Friday, January 31, 2014

a happy email

Yesterday I opened my email to find a sweet surprise: Thirteen new pics of Sweet C and an update from her caretakers.She is SITTING UP and smiling big with her huge pouty lips. The update also gave us new information about how she's doing, and it says she smiles a lot. THRILLING!

It's so odd to think that just a few months ago, we saw our first picture of her as an infant lying down in a crib. And now she looks so much older and more mature. I'm sad to be missing those special moments in her development and her displays of a sweet personality, but I'm thrilled that we get so many great pictures to showcase her sweetness and that she receives such excellent care.

She's now 6 months old, and it will be at least 5 months until we will get her home; it could even be up to 18 months. We choose to be joyful in the wait.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A birth mom phone call

If you follow me one Twitter, you may have seen this post:


Let me tell you about that phone call. From this earlier blog post, you might know that we made a Facebook profile for Brody in order to share pics with his birth mom easily. When we did that, we sent her a message, and she replied quickly, saying she would love to talk on the phone sometime. 

We called her by surprise last Monday, and it was the best phone call we have made in as long as I can remember. She was driving and so overcome with emotion she had to pull over so she didn't wreck. (Maybe we should have warned her about the call, but we were all home together one night and I was just excited to surprise her, so we did!)

Brody doesn't understand everything about adoption, but we often talk about how he is from Kentucky and his sister is in Africa. We also tell him that "J" is his birthmom and that he grew in her belly like Brecken grew in mine. He will understand it all someday, but we just laying the foundation for now. 

After we caught up with her a bit, Brody got to talk to her. He didn't have much to say because he was distracted by a baseball he wanted to throw around, but he did laugh through the phone several times, which was by far the best part. His laugh is incredible...infectious, joyful, uncontainable. Can you imagine what it would be like to hear the boy to whom you gave life laugh like that? It must have been partly heartbreaking for her, but I also hope, pray and believe it was a confirmation of her choice to give him life, hope and a family that could provide for him.  

A phone call. What a beautiful gift to give and to get.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Supporting the Surprise--Part 2 {foster mom shares}

Last week I wrote a post about supporting the "surprise" in adoption and foster care. As in, "SURPRISE, we have two kids for you. Come get them in 30 minutes!" and the "SURPRISE! I hope you have baby clothes and diapers and wipes and cribs and car seats!"

Because that's usually how it goes in foster care. One minute you're eating popcorn and catching up on the latest Bachelor, and the next you're bleary-eyed, hungry (cause you didn't have time to eat) and trying to go to sleep with a new snuggly one-week-old and a wild 13-month-old in your care, possibly right next to you. And that 7 PM Bachelor start time is just too late to stay up for, but you'll probably still be awake for it because at least one of the two babies will not want to abide by your schedule.

After posting about the surprise in foster care, a foster parent emailed me to express gratitude and share a few tips about how to help foster parents. I'm sharing what she had to say, because I think people need to know what it's like, from a foster parent's mouth (emphasis mine; numbers relate back to my original post):
As a foster parent who has had that “surprise” call several times now, this post felt very personal. I didn’t really add to the list but I did add my 2 cents. I do want to add a very important foster parent disclaimer: We don’t ask for help, and we should. We don’t ask for help because the kids “aren’t ours.” We don’t ask for help because we hate for you to spend your money on clothes, formula, meals, etc. only for this child to go home in 6 months and us start all over again with a different child 2 months later. We don’t ask for help because we aren’t sure we should. The truth is, we are caring for orphans in a hard way. We should be able to turn to the church body for help. 
1. {on providing baby supplies, food, equipment, and clothes} Yes, yes, yes!  Our church is starting a foster care closet and I am so glad.  Some people assume that the state helps foster parents with basic needs like that and the reality is there is very little to no help available.  All foster parents get WIC but sometimes there is a delay getting things set up which leads to a late night very expensive formula run. Yes, we sometimes get a clothing stipend but it is embarrassingly small. (Jenny's note: High Street Baptist is doing this, and I believe one of my other friends should get credit for getting it going, by the way!) 
2. {on providing meals} When I birthed my biological child there were 3 meals brought to us which was awesome but when I bring home a 3 day old from the hospital…nada. A newborn is just as exhausting no matter the circumstances. So yes, meals are great! 
3. {on creatively supporting foster families}They may not be able to let you babysit but let me tell you what you can do; bring Starbucks, do their dishes, or fold the new loads of kid laundry piled to the ceiling or set up the new crib that’s still in the box. 
4. {on the difficulty of foster care} Foster care is SO hard.  It’s a roller coaster; it’s emotional and uncertain. We need the prayers, the kids need the prayers, and the birth families need the prayers. 
Thank you, friend, for allowing me to share your insights with blog readers. 

