The Question I Never Expected

"Why would you want a child who doesn't look like you?"

Maybe I am naive because I was born after integration. I just didn't realize educated people still wrestled with this stuff.

Growing up, I had Indian, Kenyan, German, French, Jewish, Japanese, and Hispanic friends... and although that was interesting... it just wasn't that big of a deal. Asian exchange students and teachers lived in our home. Again, no big deal.

As a portrait artist, I always thought it was beautiful that different people had such different skin coloring and bone structure. What a creative God we serve! And, as a lover of story, I liked the different cultural nuances. Learning about unusual foods, and traditions, and patterns of life was fascinating!

Sure, I love America. But that doesn't mean I can't love certain things about other cultures as well. There's a huge difference between accepting secular globalization and worshipfully appreciating the unique "imago Dei" reflected throughout the spectrum of humanity.

So, I've been naive. I just ran into the adoption process assuming that the world felt like I did: "How COOL! We don't look the same! I get to discover a whole new sort of beauty now by watching you grow! Won't this be fun?"

Hmmmm.....

"Why would you want a child who doesn't look like you?"

OK, I'm tempted. Next time I want to hand them a mirror, smile, and say, "I'll explain that if you'll tell me why you WOULD want a child who DOES look like you?"

Sigh. No, I won't.

You know, despite the shock and frustration, I'm thankful that God is letting me experience this question now. I can tell that I need to develop a sense of humor about this and toughen up in a few places. It wouldn't be good to raise a child to respond in anger every time this happens. I need to see these situations as opportunities... opportunities to show our world that God's beauty, joy, and grace transcend race... and that our Savior truly loves all the children of the world.

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Leaves in the Stream

Amazed....

Where do I start?

Last week I mentioned that we’ve been filling out stacks and stacks of papers for an Asian adoption. It is a very long and complicated process, and part of that involves preparing a financial statement of all our assets. Yesterday, I looked at our “bottom line," and I laughed. Then I shook my head.

I’m ashamed to put this in words, but the biggest feeling that went through my mind was frustration. Frustration at our inability. Frustration that in our own power, in our own resources, we simply don’t have what it would take to give this child a new life. What do you do when you have a burning desire to help someone, but you do not have the ability to do it? I wondered how much I could get for one of my kidneys...

Then, I began to wrestle with our Lord. “Why do we have all of this love? Why have we been given this wonderful, amazing house with a huge yard that we could share? Why do we have all these things, but not a fat stack of extra money sitting in a bank account somewhere that we could use to simply make this happen for a child in need?”

Next, I began to fear. I felt foolish for dreaming big dreams and speaking them in public. Fear that God might not provide for our two biological kids and for these other unknown children who are burned into our hearts. Fear that maybe I was just imagining this pulling, or that I might (even worse) be trying to "force" a change that wasn't intended.

After that I became sad, because I do have a huge desire to train up all of our children in love for the people of the world. And I do pray that God might use them someday (no matter what they decide to "do" as a job) to bring nourishment to hungry places. And so the fear of not being able to train and launch several more lives that might serve places of global need felt sort of empty somehow.

So, I was wrestling with all this. And I was asking God for clarity. I know He loves orphaned children so much. And I think He has given us a parental love for them -- and a vision for their lives. What then? Would He show us where we should go with all of these yearnings?

This morning I checked my email. This was less than twelve hours after I had asked God to direct us.

In our inbox was a letter from a businessman we know in Singapore. Of course, he had no idea what the Lord and I had talked about the night before. But, he said that he had recently been praying for a way to bring Bobby back to Asia this year. When he started praying this prayer, it didn't seem viable because the economy was down. It's no secret that global funding is tight. But he still prayed.

Through a remarkable series of events (which I won't explain here, because this is too long already), he said God had just recently provided extra money for him to fly Bobby back over to Asia. And he wanted to know if he would come. His plan was for them to visit Asian ORPHANAGES to see how we might learn to help a great number of people.

We didn't know what to say. The timing was unreal.

