Monday, April 29, 2013

bittersweet

Last Friday was bittersweet.

BITTER: I learned about an adorable Congolese 9-month-old baby boy who died of presumed malaria and respiratory problems (both TREATABLE AND PREVENTABLE in many countries). He was waiting with his foster family to go home to his adoptive family after paperwork had cleared. If that doesn't break your heart, I don't know what will.

SWEET: I had the privilege of viewing a video of our friends as they officially met, hugged and loved on their daughter in Ethiopia. I cried, but in a good way.

Adoption is bittersweet, too. After all, it is the result of a broken world. The pasts of the adopted were dysfunctional--including abuse, neglect, starvation, lack of physical touch, lack of attachment, being the result of an unplanned pregnancy, etc. Even if they were living with a great foster family and end up with an amazing adoptive family, children who have been adopted will have scars; and it will take a great deal of effort and prayer to help them overcome their pasts and heal their scars.

I have heard stories of children who fear being touched because they were abused. I have also heard of children who stash food away in their rooms because they never knew if/when they would get to eat again at the orphanage. Even Brody, who we see as a happy, well-adjusted, smart, and active little boy, will have to deal with the fact that his birth mother did not feel able to take care of him. We hope he doesn't take that personally or see it as a defining factor in his life, and we hope he can identify with us in such a way that none of that matters, but we know it will take some reconciling when he truly understands what it means to be adopted. Anyone who is adopted must deal with the past. And sometimes the past is bitter.

But the future for them is sweet.

My weak mind cannot reconcile the death of a sweet child in the Congo, particularly when he had such a promising future through adoption in front of him. To me, everything about his story is bitter. I am praying for his foster parents and his adoptive parents, that they would find comfort in such bitter circumstances. I have only had a small taste of the bitterness they must now have. But I know this well: Adoption is hard. Crazy, unexpected, inexplicable things can happen in the process of an adoption. However, when that baby meets his true forever Abba in heaven, adoption will (at the very least) be sweet to him, too.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

the first interview

I promised I'd be back to report on our first interview with the adoption agency. My description in one word: EASY.

In several words:
We had to answer several questions (verbally) regarding whether or not we'd had trouble with drugs, alcohol, abusing others, and about our criminal records. Basically, we said "NO" several times. Then we were asked some of the following questions:

Are you open to a child/children with special needs. (This often involves very minor difficulties, like cleft pallet or a sickle-cell trait. We said we are open to it, and they said we can always decline on a case-by-case basis later...we have small children in our home so we have to make sure we can provide for everyone and give plenty of attention to all of them, so we will take this as it comes. Our case worker said if we decline a referral it doesn't put us on a bad list or anything; it just means that child wasn't a good fit for our family.)

What age range are you willing to adopt? I have heard and read a little bit about birth order and how an older child adoption can sometimes mess with the old child who is already in your family because they don't have the same "place" in the family they used to have. For example, Brody might no longer be the oldest child after an adoption. This is sometimes a very hard adjustment, but because our boys are still young it shouldn't be too big of a deal for them. So, we said we are open to ages 0-5, but our case worker said this home study makes it acceptable for us to accept any ages 0-5, but we will talk more with the Congo director to figure out a good fit for our family. And again, we can always look at it on a case-by-case basis.

Do you want a girl or boy? We said we are open to either.

Open to a sibling group? Yes, but the chances of this are very slim, coming from the Congo, and we are okay with that. We would just hate to see a group be split up when they could all be adopted together.

How is your relationship with your parents? Brothers/sisters?

What are your personal strengths and weaknesses?

What is your parenting style?

How do you see the addition of a child or children changing your family?

Describe a typical week day and a typical weekend.

What sort of spiritual guidance will you offer your children?

Who takes care of the kids while you're at work?

How do you handle stress?

How many hours do you work in a week?

If you were not able to adopt, would you get divorced? (WHAT? So weird...I had never thought of that as an issue, but apparently it is for some people. If that is the case, I strongly advise you to NOT adopt until you get your marriage figured out.)

Describe your kids.This was fun; we love talking about our kids.

