We truly are a family redefined. We are husband, wife, son, daughter, step children, biological and adopted children and most importantly, Children of God.

A friend pointed out that I needed to update my blog header. After our adoption from Ethiopia, I had updated it stating how the adoption of Sara Joy completed our family. Well... the journey continues. After much prayer, we have decided to follow what we feel is God's calling for us...we went to Ghana with the intention of adopting a four year old girl, Isabella Hope. Little did we know that she would be the catalyst to bringing home not only her, but her half brother and sister. We will now be adding not only Isabella Hope to our family, but also Mary Grace (9) and Gilbert (6) who we will transition to the name Nathaniel Timothy. The shock is wearing off and the JOY and EXCITEMENT are overwhelming. Now truly, our family is complete. The great part of journeying with God, is that it's always an adventure. He knows where we are going, and for us it is all a marvelous surprise. Looking forward to sharing our family adventures as we walk daily through life and as we venture off to Ghana to bring home Mary, Nate and Isabella! It's always an adventure redefining our family!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Waiting for My Mission

There's a lot I can't get past today.  I'm writing this with a pit in my stomach.  God has placed a HUGE burden on my heart, and I'm not sure what to do with it.  The cause of the orphan is always simmering in my heart.  I can't let it go.  I thought I'd get to a place one day where I'd say our house and hearts are full enough - there is only so much room in a house, we are only so young, there is only so much money in the bank account - and all those things are true, so what am I supposed to do with all of these feelings that are left over as we come to the end of our final adoption?  I was watching the Audio Adrenaline video "Kings and Queens" and looking at the faces of the children, I can see the face of my children in them.  It literally pains me!  What can I do, how can I help?  What will make my God happy?  What can I do so when I get to heaven, He will say "I'm glad I placed this desire in you, because look what you have done with it!  Look what you have done in my name!"

Audio Adrenaline - Kings & Queens - YouTube

We sponsor two Compassion Children.  Both in Ethiopia.  Both potentially could be orphans if not for our sponsorship. That's not bragging.  How could it be bragging when in my mind I feel like it's not enough?  It's so little.  There are still millions of orphans.

I post pictures of orphans on Facebook with pleas to people who probably are sick of seeing the pictures and pleas - with the hopes of ONE, yes, just ONE child finding a home because I posted a picture.  It sound ridiculous as I type it.  But I did say it.  ONE?  Seriously, only one?  I'd be happy if ONE child found a home?  Actually, I would, but what does that say about me?  That I set my goals so low in hope of accomplishing them... to feel like I've done something.  It's still only ONE.  

Add that to the two Compassion kids and I'm now up to three (maybe - that is assuming that one child I advocate for finds a home).  

I talk about adoption - to anyone and everyone who will listen.  I know of only one family who has adopted somewhat because of an influence that I had in their life.  They adopted two little girls domestically.  Two kids.

Add that to the three from above and I'm now up to five.  Five kids.  

I have two former "orphans" in my home - forever my daughters, and Lord willing, the process to bring our Isabella home will continue uninterrupted and we will soon bring our third former "orphan" home.  (I hate that word - it hurts just to type it).  Three in my home.  Three now, or soon to be, my daughters.  Three.

Add that to the five I mentioned above and I'm now up to a grand total of eight.  EIGHT.

It's pretty much all the influence I can come up with.  We helped a friend trying to bring two children home from Ethiopia.  One of the two siblings had medical needs.  We contributed to a fund to help bring them home.  Due to some issues, the family was not able to bring these two home.  The money stayed with the children, but I don't know if the kids ever found a new family to call their own.  Maybe there are nine, possibly ten kids out there who no longer orphans because of something directly related to an influence of mine.  

TEN.  It's not enough.  In the amount of time it is taking me just to write this post, there are probably 10 more orphans in the world, if not 10 times 10 more.  My efforts are not enough.  I can't bring enough children home.  I don't have enough money to give to the world to help all who want to bring a child home, bring them home.  I don't have enough people to talk to who will open their eyes to adoption just because I speak.  In fact, I know nothing will happen just because I speak to them.  Adoption, in my mind, is a God-thing.  God asks me to plant the seed, but then the work is His and the individuals to figure out.

So, where does that leave me.  Ten kids no longer homeless....yet the burden remains in my heart.  What do you do with a passion so strong.  It feels like it's burning a hole in my heart due to inactivity on my part.  I need to find something.  I don't know what though...

I'm not even sure what brought this all on today.  Yesterday I started the day with a new picture of our Isabella.  It brought JOY to my heart to see my sweet girl.  She has the prettiest smile and the brightest eyes.  She is such a beautiful girl.  Today I started the day with another e-mail from our agency - not pictures this time, but relinquishment papers.  Isabella's mother signing over Isabella for adoption.  I should have just read the documents and left it at that - but that's not how I'm wired.