And let me encourage anyone reading this: If you are feeling prompted to do something to help, DO IT! Do not ignore the whisper that says, "I should call Megan today," or "I should go get Sarah a Starbucks...I bet she's tired!" DO IT! Be a blessing. 

Side note: I learned even more about foster care last night at an adoption/foster care meeting at church, where the extreme need for foster parents is vast, but the forthcoming hope we are seeing is encouraging. Soon I hope to share some stats with you regarding the need for foster parents, particularly in our area. The numbers were absolutely mind-blowing.) 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Praises for Imara's Situation {answered prayers}

This is the day I've been waiting for since December 1, 2013, when we first learned of the brutal beating, poisoning, and burning of a 3-year-old little girl in DRC. 

Today is the day I get to announce this (in case you haven't heard): IMARA IS HEADED TO THE STATES FOR CARE! (Note: She is coming to receive specialized and intense medical care, not for the purpose of adoption.)

So many people have prayed, made phone calls, adjusted their schedules, redone paperwork (not to mention been robbed in the streets of DRC and taken the hit of malaria) to help this little girl, and now we finally get to say that she will get the care she has desperately needed for almost two months.

Hallelujah! She was never forgotten, our prayers were never unheard, and God was never missing from this situation. (My adoption agency is so diligent and persistent...without them this little girl might never have gotten the care she needed and deserved.)

In case you were and are feeling unheard, forgotten, or fearful...

Consider Psalm 34:
I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
11 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
22 The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Imara Update

Our agency posted an update on Imara's case on Sunday. The doctor who initially reviewed her case is there now, and it would be amazing if the doctor could escort her to the US. Please pray that DGM will issue her an Exit Letter very soon so that her medical needs can be met (late as they may be).

For the full update, go here: http://abicongo.blogspot.com/2014/01/still-waiting.html

And please continue to pray for this particular situation and the general Exit Letter situation in DR Congo.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Game-changers {a new series}

Introducing a new post series I will call "Game-changers." What game am I talking about? The game of "how to attempt to do a million things every minute." I'm really good at it. Note: I said "attempt."

Today's game-changer: "Two minutes."

For the longest time, Brody has had a knack for saying "In two minutes?" I'm not sure where he came up with two minutes. It seems somewhat arbitrary. However, he is also obsessed with saying "my grandpa" and "booty" with roots that cannot be traced to any origin. That kid.

Here's an example: We might say something like, "Brody, we are going to church soon."

He will come back with "In two minutes?"

("No, in about 2.5 hours when we get the two of you fed, thirst-quenched, bathed and clothed appropriately.")

So I turned his "two minute" obsession around on him. He picks up his toys around the house often, but not in a timely manner. Before my game-changer, Operation Toy-Pickup usually went like this:

"Brody, go put away the toys in the living room, please."

"In two minutes?"

"No. Now." (Urgency, people.)

"Ok." **Goes to living room, finds basketball, begins shooting baskets**

"Brody, please put away your toys. You can play basketball later."

"Ok." **Puts basketball in toy basket, where he finds his toy truck and begins roaming it around the living room**

"BRO-dy, time to put your toys away!"

His response: "My BOO-ty." **while laughing and shaking his hips** (You see what I'm talking about? Obsessed with the word with no situational context in which to use it. Unless he is using it in context.)

I had read in a few places that it can be helpful to use a timer to indicate the importance of timeliness in obedience. Initially, I pridefully scoffed at the idea. First of all, who carries a timer around with them everywhere they go? It's ludicrous. Secondly, when I tell him to do something, I want him to obey immediately.

But after numerous booty dances and hundreds of toys remaining on the floor for too long, I remembered the two minute obsession. Our next conversation went like this:

"Brody, put your toys away please."

"In two minutes?"

"Yes. You have two minutes to put them away. I'm setting my timer (which is conveniently in my phone...ah-hem). If you can't get it done you will sit in the corner."



"Eh?"

The concept was new to him, but after his first few failed attempts that led to him sitting his booty in the corner he got the idea: Mommy came to play.

