Wednesday, October 31, 2012

an announcement!

So I've affectionately been calling our next child Carmen.  You know - Carmen Sandiego.  As in, "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

Ahhh, the nineties.

By the way, the Husband and I watched an entire episode of WitWiCS on YouTube and he was shouting out all the answers.  He's such a geography geek.  And when I told him that, he said, "Didn't you have a favorite country as a kid?"

Me: No, what was yours?  The United States?

Him: (incredulous) No! Denmark!

And then he proceeded to explain that he liked their flag and that they were almost an island and that he  "liked the sound of Copenhagen."

Aww.  My geeky little Husband.  He's so cute.


I hope my little teasers have done their job and you are on the edge of your seats!  Are you? Are you?

Well, sit back and relax because we have an exciting announcement about the new chapter of our story!

So, as you know, we've been praying about where "Carmen" might be and after many weeks of prayer and discussion and research and more prayer, we are thrilled to announce that...

That's right! We are pursuing a special needs adoption in China!

We sent in our application last week and heard back earlier this week that we are approved - wahoo!!

Over the next few days, we'll give you all a little insight into how we came to this decision, but for now we just wanted you all to share in our excitement and relief to finally have a plan in place.

For now, I'll share quickly answer some FAQs:

What is the timeline?
We should be home with our child by the end of 2013.  Because this is a special needs adoption and we will be choosing from children already waiting, there won't be much of a wait, if any, for a referral.  We have to wait until I turn 30 in April (one of China's requirements is that both parents are 30 years old), but it will probably take us that long to get our paperwork done anyway.  So once we meet those two milestones (paperwork and age), we will be able to review the files of the waiting children associated with our agency and choose one as our son or daughter.  Then, we will wait about 6 months while the child's paperwork is verified before we can travel to bring him or her home.  Of course, as we've learned, international adoption is nothing if not unpredictable, which is why I said, should!

What agency? We will stay our current agency, Children's Hope International.  They have a well-respected program in China and have many children on their waiting list.  We are thrilled to be staying with CHI.  We trust them and appreciate their conservative approach to international adoption.

Why a waiting/special needs child? I'll go into this in detail in a future post, but for now I'll give you three bullet points:
- As we researched some of the more common medical conditions that waiting children have, we realized there were many that we were capable of parenting.  And if we could then we began to believe that we should.
- We feel like God called us to adopt a child in need of a family.  Waiting children are, by definition, waiting for a family.  These children are not able to be referred to the many waiting families because of a medical condition.  While all orphans are in need of families, waiting children have a unique need for families willing to adopt a medically unhealthy child.
- Practically speaking, adopting a waiting child fits our family's needs as well - our hope is for Lila to have a sibling within the next year and the process for a waiting child in China is much quicker than many other programs because there is no wait for a referral.

Why China? Again, there's a whole post coming on this one, but I'll give you another three bullet points:
- It's a stable country with ethical standards in place (it is a part of the Hague Convention)
- It's a medically advanced country so the medical information available for each child is reliable and as accurate as possible
- Many of the children on the waiting lists were in China and our agency has a reputable program

What about Ethiopia?  We are so excited that this will be a concurrent adoption!  Meaning we will be able to stay on the waiting list for Ethiopia while we bring our sweet Chinese baby home.  One of the things that was hardest for us as we considered other options was closing the door on Ethiopia.  This allows us to continue on the path to Ethiopia while also giving us the chance to give Lila a sibling close to her age.

How much will it cost?
We are estimating close to $30,000 including paperwork fees and travel.

Which brings me to our next announcement: we will be introducing several new fundraisers in the next few weeks!  Because of the nature of special needs adoptions (no referral wait), we will need to raise the money relatively quickly.  We estimate we will need to raise at least $15,000 in 6 months.  Gulp.   The almost $3,000 we currently have raised/saved will go toward our more immediate expenses (home study - $1000, program agreement fee - $1200, etc).  It's a lot of money quickly and I kind of get a pit in my stomach whenever I think about it, but I know that God is big enough and he is faithful.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generation, for ever and ever! Amen.

