Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I get it, we're different.

I haven't posted in a while because once we actually got a court date in Uganda we went underground with our updates for our security and just general privacy about our case.  That being said, we are now home from Uganda with our little boy, Jonah, and are a happily transitioning family of four!  Part of that transition clearly includes the fact that Jonah is black and we're white (sshhhhh....don't tell anyone).  In our (short) time home we've already experienced the looks, the stares, the hush hush of comments, etc.  I'm ok with it.  We knew it was coming.  I don't think you can really prepare yourself for it but at least we had an awareness it would be there.

The first week we were home my husband and I took our new son to the school where my husband teaches. He works at a predominantly black middle school in a nearby city to ours.  After we visited his fellow teachers, we decided to go to Cookout (a fast food place) close to his school.  As we're sitting in the drive thru with the windows down I see the kid working the window turn around and say something to the girl to which she mouthed "black baby" with a shocked look on her face.  Now don't get me wrong, I get it.  This is not something you see everyday.  And we were in their neighborhood.  But from there she did everything she could to look and then found a reason to come to the window to ask us "would you like ketchup with your order" just so she could see for herself.  By no means does this upset me.  I just don't really want people taking turns looking and staring like we're a circus act. I get it, we're different.

My son is a minority.  Not only because of his skin color but because of the skin color of his parents.  He will have to deal with racism like I have never or will never experience.  He will have to deal with parents who he KNOWS doesn't understand the extent of what he's dealing with.  On top of that, he will have to deal with people continually questioning his family because he doesn't look like the rest of us.

Every white person in the world should have to go spend time in a place where they truly are the minority.  I know I didn't experience even a portion of what he will in his life.  But everyone should have to at least know what it feels like to be stared at because you're different, feel out of place because no one looks like you, feel like people are burning into you with their eyes wondering what you're doing there or if you just found yourself in the wrong place, feel like your safety is constantly in question because you don't know who you can and can't trust.

It's not like these are new concepts.  The fact that every time I question what we're watching on tv because there's no one in the sitcom/cartoon/movie that's black.  The fact that I am constantly thinking about if/when we move what school district we'll be in to ensure there is a diverse population.  The fact that regardless of who or what I thought about the Trayvon Martin case, a young black boy is dead.  I do want this responsibility and everything that comes with it.  These are things that SHOULD concern me because my son is black and I want the best for him.  But here's the thing.  Even if you're white.  Even if you don't have a black kid.  Even if you don't know one single person of another color in.this.whole.world.  These things should concern you too.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Expectations

I'm not entirely sure how I should be feeling?  Do you ever get this way?  When you think there's a "right" or "wrong" way to be feeling?  Should I be excited because the next time I fly it will most likely be going to Uganda?  Should I be terrified about the reality of having two little (2 year old) boys that are MINE?  Should I be "cherishing every moment" that our family is this perfect little unit (I'm using the term perfect loosely here, go with it)?

I just read a blog post about adoptive moms (you should read it here) and what stuck out most to me was the part about adoption not being pregnancy because there is no due date.  We knew we were in for a long process or we wouldn't have started it when our bio son was 6 months old.  And in reality, it has been about the length we could have expected.  But now, closer to the end, the waiting is excruciating.  And the hardest part is, there is no end in site.  Sure, we know that we "should" get a court date in the next month or so.  We "should" be traveling in the next few weeks/months.  We "should" be home with our son by Christmas.  But there are no certainties in this world except death (and taxes).

I'm not trying to be a downer by writing this post.  The reality is, I just finished a book called The Fault in Our Stars which, despite being about kids dying of cancer, is really a call to live.  When I get asked "are you excited?" or "I bet you just can't wait" I usually just smile and nod.  Because isn't it a given, when you seek out to adopt a child, that you are excited and looking forward to having them home with you?  The reality is, I live with a constant knot in the pit of my stomach.  The "what if's" are always looming in the back of my mind wondering if, in fact, I'll ever actually get to meet my son whom I love despite never having met him and, if I get to meet him, will I ever actually get to bring him home.

I get that there is no "right" way to feel.  The problem is, there are so few people in the world that can understand how I actually am feeling that it's easier just not to share it with anyone (or just the one or two that I know get it).

