Thursday, January 3, 2013

So, This is Life.

It is so hard to believe that we've been home with our son for over two months now.   Let me catch you up a little.  The flight home was tiring, but was fine.  I was so worried about Iliya being on the plane, confined for such a long time.  He was a champ.  When we finally arrived at our final stop in Cincinnati (with still a 2 hour drive ahead of us), several of our friends were there to greet us.  It was going on 10:00 pm, and we had friends make the drive down to see us and friends come over from the Louisville area.  Wow, such a blessing.  Of course, they brought our kids to us that I was dying to see so I hope they forgive me when I went several minutes without focusing on anything other than those two faces that I was aching to see and hold.  Upon coming home and going to bed, it is like we instantly settled in.  I can say that over the last 8 weeks our lives have  This is life.  No, not every day is easy.  We weren't promised that it would be, and quite honestly raising our biological children often wasn't easy either.  But not everyday is hard, either....not in any way.  Most days, a big "most", are wonderful.  I am still amazed at what our family has transpired into.  This is not a visitor in our home, this is a son...a brother.  Spencer and Emilie have accepted everything wonderfully.  They love him.  They fight with him.  They watch out for him.  Spencer has come to his defense on numerous occasions...."dad, he doesn't understand yet.  It's ok.  He's not hurting anything".   This is usually during a time when Iliya is testing his boundaries and it is clear that he knows what he is doing.  But rather than getting upset with him, Spencer is coming to his defense.  (Lord, I pray that this young man continues to have such compassion for others, especially for those that cannot speak up for themselves). 

Yes, there are definitely still times when he tests us.  It is quite possibly a protective reaction.  Since he cannot yet speak the language very well, perhaps some of his outbursts are out of frustration, or just a way of dealing with the vast differences he is going through.  He is doing wonderfully with the transition, but remember that he lost everything he ever knew.  I can't help but believe that there are times when he remembers things, good or bad, and just has difficulty with processing it.  He can't simply sit down and explain to us all of his thoughts and concerns, so it comes out in other ways.  We understand this, and it's fine.  Oh, we get frustrated.  But we really do understand.  We try to keep it in perspective and understand that our frustrations have to be so very minor compared to the frustrations that he has to deal with.

On the language, I think he is doing great.  He understands A LOT of English and is starting to speak in English quite a bit.  We can communicate daily and it hasn't really been too much of an issue.  As for routines, it's funny how just when we start to get settled in we have a holiday vacation.  So the last couple weeks have been very out of the ordinary and he will again need to find a routine once Spencer and Emilie get back to school.  Speaking of holidays, how was his Christmas?  I thought it went very well.  He behaved himself very well around his cousins, especially the younger ones.  I was concerned that the concept of "sharing" was going to be difficult but he did very well.  The one thing that sticks with me from Christmas day was his focus on the gift he had opened.  While the other kids would go from present to present, Iliya opened one up and saw that he liked it so he played with it.  Quite some time later he still had unopened gifts under the tree because he was happy to play with the one he had opened thus far.  Hmmm, perhaps we could all learn a little something from that.  Perhaps we can all be content with what we have in front of us instead of rushing to the next thing hoping it is bigger and better.  Just a thought. 

Nighttime routines are going pretty well.  He still is intrigued by the things around the room, whether they are sights or sounds or whatever.  I can imagine it is hard to relax.  I know that when I lay down at night my mind starts to think of numerous things.  Perhaps it is the same for him and that is when he starts to wonder about the things in his room, the noises at night, the events of the day.  Who knows?  One thing that I've really enjoyed about nighttime is saying bedtime prayers with him.  I've never prompted him to do so, and I don't believe Michelle has either, but upon completion of the prayer I usually hear a faint little voice saying "Amen".  It truly warms my heart. 