I'm asking the Lord to provide the money we need in the next six months.  I'm imagining the ways He might do it.  And I'm expecting to be delightedly surprised by the "immeasurably more" that He is able to do!  Please join us in these prayers and in our prayers for our next Awesome Kid who just so happens to be in China!

Thank you, once again for walking this road with us.  We are so very grateful!

(Stay tuned for a fundraiser announcement in the next day or so!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

it's coming...

we're starting a new chapter to our story...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

still here

We're still here.  I know we've been quiet around here recently.  (And my grandma gets worried when I don't post for awhile so this is partly for you, Grandma!)  Part of the reason for the lack of posting is that Lila is sick - she's had a fever for four days and now has a croupy cough.  Poor baby.  She's actually been mostly happy for which I've been grateful.  We have had the occasional meltdown which is especially pathetic with that little croupy cry she has.  We are both getting a little bored, though.  We took a little trip to my sister-in-law's house to stock up on Disney movies to keep us sane while we endure day four of not leaving our house!  I think we'll be entertained for awhile:
Lila can barely contain her excitement.  Little sicky.
We've also been quiet as we continue to think about, research, pray, process and discuss our next steps for our adoption.  A friend asked me the other day how I was feeling about potentially closing the door to Ethiopia.  I said when I think about not adopting from Ethiopia, I feel really sad.  But when I think about adopting from one of the other countries we are considering, I get really excited about that.  I don't think they are mutually exclusive.  Just because I feel sad about one thing doesn't mean I can't be excited about another.

When I got pregnant with Lila, I was especially conflicted about how to talk about and celebrate my pregnancy around my friends who had lost babies or who hoped to be pregnant and weren't yet.  They told me they wanted to know, wanted to celebrate with us, wanted to be included.  But I think I just thought they were being nice.  I didn't think they really meant it.

Well, I'm here to tell you I mean it.  I feel the same way about my friends who have had babies recently or have recently found out they are pregnant as I do about our current adoption dilemma.  My emotional reaction is conflicted - entirely one thing and entirely another.  Just as it's possible for me to be sad about closing the door to Ethiopia and excited about our other options, it's also possible to be sad for my failed pregnancy attempts and thrilled for their successes at the same time.  Of course, depending on how fresh off a disappointment I am, I can't be sure which emotion will emerge first.  So I might be able to respond in the fullest of my joy and celebration for them.  Or I might have to allow my own grief to bubble up a bit as I smile and hug them through tears.

I long for our next child.  And to have the colloquialism, "where in the world?" be a literal question in my mind and heart is no small thing.  I literally do not know where in the world my next child is or will be.  And that is an overwhelming thought.

I remember when we began our first round of adoption research back in January of 2011, we felt like we were supposed to start asking to hear people's stories.  I had this sense that I would hear a story some day that felt like our story and that would help us know what road to take.

So I'm doing the same thing these days.  I find myself sifting through stories, trying to identify with thought processes, emotions, and or even just core beliefs of other families.  I'm reading blogs like this one and finding myself crying.  I think that's something.  I first had a sense we should adopt when I would sit for hours watching Gotcha Day videos and ball my eyes out.  When my heart is moved it's often manifested in tears shed.  So I'm taking note.

I'm being intentionally elusive about our thoughts at this point.  Partly because we go through streaks where we change our minds on a daily basis (read: change my mind) so it doesn't quite seem fair or worth it to try to keep you lovely readers abreast of what we are thinking when we are probably thinking something different by the time you read what I've written!

I will say that God has been so faithful.  We asked for direction and guidance and He has given us both in the form of clear answers to our questions or simply gut feelings that something isn't the right fit.  Doors are closing and a few are remaining open.  We feel confident that this season of research will be fruitful and that we will come out of it with a clear path and purpose.

