Monday, July 25, 2011

stories worth telling

I've been obsessively reading adoption blogs recently.  And by recently, I mean for the last eight months.  But now that we know where our next baby is, I've narrowed my focus to mostly international/Ethiopian adoptions.  You know, to try to wrap my brain around what might be our story.

And so far, every story is worth reading and many are worth re-telling.  I've been so encouraged in my heart to read stories that prove that the Lord chooses our kids for us - biological or otherwise.  We tried to get pregnant with Lila for several months before we finally got a positive pregnancy test.  And often, I look at her and think about all the tears I shed with each month that passed un-pregnant.  And I think, if those months had given us a baby, it would not have been Lila.  It's basic science: different sperm, different egg.

I have loved reading adoption stories that have that same sentiment.  I wanted to share a few with you.  Please take the time to click these links and read the stories.  You won't regret it.

She had a dream about the day he was born.

They thought he was a girl.

I'm sure I will encounter many more stories like this and I hope someday, we'll add ours to the list.

In the meantime, here's a really cute picture of our own little chosen one.  Just because.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

we've got a lot to learn

Oh boy, have we got a lot to learn.  And we are learning, so thanks for bearing with us!  We have learned of a way to avoid the PayPal fees and I'll explain that in this post.

But before I get into the PayPal tutorial, I wanted to mention our new fundraising thermometer (on the right hand side).  We've seen this on a few other blogs and thought it would be a great way to help you all track how close we are to our goals.  We will be working toward several smaller goals throughout the process to try to make our massive $25,000 goal feel a little more attainable.  Our first goal of $1500 will cover our application fee (the $900 I mentioned here) and the first half of our home study (due before we can begin the home study process).  We will update the thermometer regularly - at least once a week - so you can see how we are progressing toward our goal.

Okay, on to the tutorial...
As we mentioned here, PayPal transactions by credit card are subject to a fee.  To avoid this fee, you will have to donate from a balance on your PayPal account or through your bank account.  Here's how to do that in seven easy steps:

1a. If you do not have a PayPal account, go to to set one up. 

1b. If you have an account, sign in with your email address and password.

2. Make sure you have a bank account set up on your PayPal account.  If you need to add a bank account, choose "Add or Edit Bank Account" under the Profile tab.  If you already have an account set up, continue to step three.

3. Choose the Send Money tab at the top of the page
4. Enter our email address, - makewayfortheawesomekid(at)gmail(dot)com - and the amount you would like to donate.

5. Click on the Personal tab and make sure "Gift" is selected
6. Click Continue which will take you to a final screen where you can review your donation and select your Payment Method.  PayPal should automatically select your PayPal account if you have a balance to cover your donation.  If you would rather pay by bank account, click Change and select eCheck (which pays out of your bank account).

7.  If the payment method you prefer is selected, click Send Money.

That's it!  Easy enough, right?  Thank you for taking the extra steps so that we can put the full amount of your donation toward our adoption!  We can't say enough how grateful we are for your help in bringing our sweet Ethiopian baby home!

P.S. We have 22 puzzle pieces pledged! Almost a quarter of the way to our goal of 100 pieces in two weeks!  Thank you!

Friday, July 22, 2011

a new story: first and next steps

To read the whole story, click here.
So now that you know our big news (we're adopting from Ethiopia! Hoorah!) we'd love to invite you to come along with us on our journey.  Let's be honest, if you're still reading after more than ten posts telling the same story, we're gonna go ahead and say you're with us!  We'll be keeping you updated on our progress on this blog (as well as continuing to share any Lila-inspired stories, per usual).  For now, here's where we're at:

First steps:  We sent in our initial application to CHI early this month and we were approved!  We have no idea how big of a deal that is, but we were (okay, I was) excitedly checking the mailbox every day waiting for that letter. (I have a feeling there's gonna be a lot more of that obsessiveness happening!)  When it did come, it was less a letter and more an impressively large packet of paperwork to fill out (that's probably going to become a common experience, too) including our dossier workbook.

On Wednesday we had our home study orientation meeting and were given even more paperwork to get started on.  We're already beginning to understand why they call adoption the "paper pregnancy!"
nevermind my filthy floor.  just nevermind.
Next steps: 
- Get started on the mountain of paperwork (and keep Lila from either eating it or throwing it away.  The girl is disturbingly obsessed with the trash can.  I caught her throwing away keys the other day and once I found a pair of sunglasses sitting on the top of the garbage when I lifted the lid. Blek.)

- Kick into gear with our fundraising.  Here's a breakdown of anticipated costs and attempted timeline for the next 6 months:

July 6: Send in Application $100- PAID
July 20: Home Study orientation meeting $100- PAID
July total: $200

August 1: Agreement/Document Processing Fee due $900
August 15: Turn in paperwork for Home Study - first half of HS fee due $600
August total: $1,500

October 10: Home Study complete - 2nd half due $600
October 17: Immigration paperwork and fees - $890
October total: $1,490

December 12: Immigration complete - turn in to state of Kansas to certify $120 + $500 to Ethiopian Embassy
December 26: Dossier fee $3600
December total: $4,220

Total over 6 months: $7,410

You'll notice there are months in between each step where it seems nothing happens.  In those months, we will be doing the leg work for our home study and dossier (interviews, doctor's appointments, forms notarized, fingerprinting, etc).  In general, the home study is a two month process and the dossier is a 3-6 month process.  