In our first home study, we also had to describe our spouse and talk about what made us fall in love. I get so stupidly shy about that stuff. I would much rather write that down to save myself some embarrassment. It's hard to tell someone one of the first times you ever spoke was when you walked by your future husband, gestured to your face to indicate some sort of weird growth, and asked "What's this about?" (referring to the huge, bushy beard on his face). It wasn't the beard that made us fall in love, I assure you, but it seems to have played a role. Maybe it made me feel somewhat more confident in speaking to him because he had something ridiculous growing on his face.

Then we wrote a $700 check and discovered that in the next week or so we will be writing another one for $3,000. Yippee! At least we understand the concept of delayed gratification.

Our case worker also said we could expect it to take about 1-2 years, which in Lotz time means it will be about 2 weeks (or 5 years!). We learned that our agency now uses our first adoption as the "extreme" case when discussing expectations with newly-adopting parents, as in "It usually goes like this, but this one couple had to wait 5 weeks before leaving Kentucky and several months before terminating the birth parents' legal rights. But that was an extreme case."

Experience has taught us well, and we are mentally prepared and spiritually stronger than we were with our last adoption.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Home study FYI's

Bradlee and I are going to our agency's office today for Round 1 of interviews for our home study. It's not really a big deal now, because we've done it before, but the first time we went I was extremely nervous. I am a fairly private person, despite the info I share in writing this blog, so my biggest fear would be that they'd ask me questions about myself and my opinions that I didn't want to answer. "What do you think about..." Ahhh! I hate giving opinions. What if my opinion was wrong? What if they determined our house to be too dirty (and our house was pretty clean that first time)? What if they asked me about the worst thing I've ever done or about my deepest darkest secrets? What if they determined that we weren't fit to parent?

When it was all said and done, all of my fears were unwarranted. The home study is simply a test to make sure you're not an extreme weirdo and to make sure your house is safe, not necessarily spotless or awesome. But it does involve a lot of initial paperwork and document-gathering. This pic is of prelim paperwork/info:


Here are some of the questions we had to answer in writing (and possibly explain in greater detail in our interviews): 

How long have you considered adoption?

What made you decide on adoption as a means of expanding your family?

Please provide a brief synopsis of any infertility issues and treatments.

How did you decide on doing an international, Caucasian, trans-racial, etc. adoption?

Describe your specific reasons for choosing the country you have chosen.

How has your family reacted to your adoption plans? Your friends?

How do you feel about the Home Study and Adoption process?

How do you feel about having little information on a child's background and lithe medical information? How do you feel about a child who has been abandoned and no information is available on the child's family history?

Describe the changes you anticipate in your family, with the placement of an adoptive child.

Describe your feelings toward adoption and your projected adjustment to a child placement.

What difficulties do you foresee? Please address expectations, prejudice, testing, attachment, and any other concerns that come to mind.

For International and/or Interracial Adoptions:
Do you have friends or intend to cultivate relationships with those of your child's race or origin?

Do you believe there is a need to stimulate pride about your child's birth family and country of origin? How can you do this?

Would you support a trip back to your child's homeland?

How could you help your child stay connected to his or her culture?

How do you feel about lots of public attention?

Define your acceptance of color ranges available from the country or countries you are interested in adopting from.

For All Adoptive Applicants:
Describe your knowledge of child growth and development and/or your need to learn more in this regard.

Describe your child-caring experiences.

How do you feel about seeking help or assistance with parenting should the need arise?

Describe an effective parent. Describe an ineffective parent.

Describe the traits and skills necessary for being a good parent. Describe yourselves in relation to these traits.

Describe the methods of discipline currently used or that you plan on using.

Compare your disciplinary approach with that of your parents. Specifically address any changes that will be made and the reasons behind these changes.

Describe the individual children in your home.

Describe their school involvement, achievements and/or activities.

Describe your child-care arrangements for children already in the home and for a prospective adoptive child. 

Please discuss any changes from your current arrangement.

Describe your education plan for the adopted child.

Describe your plan for leave time at placement (a minimum of 6 weeks leave for one parent is required).

Provisions for guardianship in case of parental death or disability:



Not too bad, right? Even if it seems like a lot, I assure you: All worth it. 

I'll come back later with an update about the interview process. I barely remember details from the first time around! 






