Finding my delight in the journey of adoption.

Archive for March, 2012

Party of Five

How do I say it? We thought God wanted us to adopt two kids right now, but apparently, he wants us to adopt three. Good thing we do too! A few weeks ago, in going through our court papers, we saw the name of a third sibling of Carolyn and Freddy. We immediately emailed our agency, trying not to get our hopes up, thinking that maybe it was a child that was still living with her mother. Much to our surprise and excitement, about a week later we learned that this child was the older sister of Carolyn and Freddy. She’s in the orphanage and available for adoption too. We immediately said to each other – we have to bring her home too! We were so relieved to find out about her and to know that she wasn’t being adopted by anyone else. She is 9 years old.

We believe so strongly that God brought her into our life and revealed her to us at the perfect time. Truthfully, if we had heard about a sibling group of 3, ages 9, 7 and 3 last year, we would have said no. It pains me to say that, but it’s amazing how God works, preparing our hearts for the right time when he slowly reveals his plan. It really didn’t take us any time at all to feel peace and security in knowing that it was the right decision. It was scary; walking by faith usually is. The processing of this information and what it means is working to break down our idols, especially for me. In most respects, this third child doesn’t really change anything. She’s just one additional blessing in this crazy journey. However, her presence has shown me how different my life is really going to be from what we ever imagined. With the two, I was still holding on to this dream of being able to create a perfect family. Believing that we would just blend in with everyone else. That we wouldn’t be different. (I actually complained that adopting these two wasn’t "radical" enough and that we needed a true "mission." Ha!) Sometimes I am ridiculous. God has been revealing my heart. He keeps asking me to give it up. Stop pretending that I can blend in. That I am in the "in" crowd. That our life can be "normal." I am set apart by Jesus for greater works than being normal. Thank you Jesus for grace and mercy. I am a project.

There has been so much beauty in this process, and God keeps revealing himself to us. One funny anecdote – DH has been memorizing Scripture this year and is memorizing a passage from each book of the Bible. When we were on vacation in Feb., he decided to start a passage in Isaiah and asked me what the best excerpt from Isaiah would be. I said Isaiah 58. He read it out loud, but it wasn’t what I was thinking of (I had actually meant Isaiah 53). He then started to work on 53, but kept being drawn back to 58. He decided that my mistake was not really a mistake but that 58 was what he was supposed to memorize. This is the passage:

5Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? 6Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 8Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. 9Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; 10And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: 11And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

It really was perfect since we’ve been doing our "7" fast, but it was so much more than that. While he’s memorizing, we often talk about the verses and meditate on them. Right when we got the news about this third child, we were discussing how we could "bring the poor that are cast out to thy house." We were literally talking about whether we should start inviting homeless people to live with us. When we got the news, we were floored. Here God was preparing our hearts to bring someone in, someone cast out, and it was this perfect child. This child who is already related to the other two who we love so much. Then, in case we doubted God, a dear friend sent me this same verse as encouragement in the decision. You can’t make this stuff up. There’s only a million verses of encouragement in the Bible that she could choose from – clearly the Holy Spirit was doing the choosing. This is just one example that has given me so much comfort, knowing that the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, is writing our story – and not only ours, but the story of these three children who he will not leave as orphans (John 14:18).

What does this third child (our surprise baby as we call her) mean for our process? It’s hard to say. We have had our home study updated, and it’s currently being reviewed by DCFS. As soon as it’s approved (Lord willing), we will be able to send her case into the court in DRC. We are trusting that God will continue to move mountains to get her home. I say to God every day – this was Your plan so You make it happen. I have fears and anxieties that creep in about whether we will have to make two trips or whether we will be in DRC for months instead of weeks (of course DH would love that), but more and more, God shows me that I must be careful for nothing, but in everything, with prayer and supplication make my requests known to him (Phil. 4:6). It is becoming so clear that He is in control and my anxiety, fear and stress do absolutely nothing except cause me to sin and doubt (easier said than done of course).

In the meantime, things are moving swimmingly with Carolyn and Freddy. We have all their court docs, we just got their passports, and the visa applications were sent out yesterday to USCIS. The visas are the last piece of the puzzle. Once we get those, we can travel! Praise God. We should hear from USCIS in 4-6 weeks on the initial approval, and then we *should* receive the visas about 6-8 weeks after that. So, we may be traveling as soon as August!! Of course, nothing has gone as it "should" so my hopes are not up that high. I do, however, have hope in Christ that he will complete this work (Phil. 1:6), and this hope does not make me ashamed (Rom. 5:5).


Update

We received the last court document for Carolyn and Freddy (the certificate of non-appeal), so the visa application will be mailed to our agency tomorrow. This starts the clock on the last 1/3 of this never-ending process. The visas are the last documents we need before we can travel.