Once our dossier is turned in and accepted we will be placed on the waiting list for a referral (average wait time is 9-12 months).  Our goal is to turn in our dossier by the end of the year.  Our timeline may change as we are at the mercy of whatever official agency has ahold of our paperwork at any given time.  Our finances can also stall out our progress as many steps in the process are accompanied by a fee or payment.   If we don't have the money readily available, we will be forced to wait until we do.  

That's where we find ourselves now.  We are currently trying to save/raise our first fee of $900 which is due in two weeks (this is one fee that has a rigid timeline).  Our goal is get 100 puzzle pieces sponsored in the next two weeks to cover this fee (so far we've had 16 pledged! Thank you!)

When it's all said and done, this adoption will cost anywhere between $20,000-$30,000.  That is a terrifying astronomical figure.  I have had to remind myself that God has a big bank account even if we don't!  We are in full-on budget revamp mode as we seek out new or clever ways to shave off excess expenses so that we are contributing the most we can to our adoption.  We will be doing some fundraising - probably a few big pushes to meet smaller goals throughout the process.  We humbly ask for your prayers and help and support as we try to find creative ways to fund this adoption without going into debt.   A few ideas we have seen work well for other families are designing and selling t-shirts, hosting garage sales, silent auctions for donated goodies, etc.

We are so very grateful for the emails, phone calls, texts and comments we have received in the last week or so.  I will admit that I had a bit of an emotional breakdown before we started our new story series.  I was feeling overwhelmed with the time and energy and money that this would take and feeling fearful that we wouldn't have the community support that we will need to see this thing through (silly me).  I cried to the Husband that I didn't feel like we had a lot of support so far which is when he reminded me that we hadn't even announced that we were adopting yet!  Oh, yeah.  I guess it's just been the only thing I've thought about for the past eight-ish months that I forgot that the rest of the world was still unaware!  All that to say, I said a prayer with each post that the Lord would pull together a support team for us and your words of encouragement, excitement and enthusiasm have been so affirming to us that God is in this.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

And here's my unabashed plea for your continued support and kind words: please, keep 'em coming!  Those of us (me) who think too much can get ourselves (myself) in a right mess when we (I) allow the doubts and fears to sneak in and start causing a scene.  I have been camping out in Hebrews 11 & 12 and reminding myself of the "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us to show us what faith can accomplish when you serve a faithful God.  I can already tell our lives will never be the same.  And that's a wonderful thing.

P.S. We may have found a way to avoid the PayPal fees, so stay tuned for that as we try to get the bugs worked out.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

a new story: maybe not so new after all?

Read parts 1-10 here.

If you're just now tuning in, the cat's out of the bag!  We're adopting from Ethiopia!

As I have processed this new and (for all the waiting and anticipation) unexpected development, I have been struck by how God can lay the groundwork for something and I can be completely oblivious to it happening underneath my feet.  As I have taken the bird's eye view of our path to adoption, I have realized that the Lord has been putting drops in our Ethiopia bucket from the beginning of our marriage.  I joked with Jordanne that it was her fault - it was she who spearheaded the initial relationship with Food for the Hungry, which led to us sponsoring children in Zeway and Belo, which led to us visiting Ethiopia, which led to us loving Ethiopia, which has now led to us adopting a small bit of Ethiopia in the form of a wonderful little person.
Are you getting tired of my silly little photoshop creations?  I'm just trying to break up all the text of the last 10 days!
What's more, I don't know how I didn't recognize that Eric has been beating the Ethiopia drum from day one. Each time I brought up an option for our adoption path, he would calmly, casually say, "You know, I just really feel this tug from Ethiopia."  Or, "Ethiopia just has my heart in a way."  Or, "It feels like we're tied to Ethiopia."  How did I miss the steady beat of Ethiopia! Ethiopia! Ethiopia! coming from my husband?  I can only chalk it up to the Lord's timing (or my thick-headedness?) - goodness knows if I had recognized it for what it was back in January, my task-oriented mind would already have us plowing through dossier paperwork and homestudy appointments!

In the end I felt a bit silly.  For how long did I cry to God, "Talk to me!  Tell me where our next baby is!" Until he finally had to say, "Kelsey, knock it off!  If you would only stop talking for once and listen to what your husband has been saying you'll know that I told you long ago where your baby is."

It's so like God, isn't it?  He's such a beautiful blend of mystery and order.  And I am amazed and grateful for the beautiful blend of mystery and practicality in our story so far.  The mystery comes from the emotional tie to a country we've visited, we prayed for, sent friends to as missionaries, and invested in the future of by sponsoring kids.  The practicality is found in a country whose adoption system fits our family perfectly.

So, that's the story.  Or at least what's written of it so far.

If you would stick with us one more day, we'll let you in on what our next steps are.  Check back tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

a new story: part ten

Read the first 9 parts of our new story here.
We ended our meeting with Nikki saying we would call her with questions and let her know if we came to any decisions.  My heart was surprisingly calm.  I expected it to be racing.

We got in the car and Eric immediately said, "I feel like we went into this week with three questions: international or domestic, what agency and what country.  After this meeting and Saturday's meeting, I feel 99% that we should go international with Children's Hope International and Ethiopia."  I couldn't believe my ears.  So I clarified.

"Are you saying you're sure you want to go the international route?"
"Are you saying you're sure you want to use CHI?"
"Are you saying you're sure we should adopt from Ethiopia?"

We continued the conversation at home.  Me, asking lots of clarifying questions, but with the same disbelieving thought in my mind, "Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?  Could it really be that what I thought would take four months for any action at all has been decided in four days?!"

Finally I said, "So, are you saying that you want to start taking next steps.  And keep taking them until we either bring our child home or God says 'stop!' or 'slow down'?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying,"  Eric said, without hesitation.

