Fake it ’til you make it…

If you ask me how everything is going, I will most likely tell you, “It’s pretty good, actually,” with only the slightest of hesitations. And I mostly believe that, except there is evidence that my body/mind are more taxed than I realize. Little things give me away, like forgetting to respond to or send important emails, return food dishes, or make appointments. And while I’m usually the person who lies awake for at least 45 minutes every night just thinking, right now I’m sleeping like a rock. It’s interesting because I don’t FEEL stressed, and I can’t even really describe exactly what it is that is hard about adoption for us. And yet, I WILL hesitate slightly, mostly because I hate being insincere. So I thought maybe if I wrote it all down, it would help flush the demons from my head.

It’s hard honestly, to even admit that I’m struggling. Realistically, we are pretty lucky with how easy our transition has been. The boys’ sleep issues shook out within a couple weeks, and I have THREE small children who take naps at the same time each day. And sleep for the same amount of time each night. That alone is amazing. And Sissy and Bug are handling everything well, with only expected minor jealousy issues and an increased desire for Mama cuddles. Boo isn’t old enough to exhibit challenging behaviors that many families often face, like lying, or stealing, or food hoarding. So I think I feel a little bit guilty even trying to put words to my struggle, when I know in perspective it could be so much worse.

But I said I would be honest here, and so I’ll do my best to articulate the catch in my response. I think a lot of it has to do with expectations. I recently read a poignant piece about attachment in adoption titled Love is Patient, and even typing that out stings a little because I think that’s a huge part of my problem. Love is patient and I am not. And she talks about how our expectations can often be so unfair to our children, and she quotes Beth Guckenberger who says, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” And before our sweet Boo came home, I just couldn’t really grasp this. I read all about attachment and how important it was not to expect your child to be grateful, and to be willing to give them time and space to heal from their trauma. And I nodded in agreement, underlined and highlighted the important parts, and thought smugly to myself, “I won’t do that to him.”

And yet, being in the THICK of it is entirely different than reading about it. All the research in the world can’t prepare you for the emotional toll of bringing a child from a hard place into your home and your heart and committing to loving them forever. It’s a roller coaster, and I honestly don’t mind the ride, I just wish I could see the curves coming. What I am learning over and over again, is that I HAVE to remember that it’s not about us. About what we want or need or think he should be doing. About how we’d like him to respond in any given situation, or like him NOT to respond in another. We need to spend way less time thinking about what we hope he will one day be doing and just start watching what he IS doing. Studying him, learning him, trying to figure out what is going on is that beautiful little head. And we have some days where we are great at that. And others, not so much. The reality is, it’s exhausting.

And I find myself frustrated with him for behaviors I FULLY knew to expect, and which are totally normal for a child with his background. And then I’m frustrated with myself for that frustration. And many, many more experienced mamas have said to give yourself grace in these early months – lots of it. To be gentle on myself as everyone transitions. And I take that to heart and I’m trying, but if I’m completely honest, I’m disappointed in myself.

And I can’t nail down exactly why. I think maybe it’s similar to motherhood in general. I had two children 20 months apart and those first few years nearly wrecked me. I’m a processor – I have a deep need to understand WHY I feel how I do, where it comes from, and what I can do to make it better. And as I struggled through the trials of being a first-time mama, I often asked myself, “Did I secretly think this was going to be easy?” But guys, the answer is no. The answer is worse. I didn’t think it would be easy, I thought I would be better at it. And it’s humbling to admit that.

And maybe it is similar with our adoption – I KNEW it was going to be hard, but I thought I’d be better at it. Being prepared for the hard and walking through the hard are not the same animal – why I haven’t learned this by now I have no idea. And maybe that’s the rub, that I actually thought I could do this in my own flesh. I thought, however subconsciously, that I’ve “got” this.   I learned in my first year as a mama that parenting on my knees was the only way I’d survive, yet somehow I convinced myself I could take this challenge standing. Pride is a sneaky idol, and families are the enemy’s playground.