And by the third attempt: GOLDEN.

Two minutes. A game-changer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

adoption grants {i like spreadsheets}

Folks, since receiving news of receiving an adoption grant, I am back on the happy train with adoption grants. There for a while I avoided all talk of adoption grants because I was feeling loser-ish, but now I have decided to share my color-coded chart in case anyone out there could use it. 

Click the chart to enlarge.

Above, you will find a list of adoption grants, along with as much information about each one as I cared to document on my Excel sheet. The first column indicates the name of the grant-making organization, the second indicates the website, and the third indicates the amount of money available for each recipient (if given).

The next three columns indicate when they will accept your grant: Any time, after a home study is complete, or after a referral. (This document looked just a bit different in my actual Excel book). Then you will find the deadline, if given, and my own notes about when I applied, the application fee and the preferences given by the grant-makers. 

Grants change ALL THE TIME, so I can't guaranty all information here is accurate now, even though I looked at most of them last Friday. I have found that this chart is the easiest way to keep track of these things, as they can easily take over your life if you don't have some sort of system for organizing what you know, what you've done, and what you received.

As you can see, my color-coding indicates what happened with each grant after I sent in the application. All the red indicates that we are extreme losers in the grant area of our lives, but the blue one there gives us a ray of hope! 

I am sure I'm missing some grants, so comment below if you know of others or if you have additional info about one of the above. I suppose I could create a huge spreadsheet with info for all grants if I got enough info. (Just FYI, I didn't include some because they didn't pertain to us or this specific DRC adoption.)

I will gladly email this spreadsheet to anyone who thinks it can be of use so you can color-code it for yourself (it's fun!). Let me know via email (lotzfam@att.net) or comment section if you're interested. 


Monday, January 20, 2014

a phone call changes everything {supporting the "surprise" in adoption and foster care}

Some friends of friends of ours received a crazy phone call the other day. 

It went a little something like this:

"Hi, we have two foster children for you. One is 3 weeks old and the other is 11 months. We need to know if you will care for them. Please let us know within 30 minutes."

And just like that, everything changed. 

Within 30 minutes, that couple met for the first time TWO brand new (to them) babies. They didn't get even an ounce of the planning, preparation, celebration or nesting that most new parents experience.


Can you imagine what that was like? They were probably headed home from a long day of work or headed out to eat. They might have been resting at home in PJs or stressing over the multiple date-night options (last time either one of those are going to happen for a while!).

But all of a sudden WHAM! Life changed. None of that was important anymore.

They may love these children for a short amount of time and then, while continuing to love them, see them reunited with their birth family. Or they may be able to adopt them if birth family struggles are not worked out. But right now, they are family, and those are their children to love and protect.

I don't know exactly what ran through their minds when they received the call, but when we got our crazy phone call almost three years ago, it was stressful, exhilarating, heartbreaking and mind-blowing all at the same time.


Here are some things that may have run through their heads. Keep this in mind if you know someone who gets a crazy phone call and says "YES!" to foster care or adoption.

You may need to help them answer the following questions:

1. We do not have a crib, infant carrier, car seat, formula or diapers! Oh yeah, and baby clothes!

--- This means YOU, as their friend, community group member or church, should help provide them with these things. One of my friends is arranging a collection of used baby items to be used especially for foster care situations when a phone call changes everything. This is a GREAT idea for churches. Why not allow an adoption ministry to designate an area of your church storage to helping foster and adoptive parents deal with the stress that comes with a crazy phone call? These people didn't get a baby shower; they got showered with babies!

2. How and when do people with kids eat?

--- Adjusting to kids--let alone two kids under 1 year of age--when you've been living the married and free life is quite an adjustment. Eating while standing, eating while holding a baby, cooking while feeding a baby...all others are situations that must be negotiated. Why not make some meals that can be easily transported, frozen and baked by the adoptive or foster parents? People do this when parents are expecting a baby. Doesn't it make sense to do this when they are not expecting?

3. What is sleep training? What is a typical feeding schedule? Why is this kid's poo green?

-- This particular list of questions can go on and on and on. These crazy parents haven't had nine months to prepare by reading every piece of child-rearing advice they can get their hands on. Therefore, you must be a friend and supporter. Tell them how many times you experienced a "bad mom" moment or had to bum a diaper off someone in public. Tell them about the time you almost forgot a kid at home. This isn't easy stuff, and they will need some support, in addition to some good laughs. Support them, love them, give them advice if they ask, and offer to help while they adjust. (And be advised that they may not be able to allow you to babysit or help with the kids in particular, due to bonding and attachment necessities or court orders for care being provided by particular people. The situations can get crazy and difficult to explain, so don't be offended if they don't accept your offers to help.) 