"Then I have to tell you something,"  I told him.  And I proceeded to relate my conversation with Genny and Jordanne, my thoughts that the Lord would speak through and to him about where we would find our next child.  We both cried as I told him that I wanted to tell our child that God wanted to tell Daddy where he or she was.  I told him about how I thought this should be his pregnancy.

We cried and we laughed and we stared at one another with that same sort of wide-eyed stare that we shared when we celebrated a positive pregnancy test two years ago.  The kind of stare that says that we've run out of words to express how overjoyed and overwhelmed and grateful we are for the mysterious ways He knits a family together.  It was as if Eric had handed me a positive pregnancy test.  He was pregnant.
ha.  I knew this picture would come in handy someday! This was taken at our birthing class. Gracious, I was huge.
Check in tomorrow for the final part of our adoption announcement! And check out info on our first fundraiser here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Puzzle Fundraiser - because we're cool

We're almost done telling our New Story, but I think by now you've figured out that we're adopting from Ethiopia!  YAY!! You should still read tomorrow's post, because it's going to be gooooood.  I'm breaking in with a spoiler here, though because we found out that our first payment is due in two weeks! Eeek!  We thought we had a bit more time, but turns out we don't have as much time as we thought, so we need to get started on our fundraisers!

Our first fundraiser is an idea we stole from several adoption blogs and a book we read called Adopt Without Debt.  As you should have guessed by the title of this post, our first fundraiser is a puzzle fundraiser!  A-wahoo!  Puzzles!

Okay, I know anything with the word "puzzle" in it sounds sooooo dorky.  And okay, we totally geeked out and spent last Friday night at home putting the puzzle together.  And yes, we both admitted that we actually like doing puzzles.  Fine, so we're not cool, but this fundraiser is going to be awesome!

Here's how it works:

  • You sponsor a piece of the puzzle (or 2 or 3?) for $10 each.
  • We write your name on the back of the puzzle piece and send you a photo of the piece you sponsored.
  • Once all of the pieces are sponsored (there are 513 pieces), we'll glue the puzzle, frame it in double-sided glass and hang it in the baby's bedroom so he or she can see who helped bring him or her home!

Here's the puzzle:

And here's the original photo in case the puzzle pieces and the photo of a photo are distracting :

We took this picture when we were in Ethiopia in 2008.  We were walking into a village to visit our sponsored child, Shimelis, and a bunch of people joined us as we walked.  I snapped this picture of our traveling companions.  I love that it's both anonymous and intimate - you can't see anyone's face, but you get a glimpse of the friendship among them and the attitude of caring for one another.  We thought it would be perfect for our puzzle because it reveals a glimpse of Ethiopian culture, plus it's personal because we took it on the trip that sparked our initial conversations about adoption.

Here's how you sponsor a piece of our puzzle:

  • Click the "donate" button under the words "Sponsor a Puzzle Piece"  on the right side of the page 
  • This will take you to a secure site where you can donate by credit card through PayPal
  • If you would rather donate directly to me via check or cash, email me at makewayfortheawesomekid(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll let you know the best way to do so.
  • If you would like to donate to the our general adoption fund (or if you would like to give more than $10 for your puzzle piece), click on the "donate" button under the words "Our Adoption Fund" on the right side of the page
We promise to use any money you donate solely toward the purposes of adoption.  Read more about our Make Way Adoption Fund promise here.

P.S. Please feel free to link to our blog and spread the word through your own blog, Facebook, email, etc!

a new story: part nine

Read parts 1-8 here.
God was gracious.

We already had two adoption-related meetings on the books for that week.  A week or so earlier, I had, on impulse, contacted the agency that Kim and Todd had used to adopt their daughter from China after following a link there from another blog I was reading.  I recognized the name - Children's Hope International - since Kim had shared it with me and I thought, "Why not get some more information?"  Within 15 minutes of submitting the form online, I had an email in my inbox from the Kansas City area representative offering to get together with us to process our possible adoption.  The next day I received another email with information about an informational meeting a local family was hosting.  I signed us up for both since, after all, our plan was to simply hear more people's stories to hopefully help find/confirm our own.

So the following Saturday (the conversation between Genny and I happened on Thursday), we met the adoptive family at Starbucks.  They shared their story of adopting a brother and a sister from Colombia.  As we drove home, I let Eric process what we had heard (still determined not to influence him by my verbal processing).  He surprised me by offering up that Colombia was a greater consideration now that he's heard someone's personal story (when I had mentioned Colombia before, he had said he would think about it, but that he felt a deeper tie to Ethiopia having been there).  He shocked me by saying he would even think about adopting siblings.  I hadn't even considered adopting siblings!  Adding one child to our family seemed change enough for me!  Who was this man driving my car?

Then, on Monday, we met with the agency's local rep, Nikki.  The first thing she said when we sat down was, "So, tell me your story.  Why are we here?"  Immediately, we felt like we had found that missing piece.  The local agency we had met with back in March had been professional, knowledgeable, polite.  But it felt like she had simply said, "Here's what we offer and how we operate.  Let us know when you're ready for the next step."  I remember saying to Eric when we left there, "I was kind of hoping she would have asked us a little more about us."  This was what we needed.  Someone to take the time to hear our story, our process and then use their knowledge and insight to help us make some really important decisions.

