Friday, February 26, 2016

Swirling Brain, Adoption Heart

As we get within hopefully a couple months of meeting our boy, there's a lot swirling in my brain. I've been asked a lot of questions by family, friends, and even strangers. I've been reading a lot about other's adoption journeys and see the things they are being asked. There are two lines of questioning that really stick out to me as most common:

1. Why aren't you adopting locally (city, state, nationally)?
2. Isn't it just so great that you are rescuing (saving, buying) this baby no one wanted?

And both of these questions, or related ones to them, leave me dumbfounded. So much so that I often think of a good response hours or even days later. So, here are my thoughts:

Simply put, we are adopting from China because our son was born in China. We didn't make a value judgment and decide that Chinese children are more desirable, needy, or deserving than American children. Every child needs a loving family to be a part of. We didn't go with the easiest, or least expensive way to adopt. Any way that a child comes to your family is a labor of love. We didn't decide to only consider a child with special needs, or a boy. We left ourselves open to many options when we started on this road again. We don't think international adoption is better or worse than domestic adoption. Each has their own risks and benefits.

We looked at the file of one little boy, and knew in our hearts he wasn't just a boy, but rather he was our boy. And we started running as hard and fast as we could to get him home.

If someday another child joins our family through birth or adoption, they will honor us with their life through any way God sees fit to bring them home.

Our David is so wanted by us. He is not an unwanted child. He is a boy who has a Momma, Daddy, and brother who want so desperately for him to come home that it physically hurts sometimes. He has family and friends praying for him every day, wanting him in their lives. 

Further, he possibly was wanted by his First Mama, but she was unable to remain his parent. We don't know what led to him becoming an orphan: poverty, illness (his or hers), death. Whatever the reasons, they are tragic, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he wasn't wanted by her. 

I don't really think we are rescuing or saving him. I think that was done by the strangers who found him and told the authorities. In his almost 4 years of life, countless people have nurtured him, provided medical care to him, taught him, loved him, laughed with him, and maybe even cried with him. They walked with him through surgery and recovery. They helped him grow into the sweet, independent boy that he is.

And let's be clear, we are not buying a child. That's human trafficking. It is evil. No one has the right to own another human being.

We are paying governmental and private entities in both the United States and China, for the processing of paperwork, verification that we are safe people, training to become better parents, and care of our child. There are a lot of people to talk to, a lot of papers to process, a lot of steps to take, each one with a fee attached and a reason for existing. It's not a scam, although those do exist. It's not shady, although sometimes it's confusing and cultural differences can make it hard. It's not easy, and it shouldn't be. I'm thankful for every frustrating step of this process because it makes me so much more sure that other kiddos are being kept as safe as possible from people who might have nefarious intentions.

I know that I have asked some silly questions of adoptive families, and said some pretty asanine things. But I've grown a lot, mostly by hearing other's hearts. So here is my heart, and my swirly brain, all written down, to help other's grow in understanding the "why?" You're welcome on this journey with us, we can't do it alone. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Operation Bring David Home

So much in my world has changed in the year and half since my last post. I've given birth to a beautiful baby boy. It was a hard 60 hours of fighting to bring him into the world, but so worth every second. Sweet Rees is wild, adventurous and fearless (except about vacuums, those are terrifying.) He's also super snuggly, and friendly, gives everyone hugs and cries when he has to leave anyone. He plays hard and loves big. He is sunshine and a tornado, at the same time, all the time.

And now we're in process of adopting David from China. What?! Adopting? Didn't we already try that once? Don't we have a baby so we don't have to adopt anymore? Oh my, the crazy questions we have fielded since we told the world we were running hard after our son who just so happens to be on the other side of the world. So here is the story of adoption in our family:

We talked about adopting before we were even married. We wanted bio kids, but we also thought it would be awesome to have adopted kids too. We agreed that local adoption was the way to go. We had our family plan all worked out. So a mere two months after we go married we started trying to get pregnant. 6 years later is when God finally brought our miracle boy into my womb. 6 years of hope, disappointment, questioning, and learning much about the goodness and graciousness of God.

In the midst of that we were asked to consider adopting a beautiful 12 year old girl. We said yes! It started as "get your house ready, she'll be home in less than a week." Then it became "her extended birth family has taken her away, she's in danger." Then later "are you still interested? We know she's almost 14 now, but we can get her home soon." Finally there was the fateful "we wish there was more we could have done." Her birthday is 2 days before our wedding anniversary, and my grief comes right up to the surface for days/weeks before and after. She was mine for a time. She is God's always.

I thought that was it. I was done discussing adoption. My heart hurt too much, I couldn't even dream of going through that again.

Then I was subpoenaed. A student had confided in me, I had fought for her to be protected and years later was required to give account of what I knew. I sat in the waiting room with kids who may not have had one safe person in their world. I came home to my boy in the arms of a dear friend who had spent the entire time I was gone praying for my son and snuggling him. That night I told J I was ready to talk about adopting again. We have a whole community of safe people in our son's life. We have so many people who have wept and rejoiced with us on this journey and love our son not just because of who he is but because of all that he represent in being our first born. There are millions of kids who need one safe person, we have safe people in spades! J looked at me with the sweetest smile and said, "I've been waiting for you to come back around!" What patient, long-suffering love.