What do I do instead?  I imagine what she was feeling the day she gave her declaration to relinquish her child and what it felt like when she placed her fingerprint on the document, sealing the deal.  It states in the document that she understands that if/when Isabella is placed for adoption either in Ghana or Internationally, that she will not have contact with her or see her again.  And still, her situation was such that she was compelled to ink her finger and place it on the document.  I can't imagine.  I tried to, but I can't.  I'd vomit.  Thank GOD my situation is not such that an action like that is required of me.  She is brave.  She is selfless.  She wanted more for her child than what she could give her.  It must be a pretty desperate situation for a mother to get to that point.  

So, all this to say that, the relinquishment papers is what really got me thinking today.  I can't seem to get thoughts out of my mind.  I need to do something.  I need to do more... but I don't know what I can possibly do.

Adopt another child?  No... Tim has already told me that this is our last one (seriously our last one - our whole Journey group heard it last night..... although we all also talked about going to Belize and I said I need to get immigration paperwork ready :).  Ok, this is our last one.  And no, it's not because Tim said so, making him the mean one.  It needs to be our last one.  With my eye sight situation the way it is, and what is financially feasible considering what we have committed to our children in terms of education, etc - finances are not endless and this needs to be it.  

So, what's next?  I'm left feeling empty.  Normally there was paperwork on the horizon.  I was either finalizing an adoption in the US by doing a domestication, getting paperwork ready for a new adoption, doing post placement reports - sometimes at the same time as preparing paperwork for a new home study... but now all that feverish work is coming to an end.  Sure, I'll have post placement reports once a year for the next 14 years for Sara - but not much else.... and that's not much.  Besides that, it does nothing for another child.  Well, I guess it does... it keeps adoptions open for other families who come behind us, but isn't there something more I can do?

I wish I could be part of a team - a team who can go and help.  I wish I could sit with the orphanage children, immerse myself in them, color pictures with them, bring the girls dresses, do their hair, paint their finger nails and toe nails, hug their sweet necks, bring the kids a snack.  I don't have much to offer other than that. 

I think about the teams from our church going to Belize.  Maybe I could go with them, but I feel like I would just be in the way.  They go on medical missions.  I can't help much in that regard.... all I know is that God did not give me this heart to waste.  God gave me compassion for the orphan for a reason.  Right now I guess my action is to pray.  Pray for God to reveal to me what exactly this burning passion in my heart for the orphan means, and what He wants me to do with it.  My prayer is simple - show me Lord, because I desire to do something with it!

Waiting for my mission....

In Christ,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Adoption Update

An update has been a long time in coming on here...well, not really all that long, but long enough.  If you only read my blog (and not F@cebook) you may be surprised to read the title of this post "Adoption Update".  Yes, I typed that right.  Our "LAST" adoption - our adoption of Sara just happens to not be our last adoption after all.  

I've hesitated to share much on here, because I hate seemingly going back and forth on things.  Tim and I have had to start and stop an adoption process too many times - either because of countries closing down or because of situations with our careers that made adoption not quite reasonable at the time.  So, last spring when we started thinking about adoption again, it took all that was in me to remain quiet about it.  There was too much uncertainty.

We have a unique situation.  Many countries will not accept us as adoptive parents because of my eye condition.  While I am a completely capable mom with few limitations, I do have certain limitations and my eye condition leaves me labeled as "disabled".  Have I ever told you how much I HATE labels?  Labels define people and I'm not defined by my "disability".  Anyway, because of the uncertainty, we decided to just keep things on the "down low".  

God had placed a desire in our heart to adopt again.  We were not certain from where.  If you know anything about me, you know that when I come to a decision on something, I like to pursue it full speed ahead.  I mean, why wait if a decision has been made.  So, since we made the decision to adopt, I wanted to move on it.  And I wanted to do it like YESTERDAY.  Little did I know that God would teach me a lesson though this process though.

While I wanted to move quickly, God was telling me to slow down.  Not audibly of-course, but just whispers in my heart of "something isn't right here".  "What is your motive"?  My motive was to adopt.  To give a home to a child who didn't have one.  Actually, I was going to give a home to a male or female child between the age of 9 - 30 months with no special needs.  I had it written on all of our documents.  That's what we were ready to adopt.  I didn't want to go over Sara's age.  Then we decided to expand the age to include a newborn - because we were considering a domestic adoption.  I convinced myself that was what we were to do.  It was not what my heart desired, but since many countries were not good fits for us, I figured it was one option, and since the door was open, it must be that was what we were to do.

Lesson One:  Just because a door opens, that does not mean that is the path that God wants you to travel.  He may not have been the one to open that door.