The Moravian text today included the following verses:

Psalm 33:4 The word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.

Hebrews 11:11 By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

His work is done in faithfulness.  Amen.  And I am doing my best to consider Him faithful who has promised.  The problem is, I'm not exactly sure what He has promised me.  For Sarah, it was a clear promise - a son to father all the nations.  I'm not sure what the result of His promise will be for me.  I don't know if I will ever carry and birth a child again.  I don't know if we will ever bring home one of the 5 million in Ethiopia.  I don't know if we will parent a child with special needs.  I don't know.

But one thing I do know, whatever the gift resulting from His promise: it will be good.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What we did today and some more adoption thoughts

We visited some old friends today.  Lila got to play with three friends and the mommies got to have disjointed conversation that was interrupted every 27 seconds by a toy being grabbed away, a frustrated push, a yelling "NO!", a pitiful wail, a bump on the head, a toy being thrown across the room.  But that's the joy of motherhood, folks!

But seriously, how fun it is to see old friends and try to catch up on one another's lives - even if it's only in sound bytes!

We took a picture as we were all leaving to feed or nap our children.  Okay I took about 20 pictures because those wiggly ones would not sit still!

This is the clearest photo I have of all four of them: 

The rest look like this:

And then Owen was done, Eden was trying to escape Lila's death grip and Afsana was just staring off into space because we were infringing on her nap time.

It was such fun.  Lila kept saying, with pure glee in her voice, "There's so many babies!"  That's my girl.  I love my beautiful friends and their sweet kiddos.  Lila, you and I have a good life, girlfriend.

On the way home, Lila was quiet in the car.  Then, out of the blue, she said:

Mommy?  Do you know where is my heart?

Do I know where your heart is?

Yeah. My heart is with God because God loves us!

Your heart is with God because God loves us?


Who taught you that?

Jesus told me that.

Jesus told her that.  That girl just floors me every time with this stuff.  Of course, I don't know if someone taught her that (her sweet teachers at school?  her awesome grandparents? her daddy?) or if perhaps that's her reinterpretation of our conversation a few days ago when I answered her question, "Where's Jesus?"  He's here with you.  In your heart.  
My girl and her Daddy.
Either way, I love that she's thinking about these things in her quiet thoughts.  And I love that Jesus is alive for her, teaching her things, telling her what's true.  Reminding me what's true.  God loves me.  My heart is with him.  Jesus speaks to my little girl and He can speak to me, too.

I'm really desperate for His voice these days.  We are overwhelmed with our options for our adoption and we still haven't made a decision.  Last week, we found a little guy on a waiting list in Ethiopia, but his needs were more severe than we thought and more intense than we feel comfortable saying yes to at this point.  So we kept looking.

Then, we found an agency that has a really short wait time for Ethiopia, and our hearts soared with hope, imagining receiving a referral in just a few months!  But we just couldn't make it sit right in our hearts.  How could they have such a short wait when all other agencies are seeing a longer and longer wait?  They could never quite give us a clear answer that satisfied all of our questions and when it came down to it, we just didn't have a peaceful feeling about it.  It was really frustrating because we kept searching for something concrete to point to and say, "This isn't right."  But we never found it.  We just had this feeling of unease.  Why is their wait so short when everyone else has a wait of at least a year?

Let me take a second to explain something.  I want to be clear about this, because I know it can be confusing if you are not in the adoption world and it's one of the most asked questions I get: Aren't there millions of orphans in Ethiopia?  Why do you have to wait so long when there are so many children needing families?  The answer: The long wait is NOT due to a shortage of orphans, it is due to a shortage of PAPER-READY orphans.  

There are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia.  There are more children without families than there are families to adopt them.  But, for good reason, one cannot adopt an orphan without a clear, documented trail that leads to the answer of the question, "Why is this child in an orphanage?"  If a child is abandoned, there are interviews conducted of the person or people who found the child.  If a child is relinquished, there are birth mother/father/uncle/grandmother interviews that clearly show that a child's family is unable to care for him or her.  There must always be a clear answer to that question before a child is adopted.  If there is not, then an answer must be found and until then, the child remains un-adoptable.

