Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Awkward Subject

 I think I am long overdue for another blog post. It is rather fascinating that people from Russia, Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Indonesia have viewed my blog, and it makes me very curious who they are and what they expected to find on my site?
As with most people, talking about money is a little, um, awkward. Especially when I am the one trying to raise it. However, as several people have expressed curiosity and interest, hopefully this blog post will answer a few questions.
First of all, of course an adoption takes money. A child, however, is priceless. My son is so precious and valuable that his Creator had His own Son die on his behalf. You can't put a dollar figure on that. My fervent prayer has been and will continue to be that my son will accept this gift of God while he is young.
That having been said, several people have asked about the puzzle fundraiser I'm having, how we are financing the adoption and if finances are holding us back in the process. Money is not holding up our process in any way. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to make this process go faster. It is entirely in the hands of the Ethiopian orphanage officials and their speed (or lack thereof) in finding and processing a child for us.
Thus far, we have been blessed to finance the adoption ourselves. God has graciously grown our business (www.LittleFamilyMembers.com), and well as provided extra work for me here and there: painting trim on a house, math tutoring, my Mary Kay business, etc. And God has provided in unique ways. A few months ago, we had completed a bundle of paperwork and were ready to send it in with a check to cover the next stage of the process. Philip warned me not to get too excited because we could not send in the check yet- the money was not in the account. We both went to prayer and later in the day, Philip came back, very confused. He had run the numbers and looked at the bills coming up, and we could write the check. There was enough money to cover everything, though it was completely unexpected! Praise God!
The front of the puzzle
As for the fundraiser, in case you have missed my FaceBook posts, fliers, and other chatter about it, we have a 1,000 piece puzzle in the shape of a lion. Here's how it works: people are sponsoring puzzle pieces for $10 each through PayPal, the "GoFundMe" on this blog, or directly to us. Their name goes on the back of the piece(s) and when complete, the puzzle will be framed between two pieces of glass. We will have a piece of art for my son's room as well as a constant reminder of the wonderful people that helped bring him home. This is the only fundraiser that we are doing to help with the adoption.
The back of the puzzle
When completed, the funds from the puzzle will cover the remaining fee that is due when we receive our referral (anytime between now and June or beyond...) as well as most of the airfare, in-country travel and other expenses, and any passport/travel visa/notary/etc expenses that we will incur.
Currently, we are at 16.9% of our fundraiser, meaning we have 169 pieces sponsored, and 831 left to go. Would you pray about being involved in our puzzle?  If we are able to complete the puzzle, then praise be to God. If not, I have complete confidence that God will provide some other way. He is good, and He has proved His faithfulness over and over again.
It is overwhelmingly encouraging the positive response we have received from our friends, family, and complete strangers. People's interest in what we are doing and their fervent prayers mean more than I can express. We are humbled by the sacrifice people have put out on our account- pieces sponsored by teens, by missionaries, by college students, family, friends, and people I've never met.
All praise goes to our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for His provision, His faithfulness, and His guidance. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and I truly rest in Him and His timing and His abundance.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Identity- thoughts from a deer stand

Identity- The sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time. (dictionary.com)


Essentially, “identity” answers the question: “Who am I?”

What better thing to do on a deer stand than ponder identity? Both identity as it relates to adoption as well as it relates to me. “What constitutes me?”

I am God's. Before all else, my “self” is identified with Christ. I belong to Him because of the death of Jesus Christ. He is the keeper of my soul, both here on earth as well as for eternity. Nothing and no one can separate me from this fact, regardless of location, culture, tragedy, or other life change.

I am a wife. I love my husband more than anything, he is my best friend and my other half. He loves me and I am his other half. We live life together, love, laugh, work, play, stress, etc. I love being a wife. I am there for him, I support him in his decisions, I encourage him, and provide comic relief when I have a blond moment (which is frequently). He is the head of our home, but I am the one that makes it a home, not a bachelor's den. 