Sometimes, our expectations sneak up on us, because they were actually created by a past reaction to something. For instance, one night at bedtime I rubbed Boo’s back while I was singing and he smiled. He liked it (or so I thought). The next night when I went to rub his back, he turned and moved away. I was irritated, and resentful, because I suddenly expected him to enjoy my touch. Do you see how complex this is emotionally?  We are learning what it truly means to be selfless, as if marriage and our other two haven’t been lessons enough. But we have to love him exactly as he is RIGHT NOW, and not love him for who we want him to be, or who we hope he’ll become. I have realized that I am actually less loving toward him when he doesn’t respond the way I believe he should. Right now, he doesn’t need, doesn’t deserve, and certainly can’t handle any expectations. Especially unfair ones.

I remind myself, “What if God only loved me when I acted how he wanted?” I can’t even imagine how that would look, how many times I’ve responded in a way that is less than pleasing. But he doesn’t turn away or respond in anger. Isaiah 42:3 says, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” Our tiny, weak reed, our flickering, wavering candle – what he needs is for us to be gentle. With our words, with our hands, with our voices.

Unfortunately, gentleness is not always my first response. Life with three kids four and under, a husband who travels, and two needy animals is naturally chaotic. I am learning every day that I can either embrace that chaos and make it beautiful, or resist it and watch things wither. A sweet friend (who has also recently adopted) shared with me that God is teaching her that our children are give to us to disciple and nurture, NOT to control. That really struck a chord with me. He’s not asking me to control them, but to shepherd them. I struggle constantly with control, my wild need for it, and my lack thereof. Loving Boo is no different, and learning to let go of my instinct to control all three of my children is both terrifying and liberating.

For me, I’m trying to remember that bonding with Sissy and Boo was also difficult at the beginning. It’s doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does to others. It took time for us to learn one another and for them to become more responsive and interactive before I felt a deeper connection. Boo is no different. It can be difficult because his emotions tend to the extremes. He is either laughing (because of physical touch), crying (really, it’s screaming), or totally blank. And it’s harder now, almost five weeks in, to still struggle so much with bonding. I think at first it was easier to handle, because we had just SEEN where he’d been, and he was new to us, and we didn’t have expectations. But they creep up on you, those premeditated resentments and subconscious desires. Thankfully (hopefully!), I think Daddy K and I are finally realizing this is a long game, and we can’t rush or force things.

Once Daddy K was hanging out with him in the living room and then came into the kitchen alone. I asked him if the baby was okay and he replied, “Oh, he’s good. We were just playing for a while but then all I wanted to do was wrestle him so I knew it was time to give him some space.” That might sound funny, but it’s a perfect description of how we feel interacting with him.   We know there is no way to buy back the lost time. To erase the trauma of his first few years. But somehow we want to. We want to heal him, instantaneously, and so we often try to hard.   Those first few crucial formative years, the ability to give and receive love easily, basic trust in other people – that was all stolen from him. There is no quick fix, and we are learning to accept the reality that it will take years to recover from those wounds.

But we won’t stop trying. We are also becoming new in this process – we are becoming better parents, better people, better partners. We are becoming acutely aware of our own shortcomings and our desperate need for the grace of our Father.

And yesterday I read another article that talked about the most important part of healthy attachment – taking care of yourself. I think it’s time to revisit the advice to give myself grace, and remember I’m just as important to my God as sweet Boo. The author said, “We champion and cry that our kids are worth fighting for while we forget that we are, too. We need to put our air masks on first — take a breath… and then take care of our precious ones.”

We are making, friends, we are making it. Thanks for hearing my heart. All is grace.

Mama’s gotcha baby!

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This, my friends, is what redemption looks like.

Forgotten becomes rejoiced over.

Abandoned becomes sought out.

Discarded becomes fought for.

Despair becomes hope.

Broken becomes loved.

Darkness becomes light.