Friday, April 19, 2013

Lifesong Blog #2

The Forgotten Initiative (TFI), foster care ministry of Lifesong for Orphans, is bringing joy and purpose to the foster care community by LEARNING the needs, SHARING the needs and EQUIPPING the local church to meet those needs. 

Check out what TFI is doing to serve the foster care community...

PROJECT SUNSHINE: FOSTER HOME EDITION

Project Sunshine: Foster Home Edition is a fundraiser & service project all in one!
After foster children are removed from their homes, they often wait for hours in agency rooms. These same rooms are also used for weekly visitation between the birth parents and their children while they are in care. Project Sunshine was birthed out of a desire to create friendly spaces for kids during this dark time in their lives.

Project Sunshine: Foster Home Edition simply takes the Project Sunshine concept and applies it to a foster parent's home and at the same time raises funds for The Forgotten Initiative!
Check out this video to meet the families we are serving this year in Peoria, IL on May 17-18 and click here to see how YOU can play a part in serving the foster care community!

How can YOU help Project Sunshine: Foster Home Edition?

WHAT WE DO...


Watch our new vision video to get a better idea of how The Forgotten Initiative, as a whole, seeks to minister to the local foster care community by bridging the gap through Forgotten Advocates. 



UPCOMING FOSTER CARE MENTORSHIP TRAININGS

Mentors Needed: Step into the lives of children of vulnerable adults affected by foster care through relationship building, tutoring, job/life skills training, etc.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
6 - 9 PM
Richwoods Christian Church, Peoria, IL

Read more from The Forgotten Initiative... 

Project Sunshine: Foster Care Edition 2012 - "My home looks so beautiful. The impact of being gone and coming home to see this is almost unbelievable. I just don't know how to say thank you enough." Watch the Video
American Orphans - "Only a life contemplating the love of Christ becomes a life acting the love of Christ. And love always moves. Loving first and foremost Christ. And loving others." Read Full Story
Perspective from Foster Care Caseworker - A caseworker's job is heart-breaking, challenging, and can be extremely overwhelming.  Read as Jenna shares her heart with us! Read Full Story
Impact of Journey Bags - "Last night at midnight three precious little beauties showed up on my doorstep. They each had with them a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a book bag, their Journey Bags of course..." Read Full Story

Thursday, April 18, 2013

why we're not in the running for "Parents of the Year"

We didn't buy our kids Easter baskets filled with chocolate bunnies. Nor did we buy them birthday presents. We didn't even buy them Christmas presents. But that's not the only reason we're not in the running for "Parents of the Year." Please allow me to try to explain.

Our house is less than clean. There's a very faint smell of spoiling food in the refrigerator because we don't take time to clean it out often. There's a strong smell of "boy" just about everywhere. There are hand smears on EVERY window, and there are weird sticky spots all over the kitchen floor. (Do kitchen floors ever return to normal after kids? I hope so.) I don't cook (much). Brecken doesn't wear shoes. (But seriously, does a crawler even need shoes?) Brecken (9 months) and Brody (2 years) almost always end up in our bed before sunrise (that's right, judge us now!). I did not breastfeed Brecken any longer than 5 months (judge me even more harshly on that one). Brody is slightly addicted to Duck Dynasty. Our bathroom is, well, disgusting, and that's not just because of the gold chrome-plated hardware and the torn linoleum (Bathroom Crashers, where are you?).

The truth is, we are nowhere near perfect parents or people. And we are pretty happy that way.

It's tiring trying to be perfect, and perfect is boring. We are tired anyway, and we are still far from perfect. If our story had been "perfect" we would be the most boring people you'd ever meet, and I wouldn't have much to write about.

It's tiring trying to be a good mom while working full time, sometimes working 15-16 hours a day (hello volleyball coaching season!), only to go to bed at 11 and get up at 5:30 (and often a few times in the middle to care for babies) only to do it all again the next day. I am not complaining...I just sometimes feel that people do not entirely understand the busy-ness involved in working full-time, then coming home to try to do all of the things that good stay-at-home moms do. (And I do know that stay-at-home moms who are working with their kids are busy; trust me, I know that and I respect you for it!)

If we really worked at budgeting and we took an even harder look at our budget, I might be able to be a stay-at-home mom, albeit a stay-at-home mom who would truly have to stay home and who would never see her husband because he'd have to work 2-3 extra jobs. I would love to stay home with our boys and clean house and make home-made bread and scones (overgeneralizing, I know), but we don't believe that's what I'm supposed to do, at least not right now.