But that's not all...

A few hours later, my phone rang. It was a lady with the adoption agency we hope to use. I asked her one or two questions about our adoption... then (on a whim) I asked her if she just happened to know of a way that we could help them. Did they have any needs in Asian orphanages... i mean, if Bobby made a trip this summer? She said, "It's funny that you should ask..."

I had to smile while several beautiful needs unfolded on the other end of the line. And I was reminded again of something that I hope not to forget this time, but probably will. That our God has access to every resource He needs. That His plans are going to be accomplished. No matter what my limitations. He is able.

Did you ever step into a stream where you have to walk with the current because it's just so strong? And there are fallen leaves, swirling all around your legs, being pulled faster than you can go? I'm not sure what is all happening here. I don't know if God will bless our family with one or two sweet new children or if He has another plan. Maybe there is something broader happening here? We are trying to keep our hands and hearts open to whatever that is.

But I think Bobby and I are both sort of shaking our heads today.

It's sad, we do all this talking about the reality of God, and then we are shocked out of our gourds when His presence becomes evident. Shame on us! And glory to God!

There is one hymn that has been in my mind since this whole dream began. I'll paste a few verses below...

- - - - - - - -

O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer's praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!

He speaks, and listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive;
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
your loosened tongues employ;
ye blind, behold your savior come,
and leap, ye lame, for joy.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
'tis music in the sinner's ears,
'tis life, and health, and peace.

My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy name.
- - - - - -

I have only one tongue to sing God's praise. I only have two hands to give. But if that one tongue and two hands can train four more to bring love into a broken world... or help another organization do the same...

It all just makes me excited.

I honestly don't know what is happening here. And yeah, it's kind of crazy. But where He leads, we will go.

Thanks for your prayers.

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Old Nights and Roses

Last night I had an “old night.” In case any young pups are reading this blog (aka: twenty-somethings), I should probably translate that.

Until a few years ago, I had almost endless energy. I was one of those folks who could stay up until two or three in the morning and love it. It was very unusual for me to get the end of a day and feel physically tired.

But I’m thirty-seven now. And things are starting to feel a little different lately. First off, my eyes are changing. I’ve noticed the need to hold things a little further away to see them. (Creepy.) And sometimes my joints will send out a snap, crackle, or pop. And once in a while, late at night, I get tired.

Last night was one of those nights. Sure, we’ve been sick on and off for two weeks. So maybe I can blame that. Also, end of the school year craziness has been exhausting. But still, my clock hit 11:30, and I was WIPED. I mean that dizzy tired where you just have to get somewhere horizontal.

And so I crawled in bed. And I was worried.

I remember being twenty-five with a newborn. I was so scared of SIDS that I spent most of the first three months of JD’s life sleeping with my hand on his little chest. Listening to every breath. Trying to keep him alive with my alertness.

And I remember being twenty-nine with two little ones running around. Making myself get out of bed and put one foot in front of another - in the middle of the night - when someone woke up with a bad dream.

Could I really do that again? Am I totally crazy for thinking about this? Am I too old? Honestly, I had a moment or two of panic.

Trying to comfort myself, I started to think through my many friends who have had kids at 40+. They did it. So it CAN be done. And I thought about those seventy-something anomalies who still run marathons and wear bikinis. And look good doing both. (How does that work again?) But I still had this moment of fear that my thirty-seven was somehow older than their forty and seventy. Fear that I couldn’t do it.

I slept on that fear. And I woke up feeling refreshed.

I woke up thinking about good old Sarah who found out she was pregnant at ninety-nine, and how she was shocked out of her gourd. (Her response makes a lot more sense to me now than it did ten years ago!) Yet God provided for this new call on her life. Because it wasn’t about her weakness, but about God’s strength.

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Setting the Lonely in Families

Today we received a pretty big shock. Bobby handed me an envelope with $200. It was from someone we don’t even know. Or at least we didn’t know them before today. :) This couple had read about our journey from a mutual friend, and they wanted to help bring our child home. How do you thank someone for helping you reach your child? I'm not sure.