Death becomes life.

An orphan becomes a son and brother.

This is the gospel, the good news, the testimony, and it was true for me long before it was true for Boo. But today is his day…this sweet, brave, fighter of a boy. And every day is His day, this God who will never stop fighting. For Boo. For me. For all of us.

Happy Gotcha Day beautiful!

Feelings, nothing more than feelings. . .

Woo to the hoo, friends. We are leaving in ONE WEEK. On one hand I can’t believe it’s finally here, on the other hand it feels like it snuck up on us. Naturally, as we get ready to head out, people ask, “How are you feeling?” As a Jen Hatmaker groupie, I’ve been combing through some of her old posts on adoption, and I found this gem that she actually stole from Melissa Fay Greene on the first year of adoption, and it was a salve to my tender little heart:

“Put Feelings on a back-burner. This is not the time for Feelings. If you could express your feelings right now, you’d be saying things like, “Oh my God, I must have lost my mind to think that I can handle this, to think that I wanted a child like this. I’ll never manage to raise this child; I’m way way way way over my head. I’ll never spend time with my spouse or friends again; my older children are going to waste away in profound neglect; my career is finished. I am completely and utterly trapped.” You see? What’s the point of expressing all that right now? Put Feelings in the deep freeze. Live a material life instead: wake, dress, eat, walk. Let your hands and words mother the new child, don’t pause to look back, to reflect, or to experience emotions. “Shut up, Emotions,” you’ll say. “I’ll check back with you in six months to see if you’ve pulled yourselves together. But no whining meanwhile!” 

And I like that, I can understand the value in that. I know I’ve gotten through more than one tough time in my life by putting my feelings in the deep freeze for a while – not forever, because I think it’s important to be authentic with who we are and explore the complexities of what makes us human. But for a time, for just long enough to MAKE IT to the other side. So, as we approach our “due date” I wanted to take this chance to share all. of. the. feelings. stumbling around in my body right now. One, because I wanted to be honest about what this looks like for me, right now, in this moment. But also, because I’m going to just get to work when we come home, and save all this emotion sharing for a later date. 🙂

And I’m taking a page from New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson; who beautifully, eloquently, and honestly demonstrated that it’s possible for one person to feel a myriad of emotions about something — emotions that although might seem diametrically opposed, are ALL still entirely authentic. One emotion simply cannot capture the entire picture. And I just love how he made it okay to feel a lot of different things, and not pretend to have all of the answers to such a complex issue.

To be clear, I in no way equate the complexity of my emotions with his, nor the issue of our adoption as charged, but I personally related to his heart in this instance, and I think so often it’s almost impossible to clearly explain our thoughts about something from just one angle.

So without further adieu, here’s how I feel. . .

I feel EXCITED.

So many parts of this journey make me happy. I am actually really excited to travel alone with my husband and spend some time connecting. It feels fun to have this adventure together, to have a super long flight to read books, listen to podcasts, and annoy him with my incessant talking. I’m excited to visit Lithuania, especially during their Independence Day. I just finished a historical fiction novel called Between Shades of Grey about how Stalin deported tens of thousands of Lithuanians to Siberia in the 1940s. And it wasn’t talked about for DECADES because Lithuania wasn’t able to gain independence until 1990. I can’t wait to learn more about this strong, brave, resilient little country that brought us to our son. I can’t believe I’m actually going to meet our son for the first time, to touch him and see him and hear him. I’m excited to be past the anticipation, and just “have” this baby already.

I feel GUILTY.

I hate that I will be away from Sissy and Bug for so long, and worry about if they will feel lonely, or abandoned, or sad. Bug has been super clingy lately and I have been soaking up every moment and extra hug, not sure how the dynamic will play out when we are all home. I know, without question, that this is a temporary hardship for our family, this separation, and that it is unavoidable to bring their brother home. And I know that Luke 15:4 tells us that it’s nautral for us to leave 99 sheep (who we know are safe) to go off and find the ONE sheep who is missing (because that’s the sheep in danger). But really, I will feel so much better when all my sheep are under the same roof,

I feel EXHAUSTED.