I told Nikki our story (the long version, of course - do you know me at all?) and ended by saying that we had narrowed our country options down to Ethiopia and Colombia for these reasons.   She listened and then said, "I'm working on not being too honest with people."  I think what she probably meant was she has a pretty strong ability to discern what people should do, but sometimes they're not ready to hear it.  We told her to please, be honest!  So she proceeded to tell us that Colombia is just not a good fit for us.  The Colombia program is designed primarily for the adoption of sibling groups and is a best fit for an older couple with no children or older children.  She said we could still go with Colombia if that's what we really wanted, but with the age of child we were looking for (because of Lila's age) we may have to wait 4-5 years and there was just no reason for us to have to do that.

She gave us a few other reasons (for example, Colombia is very strict about adoptive mothers getting pregnant, so if I were to get pregnant on accident we wouldn't be able to proceed with the adoption) and as she spoke Eric and I just kept exchanging grins.  Here was the clear closed door we had been praying for.  I was already feeling really confident that Ethiopia would be the best fit for us - if only because Colombia wasn't a good fit.  But then Nikki started to tell us about the Ethiopia program.

She told us how well the kids were cared for.
She told us that the Ethiopian government has been really intentional about showing that they value the adoption exchange.
She told us that we would most likely have the opportunity to meet our child's birth family.
She told us that Ethiopia tends to be more flexible with things like the age of current kids and moms getting pregnant.
She told us that Ethiopia has many young infants available for adoption.
She told us that the process is predictable and stable.

And with each bit of information she added, I felt the whisper in my heart grow louder and stronger: "my child is in ethiopia. My child is in Ethiopia. My Child Is In Ethiopia. MY CHILD IS IN ETHIOPIA!" But in my mind I kept reminding myself, "Kelsey, it has to come from Eric.  This is his pregnancy.  You can't say anything!"

To be continued in part ten!

Oh, Yi-ya

A couple months ago, Lila started saying, "Oh, Yi-ya" to herself whenever she would trip or drop something or just to get a good laugh out of the Husband and me.  She evidently has been paying attention to the many, many times I've caught her in the act of doing something destructive or dangerous or messy and muttered, "Oh, Lila" to myself.  It's pretty cute when she says it.

But today, I was saying it a lot.  And so, as a little break from our New Story (which perhaps should have been called the "Long, Long Story"), I bring you two "Oh, Yi-ya" moments from today:

The Yogurt Incident
I gave her yogurt to get started on while I got the rest of her lunch ready.  She was doing pretty well so I let her keep at it while I tidied the house a bit.  The next time I looked around, I saw this:

Not only did the clean up of this necessitate the use of 5 paper towels and two wipes, it also required a diaper change as there was strawberry yogurt coating the front of her diaper.  As you can see, she was very concerned about the mess she had made.  Oh, did I say concerned?  I meant ambivalent.  "What?  Is there something on my face?"  No, Lila, there's something on your entire body.

The Acting Class
During one of the many fits I witnessed today, Lila walked into our room, stood in front of our full-length mirror and proceeded to watch herself wail pathetically for nearly five minutes.  She was more than a little perturbed that I wasn't sufficiently moved by her performance.  The fact that I was laughing at her and taking pictures probably gave me away.  But I just had to document it so I could share it with you:
I anticipate her teenage years with a healthy bit of trepidation.

Monday, July 18, 2011

a new story: part eight

Read parts 1-7 here.
Another month passed with little to no movement other than the slow blossoming of the feeling that international adoption was the path we should take.  It was now the middle of June (can you tell we're getting to the end of this story??  Thanks for sticking with us!) and Genny was in town from Manhattan. She and I got some much-needed one-on-one time away from our children (whom we dearly love but keep us from having any sort of a complete conversation) and our conversation turned toward adoption - a topic near to both of our hearts.  She asked me where we were in our process and I whined, "I don't know!  Help me process this!"

She was gracious enough to let me verbally vomit all over her about how I still don't know from which country to adopt and because of that I start to doubt I've been hearing God correctly about everything else and blah, blah, blah and I found myself saying, "...and Eric's no help because I'm usually the one who gets these gut feelings about what we should do and he prays about it and usually comes around to what I think.  I feel like I could talk him into any of our options, but I don't feel that gut instinct in this and I don't want to have to talk him into something so big."  And then these words came out of my mouth:

I think this is supposed to be Eric's pregnancy.  Lila was my pregnancy - I got to carry her, suffer for her, feel her kick and move, birth her, nurse her, bond with her in ways he couldn't.  I would love to be able to tell our child 'Mommy desperately wanted to hear from God about where you were, but God wanted to tell your Daddy.  So it was Daddy who found you.'

And I watched Genny's face change as I said those words.  And tears welled up in my eyes.  And I said, rather blubbery, "That's it, isn't it.  God's not going to speak to me about this.  He's going to tell Eric."

And I knew that I couldn't tell Eric that.  I didn't want him to feel any pressure to hear from God.  I knew it was going to have to be like our trip to Ethiopia to visit our sponsored kids.  I would have to lay it down completely until Eric brought it up.  And at that moment I felt a rush of peace and at the same time felt the need to take a deep breath because this could take awhile.

The next day I called my friend Jordanne and told her my newest kairos moment and my resolution to wait for the Lord to speak and direct Eric.  She listened and then said,

"You know what you need to do, Kelsey?"
"What?" I said.
"It's going to sound so stupid when you say it," she said.
"What?" I said more earnestly.
"Nothing.  You have to do nothing.  Too many wives say, 'I'm going to let my husband lead on this one,' and then they nag or hint or bait their husbands to manipulate them to do what they want.  You can't do that.  Not if you believe that this is what God is saying."

