Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Journey's end

I’ve always worked best with deadlines so I guess it’s fitting for me that my first (and last) post to this blog is just after our Nov. 15th “deadline” for making a decision about adoption. As some of you already know, and others of you have probably surmised, we’ve decided not to pursue adoption.

It’s been several months since I first told Betsy that I wanted to have another child. We knew if we were going to have another, we would be adopting, so I asked her to start the process. She did a great job, and her growing joy added to my desire as we planned for our new arrival. But at the same time, we began a process of “discernment”—seeking God’s wisdom on all the many decisions involved with adoption. We asked God to guide us and asked you guys for your prayers and support.

As Betsy said earlier in this blog, we asked God to show us what to do, and He answered by showing us more about Himself. We’ve learned more about ourselves, our kids, and our work along the way, too. In the end, I don’t think God ever told us “yes” or “no” about adoption. He just gave us the information we needed to make the decision. So, based on everything we’ve learned, I decided adoption isn’t for us, at least not for now and maybe not ever.

I have mixed feelings about all this. I’m sad when I think about one less kid around the Christmas tree. I’m sad when I think about fewer potential grandchildren (Yes, I know I am only 33 and my kids are 6 and 4 but I still dream about grandkids). But I’m grateful for God’s gentle and generous revelation of Himself to us in this process. I’m excited about the freedom that comes with having older kids. I’m already thinking about summer trips to the UK with the whole family to visit our friends from seminary.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. We are truly blessed to have such wonderful family and friends. And a million thanks to my precious wife, who has been so patient and gracious throughout this journey. I’ve learned so much from watching and listening to her during this time.

All my love,

Friday, October 3, 2008

Update on Joey

OK, I think I should clarify a bit about what's going on with Joey, because when I read the post below, I thought it did sound strange that I used the term "adopt" to describe a kid who is going though a tough time and is certainly not my son. So I'm going to give you guys more details.

Joey isn't just going through a tough time. He was orphaned just a few weeks ago when both his parents died in a tragic situation. His grandparents have temporary custody of him and his two younger siblings (a toddler and a baby), but the family can't decide on what's best for the kids (who should get them, should they be kept together, etc.) There were no clear provisions in his parents' will, so there's a lot of legal confusion thrown into the mix. Several families (some blood-related, some dear friends) want the kids. Some want just one or two of them. Some infighting seems inevitable. It's all just yucky to think about.

In the midst of all this, of course, Joey is acting up in class, not completing his homework, and barely getting the attention he needs. That's why God has called me and my husband to (with full permission of his grandparents) "adopt" him for now in our hearts, even knowing that he will likely be placed with someone we don't even know and will move away from us forever.

He's not living with us, of course. He does have a stable, if relatively stress-filled home to go home to. But we're spending time with him, giving him lots of love, and supporting him through it all. I asked my son this morning as I was driving him to school if he was feeling "OK" with us giving Joey lots of attention right now. My son is happy with it, enjoys the playdates, and really loves his friend.

As I dropped my boy off, I also looked for Joey in the crowd. I had been thinking about him all morning, and I walked up to him.

"Hi Joey," I said. He smiled at me. "Would you like a hug this morning?" He said, "I would!"

I held him close for a few minutes, which is probably more time than his poor overworked and deeply mourning grandparents have right now. I told him I loved him and that I was looking forward to him coming over to my home again on Tuesday. He told me all about some funny, interesting lego-involved adventure he had had. I only caught half of it, of course, but it was just good to see him smile.

I feel so fulfilled right now with our family reaching out to this great kid. I feel like my arms, my heart, my quiver—for now—is full.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Adoptive Heart

There is a little boy in my son's class right now who is going through a whole lot of suffering. (I won't go into details, because this is a public blog). He's a first grader, like my son.

My son's little private Christian school is made up of a close community of families. It has a heart for reconciliation and revival in Austin. And sometimes I'll pop in to have lunch with my son during the day. Tuesday, that's what I did, and I spent a little time, too, chatting with his classmate, whom I'll call Joey here. As I spent some time with Joey, I just found myself falling in love with him. And he opened up to me a bit about what's going on in his life (for a first grade boy, that means about two sentences, but they were meaningful). The next day, I returned to the school and sat with my son and Joey in chapel. I ended up holding Joey all through chapel and just giving him comfort and care, which he drank up like a thirsty puppy. Then I asked his family if I could invite him over for a playdate with my son after school.