If I learned anything from life and grad school, I learned to state my expectations.  I am not implying that by stating them they will necessarily be met, but at least they will be out there for consumption.  I expect to hear of our court date in the next 2 weeks.  I expect to travel to Uganda in the next 60 days.  I expect to be in country for approximately 60 days.  I expect to get to travel during a similar (if not the same) time period as my dear friend also adopting.  I expect that my parents (this includes my in-laws) love us and our son so very much that they will care dearly and deeply for our Jack so he does not feel abandoned for the time we are away picking up his brother. I expect that my dear coworkers/friends who have been so supportive through this ordeal will step in and take care of things for me while I'm gone.  I expect that our church who has been so trusting and caring with our family will circle around us in our time of major transition.

The thing about expectations is, these will not all happen as I desire.  And yet, some of them have already begun to happen.  The thing about life is, I cannot plan it.  And yet, the life God has granted me is immeasurably greater than the life I expected. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

A long awaited blessing...

I have waited a long time to write this post.  And some would expect that it would be so filled with joy that you would want to gag!  Trust me, it is.  We are OVERJOYED to share with you that we have received a referral for a little boy!  He is just a bit younger than Jack which is what we requested but not by much!  In fact, we will be celebrating his birthday without him soon (but you can imagine what a birthday he will have once he gets here)!  I wish I could show you a picture of his beautiful face.  However, until we come home, we will call him baby J and I will not be sharing any pictures online.  I can tell you this, because of his age, we have decided to keep his given name (but it does work out well because it is a "J" name too)!  So we will not be calling him James as previously discussed, and you will hopefully learn his real name soon enough!

When I saw his face, I almost cried.  I couldn't believe it.  I think I was in shock.  We were actually out of town that weekend.  We were staying with friends, Jack was staying in the same room as us, and he hadn't slept well that night.  It was 5:30 in the morning and Jack was trying to crawl into bed with us...I was resisting this with all that was within me because I knew at that point it was all over and none of us were going back to sleep.  Since I felt this was inevitable, I grabbed my phone and took a look...and there it was.  An email from our point of contact with his beautiful picture, name, and a (small) snippet of information about him.

Ok, now I have shared my joy with you, but please, bear with me when I share the rest of my heart. Over the past year, our eyes have been opened to the joys and sorrows of international adoption and while we are ecstatic to have a referral, we ask that you pray harder now than ever.

As we've stated time and time again, our number one priority is the welfare of children, orphaned or otherwise.  In the US, there are pretty clear standards as to what makes a child "adoptable".  Not as much the case in many international countries...especially non-Hague countries.

We have received a referral directly from a babies home instead of from our agency.  We have chosen not to work with our former agency however we believe that agency is still amazing and working for the best interest of children in Uganda.  We did not choose to move forward with them for many reasons which I would be more than happy to discuss, but not in a blog.  Just note that we would be very happy to work with them again, and to recommend them to families looking to adopt in the future.  It's just not the route we are taking for us for now.

We have a referral.  But now is just the beginning.  The waiting will still continue and now is the waiting that is the scariest for me.  As a mother of a beautiful two year old ginger, I go through a range of emotions regarding adoption all together.  How difficult it must be to give up your child for adoption.  How you must run through a plethora of reasons and wonders as to the right decisions for your child.  So many coercive people and pressures in other countries.  The horror stories I've heard from other adoptive families.

Here's where we stand.  We are walking through the process with our babies home, our lawyer, and some amazing and supportive friends God has placed in our life (some of which who have or are going through this too).  We have been working to get everything together to submit for a court date.  This has included our lawyer in Uganda speaking to the living family members of the child referred to us.  At any point in time, if any one of those family members speaks up and says they want to care for the child, we will lose the referral.  Of course that would be heartbreaking, we already love this child and want him here with us.  Yet, while we are torn by our emotions, we would never want you to pray that his family doesn't want him.

Next we wait on a court date and once we know that, we know when we get to travel!!  I may or may not be writing between now and whenever we travel.  Communications at this point get iffy because in reality, this is not our child until we have legal guardianship in Uganda.  This means talking about him in any sense can put our case in jeopardy.  Once we travel we will be setting up another means of communication while we are in the country and at that point, if you are interested in getting our updates, I'll publish how people can contact us for access.

So hold on to your butts!  It's about to be a wild ride!!  We covet your thoughts and prayers!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Please bear with us!