So, as we started down the domestic adoption trail, it just didn't feel right.  I kept hesitating.  My desire to press forward just kept shutting off.  Something didn't feel right.  So, after contacting several agencies and getting in touch with an agency to do our home study, I just sat.  I didn't do anything.  In fact, I waited so long that our social worker contacted me to make sure everything was ok.  Yes, everything was fine.... just something wasn't settling with me. I began to think that God was planning a delay for us, so we would be matched with the right birth mother.  But then I decided that even if I were to press on, if God wanted us with a certain family, a certain birth mother, a certain child, that we wouldn't be matched until that baby was ready and the mom was ready to deliver.  So, that was not the problem.  

I prayed about it, and just quenched my urge to press forward.  For like six months.... that is so unusual for me that it isn't even funny!

During that six month "hiatus", we were presented with several "opportunities" - none of which felt right.  All of which I would have to convince myself were the right thing for our family.

Then came the day in November.  I was getting ready for the day, doing my hair when I felt like I needed to check my F@cebook groups.  I was on a waiting child group for Ghana. I opened group and right there, posted just minutes before, was my daughter!!!!  Except - she wasn't exactly the daughter I had planned on.  BUT - I believe she is the daughter God had planned for us.  She was not within my "optimal" age range.  She was older than our Sara which I said I definitely did NOT want.  She was not (obviously) a domestic adoption, which was the route I thought we were going.  She was nothing that I expected, but she was everything I suddenly desired.  EVERYTHING about her felt right.

It felt so right, I suddenly panicked.  I saw this little girl and I knew nothing about her, other than I knew she was meant for our family.  But what if I was wrong.  Many children posted on this page I was on, are actually matched.  Their pictures are posted for the families who are waiting to bring them home.  What if that were the case for "MY daughter"?  What if someone was calling about our daughter as I was having my mini panic attack?  I contacted people immediately.  I contacted Tim and told him I found our daughter and did it matter that she was already four?  I contacted the orphanage to see which agency she was being placed with. Then I contacted the agency.  I breathed a sigh of relief when, within ONE day, she was tentatively ours.  

I had to contact our social worker.  The home study that I had delayed for six months now had to be an expedited home study - which she did an AWESOME job completing in record time I might add!  If you are in the SC area and need a home study recommendation, get in touch with me... I have the BEST!!!  

Now, less than two months after first seeing our daughter's face, we are ready to embark on a very special trip - to meet her for the very first time.  I have completed immigration paperwork and have that ready to send out.  Our home study is complete and about to be sent to immigration.  I have our dossier nearly complete - just waiting on one document.  Our Visas are being sent out tomorrow to approve our trip to Ghana (please, please, please let these come back to us quickly!!!).  And in just three weeks and one day Tim and I will be in the air, on our way to meet Isabella Hope.  Yes, we have decided her middle name will be Hope.  Her Ghanian name is Isabella and we have decided to keep that.  We will give her the middle name Hope.  And since we know her last name, we will give her two middle names - using her last name as her second middle name.  

If everything works out as planned, we will have our little girl home this summer.  Who would have though that I'd start the year with three children and end the year with four - with Sara remaining my baby :)  I certainly didn't imagine that.  But....

Lesson Two - What I didn't imagine, God not only imagined, but made happen!

I'll admit that I'm scared... well, maybe not scared, maybe nervous is the more appropriate word.  I have no experience bringing home a four year old.  I can't imagine how much different it's going to be than bringing home an infant/toddler.  I guess when I brought home Anna, I didn't have experience bringing home a 13 month old, and I made it through that.  When we brought home Sara, we had no experience bringing home an 18 month old and we made it through that.  We'll make it through this as well.  It will just be different.  I imagine it being a bit more frustrating - maybe for us and certainly for Isabella.  She will be able to communicate - and I don't know at this point if she will speak English.  She will have the ability to get her thoughts across to us, but unless she is speaking English, it will seem to fall on deaf ears.  When the kids are smaller, we learn together.  I also don't know how much Isabella's life will impact the bonding process between us and her.  I don't know what her life experiences are.  I am not yet aware of the circumstances that brought her to the orphanage.  Who will she remember? Who will she grieve the loss of?  She will be VERY familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of Ghana - Life here will be completely different for her.  How can I make the transition easier for her?  I guess these are some of the things we will find out when we meet her for the very first time.

I've been on-line and have looked into Ghana.  Oh. My. Goodness!  Accra - which is where we will travel, is STUNNINGLY beautiful!  It is right on the ocean.  We will be able to take trips with Isabella to the ocean if we want to.  I'm really excited about our second trip.  As much as I want her to come home as quickly as possible, I am hoping she will come home in June, because I DESPERATELY want the other three kids to travel with us.  If it is in the summer, I think we will extend the trip a bit and enjoy the sights that Accra has to offer.  It really is beautiful!  I also want them to experience Africa.  To experience Ghana.  And truthfully, to experience the joy that exists in the eyes of little children that have so little.  I think there is a huge lesson to be learned in that for every child.

So, in just over three weeks I will have hugged my little girl for the first time.  I can't wait to share that with you all!

In Christ,