Right now, we have greater goals than our own happiness or even the happiness of our kids. We are not saints; God has just opened our eyes to hurts of others that are hard to ignore. Do I sometimes want a huge kitchen and new appliances, along with a spa-like bathroom en suite? Sure. (Take one look at my Pinterest boards and you'll see that I am slightly into nice houses.) Do I sometimes want to spoil the boys? Sure. Do I sometimes want to stay at home with the boys and snuggle (and even discipline and clean toilets)? Yup. Do I sometimes blow a bit of our budget at Target and get texts from my husband when I'm in there reminding me to "focus"? YES. But that's when I must remind myself of the bigger picture.

The bigger picture involves thinking about and loving others.
There are millions and millions of kids out there who barely get by each day because they don't have any food in the house There are also millions and millions of kids out there in orphanages or foster homes, just waiting to be loved forever by a family. They don't have anyone to snuggle with at night or anyone to kiss their "owies" when they fall. And they sure don't have the security that comes with the fact that NO MATTER WHAT, they have a family that loves them and will always call them "son" or "daughter."

And that is why we don't buy much for our kids. (That and the fact that we have 5 unopened Christmas presents in our garage--because our families are good to our kids and spoil them for us--and we don't have room in the house for all of those toys!) We are saving our money to change the situation of one--maybe more than one--child. And we think that's important enough to make me work full-time, watch our spending, not buy Brecken any shoes ;o) and not buy Brody any toys.

The bigger picture also involves the future of our kids. 
Our kids might not get brand new cars when they turn 16 (FACT: They WILL NOT get new cars. They will get clunkers.), and they probably won't have all of their college paid for by us. (Here's hoping for a few scholarships!) We are saving some money for their education, but we probably won't have the million dollars saved that apparently it is going to cost to put a few kids through college. Our kids will have to be okay with that.

They won't get really expensive birthday presents from us. Shoot, they will apparently be lucky to get presents at all (in the early years, anyway). I assure you, neither one of them had a clue we didn't get them Christmas, birthday or Easter presents, and they are just fine.

Some parts of the "American Dream" are not included in our dreams for our kids. Our greatest hope for the future of our kids is that they love and trust God with all of their hearts, and that they love others. If your dreams are different from ours, or you do buy your kids nice gifts or make home-made bread, that's okay. In no way are we judging you. (Uh...did you read that part up there about the dirty house and shoeless kids?) We are kind of weird, and not always in a good way.

So our house may never be clean, which I will admit sometimes does drive me crazy, and our kids will never have the hottest gadgets to play with, but that doesn't mean we are slackers or that our kids are deprived. It might just mean we will never be up for "Parents of the Year," and we are definitely okay with that.


PS -- If you can relate to this post, check out this one over at "It's Almost Naptime." LOVED IT.

PPS -- On this date one year ago we finally finalized Brody's adoption!

PPPS -- The other day my friend asked me if I knew Bradlee was such an amazing person when I married him. My answer was yes and no. He was pretty amazing then, but he just keeps getting better. So he might be up for "Husband of the Year."  -- For the 5th year in a row.



Monday, April 15, 2013

questions and answers

This weekend was full of life-affirming, family-protecting events for us; and the life-loving events will continued through this week, because this Wednesday Bradlee (sans the beard and awkward facial hair) is speaking at The Vine at MSU about--what else--adoption. Let me break the events down for you a bit...

First of all, I'm nearing the conclusion of the book, Adopted for Life, and I can tell you that it is worth the read if only so you can better understand the world of adoption. The more I read about adoption and the more I experience adoption--either personally or through the lives of friends, new and old--the more excited I get about it, and the more I'd really like to just quit my job and get my hands dirty getting orphans with families that will love and protect them forever. (For the record, I love my job. I can honestly say that now after struggling with some aspects of it for quite some time. Even now, I still struggle with those same aspects, but I'm coming to recognize that God has me here for His purposes at this moment, and I am truly enjoying working with a great faculty and great students, as well as sharing some of my passions (adoption!?) with my students, athletes, and others. WOW, do I know how to get off-topic or what?!)