I am part of a family. My mom, dad, and Gram, yes. But, also the family I married into, for better or for worse. I have a Mom-in-law and Dad-in-law, a handful of siblings-in-law, two nephews, and a dog-in-law. (Ok, maybe not the dog.) But I am forever a part of this family. I have a niche (or a gouge, depending on the perspective) and bring my own set of strengths and weaknesses to the table to contribute to the unit.
I love the outdoors. Not as a fanatical tree-hugger or as a biologist, but nature is a part of who I am. It has influenced my tastes, home d├ęcor, activities, vacation spots and even my choice of a college. Whether it is a hunting trip, a national park, and elk bugle that chills my core, or a sheepskin on my couch, nature is engrained in who I have become.

There are many other things I enjoy: painting, traveling, reading, drinking coffee, etc. But the four previously mentioned things are, as I think about it, irreplaceable. Take away one, and I'm a fish out of water. I can find new hobbies, I can live in another state or even another country. I can learn a different language, change my dress, eating habits or routine. But without my husband, my family, and a friendly mountain or patch of trees, I'm a basket case. 

Shifting gears to my son. In his short little life, he will have experienced
at least four different caregivers, including his birth mom. He will have lived in at least four different places, experienced at least four different daily routines, probably three different diets, two or three languages, and two countries. On top of it all, there will be countless sights, smells, sounds, and tastes that have changed around him. All before he is 5 years old. He will have had many life-changing transitions for which he was vaguely, if at all, prepared.

He will experience an involuntary immersion into a new life and there is no going back. His identity will be completely turned upside down. Any family that he has ever known will be lost to him. His friends will be lost, along with his toys, his language, his clothes, his food, his favorite tree to climb... Anything that might have provided him with continuity in life. All he has learned to expect from life is abrupt changes, loss, and discontinuity. Yes, all this will be reflected in his behavior for some time to come. However, consider his loss. Pause to consider the reality of what he has faced and will yet face in the short time he has been alive. For me, it's a little overwhelming.

Our adoption agency reminded us that our job as a parent is to be a healer. I just barely begin to understand what is involved in that role, what my son's loss has been, and how uncertain things will be for him when he comes. My prayer is that the Great Healer will prepare me to imitate Him in this job, and to glean my strength from His side, seeking His wisdom and guidance, and ultimately entrusting my son to His care.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Of Mountains, Marshmallows, and Hunting Barefoot

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (NASB) Psalm 121:1-2

Have you ever taken a walk in the mountains?  How about in the rain?  If you're quiet enough, it's more of a glide through the woods. I love being in sync with the forest around me where I'm less of an intrusion and I can appreciate God's creation more fully. When it's raining, the woods are all in motion around me and there are soft sounds everywhere. If I'm lucky, the local squirrel colony will ignore me, otherwise I get scolded until I can convince them I am an inanimate bush.
A few of my girlfriends have expressed complete bafflement at why I love to hunt. It's honestly hard to describe. But as we were hunting in the woods today, I toted my camera along, too. It was just a day trip, with makes things very clean and civilized, with a shower and a normal potty at the end of the day. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let me enlist their help as I try to explain.

I love seeing the fall colors and the clouds rest between the hills. It is gently reminiscent of my college years in West Virginia. That nip of fresh air, unpolluted by the city, feels crisp as if blows through the trees and invigorates my lungs. There are no highway noises, no people, nothing. Just the critters, me, and my hunting buddy- usually my little brother, but today it was my husband.
Our gear tells its own stories. The guns I carry were my grandpa's before he passed away. I know he would be proud of me. His big knife is in my pack, and his XL hunters-orange vest is on my back, wrapped around the eight layers of clothing that cause my small frame to resemble a marshmallow. My husband's gun was once carried by our close friend. A free thermos, our huge old army tent, the fancy outhouse. Good memories.

The names we have put to the different places that we hunt are quite unusual: Shepherds Crook, Poop Fork, Lake Tahoe, That-Stupid-Place-There-Is-Always-Fog-And-We-Never-See-Anything, The Burn, The Rock Slide, The Tree-house, etc. All of these places have stories of “almost-got-something” and “Oh my goodness there are so many tracks!”