One last thing that truly warms my heart is watching my incredible wife with him.  She is amazing.  Her motherly instincts have kicked in and she is so natural with him.  Believe me, he is a momma's boy.  Oh he likes sitting with me in my chair for a time, watching TV or playing with something (usually an old broken remote control.  Unfortunately he's probably already learned from me that when you are in that room, for some reason you are supposed to have a remote in your hand).  But sitting with me doesn't last too long when momma is around.  And if momma is out of the house?  Then he often comes to me questioning "momma?"   He goes to the window and looks out "momma's car?"   Let me tell you, this little boy loves his momma.  So all appears to be going well.  It's natural.  We know that he is quite special and we know that the circumstances of him being in our family are special...but it doesn't feel that "special", it's just....normal.  This is our new life, and what a wonderful life it is.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting Comfortable

Yesterday we walked around town some more.  We went to an underground mall area in an old subway.  We had remembered this place from our first trip in April.  And oddly enough, when going into a certain store, the store owner there remembered us as well.  We did a little shopping and then went up to ground level.  We were in front of the presidency building and finally saw the changing of the guard out front.  We had tried to see this back in April but always seemed to miss it by just a couple minutes.  While we were watching, we caught the first glimpse of a melt down.  He didn't want to stop, he wanted to keep walking.  When we stopped, he started screaming and pulling away and wanted to do what he wanted to do.  Hmmmm, more on that later.  After we got him calmed down, we headed back for lunch and a quick nap.

We had to wake him up from his nap because we had an appointment with the local clinic for a medical check-up that is needed to complete the passport/visa.  When we were picked up to go to the clinic, there was another couple with us from Louisiana.  They are adopting sibling boys, ages 2 and 3.  A very nice couple and our son was excited to see other kids going along with us.  We had a pretty long wait at the clinic but he did wonderfully.  He was very passive sitting in Michelle's lap and seemed concerned that one of the other boys were upset.  Our little guy seems to be very caring and compassionate.  The Dr. was very nice and we were in and out of the exam quite quickly.  Upon leaving, we asked to be dropped off at the mall where we got a few essentials needed at the apartment.  At the grocery store, we got one of the carts with a little car in the front.  He absolutely LOVED it.  He was cracking up as we shopped through the store.   After shopping, we went to put the cart away.  I was afraid there would be a fight but he got out when I told him we were done.  What a good boy.  As we walked out of the store, we saw a little car that you put some money in and take a ride.  We let him ride it.  He again was cracking up.  Then when it was over......that's when it happened.   Melt down!!   He did not want to stop riding in the little car.  He was screaming.  Pulling away.  Real tears started to flow.  He was not a happy boy.  I was in another store while Michelle took him on the escalator.  He had loved riding the escalator before, but now he was still focused on the car.  I came out and we both took him out of the mall.  He started to calm down, but kept sniffling and would occasionally whine a little and say "Kova" (car).  He eventrually calmed down.  Crisis averted.  We stopped by a playground and let him play a bit before taking the long walk back.  Remember, we had been dropped off at this mall.  We stopped on the way back at a street-side pizza place and got a couple slices of pizza.  (Three big slices, I mean BIG, with two drinks for a total of about $6 American dollars.  Gotta love the food prices here.)  We sat and ate in the main pedestrian boulevard and enjoyed people watching for a bit.  We then headed back to the apartment to turn in early for a change.  Before bedtime, we decided to try the bath again and he suddenly loved it.  He wanted to play and splash around.  He didn't love getting shampoo and water on his face, but he handled it well and was perfectly fine when we wiped it off with a cloth.  After the bath, we were watching TV and the movie Garfield was on.  He laid next to me on the couch and was cracking up at the movie.  Again, very comfortable as if it had always been like this.  Bedtime went very well again and then was our chance to skype with the kids at home.  A very wonderful ending to another long day. 

This morning, he apparently decided to wake up and spend the morning testing us.  He kept pushing the limits and checking to see what else he could get away with.  Sometimes being a little silly, sometimes being outright defiant and whiny.  We've been prepared for this and we've been reading up on it so it was no surprise that as he got more comfortable with us he would begin to test us.  But my thought is, why would this behavior surprise any of us?  Isn't that exactly what we all do with God?  When we give our lives to Him, we just can't believe that anyone would love us the way that He does and we are on fire, obedient to do what He asks and just thrilled to be in His presences.  Then we get a little comfortable and start wanting to do things ourselves.  We test the boundaries, sometimes being completely defiant.  And just as our Father always accepts us back with unconditional love, our son will also learn that while our spirit might be tested, our love will never fail and we will continue to love him unconditionally.  We aren't going anywhere, just like our Father is always there.  Yes, we expect tough times.  We expect times to be frustrated and we expect times to be discouraged.  There may even come a day when it is so discouraging that we want to sit down and cry.  My only question that I have for myself and for all of you often does our Father weep at our behavior.