4. What is our role in this situation?

-- This can be a particularly hard question to answer in foster care, when kids sometimes go back  birth families after a period of "fixing" the family's problems (which is a good thing) or when kids stay with the foster family to be adopted. PRAY for this family. PRAY for those kids and the situation from which they came and to which they might return. Their hearts are involved. It can be scary. It IS heart-wrenching. The only one who knows the plan is THE Father of all, so pray on their behalf that he would work in their family and in their hearts for His good and for the good of the kids. And while you're at it, pray that the family can get at least two hours of sleep at night, which is a good goal for this sort of situation.

Praise God for phone calls that change everything (but pray for those sweet kids whose worlds have just been rearranged, too). 

If you are an adoptive or foster parent, what questions am I missing? Please share so others will know how to help.

Friday, January 17, 2014

1 for 9

People, this is a big deal.

This was the first line of an email I got from a grant provider yesterday:

"Brad & Jenny, Thank you for taking the time to apply for an adoption grant witSalvation International."

So I stopped reading. In fact, I didn't even open the email, since I could see those first lines in the preview section in emails on my phone. 

It looked like rejection. Why would I want to open another rejection email? 

But later that day, I opened it in defeat and had my hand on the delete button in order to trash it quickly. No use brewing on dashed hopes, right? 

WRONG!

It went on like this:

"I am pleased to tell you that you have been selected for a $2000.00 grant to ass
ist with your adoption."

WHAT!? $2,000?! This is THRILLING! 

Thank you, Salvation International! You have given us hope at just the right time!! 


We are now 1 for 9 in the adoption grant category. I'm working on a grant document to share details about different grants, requirements, and possible amounts for anyone who is interested. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

DRC Adoption Process {a visual}

I'm a bit of a visual learner, so when an adoptive mom shared this with our Facebook group, I couldn't help but get a bit giddy about it.

Below you will find a a flow chart of the adoption process in DRC. I hope you can understand it.

Start at the bottom. We are almost to the middle of the "DRC Court Process."


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

it's easy loving orphans

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know I care about orphans. I write about them often, and I'd love to dedicate more of my time and energy to loving them better, finding better solutions for them, and getting them in loving homes quickly.

And I think I will.

But here's the deal: Everyone loves orphans. The truth is, it's easy to love orphans. They are innocent, hurt, and poor in the most basic sense of the word because they lack the most important resource on this earth: family.

So when I see pictures like this one:

From the twins' orphanage. 
And this one:
Also from the orphanage. She weighed 22 pounds at 5 years old. More here.
And this one:


And this one:


(Shall I go on, or do you get the idea?)

And when I read things like this (from Dr. Russell Moore, whom you can read more of here):
WHEREAS, in the gospel we have received the “Spirit of adoption” whereby we are no longer spiritual orphans but are now beloved children of God and joint heirs with Christ
(John 14:18; Rom. 8:12-25; Gal. 3:27-4:9; Eph. 1:5); and
WHEREAS, the God we now know as our Father reveals himself as a “father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5) who grants mercy to orphans (Deut. 10:18; Hos. 14:3); and
WHEREAS, our Lord Jesus welcomes the little ones (Luke 18:15-17), pleads for the lives of the innocent (Ps. 72:12-14), and shows us that we will be held accountable for our response to “the least of these my brethren” (Matt. 25:40); and
WHEREAS, the Scripture defines “pure and undefiled religion” as “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (Jas. 1:27) 
It' is a no-brainer: We MUST love orphans. We must care for orphans, provide for orphans and fight for orphans.

So I do, while at the same time wondering how some people cannot be more concerned about the orphan and moved to action by the crazy, spot-on picture of our own plight as Spiritual orphans.

And some people really think I'm cool for that. I mean, people tell me often that they admire my passion for orphans and adoption.

But it's easy loving orphans. Everyone can do that.

You know what's not easy? Loving the people I know.

Loving the students I have in class who are punks (Yes, punks...because there are some of those, and there's no way around it). They might lack family just as much as any orphan in Africa but--because I choose to be blind to some of their home issues--I sometimes have a hard time loving that student.