Around the campfire, there are the stories that get re-hashed every year. They all have their beginning at deer camp and are grounds for year-round teasing: creeping up on a patch of snow, chipmunks that are mistaken for black bears, six-foot-long squirrels, the log that has ears, and Ghost Bears. Using wet maple leaves for TP. All these are a part of my family. My brother finding a bear skeleton. I wear a tooth from it around my neck.
All these elements went through my mind today when I was sitting on my stand at Poop Fork (I'm tellin' ya, that place has unusual powers). Yes, I was soaked. I had forgotten my boots at home so my shoes went squish and slosh alternately when I walked. It was cold. I did not see a buck or a bear. It is worth it. Later when we were back in the car driving towards camp with my bare feet thawing on the dashboard, two doe were along side the road. We stopped, I grabbed my gun and hopped out, hoping to see a buck. Barefoot, I padded around to get a better view. Ow. But what can I say?

The top reason I love to hunt? The mountains. I lift up my eyes to those mountains and am reminded of my God. Jehovah who is the Creator God, and He helps me. He will not let my foot stumble. He never sleeps or gets tired. He is my God.

As we proceed with our adoption process, I appreciate gazing at the mountains. I need that reminder that I serve a God who helps. He is the same God that keeps track of an entire nation of Israelites. One more little brown-skinned child is not too much for Him. Most days, I am excited about our adoption.  However, sometimes I feel overwhelmed as a parent-to-be, and the mountains are a reminder of Who has me and my son written on the palm of His hand. I am thankful God gives such comfort.


I wonder if my son will love to hunt as much as I do?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ezra

Two blog posts in two days. Do not expect this trend to continue.
In my last post, I mentioned that we were done with the paperwork phase, and are now waiting for our referral. Most people assume that this is the hardest part. Waiting, anticipation, uncertainty...
Between my husband and I, I am the most organized, paperwork-competent person. I completed probably 90% of the adoption paperwork, waded through the notarization requirements and forms, the education requirements, running to the CPA, the bank, the doctors, the state capitol, etc. Asking and re-asking for stuff to be completed, insisting that it be done right. I am also the person that, after thinking I had done half a dozen forms incorrectly, broke down crying, convinced I was not cut out to be a mother. Philip put me back together again, and nothing had to be re-done after all.
What I am trying to say is that, despite my ability to handle 50+ documents to accumulate and notarize in triplicate, it was overwhelming at times. Never a day went by that I didn't look at that check-list on my fridge and see what was hanging over my head. This is our first adoption and I know that I did not complete things in the most efficient manner. It took longer than it needed to. But still, the fact remains, it took as long as it did because I did not get on the ball fast enough. It hinged on me. It was not restful.

Bear with me as I rehash an old story.

A long time ago in a land far, far away, there lived... Cyrus, king of Persia. Heathen king, heathen country. And God did a work in this king's heart, and in the hearts of His people, the Jews, and in the hearts of heathen kings after Cyrus. Ezra reads that the “Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia” (1:1) and caused Cyrus to desire to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Cyrus commands that Jews return to Jerusalem and start the work. He commands that gifts be given to these workers, freewill offerings, and more gifts for the house of God. Cyrus even gives the Jews articles out of his temple to his heathen god for the temple in Jerusalem. Cool stuff, right? It gets better.
There was a lull in the work, but it picks back up again during the reign of Darius. Darius receives a letter speaking against the Jews' work on the Temple. However, a search is done and Darius learns that his predecessors not only authorized the rebuilding but also commanded that all the expenses were to be paid by the king.
King Darius overrides the adversity, commands that the Jews are helped, not hindered, in their work, the kingdom pays the full construction costs, animals are given to the Jews for sacrifices, and that wheat, salt, wine, and oil should be provided every day for the workers. On top of it all, anyone opposing the work on the temple should be flogged and homeless.
A while later, Ezra the scribe comes into the picture and finds favor with God. God gives him favor with the current king, Ahasuerus. King “Aha” gives Ezra the liberty to go to Jerusalem, gives him silver, gold, freewill offerings, and a blank check for animals and anything else he would ever need. He makes priests and Levites tax-exempt, and has Ezra appoint leaders in Jerusalem to teach the ways of God.