The parallels to our son's adoption and our adoption into God's family again shows itself to me. 

Thank you Lord for always loving me and continually teaching me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thanking God for this Amazing Time

I had planned on posting something new by now, but we had a slight casualty with an adapter and thus we had no way to charge the laptop.  We have a converter now so we're good to go....for awhile.  Yesterday as we woke up, he seemed very still in his bed.  Michelle went to him and he seemed to ignore her.  We were worried that he might be confused, or scared, or something.  Then, he suddenly rolled over with the biggest smile and showing those big dimples of his and he pointed to the other room, ready to get up.  He had a big breakfast (he is a very good eater) and he loves milk.  In fact, he tries to drink it so fast he almost can't help but pouring it down the front of his shirt.  Not that he is that messy, but he just wants it more and more.  We hung out in the apartment awhile, watching some Baby Einstein videos.  He seemed to like the video ok, but he definitely liked the music.  He is going to be a musician someday, I have no doubt about that.    After playing and hanging out awhile, then lunch and a short nap (during which time we skyped with our kids back home and Thank You Lord for giving someone the wisdom and technology to develop Skype!!!), we then were taken to the police station to fill out some papers and get his picture taken for his passport/visa.  While we were waiting, I stayed inside and Michelle took him outside for just a bit.  He is definitely a momma's boy already.  When it was time for his picture, they wanted him up on a stool.  He was too short to sit on it and be in the picture.  But he does not like being picked up, not at all.  So he was very unhappy to be put on the stool to sit on his knees.  He was told to smile and he gave a very big, cheesy, but very forced smile for about 1/2 a second.  Needless to say, the camera caught the very unsure look just a fraction of a second later.  But it was what happened immediately following that was so special.  When he got down, he ran to me and wanted me to hold him.  He leaned into my chest, knowing that I would protect him.  Michelle noticed it too and we were both very thankful that he already sees us as his security.  Now don't forget, I said he was a momma's boy.  More on that to come. 

After the police station, we decided to take a walk around the city.  And walk we did.  I can't believe that his little legs walked around that much.  Remember, he does not like to be picked up, which includes being held.  We went through a park in the middle of the city and got some ice cream.  Oh my goodness, he ate it in a hurry and was ready for more.  We then went to two different playgrounds.  He very much wanted to be involved, and he loved watching the other kids play but he was just a little unsure himself.  That's ok, it will come.  At one time, I was following him and he looked up and noticed that Michelle wasn't right there.  "Mama!!"  He looked around for her.  Again, "Mama!"  Now mind you, this was never a scared cry, just a shout to make sure she was there.  Then he saw her and ran her way.  He didn't run up to her, he just played in that part.  He just needed to know that she was there.  This may seem like such a small thing, but I would imagine that most of you reading this will understand how huge this is and how grateful we are that he is understanding and accepting his place with us.   He was still wandering around watching others when he finally got the courage to step up on a small step and jump off.  "Bravo", we said.  He liked being acknowledged and so he did it again.  "Bravo".  He then decided that he would let me lift him up on to the slide.  He didn't want to climb the steps, but he was ok with me lifting him.  Perhaps a prelude to being lifted and held, we will see.  After walking around a bit more, it was time to eat and venture back to the apartment.  He curled up with us on the couch and we watched the movie Cars.  He loved it.  Of course, everytime we walk down the street, he says (in his own language)  So we had no doubt he would love the movie.  Then it was bedtime and he goes to bed so great.  If he is scared, he is keeping it to himself and not saying a word.  A little worried that this could be the case, we went in to his room a few times just to assure him that we were there, we aren't going anywhere and he is safe.  (He probably thought, 'leave me alone, I'm tired'  :)