You know what else is hard? Loving my husband the right way: Not resenting him for failing to pick up his dirty clothes; conveying my respect for him; communicating with him; honoring him with my words.

And something else that's hard: Letting go.

Letting go of my expectations of a clean house and perfect, angelic children who "use their words" and speak kindly to one another; remembering that a two-year-old (even a mature two-year-old) has meltdowns occasionally; understanding that an 18-month-old might be whiny because he's teething; seeing that either one of them might need some extra snuggle time just because.

That's hard stuff, and it's daily, seemingly little stuff. We orphan-lovers talk a lot about God's words regarding orphan care, adoption and redemption, but we sometimes ignore the other obvious praiseworthy traits, even commands, laid out in the Bible.

And another big one we ignore: GRACE. It's easy to speak of, but hard to live out.
 
So here's the question for me, and for you: Am I living out Christ's love to all of the people in my life, not just the orphans?

No, I'm not. I fail in many areas while focusing on one. So while people might praise my efforts in the orphan and adoption world, others who know me in real life see clearly that I have plenty of areas to improve.

Here's to more grace in 2014. I think we all could use it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

mercy call {a name for Sweet C}

Time for an adoption update (because we finally do have some news to share).

We received commune documents for Sweet C last Friday. They were in French, so I had a hard time understanding them, despite my A+ in French IV way back in the day. (I am really good at learning in class...just not so good at real life.)

As I stated in an earlier tweet, the most French I remember from my HS class is, of course, the meaning to the lyrics from "Lady Marmalade," which our teacher was happy to share with us weekly. Goodness.

Our friend Jeffrey graciously offered to translate them for us, and we learned that the documents say the following: 

C was confirmed to be an orphan according to the commune in her specific commune (town), and no one has come to visit her at the orphanage. The documents also tell us the name of her caretaker. The council of the commune agreed unanimously to consent to our adoption of her. Also, her birthday is stated to be four days from Brecken's in July 2013. (He's our almost-18-month-old.)

All of that is to say, we have officially begun the court phase (might have actually begun it in November without knowing...woot, woot!), which will last anywhere from 2-8 months. 

This means the earliest we can bring C home (provided the DGM begins issuing Exit Letters soon) would be five months from now (provided we pass court quickly), due to the lengthy investigation process. 

The latest would be about 18 months from now. Sheesh. 

But we can be patient.

The other good news is this: We have chosen a name for her. We will not share the actual name right now, but a very literal translation is "Mercy Call."

We think that's pretty perfect. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

foggy friday

Things are changing, realigning, becoming new at the Lotz house. The Lotz adults are finding ourselves with some decently large, life-changing and challenging questions lingering around in our minds, and--like today in Missouri--it's a bit foggy at times. Some of these questions have been jostling around in there for ages, but some are more recent developments.

We are pondering questions like the following:
  • What do I want to be when I grow up?
  • What is most important in life?
  • What is important in our relationships with others?
  • What is important in our relationship with Christ?
  • What is important to teach our children?
  • What is most important in ministry?
  • What are the traits of good leaders (whether we are the leaders or the followers)?
  • Is mediocrity okay in some areas in exchange for greatness in others?
  • Quality or quantity?
  • Where is our time most effective?
  • How long can we wait for things to happen without changing something? (I am not referring to adoption in any way there....)
  • Do we really trust that God is in control? (Answer: YES. A resounding YES.)
Answers are developing for some of these questions, but for others, the answers come harder. What are your answers to these questions?

It's a deep, foggy Friday, folks.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Imara, rebel attacks, and a RUMOR

I mentioned in this post that there is a lot going on in DRC and in the adoption world. Allow me to give you a few tidbits of info along with some links.

Remember Imara, the 3-year-old girl in DRC with traumatic injuries due to abuse? She is still stuck in DRC! (Insert furious flailing of arms here.) In response to the attempted smuggling of Congolese children across the border and out if their country, the DGM (same entity that has suspended issuing Exit Letters to children who have been adopted) will not allow Congolese children to exit DRC with ANY foreigner, which has thrown a significant wrench in the plan to get her to the States for medical care. Honestly, it feels a bit like a sucker punch to anyone involved with her situation. She was SO CLOSE to getting the care she desperately needed (and still needs, by the way), but the well-being of children does not seem to be a top priority to this entity. This is unbelievable and ridiculous. According to the latest blog from our agency, she has been to the hospital three times in three days at the end of 2013. Lord, please move (more) mountains!