All three verses written on the card were beautiful. But the one that that touched me the most was Psalm 68:6 “God sets the lonely in families.” This caught me because this is my dream... to help a lonely child find a place to belong. And for our child to see how much we enjoy him/her! To watch this child blossom and grow in a safe place like our birth kids have. To see him/her run across the yard with two little arms spread wide, laughing until he/she can barely stand.

Thank You, God, for bringing together people who love her with us! And thank You, for friends who will tell friends... and who are praying us through this adventure!

Sweet Baby! Hang on! We’re working as fast as we can!

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Fees, and papers, and details. Oh my!

I’m going to list these details because some of you are also thinking about Chinese adoption. But there’s an awful lot of work between thinking about it and actually doing it.

I really wish we had thought about how much work there was sooner, because we could have been planning ahead in our life schedule a little better. Instead, we mainly focused on the emotional/relational sides of adoption.... how this would affect our birth kids, our family dynamic, etc. We didn’t realize how many practical needs would also come into play - and even dominate the process!

So, maybe if you guys look at this NOW, when you are just thinking about adopting, you'll be able to plan a little better and a little sooner for your adventure! It's tough emotionally when you get to the point that you are really, really ready to leap emotionally-- but STILL have all this work/planning to do!

SOME FEES:

Application Fee - $150
First Agency Fee - $1,900 Fee
USCIS FIling and Fingerprinting - $670 + $80 per adult
Dossier Preparation - $450
Home Study Fees - $1500 + $500 + $500
Second Agency Fee - $3200
CCAA Fee - $1050 Check
Post Adoption Deposit - $500 (refundable)
Visa to enter China - $130 per person
U.S. Domestic and International Airfare - $1000-$1800 + $300 return lap ticket
In-China Travel and Accommodations - $2400
Adoption Registration and Notarization - $400-$800
Child Passport - $100-$150
Orphanage Fee - $5,000
Food - $600-$800
Child Physical and Photo - $80
Child U.S. Entry Visa - $400
Post Adoption Support - varies
Court Validation Fee - varies
Child Birth Certificate - varies

SOME PAPERS I THINK WE NEED TO SECURE:

Physical exam report by a physician.
Account balances from banks showing assets.
Adoption petition (provided by your adoption agency)
Post Placement Agreement (from your adoption agency)
Form I-171H (this is the only time a copy of a document is allowed in the dossier) from the USCIS
For married parents: certified copies of birth and marriage certificates
Proof of home ownership (or rental agreement) - a copy of your most recent monthly mortgage statement or your rental agreement
Employment verification - must be on company letterhead and have a recent date – ask your company’s human resources department for a letter stating how long you have worked for the company along with your current annual salary. (Note: You must include employment verification even if you are self employed.)
Homestudy – obtain a certified copy of your homestudy from the social worker who conducted the homestudy
License of your adoption agency (Note: check to be sure the date on the license is valid)
Results of your criminal background check – visit your local police station to obtain this document
Copy of the photo pages of your passport
Letters of reference – it’s okay to use the same references you used for your homestudy.
Copy of your most recent Federal income tax return – if you don’t have a copy, the IRS can provide you with a copy (go to http://www.irs.gov/faqs/faq1-6.html for instructions on requesting a copy)
Power of Attorney (given to your adoption agency coordinator)
Photographs of your family life (8), couple (3), relatives, pets, house, and 3 passport photos

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The Checklist

Well, I checked some bubbles. But I think we’re going to have to redo it.

Part of the special needs adoption process involves a long checklist with different physical and mental issues. Prospective parents must read through that list and decide yes, no, or maybe.

How do you look at a page full of special needs and decide which conditions you would accept in your child? There’s a huge part of me that wants to just check, “YES,” on all of them, even though some of them frighten me.