Then this morning, with no computer to finish the movie we had started, we ventured out for some short walks.  Just a very relaxed day until this evening when we went to dinner.  We decided to go to a traditional restaurant with singers and traditional native folk dancing.  It was about a two and a half hour dining experience, but he loved it.  He was so intrigued by the singing and dancing.  He was holding a roll of mints (just for something to hold on to) and he began singing into it like a microphone.  Then he heard a trumpet playing and he began to "play" the roll of mints like a trumpet.  This caught the eye of one of the singers and she came over to him and asked his name.  He was a little shy, but very excited to be included in the show.  At one time, when I was taking him to the bathroom, he was a little upset that I was having him wash his hands instead of letting him rush back to the table.  As soon as were dried, he tried to run off and he yelled, "Mama".   Seeing Michelle, he smiled and was good.  As the evening wore on he was getting a little tired so he crawled up into her lap and let her hold him, her arms around him and his around her.   Big step.  Thank you Lord.  We are so very grateful.  We know that we cannot expect every day to be like this and we are prepared for whatever may come our way, but we are very grateful for the way the Lord has blessed this first leg of our journey.  As I sit here writing this, thinking of how the first few days have gone and knowing that it is entirely God's doing, I am a bit overwhelmed.  Coming into the adoption world a bit reluctantly, God had to break me down and show me that I am not in control, it is nothing I have power over and it's not about me.  Now, after breaking me down and getting me to surrender the process to Him completely, He has given us this wonderful ....well, the only word I can think of is family.  That's what we are.  Family.   Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."   Thank you Lord for revealing to me my God given desires and thank you for fulfilling them. 

God bless you all. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Starting Our New Journey

Well, let me bring you up to speed on how the week has gone thus far.  We left home Friday afternoon and had a series of three planes and travelled for about 16 hours by the time we arrived at our destination airport on Saturday evening here in Eastern Europe.  Of course, just to test us a little, our bags were THE last ones to arrive on the baggage carousel.  But all was well, everything arrived safely.  Our driver met us and took us to the apartment that we will call home for the next week.  It is a nice little two bedroom apartment.  We got quickly settled and then ventured down the street to the local market to get a few items to make meals while we are here.  After that, we went a little further down the street to get something to eat and then we retired early that evening, knowing that the next day would be big as we would travel 3 hours to get our son.   The next morning, the driver was to pick us up around 8:45 for the drive to the mountains to the orphanage where our son is. 

Satan perhaps thought that he could throw a wrench or two into this day, but we serve a mighty God and His ways and plans are already in place and satan will have no hold on this process.  We were anxious to get started and we went outside to wait for our driver a little before 8:45.  We waited....and waited....and waited.   Then our driver called, "I'm trying to get to you", he said.  "All of the roads in the main part of the city are closed for a marathon being run today.  You may have to walk somewhere to meet me."   After a brief conversation, we decided that we would walk to a church that we knew about.  He found us there, and we were on our way.  A little later than planned, but still on our way.  As we travelled a few hours southeast, into a mountainous area of the country, Michelle and I both shared how we were getting a little nervous.  So many thoughts were going through our heads and what the day would have in store.  We weren't sure how it would go, how he would respond to us, how the caregivers would respond, or anything.  We arrived at naptime, just after lunch.  Our little guy was awake and waiting on us, and all the other precious children were tucked away in their beds for their naps.  As we entered, he seemed excited to see us.  We were certainly excited to see him.  He had a recent haircut and was wearing some clothes that we had previously gotten for him.  You could see that the caregivers wanted to make sure that the process started with the connections that we had longed for.  We asked a few brief questions, signed a couple papers, and we were on our way.  It was so precious to see the tears of the caregivers as they told him good bye.  We gave them a hug and thanked them for the care that they had given to our son.  As we left, we were headed to the stairs to walk down to the car when we were asked to wait while one of the caregivers walked up.  She had a little tradition to perform, pouring a jar of water onto the stairs before he left.  We asked what it was for and were told that the symbolism of the water was that they wished his life to flow easily as the waters traveling down river....effortlessly.  Very sweet.  We all said our good-byes and got back into the car for the ride back.   That lasted about 30 seconds as our driver discovered that we had a flat tire.   He also discovered that the tire wrench would not work on one of the lugnuts that was a slightly different size.  A few minutes later, one tire store later, and two tire changes later (from flat to spare, and from spare to newly repaired tire) and we were again on our way. 

As I mentioned, we were in the mountains.  Traveling down the mountain with the winding roads and with our little guy being on a long car ride that he is not used to did not settle well with the fact that he had lunch just before we arrived.  After the moment of car sickness, followed by a quick stop to clean up, all was fine and he soon took a nap in the car.  Very precious to see him with his head leaning against Michelle's arm.  We finally got back to the apartment and it was time to walk a little.  Being cramped in the car for a few hours we all just needed some exercise.  After a walk and another trip to the market, we got something to eat and then headed back to the apartment to hang out and just spend time getting to know each other.  He is such a wonderful boy.  He is very inquisitive.  He goes through bouts of being overly active, to bouts of being very quiet and intrigued by the toy or item in front of him as little boys often do.  The evening felt natural. 

