the most basic of my accomplishments

I am Yours, I am safe, I am loved

 

But like Eve, I want what I cannot have

I am not satisfied with what you offer

I begin to believe that I alone am enough and my strength comes from within

Instead of thanking you for my blessings

I resent what You do not give

I am lost, I am alone, I am unrepentant

 

And yet You will not let me go

I pry Your grip from my arm finger by Holy finger

And yet You will not let me go

I spit in Your face and blaspheme Your glorious name

And yet You will not let me go

I am angry, I am defiant, I am arrogant

 

But You, O Lord, You fight for me like a lion

With bravery and honor I can’t possibly deserve

You are unmoved by my anger and unafraid of my threats

You allow me to thrash until exhaustion, then gently pull me close

Give up, come home, and meet Jesus, You tell me

I am tired, I am thankful, I am ready

 

You whisper a song into my ear and the Spirit carries it to my heart

I burn with passionate fire and hope shines from my eyes

Shouting your praises from the rooftops, I look like a fool

My people do not understand, but I am too enamored to care

I revel in our relationship and desire to know You more

I am hungry, I am eager, I am new

 

But O Lord my God, mother Eve’s lineage runs deep

And her deception is so embedded in my flesh that it feels alive

I fight against it, but I simply cannot win

I would rather betray You than give up part of myself

So many lies surround me and I lose my grip on the Truth

I am weak, I am ashamed, I am weary

 

Do not give up on me, King of all people

Rescue me from my disbelief once more

I have known Your mercy and felt the power of Your steadfast love

I long to drink deeply from Your endless water

You, O Lord, are the only thing that is real

I am sorry, I am grateful, I am Yours

 

Daughters of Zion, hear what I am saying

Heirs to the throne, do not ignore my cry

Listen to the voice of your Father shouting

You are wanted

You are wonderful

You are worthy