Oh, and the escort from our agency who went to DRC and worked so hard to get Imara here for care...she got malaria. And she was threatened with arrest. She is the same person who brought Baby Joshua (Read about him here) to the States (As in: She saved his sweet little life!); however, some Congolese officials said that she brought him here without the proper court paperwork (which is untrue...Congolese law changes so often that the law requiring the paperwork in question didn't even exist this summer when Joshua came to the States). Oy vay.

Oh, and the volunteer who went with our agency to assess the needs of the orphanage in which the 33 of 52 children died of dysentery (the orphanage where our twins were living)...he got robbed in the streets. Some people just don't get the appreciation they deserve (but nothing goes unseen and I have good reason to believe they will be getting an extra jewel or two in their crowns).

Also happening in DRC:

A rebel attack on a TV station, international airport and army posting.
Congolese security officers position themselves as they secure the street near the state television headquarters (C) in the capital Kinshasa, 30 December 2013
I took this pic from Reuters, and I don't feel bad about it, because they have effectively taken a lot more valuable things from adoptive parents (ie: time with their children, having their children home, etc.).

The President of DRC is now aware of and involved in the Exit Letter situation for those "stuck" in country and waiting with their children. Hopefully, this will help move things in a positive direction.
There was a RUMOR that DGM MAY lift the suspension on Exit Letters in February. REPEAT: RUMOR. (We are from the Show-Me State; Show us that this is the case, DRC.) Please pray it's true!
  • As a side note, I have signed this petition in support of a family that is stuck in DRC and receiving very little help from the US Embassy there. This is the first petition I've ever signed at change.org, but I feel it's important. The US seems to do more harm than good in a lot of international adoptions, by either taking FOREVER to complete necessary investigations or by forcing children back into homes where they are not safe (I am all for family preservation and restoration but not at the risk of a child's safety.).
And there you have it. Continual prayers please! 

it's all about the money, money

Here's the deal, that title up there ("It's all about the money, money") is absolutely false and should not be used as your life's motto. If you are into the prosperity gospel or telling people that money is your biggest assett, that probably is your motto, but I'm going to tell you right now that it's going to leave you empty.

Soapbox speech complete.

This post will be all about the money. Adoption money, to be exact.
This image is from Dave Ramsey's page, by the way.
Let me start with adoption grants. I have spent COUNTLESS hours filling out multiple-page grant applications, only to receive the inevitable "We regret to inform you..." letter from every single adoption grant-making organization to which we have applied. To put it another way, we are now ZERO for eight. We have received NOTHING from grant organizations. This makes my hourly wage regarding grant paperwork in the negative, meaning I could have made more money dropping potatoes in a fryer than I received for my work filling out all of those multiple-paged fill-in-the-blank worksheets.

It hurts just a smidge more that I know we were finalists in the running for a Lifesong matching grant. I got a phone call on my way to our fundraising dinner in December, in which the liaison was gathering information for an upcoming board meeting where members were to decide who received a matching grant. I gave her more information regarding our adoption (it had changed quite a bit, since she was still thinking we were adopting the twins). She told us to have people at our fundraising dinner make checks out to Lifesong for Orphans in case we received the matching grant; that would allow Lifesong to match every penny we collected at the event (up to their predetermined amount).

So we did, and I was hopeful that we'd receive the grant. Then boom: Rejection email. DANG IT! Don't worry if you made you check out to Lifesong, though. They are still helping us gather the money and sending it to us or our agency when an adoption-related bill needs to be paid. AND you still get your tax deduction. (No hard feelings to Lifesong...it is what it is.) But we did get rejected.

Nonetheless, we still received $10,000 from our adoption fundraiser, and I am working hard to get the step-by-step process down on paper to share with others. That's not to say we did it all perfectly or did it all ourselves, but we did learn quite a bit that we can share. 

So I guess it's fine that we have been rejected over and over again. As I put it in another, more positive way, God is creating a way to show Himself in a big way.

He has, and He continues to do so. Our AdoptTogether page now has almost $5,000 in donations, with about $2,000 of that coming within the last 2 weeks! (End-of-year giving has paid off in more ways than one!) If you are adopting, this has been extremely easy to set up. I recommend it, and if you have any questions about it, feel free to ask.