At bedtime, we laid him down in a bed in the same room that we would sleep in.  He wanted a special toy that he had latched onto, and we smiled from the other room as we heard the sounds of the toy over and over and over.  After a few minutes I went in and told him it was time to go to sleep and I took the toy to the other room.  No cries, no complaints, he just said good night and went to sleep.  He awoke the next morning with giggles and excitement for what new things would await us today.  As I write this, we are dressed and playing, just waiting for a couple appointments that we have today.  He is the same boy this morning that he was last evening.  Thank you God that he does not seem afraid or worried.  I pray that he will always trust us and know that we are always here to love him, to protect him, just to be with him......forever. 

More soon as the week progresses.  Thank you all so very much for your prayers in this process.  It is so exciting seeing the new path set before us.  We know the road will be long and we know that the path will get quite narrow at times.  We are prepared because we know that God is leading the way.  The path might be narrow, but it is well lit.  God Bless.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

God Rocks......Period!!!

Ok.  this will be short but we just have to tell what amazing news we received today.  First of all, if you haven't read my post from yesterday you need to.  I explain that we are ready for our little guy to come home.  It's time.  We're done with waiting.  We had been told that our court date would be October 20, so I posted yesterday with the idea that we are finally in the right month.  It's finally going to be THIS month.  Well, guess what.  October 20th is a Saturday and thus not the correct date.  An oversight in the communication stream, or something.  The court date is really......October 2nd.  Guess what today is?   Yep, October 2nd.  We received word this morning that our court was held today and we passed.  Now we're on stand-by as we prepare to leave within two to three weeks.  AMAZING!!!!!   Thank you Lord.  How awesome is our God that within less than 9 hours of my post saying that we're ready for the wait to be over, we get the call that the wait is over.  When Michelle told the kids the news, Emilie held her hands over her mouth and then said, "God really does work miracles."   Spencer was more subdued (of course) but he did get on his phone and started texting people about the news.  That's all for now.  My head (and heart) are so full that I'm not even sure what all would pour out of mind right now. 

Thank you all so very, very much for your prayers.  As my post said last night, this is not the end, but merely the beginning.  We still covet your prayers and I will continue to update on this blog. 

God Bless.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Enough Already!!!!

Wow,  It has been so long since I last posted.  I know, and I'm sorry.  But today is strategic in writing this post.  You see, we can now say that THIS MONTH we will be able to call our child OUR child.  We have finally hit the time when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We are just a few weeks away from officially having a new son, and then just a few weeks more away from bringing him home.  We may finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but believe me when I say that the Light has always been shining through this process.  I think the hardest part of the entire process has been the waiting, but I have no doubt that we've learned things during the wait.  Now, don't get me wrong, it hasn't been a fun wait.  We are ready.  Ready for him to be home with his family.   When one talks about prayer, we often learn that God does answer prayer though it may not be in the way we had hoped for.  He may answer in one of three ways:  Yes, No, or Wait.  I sometimes think that the hardest answer is Wait, but it also may be the answer that brings about the most growth.  Now in this situation, I don't for a moment believe that God has been testing us with this wait just to see if we are committed, or to test our perseverance, or anything like that.  This child needs to be home with his family and I don't believe that the God that calls us to care for orphans and widows in their distress would throw in an added wait to see if we are for real.  God knows our hearts.  This, I feel, was not his original plan.  Likewise, I hear people sometimes say that this child was born to be with us.  Hey, maybe we could even tell him that someday when he asks about his birth parents, about being abandoned, about how he came to live with us.  "Well, honey, God created you to be with us from the very beginning".   Hogwash!!!  Forgive me if you've used this phrase or have thought this before.  But I don't believe that for a moment.  God's design was not for a child to be abandoned so that he would grow up in an institution.  Our God is a God of love.  Abandonment is not a biblical principle and I refuse to believe that the God that I serve would ever plan for abandonment, cultural adversity, and displacement to be THE plan for a child's life.  Now, I did say that our God is loving and I know that He is very good.  Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."   God doesn't design abandonment, but He can work for good even in the abandonment.  And I don't believe that God designed delays and additional waiting in the placement process, but He can work for the good in that as well.  For those of you thinking about adopting, please understand that I am not saying that this particular waiting is a part of THE process, but it has been a part of OUR process.  I've known other adoptions that have gone more quickly and I've known others that have taken longer.  It is not my intention to compare our adoption to others and place any judgments, good or bad, in those comparisons.  But just let me say this, we're ready.  We've been ready.  Enough already.   The process for the country we are dealing with has been said to take about 3 to 4 months after the first travel date.  Some of you may remember that our first travel date was in April.  Well, it's been more than 3 or 4 months and we are definitely ready.  I know that many adoptions have been right at that 3 to 4 month mark and I have no doubt that future adoptions will be in that time frame as well.   There are many wonderful people both in America and in our child's country, that work hard to minimize the wait time.  Things happen.  I don't believe that God designed it this way.  I'm not necessarily saying that this is the work of Satan, but I do know that if it is that God is going to have the last word because our desire and our sense of urgency has not wavered.  If anything, our faith in this process has gotten stronger.  This is our son.  Whether the paperwork shows it legally yet or not, he's ours.  We've known in our hearts for a long time that he is ours and it's time to bring him home.  God, thank you for helping me to grow during this waiting period.  I think I've grown now, thank you, I'm ready to be done with the first phase.  Yes, the first phase....the beginning.  This process is not "adoption".  Adoption doesn't stop when you bring the child home.  Heck, that's when it starts.  This is merely the prelude.  I'm now ready for the main event. 