Then she reminded me that when Gabriel told Mary that she would be giving birth to God's own son, Mary didn't run off to tell her fiance what the plan was.  Instead she "treasured these things in her heart," and waited and trusted God to communicate His plans to Joseph.

Jordanne was right and she'd hit the nail on the head.  I knew I couldn't even casually bring up the topic of adoption without accidentally leading Eric in one direction or another with my questions.  I took a mental deep breath and began gearing up for, what I thought would be, at least four months of treasuring (or brooding over) these things in my head and heart.

Part 9 is coming tomorrow!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

a new story: part seven

Read parts 1-6 here.
Our plan of attack at that point was to keep asking questions and taking time to hear other families' stories in the hopes that one of their stories would stir something in us to help us answer the questions we still had:

What country?  When? Are we sure we want to close the door on domestic adoption?

I should mention that I was, of course, obsessively reading adoption blogs - some were people we know, some were friends of friends and others were complete strangers.  I would find myself weeping as I watched videos of adoptive parents meeting their child for the first time.  International adoption swelled bigger and bigger in my heart and slowly nudged the door to domestic adoption shut.

A few things kept running through my head.  One was that statistic reminding me of the hundreds of kids across the globe waiting for homes.  Another was something Kim had told me when she shared her adoption story.  When I had asked her how she and Todd came to decide on China for their adoption she said, "I just knew.  My daughter was in China."  As I processed in my prayers and with my friends and family, I would say, "I'm just waiting for that "my daughter's in China" moment!"

Through my research, I had casually narrowed our options down to Ethiopia and Colombia.  Both countries were among the more affordable and we qualified for both as far as our family statistics (our age, Lila's age, length of time married, etc).  The draw to Ethiopia was, of course, because of our time spent there and the kids we sponsored.  The draw to Colombia was rooted in my experience studying abroad in Guatemala - I had ever since wanted to adopt a little brown hispanic baby!  But I really didn't feel a hard tug from either of those countries.
To be honest, I was beginning to feel a bit panicked about a lack of response from God despite my desperate prayers of, "Lord, we'll be obedient no matter how you direct us!  Just tell us where our next child is!"  I felt frustrated and discouraged by a lack of a next step, and although I had a sense that there was purpose in the waiting, I was desperate for some movement!

Check in tomorrow for part eight!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

a new story: part six

For the first five parts of our new story, click here.

One friend I had shared my processing with from the very beginning was my dear friend (and doula at Lila's birth), Genny.  Genny is pretty discerning and often hears things in my words that I don't even realize I'm saying.  As I processed our meeting with the local agency, I mentioned the statistic that had caught my attention.  Wisely, Genny commented that the woman who had met with us had probably shared many statistics with us and the fact that this particular one stuck with me was probably significant.  She encouraged me to pray into that and ask the Lord if there was something more to that hesitation I was feeling.

So when Eric and I collapsed into bed that night, I casually mentioned that I thought we needed to reconsider international adoption.  Poor Husband.  He responded as I should have expected: "Well, I've been processing all of this in light of our decision to go the domestic route, so I'll have to think about that a bit."  That was fine with me.  After all, I was still floundering quite a bit anyway.

So we both thought.  And prayed.  And thought.  And prayed.  And two months passed.  It was now the end of May, and while we still didn't feel like we had an absolute answer, the truth was international adoption was more and more feeling like a better fit for us.  A few months before, adopting a toddler, waiting for Lila to be older and traveling to a foreign country all weighed heavy on us as reasons to rule out international adoption, but now, for whatever reason (perhaps because Lila was older?) those things just didn't feel quite as heavy.

Again, we came back to the question, "Why do we think the Lord wants us to adopt?"  As much as we wanted a clear answer to that, what it really came down to was what we didn't hear.  We didn't think the Lord was saying that there was a specific child for us locally.  We believe that the universal call on God's people is to "take care of the orphans and widows" and with that in mind, it seemed logical to pursue adopting a child who would potentially be left permanently orphaned otherwise, rather than one who has many families "fighting" to be chosen to parent him or her.  (NOTE: In no way are we saying that domestic adoption is a lesser choice to international adoption!!  Let me repeat: WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION IS BETTER OR MORE RIGHTEOUS THAN DOMESTIC ADOPTION.  We simply believe that for us, the road of obedience led us to adopt internationally.)

We found ourselves in a familiar place - having made a "logical" decision to rule out one road to adoption.  We had a lot of hope in our hearts, but still a lot of uncertainty.  Would we find ourselves flip-flopping back to domestic adoption in a few months time?  If not, from which country should we adopt? And we still had that nagging question, "Was God saying adopt next or was he simply reminding us that adoption is in our family's story and telling us adopt someday?"

Check in tomorrow for part seven!

Friday, July 15, 2011

a new story: part five

To read the previous posts in our new story, click here.

With a newly narrowed down path to adoption, we earnestly pursued our friends who had adopted domestically.  In February, we got dinner with our friends Holly and Seth who had adopted their cutie pie son right around Lila's birthday.  They candidly shared their story which was enormously helpful.  We asked a ton of questions and we began to try to imagine ourselves following in their footsteps.

In March, we met with a local agency to sort of test the waters and see if we were ready to take a next step.  The woman at the agency was very nice, the agency seemed professional, and two of our friends had used them for their adoptions with glowing reviews.  We had been hoping to walk out of that meeting with a big "YES!" in our spirits and that just didn't happen.  We definitely didn't feel a "no," and there was nothing about our meeting or the agency that made us uncomfortable.  It simply just felt - average.  Informative, but nothing more.  We had been praying that we would have a gut feeling either way about whether this agency was a good fit for our family.  Did a lack of "yes" mean "no?"  We were a bit confused.