Perhaps the child was placed in orphanage care because the mother could not care for the child now, but hopes her state of poverty or illness will improve enough to be able to parent her child again in the future.  Perhaps the child's parents have died, but there are living relatives who have not yet been contacted and who may be able to care for the child.  There are a hundred different scenarios and each must be clearly documented before a child's orphan status is decided.  These documentations require time and money and resources that are not easily available in a country like Ethiopia.

So children wait.  Families wait.  We wait.

And if someone isn't waiting, then there is a high likelihood that some important step is being skipped over - whether for amoral reasons or not, we don't know and we're not necessarily suggesting that something unethical is going on with that agency.  But we do know that we do not want to risk being party to anything questionable.   And when it comes down to it, the short wait is...suspicious.  We can't explain why, but we just don't feel comfortable moving forward without a clear, reliable, reason why they aren't experiencing the slow-down which is ubiquitous among all other agencies.  As much as we might want to suspend our accountability and trust the system and have a baby home within the year, it just doesn't sit right.  So, we closed that door.

And once again, we wait and we pray and we research and we process.  My phone has been dying at 3:00 in the afternoon because I'm using it so much talking to reference families, agencies, our social workers and adoption consultants.  We are asking questions anew: What special needs should we consider?  Is there another country we feel drawn to?  What is our timeframe?  How will this decision affect Lila?  Do we have the funds for that program?

We are open to other countries.  We are seriously considering China waiting children (our agency has a reputable program and there are many children available with special needs we feel comfortable and equipped to parent).  We have looked into other countries as well - Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Russia.

But, to be honest, I still love Ethiopia.  I still walk around our house and see the map of Ethiopia framed by our door, the cool print of the Ethiopian bus that my friend Heather gave me, the puzzle we are still collecting sponsors for, the souvenirs we've saved from our trip in 2008.  I still imagine our Small One from Ethiopia sharing a room with Lila.

I am still praying that the Lord is making a way for us to bring home one of the 5 million children there without families.

Make a way, Lord.  Please, make a way.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Adoption Update

This is a really long post.  But if you make it to the end, I'll leave you a little treat for your perseverance. :)
You can see a more detailed timeline of our adoption here, but this shorter one is relevant to this post.

The last few weeks, we have been looking back on the part of our path we have already walked hoping it will give us perspective on the road ahead of us.
The last seven months have been stressful in a way that I have only recently been able to identify.  There have been two months out of the seven months we have been trying to get pregnant that have been particularly hard.  This month was one of them.  I think part of what made them hard was that in both of those months, I really thought I was pregnant.  I took pregnancy tests.  I stared dumbly at them when only one line materialized clear as crystal.  One lonely line.

This month, I cried for three days.  The emotions were constantly under the surface, ready to erupt at the slightest jostling of my composure.  And I think it's because I've spent all my hope.

But I don't mean that I'm giving up.  Let me explain.

For the first time in seven months, I realized the reality of the way I was budgeting my hope.  I should have been fixing my gaze with certainty on the object of my hope.  Instead, like a confused Gretel (of "Hansel and"), I was depositing bits of hope along three different paths.

You see, about every two weeks (or sometimes more often), we get an email from our agency giving us information about the Ethiopia program.  But really, as any waiting family will tell you, we all just skim the majority of the email, looking for the announcement telling us if there has been a referral.  With every referral, we move one position closer to our baby.  And so, I plopped down the change out of my Hope piggy bank every two weeks when I opened that email, expecting news of referrals, of progress toward our Ethiopian Small One.  
And sometimes there was.  But mostly there wasn't.  