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege to speak at an adoption conference that was held by our agency.  It was a fantastic one-day event with several classes and sessions that met the varieties of needs that are present when you have dozens and dozens of people gathered to hear about the different facets of adoption.  I was on a panel of Fathers in Adoption with two other men and I was truly blessed by the turnout for our session.   There were many couples in attendance that wanted to hear from the dad's point of view about the process of adoption.  (time for a quick plug.  Plan now to begin looking for information for the 2013 Crossroads of America Adoption Conference late summer/early fall of next year.  You won't want to miss it).   There were two questions from our session that stick in my mind, particularly as it pertains to the waiting process and to the urgency that we currently feel.   One question was, "when we had a child biologically, my wife prepared the nursery for our daughter; bought clothes, painted things pink, and all that.  How can you prepare for an adopted child when you are in that waiting period and haven't had a referral yet?  One, my wife doesn't like to sit back and not be active, but also how can I as a dad be doing anything"?  Great question.  (one of many, many great questions).  One of our answers to this was to  prepare yourself.  Later there will be paperwork and processes and things to be done.  Take the time now to start preparing yourself for when your child comes home and even long after he's been home.  Learn about attachment issues and behaviors.  Learn about the culture and the history of the country your child is from.  Down the road, when your child asks what their home country was like you don't want to say, "wow, good question.  Maybe I should look into that."  I think it would be so much better to say, "I've been waiting for you to have questions about that.  There is so much history that is very fascinating.  Let me tell you've what I've learned."   Prepare yourself.  and your family.  That's what we are learning now, even in the final wait.  And what I've learned is that we are prepared.  We're ready.  Our children are ready, our home is ready. 

The other question we were asked was "since guys are not as emotional as women and it may be harder to feel 'connected' with the adoption process, did you have a time when you can think of that the fatherly instincts started to kick in"?   I immediately thought of a time.  It was at this same conference, one year earlier.  I was not a speaker, we were attendees.  Going into the conference, Michelle had shown me a few pictures of some children from the country we were pursuing.  "what do you think of these kids"?   "Cute", I said.  They were pictures.  I'm sure there may have been sad stories to go along with the pictures, but I wasn't going there.  I was prepared to wait for the country to match us with the profile we had filled out.  "Well what about this boy?", Michelle asked.   "Boy?  Are we thinking boy?  I mean, we weren't only saying girl either, I just hadn't been thinking of a specific gender."  Well, while attending the conference and hearing many different stories and pieces of information, something clicked.  The fatherly instincts kicked in right then and there.  "Show me that picture again....that's our son.  Get him off this list.  We need to get paperwork going, quick.  We need to get him home."   I can't really explain how and why it all happened that way, except to say that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him.  This was truly God.  He didn't design for this child to have the life of an orphan, but He now was molding our family and our hearts to prepare us to bring this child....THIS child....home.  Yep, the instincts kicked in and I've never looked back.  One of the greatest compliments that I've received throughout this process has been from my friend Josh.  Josh and Stephanie have become great friends that we met through the world of adoption.  We've really formed a wonderful family bond with many, many people.  Josh told me at the conference this year that he was amazed at the change in me from last year's conference to now.   Basically, he was saying that I went from that deer-in-the-headlights look, to someone who knew exactly the path that God has us on and is determined to help not only our own child, but to help as many children as we can to find their forever families.  That is what we continue to focus on. 