After some processing of that emotional response, we decided to hit the metaphorical pause button.  We decided to pray into that feeling (or lack thereof) and see if there was something to it or if it was simply one of those things that would be a practical decision rather than an emotional decision.  We wanted to ask the Lord if there was a reason behind that lack of a "YES!" feeling - like should we try another agency?  Should we wait on the adoption thing all together?  Or was this simply just a lesson in balancing our head and our heart?

As we processed these questions, one of the other things that came up was a statistic we heard during the meeting:  

For every one child available for adoption domestically, there are 40 waiting families.  And for every one family looking to adopt internationally, there are hundreds of children needing families.  

That statistic kind of threw me.  I didn't like the thought of taking a child from another deserving family who potentially couldn't have children of their own, and I hated the thought of hundreds of kids who may never be adopted.  We decided to pray over the domestic/international decision a bit more.  

It kind of felt like a step backwards.  We had been pretty confident that we would go the domestic route, but now even that decision felt shaky at best.  As we processed all of this, the biggest question we came back to was, "Lord, why do you want us to adopt?"  The answer to that question was really the answer to the question of domestic vs. international.  Is it because there is a mom and a baby living locally who are perfect matches for our family?  Or are you simply asking us to respond to your generic call on your people to care for the orphans?   

Once again, we were waiting for the Lord to speak.

Check in tomorrow for part six!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

a new story: part four

To read the first three parts of our new story click here.

I didn't really know where to begin.  I knew our two main choices were domestic adoption and international adoption.   And I knew within those choices there were other choices.  For domestic, we could do foster to adopt, private adoption or agency adoption.  For international, we had many countries to choose from.  I was totally overwhelmed.  All I felt like God had said was, "Just look into adopting," but I didn't even know where to look!

I started making a list of people I knew who had adopted - both domestically and internationally.  My hope was that by hearing people's stories, someone's story might sound like our own.  I talked to the awesome Kim Stewart and she gave me the name of a few different agencies to start with. 
Lila and Kim's daughter, Lia - adopted from China.
I called one of the agencies and told the woman who answered, "I don't know what I'm doing.  Is there someone who can help me process this?"  She connected me to someone else who told me that the simplest reason most people adopt internationally is that it's a sure thing (as in, there are so many kids needing homes that it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when you get a referral) and most adopt domestically because they want an infant.  That didn't really help me.  We weren't totally set on an infant and we weren't all that concerned about not being chosen if we chose domestic (not because we are just that prideful, but because if we got that far, we would truly believe that God had brought us there and would provide the perfect birthmom and child for us).

So I decided to talk to both departments and see what I could learn.  Just for grins, I spoke with the woman in charge of Ethiopia adoptions and learned that the average age of children being adopted out of Ethiopia was 12-18 months and that Ethiopia requires your child to be at least two years older than the child you adopt.  If we chose to go the Ethiopia route, she advised that we wait until Lila was at least two before even beginning the process.

Now remember, this was January so Lila was just over a year old.  The thought of waiting a WHOLE YEAR to really dive into these questions again just didn't feel right.  I didn't want to wait until next winter only to realize that adoption wasn't a good fit for our family and miss our optimum timing for getting pregnant with Lila's brother or sister.  Also, we felt more comfortable adopting an infant - we knew we could do infants!  We hadn't yet experienced toddlers at the time.  And although cost ends up being about the same for both international and domestic adoptions, with international we would have to travel and leave Lila for anywhere from a week to more than a month depending on the country!  Those things all weighed heavy on us, so it seemed the most logical choice was to rule out international adoption and begin pursuing domestic adoption.

So, with the international/domestic question answered, the next step was to try to find an agency.

Check in tomorrow for part five!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

After these messages, we'll be riiiigghhht back!

Remember that?

Anyway, just because I'm in the middle of our New Story doesn't mean the material for posts stops coming.

Our previous plans for tonight changed so we were left without a meal planned.  I wasn't feeling inspired and I was craving a hamburger so we decided to cash in one of our Blanc Groupons and have a family dinner out.
soooooo yummy
Oh silly me.  In my mind I had this pleasant idea of us sitting peacefully enjoying a juicy burger and delicious sweet potato fries while Lila snacked on the free toddler meal (yes, FREE!  It's cheese and apple slices and raisins!  I had no idea restaurants offered this sort of thing, but I now make it a habit to ask restaurants if they offer free mini-meals for fidgety toddlers).  But in my mind, I must have replaced Lila with some other person's angel-child.  Because this is what our evening actually looked like:

- Daddy drops us off at the curb to put our name in while he parks.  Lila has a fit that Daddy drove off without us despite much soothing and explaining that he was coming back.

- 15 minute wait.  No big deal, right?  Lila throws another fit because she wants to go outside.

- We go outside, but are confined to the patio where the pager's range ends.  Lila throws a fit because she wants to walk across the street to the fountain.

- They page us (thank goodness) and we go in to get seated.  Lila throws a fit because she didn't actually want to go inside.  Surprise, surprise.

- We shove her flailing limbs into the highchair and strap her down despite the arch in her back.  Fit continues despite all my distraction tactics.  I pull everything but a rabbit out of my hat bag, but she yells "NO!" to everything I offer.

- We get a brief reprieve when the toddler plate arrives, but Lila soon tires of the apples and wants nothing to do with the raisins and cheese.  People are beginning to stare/roll their eyes/look at us sympathetically as the impressive tantrum escalates.