Secondly, last week at The Vine (which is our churh college ministry, by the way), Bradlee and two other men were answering questions about various topics from anonymous sources.

This was one of the questions: My friend is pregnant, and she wants me to take her to the clinic to get an abortion. What should I do?

Brad answered: Bring her to our house and let my wife and I talk to her. WE will adopt her baby.

I think some people thought he was kidding. I assure you, he was not. We care DEEPLY for human lives, and we will do what it takes to help a scared young pregnant girl make a good decision for the life of that baby. If that means we adopt another child, we adopt another child; if that means we help her become a great mother through access to resources and training, that is what we will do. I assume the person who asked that question is not reading this blog, and I assume that her friend is not reading this blog, but if you are out there (or if you are in a similar situation) please let us talk to you. We can help you, and we know tons of people who will love you, guide you, and protect you through this. There is hope for you, and there is hope for your baby.

One avenue of hope and help is the Pregnancy Care Center. We actually attended the Springfield Pregnancy Care Center's annual banquet on Saturday night (more life- and family-affirmingness<--not a word, but whatev). We have attended this banquet several years in a row (minus the year we were stuck in Kentucky for Brody's adoption), and it is always an incredible event, full of encouragement and amazing stories of saved lives. (Did you know that since it's doors opened in 2000, over 6,700 lives have been saved?!) The guest speaker for the evening was Roland Warren, acclaimed Fatherhood expert and former President of the National Fatherhood Initiative. He rocked it, focusing on the necessity of involving young men and equiping them for fatherhood (yes, fathers are important). He made a good point: Joseph could have just said "I'm out" when Mary told him she was pregnant. Instead he stayed (might I add that he "adopted") and played a huge role in the life of Jesus, providing and protecting both Mary and Jesus to the extent he was able. Warren made a point that fathers needed to be involved in the training that we often offer women who are pregnant, and PCC is doing just that. This struck me: We need to be pro-family, not just pro-life. Life without family is dismal. So I ask, what are you doing to promote the pro-family mantra or to help connect families with children who need them?

Follow Saturday's evening of life-affirming events with Sunday, when we met two awesome families who have adopted from the Congo! One of my friends connected me with her friend, who recently adopted a BEAUTIFUL four-year-old little girl, and her friend introduced me to her brother- and sister-in-law, who just adopted a SNUGGLY 6-month-old little boy and are in the process of bringing home a daughter from the Congo as well (and they have a sweet three-year-old son from Korea!) We met up and I LOVED every bit of it. We got a lot of our questions answered, and we now feel like we have a better grasp on what's to come (but--obviously--you can never really know). We hope to hang out with them again; very real, very easy-to-be-with people with great hearts.

Anyway, I'm excited about adoption and the way it seems to have come alive in our lives from all angles (or have we come alive because of our greater understanding of adoption? Maybe both). I am passionate about the way it reveals the Gospel (we are adopted as Christians, despite our race, ethnicity, origins, or past; we are now identified by a new Father, our heavenly Father; and we are heirs with Christ). I am also passionate about adoption as a mission field. Bradlee and I have been talking with our church's adoption ministry and leaders in the church about becoming a church that truly supports adoption as "mission" (as The Great Commission!), and we are excited to see what will happen for our church--and the people our church is able to help and minister to through adoption--in the future.

The "stats" on this blog said that 303 people read one post in one day last week. This is 302 more people than I ever thought would be reading something I had to say (thanks for being the shoe-in, Mom), but I am thrilled because I hope that it is making people consider doing something they might not have ever considered. So I want to throw this out there...If you have any questions that I can help you get answered about adoption, home studies, financial help, grants, agencies, resources, et.c, PLEASE ask in the comments section. I know about 7% of everthing there is to know about adoption, but I know plenty of people who are smarter and more experience than myself, and I will help find you an answer.

LASTLY, please be praying for the four families I know about right now who are either traveling to pick up their children or waiting for courts to process paperwork so they can do so. I haven't asked permission to share their stories, so I won't, do that just yet, but God will know who they are when you pray.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Adoption costs-- A breakdown


I made a handy little chart to detail some of the costs and fees associated with adoption so you can see for yourself (and because I'm a nerd). This deals with our adoption from the Congo in particular. I realize that $32,000 sounds like a ton of money (and IT IS), but with baby steps, prayer, a great support system (our friends already donated $500!!), and a lot of faith that God, who provided you with the desire to give orphans a family and a home, will provide in the little things, like money. 


