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.

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

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.

 

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

Welcome! Our journey is just beginning…

Welcome to our family’s obligatory “We’re adopting so we started a blog!” blog! Thanks for joining us on this sure-to-be eventful journey.  We are in the process of adopting a little boy with Down Syndrome from Eastern Europe. More on our love muffin later!

A couple of things right up front: I didn’t decide to start a blog because I’m naïve enough to think I have anything super profound, insightful, or earth-shattering to add to the already robust international adoption dialogue.  There are many, MANY, smart, amazing and intelligent people out there already blogging about adoption (both domestic and international), as well as special needs.  I have spent countless hours pouring over their words and lives, and feel extremely grateful they are willing to take the time to put it out there.

But every story is different, and I decided to chronicle our family’s adventure for two primary reasons: first, to share information with other families who might be traveling down this road; and second, to make adoption more tangible for people who actually know us.

As I became more and more convinced that God was calling us down this path, I scoured the internet for information.  I wanted to know anything and everything: How long does it actually take? What are these families like? What are the children like? What was the process likes?  And so on and so on.  I was looking for confirmation that families “just like us” were also adopting, so that I could convince my good-natured husband I wasn’t a crazy person.  I looked for adoption blogs by families adopting from specific countries we were interested in… I looked for adoption blogs with families who already had young children in the home. . . I looked for blogs written by military familes adopting…I even looked for blogs written by other women named Ali. Okay, that’s a stretch, but you get the point.  Basically, I was having a hard time believing Jesus when He said this was going to happen and was really no big deal, so I looked for proof that it could, and had, been done before by people like us.  Funny, right? He has already worked my little heart over in this process, and I have no doubt there is more to come.  So to that end, I want our experience out there.  If even one mama (or papa) is combing the interwebs, looking for proof, I want to offer it.  You can do it! And hopefully, here you will find the story of how it happened for us.

Secondly, I think sometimes there can be a misconception (or maybe it was just for me) that adoption is for those “super” people.  You know, super-religious, or super-rich, or super-nice, or super-philanthropical, or super-moms and super-families.  And trust me when I say our family doesn’t fit that box.  Don’t get me wrong, we love Jesus more than anything, and if it wasn’t for Him we wouldn’t even have the crazy little awesome family we do, but we aren’t necessarily nailing the, “Oh, have you met the Kojaks? They are all so patient and loving and kind, and their kids are SOO well behaved. . .” image you might think of when you think of awesome, have-it-all-together, “ideal Christian” families. (Not than anyone ACTUALLY is, just that we aren’t even good at pretending). 🙂 We are big on grace around here, and it’s a good thing we love a God who gives lots of it.  So I wanted to write about our experience, because chances are, if you are reading this blog, you know us somehow.  And maybe it will take some of the “unknown” and “super” stigma out of the idea of adoption.  Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, you can say, “Oh, I know a family who adopted, they are totally normal.”  Well, that might not be completely accurate, but as normal as it gets these days.

I also decided to write about all of this for two completely selfish reasons.  One is to document how this little love came to be a Kojak, so he will never forget that we fought for him, that we wanted him desperately, and that he is part of a family who never gives up on each other. Now let’s be real – I started baby books for my other two that have never been finished, so there’s a solid chance I will space out and forget to blog for months on end.  But I hope not!! Because the other reason is to hold myself accountable.  I want to be as real and transparent as possible throughout this journey.  If you know me, you know that I tend to share all my ugly whether you want it or not, so I’m hoping to do the same throughout this process.  To be honest, I’m afraid I might try to hide anything hard – I don’t want to scare anyone away from adoption, and I don’t want anyone to think we are in over our heads.  I want to give everyone the impression that this is all awesome, and we are awesome, and adopting is awesome. But life (and adoption) simply isn’t like that – and I want to be held accountable for being real. Because we shouldn’t be afraid of hard – hard almost always turns into something beautiful.  My true intention is that this a place where I can examine tough questions, as well as share my doubts, insecurities, and heartaches.  Because sometimes, finding someone who shares those might make you feel more normal. I am terrified of opening myself up to criticism in this process, but I have to believe that our honesty about things will somehow bring about good. As a reader, I would just ask you to be gentle with my vulnerability. Please be honest, but also be kind and respectful. I will always do the same. And if I don’t, please call me on it. I will undoubtedly blow it at some point, and say/write something that causes offense, but I would love the chance to make it right.  Remember, I mentioned we thrive on grace around here. 🙂

A couple of random notes:  I am going to commit to updating this blog once a week.  If we have no new progress, I will bore you will random stories, or share what’s on my heart.  You can follow the blog if interested, and I will try to post updates on FB (until FB friends start telling me that’s annoying).  If you have any questions, shoot them our way.  We’d love to talk about any and everything.

Also, I have no desire to proofread and edit and stress about the grammar in my content – so forgive me in advance.  I know I have MANY grammar loving friends (I am a Public Affairs person after all), so I’m just asking you to look the other way on this.  WInk, wink.  I would never post anything if I made myself nuts about it being perfect first.  (Hmmm, there’s got to be some future post about this in relation to adoption, but I’ll have to stew on that).

More importantly, thank you for being a part of this!!  We will desperately need your prayers more than ever, and just knowing we have friends and family who support us is huge!  It takes a village people, and you are part of ours.  Let’s get this party started!