Then a few months later I saw a boy on Show Hope's Facebook page. He was beautiful. Three months younger than Rees. I loved him instantly. For a week I said nothing. Then I showed his story to J. And he loved him too. We contacted Show Hope, who suggested we contact an adoption agency they have contact with. We added our names to his "interest list." We went on a date to fill out a "medical conditions checklist," which was us looking up medical conditions we had never heard of, for hours on end, and then deciding if we felt equipped to provide a good home to a child with said medical conditions. Most emotional date ever. We told them that we were willing to wait to hear about this boy. His file hadn't been received from China yet, and we were ok with taking it slow and waiting to see what happened.

And then a job change became available for J. It was a better choice long term for him physically, but a difficult adjustment for us as it meant less income. I decided it wasn't a good time to pursue adoption. We just needed to take ourselves off of that boy's list. But I was sleep deprived, and life got busy, and God had other plans, so never actually did it.

Then the call came. I assumed it was family from Colorado calling, but it was the voice of a kind woman I had never spoken to before. She wanted to know if we would consider adopting an amazing 3 year old boy. I wanted to say that we had other plans, but what came out of my mouth was a request for more information, pictures, his story.  Once we looked at what they sent us, and did some research on his medical needs, we requested updated information. And while we waited for a response, we both individually came to the same realization, we knew he was ours. 

But he wasn't local. We had had an opportunity to adopt some "local" kids and we just knew we had to say no. And this would mess up birth order.  We had it all planned out with this other boy who was younger than Rees, but not by much. And we don't have the money for a quick Starbucks once a month, how on earth could we pay agency fees, and orphanage fees, and home study fees, etc.?

God's ways are not our ways. God's thoughts are not our thoughts.

We have until January to get our dossier to China. My personal goal is November.  I want him to have the best chance at not having another birthday away from his family. I want my boy home. Rees needs an older brother. I need an older son. And we all hope that by some great miracle a younger brother can some day come home too. We have not forgotten the boy who stole our hearts with a smile and started us back on this crazy journey.

And we wait, and fight hard, and run after our David. He is ours. And he is so worth every second.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Six Good Years

Today marks six years of being married to the best man on Earth. Every single one of those six years I have forgotten to give my husband a card, even though he really loves mushy cards. I forget because I'm lame, not because I don't love him. I forget because truly he is way better at remembering important days, and giving good gifts, and finding the sweetest cards, and writing the sweetest notes. He is so romantic, and I am often oblivious.

That said, I thought I would recount what these six years have been, how special he is to me, and how thankful I am for this journey we are on.

We have had six years of sweetness, mostly because of my sweetheart. There has never been a moment when he is too busy to snuggle. If I ever say I need a hug, he is eager to meet that need as quickly as possible. He loves on me, and our puppies, with such carefulness and kindness. He is always a safe place.

But there have also been six years of silliness. Singing at the top of our lungs is usual practice, and silly dance moves often accompany. More than once I have had to leave the room because I am laughing so hard I can't breathe. His laugh lights up my heart, and his silly faces make me cry in the best way possible.

There's been six years of easy things. Sitting together in the car holding hands, not feeling the need to fill silence. Serving with teenagers at church, while difficult at times, is an easy thing for us to do together because we both love them so much and love being together in it. Easy conversations, even when they're about hard things. It's easy to love your best friend.

And six years of hard things. Years of hoping for pregnancy that seemed like it would never come. Years of saying yes to an adoption that eventually fell apart. Struggling to learn to communicate in good and healthy ways. Failing to listen to hearts. Forgetting to prioritize each other. Needing to learn to fight fair. Dealing with his injured back, my food allergies, anxiety, a surprise tumor, chronic pain. Fighting to love when we're heartbroken, tired, grieving, angry, sick, sinful, selfish.

It's been six years of choices. Choosing each other over anyone else. Choosing marriage over pursuing children, over church service, over friends, over extended family, over jobs, over comfort. Choosing paint colors and furniture that we both love. Choosing his needs over my own, him choosing my needs over his own. Choosing to fight for our marriage when it's hard, choosing to encourage when we are both discouraged, choosing joy for the sake of the other heart, choosing hard things because we know they're the right things.

Most precious to me is the six years of faith we have shared together. Mornings spent reading our Bibles together, sharing our hearts, praying for one another. Seasons of heartache when we remind each other of great and precious promises of God that get us through. Moments of confronting sin and selfishness, daily asking for forgiveness, daily forgiving.

It has been the best, hardest, sweetest six years of my life. I have been richly blessed beyond what I could have ever hoped for by this marriage. I can't wait to see what the rest of my life with this precious, romantic, strong, kind, sacrificially-loving man holds.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lessons learned

It's been a week since my surgery. I have failed miserably at many things in that time, but have learned much too: funny how those things tend to go hand in hand.