In the meantime, I am caught between a desire to start preparing (by buying stuff, decorating, etc.) and yet, completely incapable of doing so. First, I can’t imagine that it’s really going to happen, and second, I have no idea where to start. I started last week on Pinterest. That definitely helped! I found a lot of cute ideas for their room. I can’t really buy any clothes because I have no idea about their sizes. I’m hoping to take some hand-me-downs from my in-laws in various sizes for Freddy, and I’m trying to find someone with a 6-7 year old daughter to do the same for Carolyn. Otherwise, we can always buy a few items when we get there.

I don’t think we are going to purchase many toys/activities yet. We are still trying to decide our "rules." We are absolutely dreading the accumulation of stuff, and we have extremely strong feelings about the types of toys/activities that are acceptable. For instance, plastic junk is a no. Disney and other character-based toys are an even bigger no. Electronics, definitely nope. Gender-specific toys, no thanks.

Then, there’s the actual amount of stuff. The average American child receives 70 new toys per year. (http://debbieroome.suite101.com/childrens-toys-and-the-influence-of-advertising-and-the-media-a238203) Yes, you read that right – 70 A YEAR! That’s insane. That’s more than 1 toy a week! And that’s average. As an upper class American, the number is probably so much higher. That is so.not.happening in my house.

I know, you are all laughing at me. You are saying, "good luck lady, people are going to be buying you stuff all the time." You are right, but I don’t have to keep it. My husband feels a great need to use or keep gifts that he gets. I do not have that gene. I am my mother’s daughter. My mother hates most gifts she gets and would not have any problem returning everything. She returned a puppy because it was the wrong color. Not kidding. Also, if you know how we feel about stuff, you are buying at your own risk.

April is also purge month for 7, so we aren’t going to be adding stuff any time soon when we are cutting loose 7 items a day! We couldn’t be more excited about this month. Seven items a day is not going to be hard. Between books, dishes, and clothes, we can probably sail through, but we even have big ticket items that we are getting rid of – including the TV and DVD player. Freedom is coming!


War

I’ve been reading a lot lately about this “War on Women” that someone has declared.  I think it started with Fluke-gate, but it has now branched into a lot more than just whether a random activist can testify in front of Congress on a legal issue or whether name-calling is ok.

This morning I read an article written about how fathers need to stand up for their daughters and another about how church leaders (aka men) need to preach more on biblical submission.  The tone of these articles certainly suggest a war on women, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s not really a war a women that is going on, but just a plain old war.  Men and women just seem to be fighting with each other. Each more convinced than the other that they are on the “right” side.  It’s the age-old battle – men are demanding that their women “submit” to their leadership, while women fight back and declare their independence.  The root of the problem isn’t misogyny or feminism.  The root is sin.  Specifically, the sin of self-obsession. Paul David Tripp states it best – We want to be the rulers of our own kingdom.  If you just do what I want, in the way that I want and when I want, we can be at peace.  Problem is, you want me to obey the laws of your kingdom.

Why do I care so much about myself?  Why do I keep building my kingdom? I’m constantly warring with other kingdoms about the silliest things.  I desire relationship, and yet I’m sitting in my throne room alone.

I need to see my sin every day – how else can I be humbled into submission?  If I keep telling myself how perfect I am, I will continue building my kingdom.  The only hope is the great Hope.  I need to submit to my King, the one, true King.  The one who tells me to love others as I love myself, to serve the least of these and to die daily to myself.   The funny thing is that I will still end up on the throne, but I won’t be alone.


Marriage Advice

I am on my soap box today. Today we had guest speakers in our Sunday school class to speak about marriage and family.  As usual, I found myself underwhelmed with their “advice.”  While I certainly appreciated their testimony and believe they have awesome hearts for God, I was really disappointed with the messages they left with our class.  At first, I was really upset with them, but as I thought about it through the day, I realized that these are common issues that I have with marriage discussions in the Christian evangelical community.  The messages that I routinely get from Christian sources are as follows:

1.  Ladies, meet your husband’s *needs*, even if you are tired.

2.  Husbands, take out the trash sometimes (sub-text – you are more likely to get in her pants if you do so).

(Sidenote, who are these men we are married to?  Are they animals?  And are we women really this tired? I don’t accept the premise.)  If this is all there is to marriage, I don’t need to read another book or hear another talk on marriage.  I’ve got it.  I am being sassy, but seriously, you have a room full of young married couples (or a book contract), and this is the best you can come up with?  Is this really what marriage boils down to –  stereotypical, sit-com relationships and quick fixes (i.e. if you talk to each for 20 minutes a day, you will have a great marriage)?  I’m going to lose my lunch.