- I say, "How do you feel about walking around with her until our meal comes?" and the Husband-of-the-Year obliges.  I sink down into my Dr. Pepper with exhausted relief and text my sister "oh heaven help us."

- I retreat into the white noise drone of restaurant conversation, but am yanked back to reality by the occasional shrill voice yelling, "Mommmmmyyyyy" from the other side of the restaurant.  I look around in a feigned, "Hmm...whose child is that? I hope she finds her mommy" concern.

- She found her mommy.  And her mommy found a poopy diaper.  But, da-da-na-daaaaa! (that's superhero music) Husband-of-the-Year comes to the rescue again and takes Miss Stinker (that name fits in more ways than one) to the car for a new diaper...because I forgot to bring a bag for the dirty cloth diaper.

- In the meantime, our food arrives and I snarf down half my burger before the Husband-of-the-Year and Baby Stinker Punk return.  Guiltily, I offer him the cart of sweet potato fries that I had wheeled over to my side of the table.  Lila starts in with her not-so-silent sign language for "I want to eat that immediately I mean now you better hurry up or I'm going to get louder and more and more people are going to stare at your sub-standard parenting skills" and gestures wildly toward the fries.
ooh la-la

- We earn our second moment of peace when we unashamedly offer her fry after fry to keep her quiet.  Sometimes, you just gotta indulge the kid so you can survive.  Can I get an "Amen?"

- The rest of the meal proceeds pretty much as can be expected.  More yelling, more attempts to appease, more flailing of tiny limbs, more sighs and head shakes from nearby table occupants.  Need I go on?

- Eventually the waitress says, "Can I get you anything else?" with a very distinct undertone of "Please leave.  Your child is an urchin."  We get our check and make a run for it.

- Lila doesn't want me to sit in the front seat.  She also doesn't want me to sit in the back seat.  She doesn't want Daddy to drive.  After a ridiculous game of musical seats, I realize, "Hey, I'm the mom here.  I paid for this car (actually, that's complete and total lie.  We paid nothing for our car.  It was a total gift from Jesus and my parents and a generous friend) so I'm going to sit where I want!"  Lila throws a fit. (surprise!)

- We stop by Aunt Jess and Uncle Kyle's to pick something up (because we're just that stupid and haven't yet figured out that the girl just needs to GO TO BED!) and Lila puts on her, "I'm always sweet and bubbly and cute and fantastic" act for her adoring aunt.

- Jess tells us a story that ends with the newly coined idiom, "Let's just call a cow a cow." (She meant, "Let's call a spade a spade.") Which sends me into an intense silent, near-crying laughter which Lila interprets as actual crying which prompts her to wail, "Mommmmyyy!" and start crying herself.  Just picture something like this pathetic-ness:

- We finally come to grips with the reality in which we are living and take the wailing, tear-streaked, sweaty, exhausted Baby Girl home.

The end.

a new story: part three

To read parts one and two, click here.

As I wondered and prayed about my deep connection to Waverley's story, I began to wonder if the adoption piece was significant.  Eric and I hadn't talked about adopting since that plane ride back from Ethiopia, but I began to wonder if the Lord was using Wavy's story to reawaken that dream of adding to our family though adoption.

I want to take a moment to do my best to honor Matt and Molly.  It may seem odd that witnessing what can only be described as "an adoption horror story" would make us consider adoption.  In fact, when I told Molly how instrumental she and Matt have been in our journey, she wrote back, "I am honored at your words but cannot see how we would have ANY positive influence on people looking at adoption.  A few others have said that and it BLOWS MY MIND.  So to God be the glory forever and ever. Amen."  That response in and of itself captures the humility, grace, and kindness with which these sweet people operate their lives.  And it was their attitude of humility and faith that caught our attention, not the circumstances of their tragedy.  The circumstances by themselves are sobering, discouraging, tragic.  But it was Matt and Molly's response to those circumstances that really intrigued us.

From the beginning of their battle to be Wavy's parents they were convicted and convinced of one truth: Waverley is THEIR daughter.  They were never fighting to parent someone else's child.  They were fighting to parent THEIR child.  And if you could know Matt and Molly's hearts today, you would know she still is their daughter.  She always will be.  They just don't get the joy of having her with them.  Molly can't stop being Waverley's mommy any more than I could stop being Lila's mommy.  From observing their story unfold, I learned this: adoption has more to do with a decision rooted in love than it does a judge's ruling.  In other words, Wavy wouldn't have become Matt and Molly's daughter when their adoption was finalized, Waverley had been their daughter since the day they held her for the first time.  That understanding showed me that parenting by adoption is no different than parenting by childbirth - the moment you hold your baby, it's all over.  You'd give your life for the sake of that tiny person because he or she is your child.  And that reality is what made my heart spring to life with hope for that kind of childbirth.

So, one night I casually mentioned it to Eric.  I think something along the lines of, "You know, I've been thinking a lot about adoption ever since I heard about Matt and Molly losing Waverley.  Do you still think about adopting someday?"  His answer was something like, "Yeah, sometimes.  But after Lila, it's hard to imagine doing it any other way."  I understood.  But I wasn't totally satisfied with that answer.  I asked him if he would think about it some more.  And I found myself praying a familiar prayer, "Lord, if I'm hearing you right, confirm it through Eric."

A month or so later Eric and I checked in with each other on the adoption thing and he said, "I could see us doing it, but if we did, I'd want a baby girl."  Cautious Husband.  Again I understood - if we weren't going to make our next baby, let's try to get it as close to our first parenting experience as we can.  We've done baby girl.  We know how to do baby girl.  Let's just adjust to one thing at a time.  We kind of left it there for a bit.