In the eight months since we became a waiting family, we have moved 11 spots - from number 99 to number 88.  I just counted the emails in my inbox and in eight months we've received 23 emails, with less than half of those emails having had referrals announced.  It's discouraging.  I feel like we've had a good attitude about it, but it's still discouraging.  It's an every-two-week cycle of dashed hopes. Path one.

And then of course there's the monthly hormone-laced cycle of hope.  The month starts out with disappointment (and some lovely parting gifts from last month's Hope deposit of cramps and bloating and other gross things one shouldn't write about on the internet, but I can't seem to stop).  Soon enough the hormones settle down and the days pass and the hope returns because there's a chance for this new month!  So I plunk down a few coins onto the counter of Hope's Fertility Bank and we, um, you know.  And then we spend another two weeks depositing our hope into that bank, hoping we can make good on our, er, investment.  (Is this metaphor working?)  But so far, the market has crashed, the recession has prevailed and we have cut our losses in the pregnancy department.  Only to begin another month's cycle of hope and disappointment.  Path two.

And on top of that, I decided somewhere along the line to add a third line of credit to our Hope Account: waiting kids.  In April, I signed up to receive near-daily emails with profiles of children waiting to be adopted.  These kids are usually on the waiting children lists because they are older or because they have a significant medical condition that makes them less desirable to the adopting community.  Read that sentence again and tell me if you don't feel sick to your stomach.  Let me tell you, looking at these waiting kids forces you to ride this sort of pendulum swing of indifference and heartbreak.  You either have to view the profiles of the children as you would a listing of a house you might consider buying or as real-live children who need and deserve to be a part of a family and not an institution.  And friends, you can't live in the latter for very long or very often because your heart won't survive it.

The problem is, these children are listed through several different agencies in several different states, working in several different countries.  So it's not so easy as stopping by an open house to see if you like the floor plan.  I have looked at these kids and even seen a few that we could and would parent, but felt like our hands were tied because they were in China or Russia or Colombia or Japan.  The thought of switching countries and agencies was overwhelming and seemed, to be frank, impossible.  Un-doable.  Preposterous.

But I just couldn't look away.  I kept thinking, "One day I'll open an email and the link will send me to a picture of our son or daughter."  But each time, all I could see was the mountain of paperwork and money and the bazillion other factors that made it feel like considering that child was ludicrous.  And so, the few pennies of hope I had left were spent each time I clicked away from a child's face in frustration and irritation at the injustice of so many orphans, so many hoops, so much money. Path three.

Daily, weekly, monthly, I spent our Hope savings account.  And this month, I realized I'd scraped the bottom of the barrel.  I can't do this anymore.  I can't simultaneously hope for a biological, Ethiopian and waiting child.  As much as having options gave us additional opportunities for hope, it also gave us additional opportunities for disappointment.  And I can't handle three sucker punches of dashed hopes over the course of a month.  My heart can't do that any more.  Sometimes you just need all your eggs in one basket.  I know, I know.  I'm mixing metaphors - stay with me.

(Of course, all of this is coming out much more eloquently now than the Husband heard it.  The version I gave him was "Blubber, blubber, snot, blubber, gasp, blubber, sniff, blubber, I WANT A BABY!"  Poor guy.  He's such a good man.)

So, the Husband and I went on a date and we talked about our options.  We talked about countries and genders and ages and special needs.  We talked about our "fleelings" (as Lila calls them) and how they matched up with the practicality of our options.  We decided we need to declare one road and invest all of our hope there.

We talked about Ethiopia.

We talked about China waiting kids.

We talked about Russia.

We talked about the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We went all over the world.  And we realized we have options, and that felt good.  But then we realized we have lots of options and that felt overwhelming.  And then there was this nagging voice that said, "Maybe you just aren't being patient.  Maybe you just need to trust that God is going to make this happen in his own timing."

And the optimist Husband kept saying, "Our agency said two years.  We have no reason to think it won't be two years."

And the pessimist realist (me) kept hearing this annoying voice in my head saying, "There's no way it will be two years."

