Monday, January 26, 2015

the state i'm in

I guess today is the day I'll have to finally admit it. I'm frustrated.

We have been in court since October 2013 and our case has made virtually NO progress. We have gotten a few documents. We have heard that a few others are signed. Yet we still do not have a final declaration, now do we have a final document stating that our Sweet C--our girl who has an actual name and and actual face and an actual need for a permanent family--is our actual daughter.

I realize that others are in a far more frustrating position than we are. After all, hundreds of children are legally adopted and unable to join their families because the final step of permanence and stability, a simple Exit Letter, is being halted at the moment. I understand that those families are incredibly frustrated, and with good reason. They have been waiting YEARS for their kids to come home. I'm frustrated for them.

But I'm frustrated for us and for C, too. I think it's safe to say we, as adoptive families of DRC, are one giant cluster of frustrated, tired, confused and hurting people.

I guess the thing that gets me is that there's not one thing I can do about it. If we were past court, I'd know that I could at least be checking on our I-600 investigation, her visa, her medicals, or, if nothing else, rewriting her full name, "C----- K---- Lotz," millions of times in different ways for fun. But we are here, without the distinct, legal declaration of "family" or "daughter" or "permanent" to hold us together.

And there's nothing I can do to check on our case. I check with our agency, but they haven't been able to share much information with us, except to tell us that it wouldn't help if we went over there to sit and personally talk--plead, really--with the judge on whose desk our papers have been siting for eternity.

If we were past this point, advocacy would be easier. I could be telling people our legal daughter is officially stuck. My Congresspeople would know me by name, and they would know just how many days and nights we've been waiting to bring our DAUGHTER home. But right now, as we are, we continue to lack definition and, therefore, a legal leg to stand on.

So today I'm frustrated and annoyed and confused, and a part of me might be a bit shut down emotionally. It is what it is, and I'd be lying if I said this wait is not getting to me, more so on some days than on others.

Friends, don't worry about me or text me to make sure I haven't done anything crazy. I'm fine; I just needed to vent. Tomorrow will be better. Hope is not lost.

Friday, January 23, 2015

this roller coaster

We have been waiting for DRC's Senate to vote on the lower house's passed bill that caused a national outcry on Monday, and it seems we've got it.

The Senate voted to pass the bill, but they dropped the census clause, meaning that they (Senate) will not require a census before the 2016 presidential election. The two chambers will still have to reconcile the two passed bills to place them into action, so we will wait to see what that entails for the country. (Story here.)

The streets are a bit calmer today. For that, we (in addition to thousands in our country and in DRC) are incredibly thankful. This does not mean the full conflict is over, as I am sure President Kabila has something else up his sleeve to try to delay his exit from the presidency. I don't believe he expected the Senate to deny this version of the bill, and I fear he will retaliate, as he has proven it is not out of his range to cajole, threaten, and bribe people to get his way. (See: An opinion piece regarding Kabila and this current situation.)

I have refrained from judging him without obtaining plenty of information, and even then I withheld my opinion of him for far too long. I think I know enough now. Our kids are being used as political pawns, as evidenced by the ever-changing reasons for the Exit Letter suspension, the blame-shifting, the replacements of government officials, the broken promises (They said the Exit Letter suspension could last "up to one year," yet we are still here 16 months later), and the DRC Congress' lack of attention to the issue or even the Family Code (for which I don't blame them...they are probably being forced to vote on this presidential issue first and foremost).

So there it is. We pray for DRC, for the people there, and for our children. We are thankful they will have a few days to recuperate from the drama and violence and replenish their resources, and we pray they are safe as later decisions are handed down. I pray that Kabila's heart is softened or broken so that he can see the inhumanity of withholding children from parents. I pray that the end of this ordeal would come into view. It would be more bearable if an end were in sight.

We are continually on a weary roller coaster ride, spinning 'round and 'round, upside down, lifted high with optimism and expectation, then dropped quickly to the deepest depths of sadness again and again. These are confusing times, and we often can't find the meaning in it.

In the end, though, our hope is in Jesus, who rides with us, sharing in our joys and bearing our burdens.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

DRC in crisis

Once again, we ask for prayers for the situation in DRC. This time, we are not only asking for prayers regarding the heart-crushing adoption situation, but also for the entire conflicted nation.

Photo from www.dailymail.co.uk
For two days, streets in Kinshasa, where Sweet C is from and still lives, have been full of scenes like the one above. Protests, looting, and demonstrations have taken over the streets, leaving citizens who wish to stay out of the conflicts stuck at home with boarded windows and doors. On orders from the government, cell phone and internet services have been blocked.

(More information here and here.)

The conflicts appear to be a result of a vote on Saturday to complete a national census, which protesters say is a ploy to allow the current president to remain in office longer than the constitution currently dictates. The House of Representatives approved the census, while the Senate is currently debating it.

You may remember that I mentioned (here and here) a special session of Parliament that was originally said to include a vote on the Family Code, which we hoped would help spur the Exit Letter Suspension forward to resolution. That Family Code vote appears to have been a pipe dream, and we are now hoping they can vote on it in March.