It has been a long year, friends. We started this adoption process within a few months of moving to a new state, with an entire new life to build. Daddy K has a new job, and learning to live within the rhythms of this new assignment has been taxing on all of us. Trying to navigate an entire new set of emotions that relate to adoption has also been draining. It’s a roller coaster of highs and lows, and that modulation has worn me down a bit.  I’m ready for to move on past settling in and waiting for our boy.

I feel ANXIOUS.

There is so much unknown in this trip, and I honestly struggle a lot with not having control. I’m not sure how Boo will feel about us, how deep his grief will be over losing his home, his language, his caretakers. I’m not sure how or if he will eat and sleep once he’s with me. Or if the clothes I bring will fit. Or anything really. And yet:

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 the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control.
Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives are brief … and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed. –Francis Chan, Crazy Love

I feel HOPEFUL.

Because I know God is part of this story. It’s His story. He always shows up. Actually, I guess He never leaves. And I know that as we walk out on this water (to the place where if I take my eyes of Him for a second I’ll drown), I’m going to fall more in love with my Creator. Being completely dependent on him with foster an even deeper relationship, and there is freedom in knowing I don’t have to have all the answers because Someone else does. In Tiny Green Elephants, one of my favorite blogs throughout this process, she reflects on her first adoption journey and the lessons they learned along the way:

What I’m saying is, if God is asking you to do anything, no matter how big or how small, it’s because He loves you, and because he wants what is best for you, and those you love, and his plan is bigger than just your plan for yourself.  Don’t stress, don’t worry, relax.

He loves me. He loves my husband. And He loves my children more than I could possibly ever imagine. And true, He’s not promising me smooth sailing in this, or a perfect transition without pain and suffering. But He is promising me Himself. Which is more than enough. More than I deserve.

Thank you for investing in this journey with us, for taking the time to read about our story and listen to my heart. We are ready to bring our little man home, and start figuring out what happens next.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. –Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Where We’re At: January 19, 2015

Happy New Year! The holidays got relatively busy for us, and we traveled to Chicago to see family for Christmas. Then we were only home for a week before I packed up again for some Reserve time in DC. We wanted to finish all my time as early as possible so that we’d be ready to travel when it was finally time. Also, having my Reserve time finished before Boo comes home ensures I won’t have to be separated from him (or Sissy and Bug) for at least a year. I’m not sure yet how we’ll manage that first separation, but right now it’s not even something I want to wrap my head around, because we have something much more important to worry about:

A court date! Little Boo will become our son on March 5, 2015. I sent off our first bit of official paperwork on March 6, 2015. We had already been figuring things out for a few weeks, but I took a picture of that first “real” step so I’d remember. On March 6, the application to adopt went to our agency. One year later, a little boy an ocean away will get a family. A mama and daddy who whisper in his ear that he is valuable, worthy of love, and forever a Kojak. I can’t wait. I am beyond excited. And also a little bit terrified. Maybe two parts excited, one part terrified.

envelope

I was the crazy lady at the post office taking a picture of an envelope. At the time, I was determined to take a picture of everything, but you know, life happens.

So what does that mean for us? Well, now my Type-A, slightly OCD, crazy mode has started to set in. There are a decent amount of logistical arrangements that need to be made, a pretty decent chunk of money that still needs to be paid, and a billion things to look up on the internet. As my mind swirls with all of the things I need to make happen and I try to Google away the panic, I can’t help thinking, “Why on earth didn’t I look this up before?” And, oh yeah, I still haven’t finished that one really important book. Ummm, or that other one actually. Aaaaaaaaah! Maybe we’re not ready!