In an effort to not overshare, I haven't been writing at all.  It's killing me to not get to tell you what's going on in our lives with respect to our adoption.  Here's what we know....

There are so many children all over the world who need loving homes. There are so many ways to get involved on a local and international level!  In this country we are so rich and have so much to share.  So please do.  I don't mean just with us.  We have had amazing people share amazing things with us. And while we are still piecing our fundraising together, we have been overly blessed by God and our community.  We believe we will be as ready as we can be whenever we get word it's time to go.

Things are moving forward for us!!  If I can share that without telling you more, I hope you'll understand.  There are so many aspects to adoption and at this point in time, we are trying to respect the story of our future son.  So I promise you, when I can share, I will.  Until then, sit tight!  It may be sooner than you think :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hurry up and wait

I know, I know, it's been forever.  I'm sorry.  While there are things working together for progress, most of them I cannot share at this time.  My eyes are continually opened to the inner-workings of domestic and international adoption and it is pretty unbelievable sometimes.  We have been in this process for over 18 months and sometimes it feels like we've come so far and other times it seems like we haven't even moved at all!

What I can tell you about this process is how blessed we are with our community!  We have met and established some amazing adoption friends both local and national, some of which help me just get through the day!    In addition to the adoption community, we have been blessed by an amazing church community.  Over a year ago my husband established a guys group that has been so exciting to watch.  These guys have just begun to sharpen each other in ways I could have never imagined!  I am so thankful for these men who have committed themselves to the Lord and their families and I know lives are changing!  There's also our small group(s).  We were able to participate in an adoption small group and we still feel so much a part of the lives of those families who are adopting and fostering to adopt and I love to see how these families are growing.  And now we've got another group of amazing families, young and old, that are facing some immensely tough times in their lives and God has truly blessed us all by being a committed family and helping each other.  I don't know where we'd be without all these people in our lives.  The waiting can be so agonizing but we press on toward the goal!

I have been reading David Platt lately (almost done with Radical, moving on to Follow Me) and it has been a great challenge.  And what I keep hearing God say (in SO may ways) is that we have been following and now we need to stay on the course and stay put.  So many times we see what we're supposed to do and try to make it happen ourselves.  I think "ok God, you've shown me the way, now I'll go ahead and get there of my own accord."  What nonsense!  And yet, my selfish, controlling spirit takes over.  We have known for a long time we are called to adopt from Uganda.  We have done everything we can to move on this calling and now we continue to wait.  Thankfully, we know this is not for nothing!!

Thanks so much to so many of you who continue to pray for us, for the orphans of the world, and for where God will be taking us after our adoption is complete.  Please keep praying in our waiting!

Isaiah 40:30-31 - Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Lam 3:25 - The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.


Micah 7:7 - Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will
hear me.

Hosea 12:6 - So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your
God continually.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thank you, Jesus, for blue

Every morning I take my (almost) 2 year old to his grandfather's ("Ho-Ho") house where he goes for childcare (have I expressed how blessed we are to get to do this?). We have about a 15 minute drive and during this time we usually sing songs and talk to Jesus.  Of course, my son is very young but one of our desires is to show him that God isn't this far away being that has nothing to do with us but that we can have a personal relationship with him and that he loves us very much.  With us, having a relationship means talking like normal people do to each other.

This morning as we're driving to Ho-ho's, I said "do you want to talk to Jesus?" to which he replied "yeah" (don't be impressed, he'd tell you he likes to eat elephant poop if you frame it correctly).  So we start talking with a "Hey God, hope you are well today."  I then went through a few things I was thankful for, prayed for our friend with leukemia, and asked him what he was thankful for, to which he emphatically replied "BLUE!"  I laughed out loud.  But then I stopped and thought about his answer.  My son, my amazing little boy, is thankful for the color blue.  So many times I am overwhelmed with things going on with life...especially right now.  Work is crazy, our adoption feels like it's stagnant, I'm getting ready to travel, going out of town this weekend for a wedding, life is just happening.