However, this conflict adds stress (and panic) to a lot of adoptive parents who have children so close to the violence, and whose lives appear to be dictated by the government's decisions. Clearly, the government is dealing with many issues, and we are concerned that the adoption issue may continue to be swept under the rug so that the current president can continue fighting to run for a third (and currently unconstitutional) term.

Couple all of the above with the fact that a delegation from Chairman Ed Royce's office (in Southern California...AMAZING ADVOCATE for our children) has been in DRC to meet with adoptive parents who are currently living there with their children (because they can't bring them home) and to meet with DRC officials. We are not even sure if those important advocacy meetings took place, which is almost soul-crushing when you are hoping to hear of some inkling of good news. However, we we do know the delegation is safe, and for that we are thankful.

Please pray. We need a MIGHTY SAVIOR to intervene.

Monday, January 12, 2015

the best part

Monday, I wrote about our mission trip to New York, but I didn't tell you about one of my favorite parts. We met a young man named Salomon. I'll give you one guess about where he was from.

You guessed it: DRC. He is an intern at Urban Nations, where we taught the ESL classes I mentioned. I could tell he had an accent, and on one of many subway trips with him I had my husband ask him where he was from. 

"DRC," he says, like every American knows where that is. Of course we do, but (honestly) we wouldn't have a clue if we weren't adopting from there. 

When he said it, my jaw dropped a little, and I think I may have even teared up--just in the corner of my eye, you know. What a "coincidence." Out of 2.3 million people in Queens alone, we were spending much of our time with a man who was born 6,000 miles away in Kinshasa, where our Sweet C was born and still lives. I do not think that was a "chance meeting" or a coincidence; I have read of and experienced too many instances where God placed specific people in others' lives at the perfect time to speak through, minister to, or encourage them, and I believe that's what our meeting was about. 

Not only was Salomon an easy-going guy who was using his talents to glorify God, but he has an amazing story that was an amazing encouragement to all of us.

Salomon's mother was a missionary in DRC and, as a result, he was born there and has lived in 20 different countries, learning to speak at least four languages fluently and bits and pieces of several other languages. Because he lived in Kinshasa as a young child, he only remembers parts of Lingala; however, I would imagine he knows more than even he thinks he knows.

Salomon's mom died when he was attending a prep school near Chicago, and when he heard the news of her death he placed himself face-down in the middle of a busy highway. His friend found him there and, after trying to find out what was wrong and convince him to get up and out of the highway, his notably small and weak friend lifted Salomon's 6-foot-6, 260-pound athletic body from the pavement and carried him to safety.

He planned to play professional basketball, and when that didn't happen he attended an NAIA school and battled depression his freshman year of college, becoming embittered at God for the loss of his mother and part of his dreams.

He didn't share exact moments that brought him back into the God-fearing life he had lived in his earlier days, but he said God surrounded him with people who continued to speak truth into his life. He later began law school, working as a paralegal in Chicago, but stopped attending law classes due to the astronomical expense of it all. He hopped on a plane to New York without a plan or a place to stay. He met someone on the plane who told him about a family member who could offer him a place to stay, and that was that. (I can't imagine doing that!)

Feeling that he wanted to work in the nonprofit sector, he researched around and found some job opportunities in areas in which he wasn't passionate, even some with agendas he was staunchly against. One night he went to a party, where he ran into a woman who worked at a nonprofit. He asked a few questions until she finally said, "I'm not sure that you would want to work there. It's a Christian organization."

"I'm a Christian," he said. And that was that. (I should note here that it is relatively rare to find a self-described Christian in New York...much more rare than it is to find one here in MO.)

He is now using his awesome God-given talents and abilities and his natural outgoing and warm personality to teach ESL students and to help raise awareness and funds for the programs his nonprofit offers.

He now lives as an amazing testament to God's sovereignty and commitment to his believers, despite their wandering and occasional bouts of unbelief in the face of challenges.

God has given Salomon amazing gifts and an incredible life story to glorify God's name, and he is doing amazing work with the people with whom he is working in Queens. I

I hope you are as encouraged by his story as I am. God orchestrates details in our lives. God orchestrated the details in Salomon's life to give him a voice to encourage others, and I believe He orchestrated the details of our trip so that we could be encouraged by Salomon's presence, connection to DRC, and his story.

(**And one of his sisters still lives in DRC with Doctors Without Borders.)

New York, New York

Bradlee and I have just returned from a mission trip to New York City. It was an eye-opening trip, one that involved some of the coldest temperatures I have had to endure for multiple hours, and one that helped us see the vulnerable in our society with new eyes.

We taught ESL classes in education centers for people from Southeast Asia and Western Africa. The centers were located in different areas of Queens, the most diverse county in the United States. It is home to over 2.3 million people, and about 48% of its residents were foreign-born. Some of the students had lived in the US for more than ten years and still working on basic English skills, mostly because the need to learn English wasn't needed in day-to-day life where, because of the segmented populations in Queens, they had very little contact with English-speaking people. Walk five blocks in Queens and you are in a new community with new primary languages and new food specialties.