I've learned that rest is an elusive concept. Sometime rest looks like sitting in the bed of my truck writing thank you notes while sweet men work hard to redeem my front yard. Sometimes it looks like a nearly 5 hour nap after going to church. Every day has it's own level of energy, and every day has it's own opportunities for doing way to much and not resting enough. There are days when I feel great, and can do a lot, but then the next day I really pay for it. It's difficult to sit down before I fall down.

I've learned I'm terrible at accepting help. I feel like a spoiled princess when I'm sitting on the couch reading or napping while others are cleaning my house, or bringing me dinner, or running errands for me. I want to thank them a thousand times over, but the words "thank you" feel wholly inadequate. I want to tell them I don't need the help, but my body tells me that my prideful heart is wrong. I want to be self-sufficient. God is really using this season to beat into my thick head that I am never self-sufficient even on my good days. I always need God. I always need family. I always need friends. I always need the body of Christ.

I've learned that I have come to really value solitude. When I was younger the word solitude made me antsy. It was something for old people, and the super-religious folks. But I have spent a lot of time alone in the last year. I'll admit, I get lonely. I ache for conversation and eye contact with other humans. But this week of constant, precious companionship with my husband has made me ache for the silence of solitude. I can pray, sing, cry, laugh, dance, contemplate, read, and be still by myself in a way that doesn't happen with others around. Worship flows differently when it's just me and God.

I've learned I'm terrible at small talk. I think this flows out of my love of solitude. Words, when used, should have weight. Flighty words of light conversations are hard for me to get a firm grasp on. I've sort of lost the ability to just sit and chat. It's like my heart has jumped the easing in stage and just wants to jump in the deep end with people, even if it feel like drowning sometimes. This makes casual visits difficult, and I think makes well-intentioned people feel awkward. Not everyone is wired to just jump right in.

I've learned more about the goodness of God. When I need rest, he gives it in buckets. When I need my heart fed, he gives his Word, in season. When I need encouragement, he sends just the right people to speak kindness. When I need an attitude adjustment, he gives conviction. He is so good to use all things to conform me to the image of his Son, Jesus. There is a lot of me still festering deep inside, and it bubbles up to the surface like sulfuric stink pots at the most inopportune times. I am not faithful. But he is ever faithful. And he is always teaching me, growing me, shaping me to be less like me, and more like him.

I pray for a teachable heart.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Glimpses Behind the Curtain

I've heard the teaching pastor at our church talk a couple times about God pulling back the curtain of eternity and letting us see what is going on behind the scenes. I used to think that was only applicable to certain passages in the Bible, but the last few weeks have shown me that it can be day to day life too.

I got a call from my neurologist yesterday. He said all of the results from the other tests he had ordered were back, everything is normal. Brain MRI - clean. 13 vials of blood - all normal. Then he says "sometimes you just get lucky." The Carotid Doppler he ordered is what found the tumor. Apparently he doesn't remember why he ordered it, because usually he doesn't. All I could hear in my heart when he said that was, "you're not lucky, you are loved by the Creator of all things!"

When I sat in the surgeon's office scheduling my surgery I was the surprised that they were getting me in for surgery less than a week after my first appointment with him. The scheduler said that once I've waited so long to see the doctor they work hard to get me in ASAP for surgery. I asked how far out he was scheduled - a month and a half. They had called me the day before to schedule me. "Oh, I remember talking to the lady who was scheduling you. It was so bizarre, we had 3 cancellations in a row while she was on the phone with you! I couldn't believe you were going to come in the next day!" My heart leapt at the hand-print of God all over that.

I was referred to a different surgeon initially, but he is out of the country. My neurologist "just happened" to talk to an intern in his office group who recommended the new surgeon. While I was waiting to hear back from the neurologist I had a conversation with a lady at church who warned me that the first surgeon had terrible bedside manner when she saw him. "He's a good surgeon, just not great with people, so just go in expecting that and you'll be fine." The second surgeon was really nice, and everyone in the office spoke very highly of him. And my friend James works at the hospital with him, says he's an excellent surgeon, and James will be working on the day after my surgery when I'm in recovery. I was so panicked that I couldn't get in with the first surgeon, now it seems so obvious that I should be with the second surgeon instead.

Every Mother's Day since I've been married has been difficult. We go to a church that is chock full of babies, and completed adoptions, and child dedications on Mother's Day feel like a punch in the gut to me. I prayed that I would have joy this year, instead of jealousy. That morning I woke up with an unexpected smile. At church dear friends who have had several miscarriages sat next to us on their first Sunday back at church since their beautiful baby boy was born. This was her first Mother's Day with her son, and all I could think of was the kindness of God to bring this boy into this precious little family that I adore! It was still a difficult day, but the old bitterness and jealousy just wasn't there.

Story after story, big and small, God has pulled the veil back so that I can see his fingerprints in every corner of my life. I have had many times in my life that I have prayed and ached to see an answer. And sometimes those answers are "no" or "wait" or "someday" kind of answers. My heart easily loses faith, wonders if God is listening, if he cares, if we're in this alone. And then every once in a while, he lets me see his miracles all around me. And I rejoice, not in the miracles, but in the One who spoke the miraculous into existence.