An another note: The home study portion of an adoption is another aspect that most future-parents are apprehensive about (we were!). In the next few days, I hope to share some of the questions we were required to answer throughout our home study to show you that it's not nearly as scary as you think.

On another other note: I'm reading Adopted for Life right now. If you are struggling with infertility, feelings of angst about adoption, or not understanding a friend or family member's decision to adopt, read it. If you are wondering why adoption is important, read it. If you want to understand the biblical aspect of adoption, read it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lifesong for Orphans - I'm a Lifesong Blogger!

(I signed up to receive blog posts from Lifesong for Orphans that I can share with readers, so here we go! I think they send me one a month. You're welcome.)


"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" Matthew 25:40

One Child. One Life. One Soul.
An ongoing theme of our ministry is the power of ONE. Not to ignore the often overwhelming 147 million orphan statistic, but to focus on making an impact on ONE child. As Andy Stanley says, "Do for ONE what you wish you could do for every one. And when do you for ONE, you often end up doing for far more than just one." 
Please enjoy these ONE child stories...


IN THE MIGHTY NAME OF JESUS // Lifesong Zambia

In Zambia, like many parts of the world, witchcraft is very prevelant. At Lifesong School in Zambia, we teach the children that God is more powerful than witchcraft and the witchdoctors that practice it. They can have power through Jesus Christ to fight off evil, through HIS NAME! Listen in as Paul shares the experience that he and his friends had with a local witchdoctor...
Pray that God will continue to show himself to Paul and use this experience to build his trust and faith in our Father God.
Learn more about Lifesong Zambia >>


GROWING THE NEXT GENERATION // Lifesong Liberia

Thomas grew up on the streets without any parents to care, protect or provide for him. A missionary brought Thomas to Lifesong's Master's Home of Champions, knowing he would be cared for. Listen in as Thomas shares his heart for the people of Liberia and the role he sees for himself to bring Christ's name known!


Pray that Thomas will continue to grow in His relationship with Jesus Christ and with boldness, share the gospel to others. Learn more about Lifesong Liberia >>


Read more ONE child stories...

Katie Rescued from Orphanage -- Katie, born with down syndrome, was 9 years old and weighed only 10 pounds when Joe & Susanna traveled to adopt her. Read Full Story

Natasha Breaks the Cycle -- "I was looking for someone to understand me, to love sincerely...I received all this!" Read Full Story

"I am your mommy!" -- Beautiful account from one of our Lifesong Adoptive families, sharing their first moment they met their son Cohen from Congo. Read full story

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Adopted for Life

I finally started reading Adopted for Life, by Russell D. Moore, last night. It's been on my nightstand for a while, but I hadn't had/made time to read it. WOW. You must read it. I'm only in Chapter One, but I have found myself nodding with every paragraph, and I can already tell it will become one of my favorites, if not a life-changer. Adoption is written into all kinds of stories and Truths throughout the Bible; I can't believe I had missed it until a few years ago. Only problem: I want to adopt even MORE.

Which brings me to my next point: We sent in official paperwork for Adoption #2 today. I had already completed a pre-application, but this one was the real deal. This means we can get rolling on our home study update and I can begin sending in grant applications after that is complete (We only got one grant with our last adoption because WE ONLY WAITED 3 DAYS  for Brody to enter our lives; not enough time to get grant apps in!). I'm also tweeting to (i.e. BUGGING) a few celebrity fans of adoption (the Roberston family and Bubba Watson, anyone!?) with hopes that one of them will help us with a fundraiser. Dream big or don't dream at all, right? (And if anyone knows Brad, they know that he basically belongs in the Robertson family...beard and all.)

(WHY IS THIS PICTURE SIDEWAYS WHEN I SAVE IT AND IT SHOWS UP UPRIGHT?!)


Don't get all excited just yet. We aren't really hoping for a fast adoption right now. We need to get some funds in place. However, we are fully trusting that this is what God wants us to do, and we are excited to do it. That means that if it does happen quickly, God will provide a way.