We then served food to the homeless in some of the coldest temperatures I have ever had to endure for an extended amount of time. It felt like needles were pressing into my toes, then my heels, then most parts of my body. It was brutal, but it also helped me get a small feel for what homeless people are enduring on a daily basis. We served them soup, bread and hot chocolate, and we ate and drank the same alongside them in the cold while talking about a myriad of subjects. (We served through The Relief Bus, which is a great organization that offers more than food and hot chocolate.)

Later that day and the next morning, we walked the streets to find homeless people, strike up conversations and offer them food and water along with a map of free services and an info card for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, where they could find additional help and support. This sort of thing is hard for me to do, as I'm not a natural conversationalist or extrovert. However, it was good for me to realize that, while it is unfortunately natural for most of us to avoid eye contact with homeless people, it doesn't mean it's right.

On our last day of missions, we helped give out food in a church, filling rolling baskets brought by homeless and/or low-income attendees of an afternoon service. The food was donated by three Trader Joe's stores around New York, and the church received surplus food four times a day, every day. This provided PLENTY of food to give away, and the church organized distribution to other churches for their services, as well. The food baskets we filled were packed to the brim with fruits and veggies, bread, meat, eggs and even fresh flowers. Church members who assisted with the service project, including a pastor from a nearby church, also got to shop for their families, which was a huge blessing to them as well. While we were filling the baskets, the people who brought them listened to a gospel-filled sermon from a pastor. (Word on the street is that Springfun is getting a Trader Joe's...you'd better believe I will be checking on their surplus distribution process.)

We did some tourist things as well, such as the ferry tour, The Today Show, a Top of the Rock tour, and taking in a Broadway play. We ate food from Afghan, Paris, Italy, India, West Africa, and America (SHAKE SHACK, anyone?!). And we experienced a lot of smells.

And then we came home, and I was thrilled to be back with my boys.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

provision

2014 has been a year full of clear evidence of God's provision in our lives.

He provided a new job for Bradlee, a job that I believe he was born to do. His former job was not a bad one. He influenced a multitude of young people, many of whom became young men who are now influencing others in a similar way. However, after several years of teaching and coaching, I think his training in those areas was complete. I believe God used that season of his life to fine-tune and hone his leadership skills in order to increase his effectiveness in ministry. For a while there, we thought he was going to become a school administrator. He was incredibly close to going that route. There would have been absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I believe he would have done a great job, but he would have had to sacrifice a lot of the time he used to commit to ministry and discipleship. His heart is in disciple-making, and although the job would have been a good one with great pay and benefits, I believe he might have regretted it later. God provided a job at our church instead, and I have no doubt that is where he is supposed to be.

He provided hope, strength and courage in a year filled with the roller coaster ride of a adoption. I don't even want to tell you how often I checked my email and Facebook for updates on Sweet C's case or the situation in DRC. It was a bit excessive. Sometimes I would learn new information that provided small glimpses of hope; other times the DRC adoption group walls and email box would be deathly silent. It was a trying year. It continues to be a trying adoption. But God is here. He dwells in our midst and has promised to remain. He has continually proven himself to be full of mercy and justice, not only in our lives but in what we have learned in the God-breathed words He has provided to us in the Bible. The Bible is truly the Living Word in our lives because it continually instructs, encourages, admonishes, stretches and refines us. The timely study of God's work in Moses' life has been incredibly meaningful in this season, and my reading of the Bible in one year (finally) continually and completely proved his faithfulness throughout the ages. Where there once was heaviness, fear, and ashes, we see now glimpses of hope, strength, and beauty.

He provided great friends and family both near and far to encourage, support, and intercede for us in prayer. Friends have sent small gifts, quotes, prayers, donations, and verses our way continually. We may not discuss our adoption with friends and family often, but we know they are thinking of us and discussing the situation with God on our behalf. So are we.

Furthermore, although we did not receive the answers to prayers we wanted at the time we wanted, he recently provided me with a way of understanding the phenomenon. After all, our boys sometimes ask for things in exactly the way we have instructed them (politely, sweetly, with a "please", and a smile), and we still must say no because they are asking for things that would not benefit them at that time.

He provided me with courage to make the tough but necessary decision to stay home, and after that, he continually provided for us financially by sending me small jobs to help make tiny contributions to our income and by providing Brad with a new, slightly better-paying job. He has even provided for us by sending extra money our way that we didn't expect to get. When I quit my job, I created and recreated (about 55 times) a detailed budget to help us stay on course. Numbers rarely added up in our favor, and when I began keeping track of everything I was overwhelmed and full of anxiety about how to make it work, particularly with the frustration of unexpected expenses. Then, realizing that things weren't adding up and it was often unexplainably to our advantage, I gave up budgeting in favor of trying to be as wise as possible. (Full disclosure: I still make a few extra purchases that aren't necessary...but I'm trying to quit.) I am exceedingly grateful to be home with my boys and to have other opportunities to throughout the day.

He has provided for our adoption by fully funding it with donations and grant money, and although our adoption expenses will continue to grow with the length of our wait, we are not worried in the least about the money involved. He has not failed us in the tiny or the big, and we don't expect that to change.

2014...the year of God's provision (among other things). Pray with me that 2015 is the year of Sweet Mercy.