Our process won't be over this month, it will be beginning this month.  But even as we begin our main event, it is our desire to be whatever source of information that we can to as many families as possible so that they can start their prelude.  Statistics show that there are around 150 million orphans worldwide.  We are creating one less.  Many others have also created one less (or two less or five less or 10 less).  But no one can adopt all of these children themselves.  The epidemic is only going to get better when people answer God's call on their lives to take a step of faith.  What's holding you back?  Money?  Please!!!, I've tried that one.  It doesn't work.  God won't even give you the satisfaction of thinking that money is a viable reason not to adopt.  Very few people, and I mean very few, go into adoption with all of the funding in place at the onset.  But I personally have never heard of anyone stopping the process because they simply couldn't raise the money.  Is it easy?  Well, is anything that is so totally worth it ever really EASY?   No, but it happens.  Sometimes you can't even explain why, but it happens.  So, if not money, what other excuses might you have?  Fear?   Understandable, but God tells us to fret not.  Philippians 4: 6-7 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanskgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."   Fear has no power over us.  God has given us a way, Jesus Christ IS the way, and fear, anxiety, and worry have no place in our lives.   Fear isn't wondering if a child will "fit" into our family.  Fear is these children wondering if they will live to see adulthood; wondering if they will ever experience the love of a family.  That's real fear.  Our "fear" should be turned into great triumph.      150 million orphans.  That's too many.  When are you going to join us and say Enough.....Enough Already!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Welcome to the Table

Friends, it has been too long since I last wrote.  I'm very sorry.  On the last post, we had just returned from our initial visit to eastern Europe.  We are still in that waiting mode.  We have had medical exams updated, background checks updated, and trips to the statehouse to have already notarized papers officially apostilled.  (which, by the way, I'm told is pronounced AP-us-stilled, not uh-POS-tlled as I had believed.  But I'll be guided by the Secretary of State and change my way of speaking.)  I get to wondering, does anyone's background check come back "bad" on the fifteenth try?  I mean, really?!?  Unfortunately, I'm sure that it does.  We've done all we can on our end and we now await a court date in our child's country.  We will have a representative at the court on our behalf where the papers will be signed to officially make him our child.  As hard as the waiting has been, I think that is when the despair and urgency will kick in.  At that time, all paperwork will say that he is ours.  We are very happy with the situation that he has been able to grow up in thus far, but I can't imagine MY CHILD being in another country without me.  To be totally honest, it already feels that way but there is nothing we can do until it is all official.  So we wait on due diligence.  Most everyone has been very helpful in the process and I know that it just takes time, but it's hard.  I've written about it before, but the waiting doesn't get any easier.  I did have something happen this weekend that gave me a different perspective on the waiting.  As many of you know, I'm a terrible waiter.  I'm certain there are some people out there that just sit back and relax and say, "It takes time, I know that.  God will oversee it all and He'll get it done in the appropriate time."   I know that, and I believe that, but in my head I'm thinking about a million things that MUST be done, or COULD be done, or SHOULD be done...on and on.  Well this week, I and a few others were helping a friend move a swing-set/fort from the backyard of their old home to their new home.  It was heavy and awkward.  We hoisted it up onto a flatbed truck and thought, "that wasn't too bad.  Meet you at the new house."   Then we heard the whirrr of the truck engine.  Whirr, but no Vroom (don't you love my highly technical, mechanical talk)?   The engine was turning over, trying to start, but it just wouldn't fire.  After numerous tries we determined that the gas gauge must be off and it must be out of gas.  We located a can, put a few gallons in the tank and tried again.   Whirrrrr, whirrrr, whirrrr......whirrr, whirrr, whirrr.  Still nothing.  Finally, a guy familiar with the truck arrived to help us.  He moved the gear shift into drive, then slammed it hard up into park.  Whirrr...VROOM.   It immediately fired.  It just wasn't fully in park.   I always thought that an engine would only click or something if not in park, but this one did try to turn over.  But it wasn't until it was fully and totally "parked" that it actually "fired".  Psalm 46:10a says, "be still and know that I am God."  I've heard it before.  I believe I've written about it before.  But this weekend, I saw it in a new way.  You see I've been saying to God, "ok, I'm being still".  But I only appeared to be in "park".  To those around me, I look parked.  Calm, rested, relaxed.  But in reality there are things that nobody can see that suggest that I'm in gear, trying to move.  It's not until I am fully parked that I can fire.  God says, "I've got this one" but I have a hard time "parking" to let him spark my ignition. 