But are you ever really “ready” for something that is going to change your life so drastically? God is showing up in the little ways, gentle reminders that He is with us, and He is with Boo, and He cares about the details. Like the dates. And we sold our Corolla on Craigslist in like two days without a single hitch. First test drive, the money was in our account the same day. From a mama buying a car for her college-aged son, whom she adopted as a baby.

And of course, because I’m me, our schedule is going to be just a little different than most of the other families who have gone before us. I’m not surprised anymore when random things happen to me, although to be fair, in many cases I’ve had a small (or large) part in the unlucky circumstances I find myself in.

Our court date is March 5, so Daddy K and I have to be in country by February 26. We will fly out on the 25th, and it ends up being an overnight flight. I’m not sure yet if we’ll get to meet our little man that first day, or will get settled and head to the orphanage the following morning. I do know it will be impossible to sleep that night. I mean, how crazy is that, that we’ll meet our son? Then we will spend the next week visiting Boo at the orphanage. We’ll be there for three hours in the morning, then have a break, then another two and a half hours in the afternoon.

Our court is in the capital city in the afternoon, so we’ll drive there in the morning. Already feeling sad that my boy will wonder where we went. After court we head back to his smaller town to wait to hear from the judge. This is where our case gets tricky. Our court is on Thursday, so we will either hear from the judge Friday or it won’t be until Monday or Tuesday of the following week. And the catch there is that Wednesday is a national holiday, so no offices of any kind will be open.

We can’t spring Boo from the orphanage until we have his “new” birth certificate, which can’t happen until we hear from the judge. Our facilitators seem to think the judge will grant us the “urgent execution,” which means we will be able to come home with Boo on this trip. But the delay for the birth certificate will push us back. Once he’s out of the orphanage (forever!), we move to the capital to finish the paperwork necessary to bring him into the U.S. Here’s the catch — there are two US doctors that work at the US embassy and you are required to have a complete physical before you are issued a visa to enter the states. In theory, you can’t have that physical complete until the child has a US passport. Which obviously hinges on the birth certificate. But, to really spice it up, those two doctors, the ONLY two doctors who can examine Boo, will be at a medical conference for embassy doctors (in another country) from March 9 – 15. Ha! I can’t even be frustrated, because it’s so typical of my luck. Honestly, I know it will all work out how it is supposed to, so I’m trying to not waste my energy with too much stress.

Truthfully, the only hard part of it all is the amount of time I’ll be away. Although I’m excited to travel and explore and learn about another country, I hate that I’ll be away from Sissy and Bug for that long. Our facilitator thinks best-case scenario is that Boo and I fly home on March 20. Daddy K will have to come home much earlier, right after court. Our awesome nanny and friend from Washington is flying out to watch the kids while we are both gone – I’m not sure who is more excited, her or the kids! Then, another one of my sweet friends from Washington is going to fly out to me and replace Daddy K for a week. I am so thankful that I’ll have some company in that initial time I come “home” with Boo. And also just to protect me from loneliness. In a perfect world, we had hoped to be able to fly back stateside together, so I’d have help on the long flight. But our timeline makes this impossible. So yeah, it’s a lot of moving pieces.

And it’s probably just because I only got back this weekend from being away for two weeks, but it’s breaking my heart to think about my other loves missing me for so long. Daddy K said they lit up when I got home Saturday, like they just softened and relaxed in the arms of their mama. And they are fighting like crazy to have me put them to bed, or sit in my lap, and I just want to assure them it’s okay, I’m not going anywhere. Except that I am. For what will be almost a month. It’s bittersweet. But all is grace. I know He is with us and with them, and I pray that He will comfort their little hearts and prepare them as best as possible for what’s to come.

I first posted about our adoption journey on March 21, 2014. March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day. And I posted that we hoped next year our son would be celebrating at home with his brother and sister. Being celebrated, loved on and laughed with. He and I will hopefully get off a plane in Florida on March 20, 2015, where he will meet his brother and sister for the first time, before driving to the first home that’s ever been his own. Cutting it close, but right on time.

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.

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.