And yet, in the midst of it all, my son reminded me of why Jesus loved the little children so much.  Why he chose to be around them any chance he got.  He knew that those little children had a perspective on life that we adults forget quite often.  What if we didn't have the color blue?  What if we didn't have any colors at all?  What would my world look like without it?  My son's beautiful eyes, the sky on a sunny day, my favorite color in the world...everything would be different.  So thank you, Jack, for reminding me that no matter what's going on and how crazy things may seem, I can always find something to be thankful for.  Today, it's the color blue.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This water is fertile - and what's going on in Uganda?

When I started writing this it was only going to be about the first part of the blog but boy did it take a turn - hence the two names.  Sorry it's so long but it really is some vital information!!!
______

There are pregnant women coming out of the woodwork!!  I can think of at least seven ELEVEN people just off the top of my head that are expecting all due between June and October.  Babies, babies everywhere!!  Except here.  Ugh, I have seen so many people get pregnant and have babies in the time that we have been through this wait...and there's no certainty on the length to come.  Please don't hear this as a complaint.  We are so extremely ecstatic at our friends who are having babies!  We love these people and their families and love to see God blessing them with beautiful children.  But that doesn't make the wait any easier.  And sometimes I question just expanding our family that way which is completely feasible.

We know we are supposed to be adopting in Uganda.  That is clear.  And for us to rush anything or get pregnant would just be selfish at this point in time.  Please keep us in your hearts and prayers as we do make some big decisions about the details of our adoption.  Please know that as soon as we can share any details with you we will!!

In the meantime, let me talk about a few things that are on our hearts right now.  I know I have said it before but I want to reiterate it here:

Our number one goal for the orphaned children of Uganda (and really every country) is that, if possible, they would be reunified with their family.  We would not go to poverty stricken rural America or the inner cities and say "you are so poor you do not deserve to have children."  Poverty should NOT be a reason for these international adoptions.  If we really want to help the poverty stricken, we should be engaging in the communities to help the families find ways to generate income to be able to keep their families together.  There are some great organizations in Uganda attempting to do as such and help rebuild lives and families.  There may be a (temporary) time when these families need others to care for and educate their children while they get back on their feet however, international adoption should not be the answer for these children.

Our second goal for the orphaned children of Uganda (and every country) is that, if possible, they stay in Uganda.  While there is much poverty and high birth rates to families, there are still opportunities for children to be in foster homes and families (their own extended family or otherwise) who will ultimately love and care for these children in their country of origin.

Finally, and only after these other two options have been fully exhausted, should international adoption be considered.  Of course there are needs for children in Uganda and elsewhere in the world (including the US) to be in families because no one else can or will take them.  These children should absolutely be allowed to be placed with families who love them and want them as their own.

It is imperative to us that we make these things known in our community and in that of the international adoption communities.  Far too often parents set out with good intentions but also some selfish ambition.  We were very naive when we started this process because we always hear about how many orphans are in the world.  And there are!!!  Please don't hear me say there isn't a need and a place for adoption (international or otherwise).  But we have been charged with the knowledge that human trafficking can be conducted under the auspice of international adoption.  And some times without the adoptive parents even knowing it.  There are so many stories I could tell you about these types of situations but they are not my stories to tell.  Yet the more we sit idle or turn a blind eye to these situations, the more it will continue to happen.

If you have any questions regarding anything I've said here, please feel free to contact me offline.  I'd love to talk more about any aspect of this.  And if you're reading this and just wading in the waters of international adoption, please look at this with open eyes and hearts and ASK QUESTIONS!!!

There are also organizations focused on the things I discussed above that would love to have the assistance of those outside of Uganda.  One that we have started to learn about recently is called Arise and Shine Uganda.  The founder of this is a Uganda woman whose goals are very much in alignment with the things I mentioned above.  You should check it out (www.ariseandshineuganda.com)!

What this has done for us is made us realize one thing.  Adoption is very important (we kinda already knew that).  But adoption is only treating a symptom of the bigger problem.  We are called not only to help the widows and orphans but also to build strong families and better communities.  So it is our intention to not only adopt in Uganda but also to come alongside those who are doing the work in building families and communities to help treat the real problem.  And ultimately, the better we get with that, the less need for adoption there will be, and that, my friends, is really our hope.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

still waiting

It's not that I haven't wanted to write lately, it's that we're at a strange place in our process where all the details cannot be shared.  And, unfortunately, in an effort to keep from oversharing, I've just stayed away from writing.  This is difficult for me because there is a huge aspect of this that is very cathartic for me.  Just know that we are moving.  I don't know if forward is how I would put the movement but it is clear that God is at work. I just wanted to write something so if you came to see us on our blog you didn't think we were lost...no, we're very found.  But the facts are this.  We are #16 on the list for the Feb report.  And to be honest, I don't know that that will change for March.  Our agency has not had a referral in 4 months.  And we are frustrated with the wait but we know that the way things are going, God can do amazing things!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The bitter with the sweet