I’m fairly comfortable with ASD or VSD, because our birth daughter had an ASD. And I’m comfortable with club foot, because my husband had one. I’m comfortable with cleft lip and palate, because my niece had that.” I also have a dear friend who has a missing finger, another with spina bifida, and on... and on... and on...

What it comes down to is, I COULD love any child on that checklist.

After agonizing for quite a while, I read something online that was helpful. It said to think about which special needs your family could care for best. And it hit me that if we signed up for a child with extreme, long-term needs, our attempts at “love” might prevent someone with better resources from caring for her.

So, I’ll have to think some more. And pray. And ask God which needs we can meet in light of our boundaries. Please pray that we’ll have wisdom there.

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It's strange. Lately I find myself praying for a baby I don't even know yet. First thing in the morning, every morning, I'm thinking about how someone might be putting him or her to bed across the ocean. Last thing at night, I think about how our child might be waking up to a new day.

I pray that the caretakers will be kind until we can arrive. And I pray that God would protect our child from all types of abuse. I pray for that little body, and that God would protect it from disease and harm. I pray over our child's soul, and that God would put Christians in his or her path who would pray over this child there, and maybe sing a hymn over our child while he/she is falling asleep. And maybe that our child would find something to laugh about today, even though things are hard. And I pray for someone to love our baby, and to show him/her what tenderness means, until we can give him/her a forever home.

Sweet baby. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His countenance to shine upon you. And may He give you His peace. We love you!

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Connections

Something I didn’t expect about this process was this instant support network of other adoptive mothers! It does make sense that the sort of women who would welcome a child into their home would also welcome a scared new mother into their hearts. Still, I wasn’t expecting this flurry of connection! I’m so grateful for it!

So, thanks to everyone who is helping in so many ways! It’s been wonderful to have you take the initiative to encourage me and offer good advice. I love you guys!

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CCAI

The early adoption process is going well. I've spent the past few days doing a lot of research about agencies. (Choosing an agency is really the first step of an international adoption.)

I was encouraged by a conversation that I had with CCAI today. I like the way they do the selection/invitation process. It seems like it would fit our family's personality pretty well.

A friend of mine adopted through them, and she had a great experience. Also, SIL's friend used them and things went well.

They also tend to be economical. Their total estimate (including home study and post adoption visits) was $21,450-$23,850. This is still a great deal of money, but it is significantly less than what has been estimated by a few other agencies.

We will need about $7500 for the first six months of the process. After that, I can start applying for lots of grants to help make this happen. So, those of you who are praying, please pray that God will provide that much so that we can get this rolling. :)

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Progress

I spent most of yesterday sifting through agencies online. It has been crazy trying to learn the differences between them.

Some have professional-looking, maneuverable websites. Others are so basic, it’s hard to find the information you need. Some focus more on faith. Some provide extra resources after the adoption. Some show pictures of waiting children. Others will not. And there’s always a question looming in the back of your mind, wondering if the marketing package you see on-line truly represents the actions of the company.

My sister-in-law has been AMAZING about sending me resources. She helped me eliminate a few agencies. She also added a few to my list. I seriously don’t know how I’d be doing this without her!

Anyway, I spent most of yesterday reading and sorting our options. Those of you who have adopted internationally might understand the overwhelmed feeling that can hit when you are trying to make a major, permanent life decision thousands of miles off-site.

So, I was about to shut off my computer late last night when a friend sent me a facebook chat message. It said something like, “You don’t happen to be looking for a good agency, do you?” She didn’t know how I had spent my whole day. I laughed.

Her family adopted from China four years ago. And they used one of the agencies my SIL had recommended. It is one of the more economical agencies, and they had a great experience. She was also able to talk me through several key questions that my day of research had surfaced. I went to bed so thankful for that little well-timed boost of encouragement. It’s neat to see how God is providing for our needs already.

PRAYER REQUESTS OF THE DAY?
Confirmation on our choice of agency
That paperwork will be completed easily
Provision of funding for beginning the process
Application for and receipt of a huge grant to cover the remainder of the process

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About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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