As I've looked back over my life, I've seen that pattern so many times.  On the outside, I look to be in control and settled.  I appear to be in relationship with Christ, but there are things going on under the hood that suggest otherwise.  I pray to God and tell him, "Lord, I'm so sorry for those times when I've let You down."   And it's amazing the response that God gives back upon hearing those words.  "My child, you can never let me down...because you don't have the ability to lift Me up.  It is I that lift you up.  You are my created being.  I don't make junk, so stop thinking that you're failing, or worthless, or whatever.  Just relax.  Be still and let Me work through you.  You'll see how wonderful it is when you let Me be in control."    You see, all this time when I've made mistakes, I've been quite ashamed.  I've often dwelt on the times in my life that I've failed.  But the problem with that is, I haven't failed.  I have succeeded.  My life became an absolute, unquestionable success story the moment that I gave my life to the Lord and accepted Jesus Christ as my saviour.  Is life perfect?  No, not here on this earth.  But in Romans chapter 4, we are assured that to those whom believe in the One who raised Jesus from the dead, that our belief is credited to us as righteousness.  Righteousness.  Perfection.  In God's eyes we are perfect. 

There is another Bible verse that I've quoted before, thinking of it as a goal.  I've heard many others use it, and it's quite good.  It's in Matthew 25.  "Well done, good and faithful servant".   The context is in the parable of the talents where the men took their master's money and put it to work to earn more.  He was telling the men that they did good and deserved to be in charge of other things.  We often use the phrase as something that we want to hear when our life on this earth is over.  "Well done, good and faithful servant."   Well, it probably won't surprise you based on what I've already written, but I used to feel a ton of pressure from that verse.  Pressure that I put on myself.  Rather than embracing the grace that God gives, I've condemned myself far too many times and thought, "so much for hearing that verse".  Let me tell you, God's grace is sufficient.  It is amazing.  And for the times that I'm lost, God comes to find me.  Just like in the world of adoption, and just like the one lost lamb, the shepherd will seek out the lost one and bring it back into the fold.  Friends, don't get caught up in thinking that you, as believers, are anything less than righteous.  God doesn't make junk.  So I'm learning how to accept his grace and mercy and allow myself to live freely.  Live fully in His awesomeness.  I still have a little issue with the "well done, good and faithful servant" verse.  But these days it is to keep myself in check.  It's the "done" part of the verse.  Well "done", as if it is my own doing that earns me a spot.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the verse and the bible does tell us that faith without works is dead, so I know there is "doing" to be done on our part.  But for me, I have to be careful to check my pride and not think too highly of myself and what I have the ability to do.  So for now, instead of "well done", I like to sit back and imagine my Father's house, with all the rooms, and lots and lots of food and hear him say, "welcome to the table.  I don't care if you've done enough, because you never can.  I don't care if you've made mistakes, because you always will.  I just care that you loved me and sought to put me first.  So welcome to the table."  

This adoption process has really helped my relationship with Christ.  I look at things so much more clearly, with less cynicism and with more grace.  I'm still growing, I hope I always will be.  I cannot wait to get our child home and to share God's love with him, just as we've been sharing God's love with our biological children.  Watching them grow in Christ has been so amazing.  Soon, hopefully soon, we will have another one home to love, teach, and to watch grow.  We know from studies that gathering around a meal is a great nurturing and attachment tool.  We can't wait to bring him home and say, "welcome home.  Welcome to the table".  With God's grace, he will one day hear those very words from the One that it matters most...."Welcome to the table, my beloved child".