I realize that there is more to the story, but the point that I want to emphasize is that these were heathen kings and heathen countries. God worked in their hearts and caused them to go above and beyond the call of duty for His people and His glory. The Jews were slaves. These kings had nothing to gain. No one in their wildest imagination expects stuff like this to happen in real life.  But these are the things that God does. Crazy? Absolutely. What is left to do but worship the God of Heaven?Back to me. Me? Ezra? Yes. The permanent life-change of my husband and I is currently in the hands of an unbelieving group of people, waiting for them to pick our child. That, in itself, is scary. Actually, our future is really in the hands of the God who Sees. God used those heathen kings to do crazy-amazing things for the Israelites. The same God can use an ungodly group of people to accomplish His purpose for me and my family. He can put things into place better than I could ever dream. In His perfect time. None of it hinges on me. It is all, totally and completely, in His hands. And that is a very restful place to be.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Begining...

Do you have any idea how long it has been since I endeavored to write a document longer than a letter or a FaceBook status? Probably since college. Pretty pathetic. And never in my craziest daydreams did I anticipate starting and maintaining a blog. What a weird word, “blog”. But those of you that have asked for a “blog”, you have your wish. Cringe or enjoy.
That aside, this blog is devoted to my family. Unfortunately, my family is spread over 2 continents right now, with an unknown span of time until we are united. Not “re-united” but “united”.
We have chosen to adopt to begin our family. “So, you can't have kids?” is a common, hesitant question posed by friends and strangers. “I don't know” raises a few eyebrows, so, “We've never tried. Adoption is our first choice to start a family” is a more satisfactory response.
But what about adoption? What drew us to adopt? Who are we? And what on earth do we think we're doing? Our adoption story began about 3 years ago in Fortaleza, Brasil. We had led a team of teens on a missions trip, and through the course of events, met a little boy, Hadson, who literally changed our lives. Long story short, we tried for 10 months to adopt him, facing impossible circumstances. We firmly believe God wanted us to pursue his adoption, though at the time, we didn't have a clear “yes” or no” regarding the outcome. In May 2009, God clearly closed that door for us. It was a combination of relief and heartbreak. Relief because we had a definite answer. “No.” God had been clear and have given peace with the answer. Heartbreak because we loved this little boy more than I thought possible. Heartbreak because of knowing that he would not be here with me where I could love him in a tangible way and pour my life into him. Relief because both we and Hadson were in the palm of God's hand.
Back to the present. We're adopting from Ethiopia. A little boy between 3 and 5 years old is running around over there, or, considering the time difference, probably sleeping. He has a name, a face, a story. And his life is about to change.
Why an international adoption? A legitimate question. “There are lots of children here in the States to adopt. Why don't you adopt them?.” Probably my least favorite question. It feels accusatory. My initial retort is to ask why a child here in the states deserves a loving family more than a child overseas? In reality, we love other cultures. We love other countries, and we want a multi-cultural family.
Why an older child? Because I like babies only when they are dry, sleeping, not drooling, and not wiggling. Preferably wrapped snugly in a blanket. Besides, if I look at the baby crosswise, it might break. Ok, not really. But because of my decided lack of experience with babies, they are much more intimidating to me than a little tyke. Yes, we understand we will have certain hurdles to overcome. But they will be different hurdles than with a baby, and different hurdles than with a child I gave birth to. They will not necessarily be more or less, harder or easier. They will just be different.
Who are we? We are not super special people and our child will not be “so blessed to have us as parents”. We're just people. Very human, very fallible people with a very human, very fallible child. Just like anyone else that gave birth to a child. We will be the blessed ones that God has entrusted to care for and raise one of His creations!
Yes, I know that my son will be (gasp!) black. My current view on that? Cool! He will have God-given camouflage, he won't sunburn, his zits won't be red blotches on his face like they are on mine, and he'll never become pale in the winter! And, he'll be easy to find in a crowd of kids. Maybe some day we'll add some “caramel” to our “vanilla” and “chocolate” family. Color is beautiful.
Where are we currently at in the adoption process? We have completed our Home-study and Dossier (9 months of paperwork) and are currently waiting for our referral. When we receive our referral (hopefully before Christmas) it will contain a picture, name, medical report, and any social background that is known about our Little Guy. In the mean time, we wait, resting in the God who Sees. I do not want that referral a moment before God has planned, and certainly not a moment later!