Then in January, we went on a retreat with the Gathering.  The retreat's main focus was teaching us how to hear the Lord and respond in obedience.  We were challenged to think about moments in our life recently when we felt like the Lord was trying to grab our attention.  The first thing that came to my mind was my reaction to hearing Waverley's story.  Throughout the retreat we were taught to examine these "kairos moments" and try to discern what the Lord might be saying and what he wanted us to do about it.  I felt like God was saying, "Just ask a few questions.  See what happens!"
view from Trail West where we had our retreat.  not too shabby, eh?
I pulled Eric aside and told him, "I think we're supposed to look into adopting.  I'm not saying we definitely should, I just think we're supposed to start asking some basic questions and see where that takes us."  Awesome husband that he is, he agreed.  I began brainstorming questions to ask and people to talk to.  

Check in tomorrow for part four!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We interrupt this program to bring you...

Okay so I know I'm in the middle of our New Story, but I just had to give you a glimpse into my life right now.

It's not uncommon to walk into a room and see the remnants of one of Lila's "projects."

For example:
She took great care in laying out all of her back-up disposable diapers and did not look kindly on me folding them back up and putting them away
And she's been known to empty a drawer or two.

Well, today I found this:
Those are the circular pieces to her shape sorter.  All the other ones were on the floor in the kitchen.  Perhaps these were in time out for being naughty?
and this:
We received our ValPak coupons in the mail today.  Usually I pull out the free cheese dip for Mi Ranchito and toss the rest, but today Lila got to them before I did and she spent 20 minutes (not exaggerating) "organizing" them.  In fact, as I type, she's back to it.  Yup, they're still on the floor.  I'm too lazy to pick them up.
Also, this is what she's wearing right now:
She refused to wear clothes, but she insisted on her sandals.  And from the looks of things she was beginning another favorite project of hers - pulling all the wipes out of the wipe container. 
I know it looks like I just let my child run amuck doing whatever she pleases, but the reality is most projects are closely supervised and I've usually done the math to figure out if the clean up time is an even exchange for the temporary peace and quiet I get when my active toddler is deeply engaged in something.  Usually it is.  A few harmless projects can be a wonderful thing.  Believe me.

a new story: part two

If you are just joining our new story, read part one here.
On the plane ride home from Ethiopia, we observed several children coming home with their newly adoptive families.  And during our layover in DC, we met a couple who were on their way back to Ethiopia to pick up their third adopted child.  Watching these families sparked conversation amongst the group and several of us discussed how we'd love to adopt some day.  Eric and I discussed the idea of adding to our family by adoption and decided we wanted to try to get pregnant first and potentially adopt once our children were older.

After we got back from Ethiopia, we often talked about our kids and where they lived and how we loved our time there.   But soon we were distracted with other adventures.  We went to Ethiopia in March of 2008 and that fall we went on our long overdue honeymoon to Hawaii.  As soon as we got back from Hawaii, we began working on our next adventure: parenthood.  By the following March, we were pregnant with our little peanut!

Small Peanut.
Needless to say, having Lila changed our lives for the better and each day with her made us more and more in love with our life.  But almost as soon as one kid is "out the gate" people begin asking you when your next one is coming.  I mean, sheesh!  Give a mama some time to adjust!  So Eric and I began having conversations every once in awhile about our next child.

I didn't have the easiest of pregnancies.  I didn't have any weird complications, but I had ALL of the normal ones:  morning sickness, swollen everything, food aversions,  heartburn, etc.  You name it, I had it.   Plus, Lila gave me a run for my money her first year with her biting eating habits and nap protests and general attitude-bossiness.  AND, selfishly, I had not been the glowing, sexy pregnant mama every girl thinks/hopes she'll be.  And it took much longer than I had anticipated to get back to my pre-baby body.  (Actually, certain stubborn tummy regions still aren't cooperating in that arena despite all my quality time spent with Jillian Michaels!)

So I wasn't all that pumped about going through all that again so soon.  But I knew I wanted Lila to have a sibling close-ish in age so we settled on trying for our second when Lila was almost two (as in Fall of 2011, as in THIS Fall).

Let's back up a bit, though because a very significant part of our story happened last Fall.  If you've been reading our blog, you will know our friends Matt and Molly's story.  (To read the story, click on the picture of that cute little dimpled child on the right.)  When we got the news that Matt and Molly had lost the Supreme Court appeal that would have finally ended the 2.5 year-long battle to finalize the adoption of their daughter, Waverley, I was wrecked.  Theres's really no other word for it.  I thought about it night and day.  I couldn't sleep.  I would stay up until all hours of the morning praying and begging God to step in and change things.  I began to tell their story on this blog and ask you to join me in those prayers.

In the midst of all this, I started to wonder why exactly I was so torn up about this tragedy.  Not because the situation didn't deserve that reaction, but because of my proximity to Matt and Molly.  We are friends, but not close friends.  Our circles interconnect in many places, but I wouldn't say we are in one another's inner circles.  And after all, there have been many terrible things I have heard about, said a prayer and moved on.  But Waverley's story was different.

So I began to ask myself why it was different.

Was it because I was a mom and I could sympathize with Molly's heartbreak over losing her baby girl?

Was it because this tragedy was unearthing an unknown fear of losing Lila suddenly?

Or was it because God was doing something?

Was God using Matt and Molly's story to affect change in my own?

Check back tomorrow for part three!