I attend a class full of young married couples.  There are people who are brand new to marriage, couples who have a good 5 years under their belt, couples with new babies and toddlers.  These are hard years.  These couples have real struggles.  There are couples in the class struggling with illnesses, family strife, unemployment, infertility, miscarriages, infidelity, etc.  These are not problems that are solved with quick fixes.

Recently, we were struggling through a big decision.  DH had a plan, and I didn’t like it.  As I thought through it, the only reason I didn’t like it was that I was afraid.  Afraid to trust him that it would work out.  The Lord spoke to me in that instant.  He said to me, this is your husband.  Do you not trust him with your life?  Isn’t it better to trust him and have it not work out than to stay in your safe place and ignore the gift that I have given you in him?  The answer was obvious.  I trust God.  God gave me my husband.  God is in control and will never leave or forsake me.  Moreover, he commanded that I love my husband as I love myself and to submit to him.  Submitting means trusting.  Jesus submitted to God the Father when he went to the cross.  Jesus trusted the Father’s Word, putting aside his own authority to give glory to the Father.  In the same way, God has called me to put aside my own authority and to trust my husband.  A small example, but the point is that God cares deeply about our marriages and wants to use them for his glory.  We aren’t treating marriage with the respect it deserves when we boil it down to these self-held strategies that don’t address the real issues.

I know there’s a place for these common sense marriage strategies.  They aren’t worthless.  We’ve used those tricks from time to time.  But I can’t help but want more for myself and for these other couples.  We need real encouragement, and we need to be pointed to Christ in our marriages.  We need the gospel.  It’s not really about love and respect.  It’s about loving Christ and loving others.

[If you are looking for *real* marriage help and want to read something other than the Bible, I highly recommend What did you expect? by Paul David Tripp.]


The Mutiny – Month 2

We are halfway through our second month of the fast. This month, we are limiting our wardrobe. Jen Hatmaker did 7 items (excluding undergarments), but no offense, she works at home and doesn’t wear a suit every day. Thus, 7 items was not going to work for me. I chose ten outfits/items:

1. black suit w/ shirt and belt + work shoes
2. Blue suit w/ shirt
3. sweater
4. jeans
5. yoga pants
6. running outfit + shoes
7. coat
8. slippers
9. casual shirt
10. PJs

It’s not been nearly as hard as Month 1 that’s for sure. There have definitely been many moments of being uncomfortable – especially in temperature. It’s freezing in my office and at home. I spend time at home wrapped in a blanket. I shiver at work. Now, the weather has turned against me – it’s 75 degrees in Chicago (in March)! But, no skirts for me. No open toed shoes. No fleece vest for the spring night walk. Cry me a river, right?

I was totally overwhelmed the first few days. I’m so fatalistic, and I get so bogged down worrying about the future. Month 1 taught me so much though, so God got me through those little bumps.

The biggest revelation is that I have SO MANY CLOTHES. Seriously, if I ever say that I have nothing to wear, you should punch me in the face or choke me with a t-shirt. It’s insane. Not only do I have so much, but I have so much of the same thing. Why do I need 5 pairs of khaki pants? Am I some sort of tour guide? Lord forgive me for hoarding. I CANNOT wait for next month when we purge, purge, purge!


30

This weekend I turned 30. We celebrated with food, friends, family and presents.  It was a lovely weekend.  It’s hard for me to believe that I am 30 years old.  I don’t feel like an adult.  I still dress like I did in college and still haven’t figured out how to actually style my hair.  I wear jeans and a t-shirt most of the time.  I don’t own bedroom furniture.  I still rent an apartment.

Yet, I am aging.  Time is passing.  Life is short.  It spurs me on to continue on this crazy ride.  I am moe aware today than ever that my life is just a vapor. “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  (James 4:14 ESV)  We are only here for a limited time, and most of us will be forgotten within two generations.  (can you name anything about your great-great grandparents?)  This is not depressing – it’s encouraging.  Why not live boldly and radically now?  What do we have to lose?  It’s Satan that convinces us that our life is worth anything at all.

Francis Chan says “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  How true!  I spend almost all of my time on things that don’t matter in the slightest.  I want to change that.  The only thing that matters is God’s glory, so that’s what my life should be about. Better get cracking…time is running out!

The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
(Isaiah 40:8 ESV)


Waiting

So many of you are wondering what we do while we wait. I spend all my extra time reading and stressing and praying. This blog today gave me so much encouragement. It made my heart want to burst.

http://give1save1.com/2012/03/05/guest-post-by-jen-hatmaker/