When "the list" comes out every month I usually try to forget it's the first week of the month and ignore my email.  Most of what I get in my gmail is junk or advertisements so it's not difficult for me to do.  But for some reason, this week was different.  Maybe because I have the expectation that we'll meet our little boy this year.  Maybe it's because I see how much Jack changes every day and it makes me that much more ready to have our little one with us so we don't miss a moment.  Whatever the reason, I waited anxiously this week.

In fact, I watched my phone almost hourly during working hours to see if anything had "popped" in.  I thought at about noon today that maybe it wasn't coming until next week since it was already late on Friday.  My heart sank every time something else hit the new mail list and it wasn't from our agency.  But finally, as promised, we got the email.

And it is something to rejoice about.  It is!  But we have to take the sweet with a little bitter.  The sweetness is that we have moved up to #16 on the list!  That is very exciting!  And the truth is, as I have stated before, we could be called at any time with a referral.  But the reality is, that is not likely to happen.  That's where the bitter comes in.  Not only were there no referrals in the last month, but the timeline (which was 6-8 months when we started this journey) is now 15-18 months for a referral.  We started on the waiting list last April which means it could be October before we get a referral!  And that's assuming the timeline doesn't get extended anymore.  And then getting a court date takes another few months.  So while I started the year thinking we would have our little one here by Christmas, that may not be the case.  Despite my frustration, I think what is really weighing on my heart is that the only thing that's holding up this process is bureaucracy.  It's not that the number of kids that need family has diminished, no, it's just one more step in the process added which means the number of children waiting is, if anything, increasing.

I know I've said a million times that I am glad they go through the steps they do to ensure all these children cannot find homes in the country or with family members.  And I am happy for that because it is the ultimate goal.  But that doesn't make the wait any easier.

So we take the bitter with the sweet, remember that we're #16, and pray for patience and stamina in the waiting.  God's timing is perfect!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome to 2013 and all it may bring

This last year has been filled with amazing blessings for our family.  The spring semester allowed my husband to stop working in the restaurant world and work full time as a teacher.  He was blessed with a great job and is seeing his passion come to fruition by impacting the lives of young people. We saw Jack turn one this year and have enjoyed watching him grow and change and learn every day. We've watched him learn to walk, talk, and his personality develop into a vibrant, hilarious, little boy. As usual, I got to travel this year to multiple international places for work. Since our family has grown, it has become more emotionally difficult for me to travel internationally.  However, this year brought two amazing trips for me! In August I got to go to Italy and Paris with my sister, Sita.  Never in a million years did I think this trip possible and it was so fun! It brought us so much closer and just makes me long to live near her family.  In September I got to go to Japan with my Aunt Lynn.  Again, never did I think this trip would happen but it was such a blessing to me and was a true emotional rejuvenation!  I feel so blessed to have these women in my life and am over the moon to have had these experiences with them.

2012 allowed us many travels near and far, time with family and friends, some beautiful weddings of dear friends, new beautiful babies of dear friends, birthdays, anniversaries...overall a pretty amazing year of life.

With our adoption in 2012, we finalized our homestudy, received our immigration approval, and landed on the waiting list.  We ended 2012 at #18 on the list and, given the current timelines, are hoping to see a referral between April and July.  Four months seems so close but seven seems so far!  We believe our little boy, James, was born in 2012 and we are praying we get to have him in our arms in 2013.  We do not know what the future holds and we know there is a risk in every step of life, but this risk is well worth taking.

I hope and pray that by the time I write this post next year I get to tell you about our amazing trip to Uganda, and our beautiful family with our two little boys, Jack and James.  But I only know for certain what is today, and I want to live each one as it comes.  At the same time, I look forward to the future when our baby boy will be home and our family will be closer to completion.  I am reminded of Hebrews 11:1 which says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Hope your new year is filled with love, joy, and many blessings!