We started calling on a few waiting kids.  "Just to get some more information."

We started to figure out what an agency or country (or both) switch would look like and cost.

We started to feel very confused and overwhelmed.

I started to feel annoyed that we were asking the exact same questions we asked for six months before we started our paperwork last June.

Then, this past Sunday, I was praying in the shower (my best praying happens in the shower.  I'm uninterrupted, the white noise of the water quiets my thoughts AND I'm in my pre-fall Adam and Eve costume just like God intended conversations with him to happen, right?) and I told God, "I don't know what we should do and I'm scared to move unless I know you are with us.  Please show us what to do."

It was a very Moses conversation:
Exodus 33:12-18

12 One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13 If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”

14 The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
15 Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16 How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
17 The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”
18 Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”

 I started to think about how the Lord led the Israelites out of Egypt by placing a pillar of smoke ahead of them so they would know which way to go and that He was with them.  

Exodus 13:21-22 "The Lord went ahead of them.  He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire...And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people."

And around the time I found out I wasn't pregnant this month, I read the verse in Isaiah 30.  It's verse 21: Right behind you a voice will say, 'This is the way you should go,' whether to the right or to the left.

So I prayed, Lord, put a pillar of smoke ahead of us, and let us hear your voice behind us.  Show us where we should go and be with us.

In my mind, I pictured a map of the world.  And in my mind, I took myself to each country we were considering for our adoption - Ethiopia, Russia, China - and each place I stopped, a pillar of fire sprang up and covered that country.  And I felt the Lord say to me, I will be with you wherever you go.  And for the first time in many months, I felt peace in my heart.  And that peace quieted my heart enough that we began to hear the voice behind us.

Ever since we started considering other options besides simply waiting out the two years on the Ethiopia list, I have had this guilty feeling that maybe I was just trying to take things into my own hands.  I wasn't being patient.  I wasn't trusting God to do what he said he would do.  And even then, as we considered our options and prayed about our decision, I felt a little unsure that abandoning the initial plan was the right choice.  After all, while not ideal, waiting two years for a referral wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.  Lila would be under five and perhaps our child would be a toddler and therefore they would be close in age.  But I couldn't stop the worrying thought, "But what if it's longer than two years?"

Monday morning, I woke up and checked my email.  We had an email from our agency which was surprising because they usually send the updates out on Fridays.  Maybe there's been a referral! I thought.  I opened it.  My eyes scanned it and landed on the header, Questions about Referrals.  Scan, scan, scan:

We are telling new families entering the Ethiopia program, as we have been telling them for some time now, to expect a 4 year wait to complete their adoption. 

Four year wait.

The strange thing is, I felt...relieved.  Giddy, almost.  

Don't get me wrong, if I had my choice, the wait would be lessening, not lengthening.  I would much rather stay on this path, with our agency and bring home a baby from the country we've come to love so much.  


As I read those words, it was like I heard this Voice behind me saying, "It's time to move."

And that peace I had felt the day before when I imagined the columns of fire springing up across the world rushed over me again.  

We don't have anything decided.  In fact, I've joked with our prayer team (a group of friends we recruited back in January of 2011 to help us process and discern what path to take) that we're on the "we think we're adopting from a different country every day" train.  But, we feel permission to start asking questions, researching our options, and considering another path to our next child.  Or perhaps not another path, just an unexpected turn in the one we've been on all along.  

I can't help but think about Israel's Wilderness Detour (also in Exodus 13):

17 When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.[c] Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.[d]

I read that and I wonder what battles the Lord is sparing us from.  And I also can't help but remember that their little detour let them straight to the Red Sea.  And it was there, at the Red Sea, that God made a way where there was no way.  And all along, haven't we been saying that we believe that is his plan for us in this journey - to make a way where there is no way?

We don't know what that way will be.  We don't even know where we'll end up.  But we do know that God will be with us.  And he will make a way.

For those of you who read this whole thing, here's your treat.  Enjoy: