our work

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Time and Place for Everything

A few years ago, a famous American actress named Claire Danes flew to The Philippines to film parts of the movie "Brokedown Palace". . . does anyone remember this movie? I never saw it but I did read a LOT about the backlash after Ms. Danes described The Philippines as "a dump".  I recall hearing that Filipinos burned her DVDs and videos publicly and denounced her in the media. They would not patronize her movies and many theaters refused to even offer her movies.  I honestly don't blame them one bit. I would have done the same.
I'm sure the employees at the hotel where she stayed were extremely gracious to her. I have no doubt, because of what I know of the culture, that she was treated with deference and respect on her trip and how did she "thank" the people of the country? By being critical and ungrateful.

To a lesser degree, I see this same attitude SOMETIMES in adoptive parents. They often blog and speak about the conditions of the orphanage their child came from.  They share publicly how much dental work or "deworming" their new child required upon return home.  They lament the outgrown clothing and lack of shoes among the  children and express great pity for the lack of toys, resources, etc. that their child in orphanage care received.
I would caution parents that even if all of these observations are true,  sharing them publicly whether on a blog, facebook,  or even while speaking to a group at church is something that has to be weighed and taken seriously.
First, discussing those issues online is never a "private" affair. In this age of technology, a comment can go from Canada to Katmandu in mere seconds. Do you really want to risk  the people who loved your child, took him in at their own expense, prayed for and protected him,  seeing you tell the world how deficient his care was?
Second, often these types of discussions belie our feelings that we have "rescued a poor, pitiful orphan" rather than the truth of the matter which is that adoptive parents have been entrusted with a priceless gift.
Third, often (but not always) caregivers are doing the best they can with the resources at their disposal. Sometimes those resources are meager at best. In some countries, the governments do not spend any money at all caring for orphans. In still other countries, cultural biases against orphans is rampant. It is well known in the adoption community that Eastern Europe has a bad reputation for providing care to their orphans. What benefit is it for a family adopting from there to come home and cry out about the deplorable conditions of the orphanage? Will that effect cultural and governmental change or more likely, close the orphanage or country down to adoptive parents and trap babies there needlessly?  I can't say for sure but I wouldn't want to take the risk.  Our  American mentality tells us that we NEED to blow the whistle every chance we get. We are the justice makers in the world and kicking up enough dust will make someone take notice. That may work in some situations but, again, discernment trumps noise making any day!
Finally, I'd like to remind my fellow adoptive parents about the "toothpaste analogy" . . . words can not be taken back just like toothpaste squeezed from a tube can not be put back in.  Out of respect for your child, who will not be a "baby" forever, consider keeping their "lice, boils, chronic diarrhea, worms,warts and birth histories" a private matter.   They'll need to make friends in your community. They may go to school, church and parks with families who will remember the "contagious lip scum" story you told last year!  
Does this post imply we should never utter a word about the conditions from which our child hailed? Absolutely not! What I would encourage is that we, as adoptive parents, investigate WHY we feel the need to share these things, with WHOM they should be shared and what benefit will arise from sharing them.
If I have ever shared anything private about my  children simply to shock another person, elicit pity or make myself look more spiritual, I confess it now as sin and vow to never do it again!   When my kids are older, able and ready, they'll share what they want to share with those whom they trust.   Until then, Lord keep my lips (and fingers) from inflicting harm and help me to be a good steward of these marvelous gifts!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Maybe Just a Little Bit

First, I want to say "THANK YOU" to anyone and everyone who prayed about my near-panic regarding the USCIS approval. I just found out that the National Visa Center received that approval about two hours ago!!!! Tomorrow the cable goes to the US Embassy in Manila so they can schedule Francis' visa/medical appointments.  I am so incredibly blessed and grateful that I know I can send out the plea for prayer and people do!   Another 6-8 weeks should be enough to pray this boy home.

THANK YOU!!!!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

I WILL NOT PANIC . . . I WILL NOT PANIC . . . I WILL . . . .AAAAAHHHHH

Today I called the National Visa Center to check on the immigration progress of Francis' adoption.  I called as a mere formality since it's been more than a week since our USCIS approval and the notice from USCIS gets to the National Visa Center in just a day or two.  The officer from the NVC felt "concerned" and asked me to call back in one hour to speak to a supervisor!  Her "concern" was based on the fact that NVC has not yet been notified of our approval!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For Ezekiel's adoption, approval was given to the NVC the same day our USCIS officer approved the petition. 
I know anyone reading this who has never adopted internationally was probably lost by line two. I'm sorry for not taking the time to walk through the process in this post. Those of you who HAVE been down this road probably understand all too well why I am on edge right now.   I will be on the phone too much tomorrow
I have two choices here. I can get upset, feel panicky and worry or I can take this situation to the Lord and trust the One who has always been faithful.  I am definitely fighting my own human nature on this one  but am choosing option #2.  Why?  Because "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is faithful to keep that which has been entrusted to me until that day." 2 Tim.1:12

Please pray . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bleak

As "Good Friday" begins, I feel a somberness in my heart that always accompanies pondering the crucifixion of Jesus.  For Believers at the time of Christ, today represents the darkest of days. The death of their Hope, the darkening of the sky, the tearing of the veil between the common Jew and the Holy of Holies . The intentional distancing of themselves from their Master in order to "save their own skins". . . human weakness magnified as it appeared the enemy was victorious. . .   We know now what they could not be sure of back then - that Jesus was going to conquer death and live again - in the flesh, in just three short days.  Can you imagine the confusion and pain of those three days for the disciples? They heard many claims and promises from Jesus while He walked with them but the facts as they stood were that Jesus was dead, there was a huge stone and armed guards at His tomb and it appeared to be  turning out "wrong".  Maybe some held the faith. Maybe some encouraged others by saying "just hold on . . . this can't be the end . . . He's going to do something amazing, just wait and see . . . "   but this sort of exchange is not recorded in God's word.   His followers scattered, his disciples gathered together  to mourn, to commiserate and most likely to keep a low profile for safety's sake.
If only they knew what was to come . . . how different those three days would have been!  Maybe they would have gone boldly into the streets saying "just you wait and see . . . He's coming back and nobody can stop Him"!
Maybe they would have gathered together at someone's home to eat, celebrate and have a party to thank God in ADVANCE for what He was about to do. 
You and I are on THIS SIDE of the cross, dear friends!  We can do all that celebrating and more because we have the benefit of knowing with complete confidence that what God says, He does!

"O death, where is your victory?O death, where is your sting?" I Cor. 15:55





Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Little Less Waiting, A Little More Praising

Just since my post last Monday, a few things on the "what are we waiting for" list can be checked off! Our I-800 has been approved by homeland security and our new passports  have arrived! I praise the Lord for bringing those things to pass. With those two events, the sting of waiting has increased a bit. As we get closer to a travel date, the ache in my heart has definitely intensified. Our whole family feels it but what can we do?   There's no choice but to wait so I take that "ache" straight to my Father in Heaven and tell Him what He already knows. I tell him how unbelievably grateful our family is to be chosen  for this adoption but also how hard it is to be patient.   He reminds me of how short the wait for Kyle and Ezekiel seems now that it's in the rear view mirror.  I laugh because, even after the many times He has carried me through I start to think "but this wait is a lot different . . .". And it is.  This wait is for an entirely different person. This wait will change our lives in different ways from the  others. This person comes to us with different needs, hopes and plans.
  Anyone who believes adoption is a "good deed" or an act of charity has clearly never adopted. Adoption is, for the adoptive family, like being given an enormous, priceless gift that you always wanted but know you don't truly deserve.  Human life is God's best creation. He said it in Genesis, He redeemed it with His blood, He pursues it with His love.  He goes to great lengths to have relationship with it.  There's nothing so precious to our Father as human life so, to be entrusted with yet another one . . . "humbling" does not even begin to touch the way our family feels.

While I wait, I concentrate on the blessings that already sleep under this roof every night (the dogs, fish and gecko included).  Let me share just a few:

                                                            Our oldest son at his junior prom
                                                          Daddy and daughter formal photo
                                                        Sweet and funny Kyle
                                                    Ezekiel - the perfect baby!
                                                      Lemuel - always ready for an adventure

Matthew 7:11 (English Standard Version)

11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spared

Yesterday afternoon, tornadoes ripped across the state of North Carolina! We knew a few days prior that severe weather was expected but we had no idea just how "severe" it was to be.  My two oldest children had play practice all day on Saturday and rode in a carpool. As the time for them to come home drew near, the sky became more and more black. We are used to thunderstorms in the part of the country so I prayed that the kids would arrive home safely before the rain made it hard for the driver to see. By the time the carpool pulled into my driveway, I knew much more than a thunderstorm was on the horizon. The sky was extremely black, the wind was whipping and the air was a strange mix of warm and cold. I asked the whole carpool to come into our house and wait awhile while the storm passed. We ate popsicles, played Uno and chatted. The rain poured and the wind howled. Our electricity went out and stayed out.
After about an hour, the sky cleared and the carpool left. We were soon informed by one of the carpool members that power lines near our home were down on the ground, trees were mangled and the roof was blown from a mobile home.  A friend called my cell phone to inform us that she had no doubts that a tornado ripped through our town - about 3 miles from my own front door.
My husband suggested we pile into the van and survey the damage reported by my friends. I could not believe what I saw! There were three cars under large, old trees. There were homes with sections of shingles missing, power lines literally on the street and many thick trees snapped in half.  We went home to put batteries into an old radio and discovered that the damage had been widespread. More than 14 lives were reportedly lost within a 25 miles radius of our town and several people are still missing.
My heart breaks for those who experienced true devastation from this storm. I know the Bible says that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the wicked. In other words, it is not accurate to believe the "good people" were spared damage and the "bad people" were hardest hit. That's not how God works. Pain, trials and loss come to everyone, saved or lost. The difference comes in the response to those trials.  When we walk in a personal relationship with Christ, we can trust in His sovereignty and know that He does everything for His glory and for our good.   It's hard to fathom how a tornado could be used for "good" but God always makes a way.  Beauty from ashes.  You can count on it!
Pics from nearby: (click on the photo to maximize)


Saturday, April 16, 2011

TWO WORDS!!!!!!

Yesterday an amazing event occurred that made my mother's heart practically explode! My precious, wondrous, determined little Ezekiel put two words together!  Ezekiel has about 15 signs and only four or five words that are not entirely intelligible unless you have spent a lot of time with him and really know him.  Yesterday my sweet husband woke up early and went to Dunkin' Donuts to bring us breakfast. Ezekiel loves doughnuts. After eating the small piece I had given  him, he hopped down from his kitchen chair, went right over to the counter where the remaining doughnuts sat and signed "please".  I looked at him and asked "what?".   He said, as clearly as I've ever heard him speak . . . . MORE PLEASE!!!!!!!   I sat in stunned silence for about four seconds and then screamed "ANTHONY . . . EZEKIEL JUST PUT TWO WORDS TOGETHER"!!!!!!!
Of course, when asked to repeat himself - no dice.  Apparently he's a one-trick pony and does not do encores. It doesn't matter.   He spoke. It was clear and spontaneous.  He's my wonder baby and, to us, every gain is worth celebrating.   Did he get more doughnut? You'd better believe it!  A whole one all to himself! He earned it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Are We Waiting For????

We are inching closer to bringing Francis home with each day that passes! We are waiting for our new passports to arrive in the mail as well as our I-800 approval (Francis' immigration clearance) from US Homeland Security.
After that approval, a cable is sent to to the US Embassy in Manlia informing them that he can be scheduled for his visa interview.  If everything goes without a hitch, we are expecting to be in Manila the first week of JUNE!!
I would, of course, love to leave tomorrow, even if it meant throwing my toothbrush in my purse and paying the enormous "you didn't book this two weeks out" fare but rules are rules.  
  We have never before adopted an older child who can grasp what is happening. I think that is the difference in my ability to maintain some sanity during this wait.  I believe these final weeks will be important to Francis as he says goodbye to the people who have loved him the most for the longest.  He will have to be our son until he's 25 years old before we have had him as long as his current placement.  He has been there a LONG time!  I have some lingering fears that after the initial "thrill" of being adopted and coming to the states, his grief over missing his loved ones in The Philippines will be something to be reckoned with.  That is something only time will tell and only prayer will cover. 
I have prayed more in the last couple of months than the previous two years combined, I think.  God has amazed us with His infinite provision during this adoption.  It seems just weeks ago I was crying out to Him and asking if He would make a way for this adoption and now, we wait for the final approval to bring Francis home.  My stomach literally does flips when I think of how close I came to giving up on this one. The mountains looked too tall to move and too steep to climb.  The finances were not in our account and the rules were clear that we could NOT adopt until Ezekiel had been home for two years.  In the midst of the feelings of defeat, I heard that still small voice saying to press on.  It confused me and I often thought "oh, that's just my mother's heart wanting to adopt again. It can't be the Lord. Hasn't He seen the obstacles?"   Oh, me of little faith!  Not only had my Heavenly Father seen the obstacles, He created them!
He then moved them and showed Himself faithful, as always.  If I ever have another crisis of faith, I only need get out my private journal and read the story of  Francis' adoption.  I am reminded when I read that God does not submit to man and He does whatever He pleases.    How great and merciful and altogether loving is my Savior who pours out on me every blessing, never holding back except for the sake of teaching me to trust.

                     "Great is Thy faithfulness oh God, my father
                      There is no shadow or turning with Thee.
                      Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
                      As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
                      Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
                      Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
                      All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.
                      Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pray For Our Leaders

Most of you know that our president and congress are in heated discussion right now regarding our federal budget. You have probably also heard that the federal government may "shut down" if a satisfactory budget is not agreed upon today.  Please join me in praying for wisdom for our leaders!  A government shut down, even a short one, can have far reaching consequences.  Many military families live paycheck to paycheck. Imagine even a one-week delay in receiving that much-anticipated check!
In our own little sphere, a government shut down could hit us right in the heart - our immigration paperwork for Francis' adoption is awaiting approval.  He is rapidly approaching 16 years old . . . I refuse to say more and give life to the fears I have but I am asking anyone who reads this post to pray for NO SHUTDOWN!

My prayer goes something like this:
Lord,
You know every detail of what is going on in our government. Please give supernatural wisdom to all the decision-makers in Washington and help them to reach a compromise that honors You.  I pray that each and every military family would be cared for from your hand. Protect them and provide for them as they serve.
Father, You know my heart is full of fear right now regarding the possible slow down in our adoption paperwork if  a shut down occurs. Help me to trust You fully and to never forget that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from Your notice ( Matt. 10:29).  You have this all in Your hand.  Be glorifed in it, I pray.
Amen

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Do They DO That?

It is an incomprehensible  mystery. One I have never been able to gather enough facts to solve. One that comes up in every single adoption support group or adoption-related yahoo group of which I have been a part.

Why do well-meaning friends and family members feel the need to play "Captain Obvious" and point out all the pitfalls of adoption?

If you are an adoptive parent and you have NEVER been asked one of the following questions, you are either completely estranged from your extended family or very blessed (or both):
1. What if your new child has attachment disorder?
2. Who will take care of your special needs child when you die?
3. Is this adoption really fair to the "other children"?
4. What if there's a hereditary disease in the adopted child's family and it comes out after he/she is home?
5. What if you don't feel the same type/amount of love for the adopted child that you do for your others?
6. What if you get pregnant while in the adoption process? You'll back out, right?
7. Why would you adopt out of birth order? The experts say . . .
8. How are you going to pay for this adoption?
9. What if the child grows up and wants his/her "real parents"?

WHY??????

For the record, let me state that those of us who adopt children with Down Syndrome KNOW that we will likely never have an empty nest. We know that the siblings of said child will probably have to give care to their disabled sibling someday. WE GET IT.   It was all considered prior to "signing on the dotted line".   I was actually told by a concerned loved one that "special needs children are cute when they're little but they do grow  up".  (Sheesh . . . I never thought of that!  They actually GROW? Well, no deal, then!)

If one more person asks me about adopting out of birth order, I may just burst into tears. I realize experts have said that adopting out of birth order can cause problems. We have talked to all of our children about the ramifications of bringing a big brother, second in sibling command, into the family. Everyone who actually lives in this house is just fine with the idea. They are all that counts.

Dear friends, what our concerned loved ones are saying when they challenge us on our adoptions is something painful to imagine. They are stating in no uncertain terms that the nameless, faceless, fatherless child across the ocean is not as valuable or important as our own precious offspring. THAT child wasn't born into our family so we aren't really obligated to go out of our way to help. . .NOT OUR PROBLEM.  I believe that as soon as we know about the orphan crisis, it becomes our "problem" as Believers.  As I have mentioned before, not every Believer is called to adopt but we are all called to help. There's no option there.

  Our friends and family members are absolutely saying these things out of concern. They don't want to see us sign up for "the hard road" in life. The sacrifice required to adopt is great and they know this. Adoption is expensive, it is time consuming, is can be heart rending and there are no guarantees about the mental and physical health of the child coming into our families.  We often have to leave our biological children and fly across three oceans and two continents to bring our new child home. It is very inconvenient, indeed. EXTREMELY inconvenient!  That is the definition of the word "sacrifice". Giving of ourselves even when it hurts.  Making decisions that others may think are crazy, radical or nonsensical but doing it anyway because we know that where God calls, He equips.

If you have a naysayer in your life who is dampening the joy of your calling, I would challenge you today to show that person compassion. Know that they are probably saying these things out of love for you and your current family and then gently and lovingly remind them that life is not a spectator sport and God has called you to get off the bench and play first string!  Share the scripture below with them and then get to work!
Down, set . . . hut!!!!

 "Whoever receives you receives me, and(BJ) whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41(BK) The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42And(BL) whoever gives one of(BM) these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward."  Matthew 10:40-42





Monday, April 4, 2011

Why Getting Older ROCKS!!!!

I am now a woman "in my 40s" and I'll tell you, there are some pretty crummy things about aging. For example, I have to use Oil of Olay AND Clearasil on the same day sometimes.  Sadly, the young guys working at stores now say "yes ma'am" to me and it wounds my pride.  Worse yet, to my shock and horror, I found a WHISKER on my chin the other day!!!! Yes, you read that correctly. I found an honest-to-goodness wiry hair on my chin and to top it off, it was white. Additionally, the things I used to do for fun in my 20s, I now consider exercise and they are in a completely different category on my "to do" list. 
Despite those little annoyances, I am perfectly happy with my current age. One reason is that young moms come to me for advice on occasion and I never cease to be honored by that occurrence.  I have also noticed an exponential increase in my patience level as I age.  Yesterday, my sweet Ezekiel  had a nasty stomach virus. He was miserable and he was creating scads of laundry as well.  By 11pm, he  was done actually getting sick but still very uncomfortable. I brought him into bed with us. He moved and kicked and whined off and on all night.  In my 20s, I am ashamed to admit, I would have been angry with him. Taken him back to his own bed harshly. Stomped around slamming doors the next morning out of irritation. Had a "woe is me" attitude all day long . . .
Fast forward 20 years and I was more patient than I knew I could be.  I had compassion for my boy rather than aggravation at how his sickness was effecting ME.   I snuggled him, rubbed his back and felt truly grateful that he was by my side rather than oceans away.  I think that's called "maturity" and it feels pretty good!     There's also a bittersweet element to the patience God is giving me.  I grieve for the fact that I did not cultivate it sooner. I let so many harsh words and snap decisions rule my life as a younger mom.  I had little wisdom so I borrowed from authors like Gary Ezzo, James Dobson and Tedd Tripp. I created my own concoction of justice and training that often lacked mercy.  God, in His infinite wisdom, seems to have protected my older children from my frenetic brand of mothering.  They are kind and gentle yet confident enough to perform in front of large crowds and they both WANT to be parents someday (despite me, not because of me). 
How I wish I had known THEN what I know NOW (cliche but true).      I understand that I still have so much to learn and so many areas of my life as a wife, mother and child of  God which need improvement. The difference between a 20 year old  "me" and a 41 year old "me" is this:  I don't pretend anymore. I admit it when I can't handle something and I start looking for someone with white hair (on her head, not her chin) who knows the Lord much better than I and can point me in the right direction.   Let me be that  "wise white-haired old lady" someday . . . but not just yet.   I'm kind of liking 41!

"Wisdom is with the aged and understanding with length of days"   Job 12:12