Now if only we could get rid of the extra--unoccupied--house and recoup some of the $800 in mortgage money we've been paying every month since June! Someone please buy this cute extra house! It really is nice! Desperation requires that I use a lot of exclamation points!!!

We still need quite a bit more to complete the adoption, but with the Congo process moving a bit slowly, it looks like we have still have some time to gather and save funds. So that's what we will continue to do.

(We also have a few other things in the works that we are not quite ready to share. Could be exciting!)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sweet C update

I haven't shared much recently about our process in adopting Sweet C, so this post will serve as a quasi-update. Honestly, there's not an overwhelming amount of news to report because we are just waiting to hear something about our case. DRC itself has a lot going on, which is why I haven't pressed our agency much regarding information about our case.

We have, however, gotten several pictures, a video, and a Christmas craft from DRC, which warms my heart to pieces (excellent timing on such cold days here in the Midwest). 

Here's a pic from our latest round of pictures, which we got at the end of November. I cropped closely and covered her face for safety reasons, but let me just tell you that under that heart is a precious face with bright eyes and a pouty smile. I'd say her Daddy will quickly and easily be wrapped around her little finger. (And that hair! I'm going to need an expert's help and several hundred headbands, which will probably be my go-to accessory.)


And here's a pic of her sweet little footprints. It came for us in the mail with a Christmas card. We can tell she's a wiggly little thing (and the card said as much), so she will fit in well here with our other two Littles.


We also got a video of her with the head of our agency, along with notes from her caretaker in DRC. The video features her as a fun-loving baby who interacts well, and the notes indicate the same. They say she is very happy, and she laughs a lot, babbles, and gets very excited when she sees people she knows. The video allowed us to get a closer look at the tremors/twitching she displays in her extremities, which is something we knew about when we accepted her referral; we are just able, now, to take a closer look. The tremors/stiffening happens particularly when she is excited, and may indicate a neurological problem or just an immature neurological system that will resolve itself as she gets older. There is no way to diagnose the problem or intervene from DRC, so we have to wait to get her home to get the help we might need. In the video, she exhibits great eye contact and interacts well, and our agency director says C's caretaker is not alarmed by her movements at all (and she has cared for countless babies!), which is encouraging. We hope to have our pediatrician look at the video next time we are in with one of the Littles.

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on grants and financials, and the next today I'll report on the happenings in DRC and international adoptions in general as of late. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

new year. know you.

So far, with the beginning of 2014 I have experienced a sick 2-year-old, some below freezing temps, quite a few inches of snow, and a better understanding of myself.

I always thought I understood myself pretty well, even while acknowledging the fact that others had a hard time understanding me. This was frustrating for me because, while I went through a spell when I believed "mysterious" was the new awesome, I think it's important to be authentic and transparent so people understand the real me, quirks and all.

 

One of our friends started bugging me about my personality (Myers-Briggs, to be exact) just before the new year. I'm not sure if it because I'm just ridiculously fascinating (<----that is a facetious comment) or because I am just annoylingly hard to understand. He was overwhelmingly concerned/interested in the fact that I can type one million words and share it on a blog where millions could potentially read it, yet I have trouble speaking up in our small gathering of eight friends.

Whatever, I told tell myself. That's just how I am. 

I referred his endless probing into my weird mind as "interrogating," although now--after the fact--I kind of appreciate the fact that he made me probe into the inner depths of Jenny (a seriously dark and crazy place--at times--let me tell you).

I finally gave in and took a mini-personality test. I took this one, but if you are interested there are millions of versions out there.

The result: I am, in fact, weird. The outcome of the quiz pointed to the INTJ personality type, which is described like this on the INTJ description page:
The INTJ personality type is one of the rarest and most interesting types – comprising only about 2% of the U.S. population (INTJ females are especially rare – just 0.8%), INTJs are often seen as highly intelligent and perplexingly mysterious.
SCORE! (Note: This test refers to me as intelligent...yet it has never asked me to explain how to change a flat tire. Hmmm...) The site goes on to say that INTJs "radiate self-confidence," which doesn't really mesh well with my actual personality, but in a way, I suppose I am self-confident in a few areas.

Other descriptions that hit home:
  • The "bookworm" as a child. I was outside playing sports all the time, but when I wasn't, I was reading a book. My brothers mocked me incessantly for reading so much. (Boxcar Children fan for life!) 
  • Original and insightful, yet "do not seek nor enjoy the spotlight and may often decide to keep their opinions to themselves if the topic of discussion does not interest them that much." Or if I don't think people care about my opinion. I won't share (in person) if you don't care. Online it's all fair game. 
  • Perfectionists (I'm trying to quit) who "enjoy improving ideas and systems they come in contact with. As INTJs are naturally curious, this tends to happen quite frequently. However, they always try to remain in the rational territory no matter how attractive the end goal is – every idea that is generated by the INTJ’s mind or reaches it from the outside needs to pass the cold-blooded filter called 'Is this going to work?'. This is the INTJ’s coping mechanism and they are notorious for applying it all the time, questioning everything and everyone.
  • Assesses all possible situations, calculates strategic and tactical moves, and more often than not develops a contingency plan or two as well. 
  • Enjoy being the “man behind the curtain.”
  • May be idealists (impossible is nothing) and cynics (everybody lies) at the same time. 
  •  "Generally speaking, INTJs usually prefer to work in the area they know very well. Their typical career is related to science or engineering, but they can be found anywhere where there is a need of intelligence, restless mind and insight (law, investigations, some academic fields). INTJ personalities rarely seek managerial positions – if they do, this is probably because they need more power and freedom of action, not because they enjoy managing people." (My dad and brother are engineers and, in a long stretch of the imagination, I am seeking to "engineer" ways to help "the least of these.")
  • Find it very difficult to handle romantic relationships, especially in their earliest stages. (This could explain my college years...)
  • Both private and incredibly rational. Small talk is irrational to them. (I strongly dislike smalltalk. I cannot even...)
  • Public displays of emotion are outside of their comfort zone and consequently they will do their best to restrain themselves. 
However, I also strongly identify with these descriptions of the INFJ:
The INFJ type is believed to be very rare (less than 1 percent of the population) and it has an unusual set of traits. Even though their presence can be described as very quiet, INFJ personalities usually have many strong opinions, especially when it comes to issues they consider really important in life. If an INFJ is fighting for something, this is because they believe in the idea itself, not because of some selfish reasons. (Emphasis added.)
  • Drawn to helping people
  • Good at written communication, with a distinctively smooth and warm language. Their sensitivity can often mislead bystanders, who might think that the INFJ is actually an extrovert.
  • They need to have some “alone time” every once in a while or otherwise their internal energy reserves will get depleted really quickly. (This is an introvert thing.)
  • Vulnerable to conflicts. "If someone with this personality cannot escape the conflict, they will do their best to deal with it head on, but this will result in a lot of stress and may also potentially lead to health problems or highly irrational behavior." (Hello stress.)
So there you go. That's me. I must admit that I'm actually happy to know more about myself, and it is freeing to see that most aspects of my personality can be explained by Myers and Briggs. 

Except this. I have a strange addiction to these that cannot be explained. (Seriously, I need an intervention.):

Want to know more about your personality? Take the same test I took here:  http://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test 

Share your results. Let's get to know eachother!!

And this year, know thyself.

Friday, January 3, 2014

be present

This has been--and probably will continue to be--one of my favorite contemporary quotes for a while. (This was part of a sermon that Kyle Lake, a pastor from Texas, gave right before he was tragically electrocuted during a baptism. A horrific story, yes, but he left us quite a gem in this quote.) 

I have trouble living in the moment. I always have, and I probably always will. (In fact, at this very moment I have 6 different tabs open on my computer. Noted.)

BUT I LOVE THIS QUOTE, and it comes to mind often. I hope and pray to live by these words more often in 2014. 

“Live. And Live Well.


BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply.

Be PRESENT. Do
not be past. Do not be future. Be now.

On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day,
roll down the windows and

FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of
the sun.

If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to

FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.

Get knee-deep in a novel
and LOSE track of time.

If you bike, pedal HARDER and if you crash then crash
well.

Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done-a paper well-written, a project
thoroughly completed, a play well-performed.

If you must wipe the snot from your
3-year old's nose, don't be disgusted if the Kleenex didn't catch it all

because soon he'll be wiping his own.

If you've recently experienced loss, then
GRIEVE. And Grieve well.

At the table with friends and family, LAUGH.

If you're
eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke.

And if you eat, then SMELL.

The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on
the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven.

And TASTE.

Taste every ounce of flavor.

Taste every ounce of friendship.

Taste every ounce of Life.

Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift.”


― Kyle Lake