They were fine with that, and he came over after school and played with my son. They got along famously, playing nonstop, running, laughing, and scheming. I had to force them to stop for a little dinner. I'm guessing it's some of the happiest time he's had in a while.

And I really enjoyed this kid, whom life has dealt some nasty blows so very young. I realize that although I'm no therapist, I really have a knack for relating to people going through hard, confusing times. It's not that I understand everything they're going through. It's more that I am simply OK with whatever emotions come out. I've experienced so many emotions, and to such intense degrees, that I am pretty tough to shake up. Little Joey has been acting out lately and sometimes going into some coping mechanisms (like rocking and moaning) that tend to freak people out. But it doesn't throw me a bit. I've been there. I just am thankful that God gave us such coping skills, and I hug him until he feels better and then invite him to share with me how he feels. Then I send him off to play again.

Right now, his family is so overwhelmed with all they are having to handle themselves that little Joey's needs are simply slipping through the cracks. And his family is thrilled to have anyone investing time into him, so I'm not "stepping on any toes."

When I first heard about all that Joey's family was going through, I joined the list of people to deliver food to the home, and I talked to my son about how he could reach out to Joey and be patient with him if he feels sad at times. But I wondered if there was really anything else that I could do. I mean, the family already has a counselor meeting with Joey, the school has been mobilized to minister to the family's needs, and the kids in the class are well-parented Christian kids who should all extend love and understanding to Joey. There didn't seem to be a further place for me in the healing process. And I certainly didn't want to be one of those women who project herself into every drama around her, assuming that she has some magical solution for every hurting person.

But as I've spent time with Joey, I've discovered that I really, really love him. I'm praying for him so much. I think about how he might be feeling that day. I want to look into his sweet eyes again. And others can tell that I seem to have a "way" with him. I'm just comfortable with hurting people, that's all. And I am OK with sobbing in one moment and building legos in the next. If there is a spiritual gift of calm in the midst of a storm, I have it. And I know it's a gift, because it is the exact opposite of everything that naturally happens in me in my own strength. I mean the exact opposite. I'm the queen of panic, naturally.

The sobering fact is, little Joey will most likely not be in our life for long. He'll be moving soon, most likely, due to unheavel in his family situation. So I have maybe a month to spend with him. But my son likes him a lot, I love him a ton, my husband is drawn to him, and he needs something that I am well able to give: attention and understanding. His whole family is suffering and unstable right now. I am happy and stable. So I have an abundance of ability to grant him what—for now—his family can't.

So as I've been praying, I'm feeling this from God: that I am supposed to "adopt" Joey for whatever time I have with him. I will likely not see him again after his family moves. But for now, he is "mine" in a spiritual sense. His family is desperate for the help (I'm not forcing my way into anyone's world), my home is plenty open for him (I don't have any crying infants to tend to), and my heart is drawn to him. Sounds like the kind of thing that God would do...mobilize His seeking daughter's heart for a precious son of his who needs love.

For now, Joey is a part of our lives. My husband and I decided last night, after some prayer, to open up our home and hearts full throttle to Joey, inviting him to spend time with us while still being wise about his needs that we can't meet right now. And I couldn't be more excited if I were actually adopting my own kid.

What is God doing in all this? Maybe He's finally beginning to show us the answer to our question that we've been asking persistently for months: Should we adopt? The answer is Yes. Because it is always Yes in God's kingdom. Because The Father has only one begotten Son. We are all adopted. And whether it's for a month as a friend of the family, or for a lifetime as a legally binding parent, we are all called to an adoptive heart for the Kingdom of God.

Psalm 68:6
"God sets the lonely in families."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wait for it...wait for it...

Hi everyone!

Well, I thought I'd give another update, though there's not too much action to tell about. Here's where we are right now as a family:

• Our first-choice agency has said, "Call us when you're ready; we'd love to have you." (This agency happens to be in the same city where my husband is currently being considered for a teaching position, for whatever that's worth.)

• We are both feeling like God has got us in somewhat of a "holding pattern," to use a term my dad used to use and that I vaguely understand as having something to do with airplanes. But anyway, we're waiting on more guidance, or more assurance, or more peace, or more something. We don't exactly know what we're waiting on, to tell you the truth. But that November 15th date does seem to mean something.

Sorry I don't have more news, but most of the action is taking place inside of us, as we're learning is a very practical way to trust the Lord and wait on Him to work on our behalf.

There was something that happened the other day that caused me to look at this whole situation in a different light. I was talking to a friend about how frustrated she was that her boyfriend wasn't acting the way she wanted, that he wasn't treating her the way she wanted to be treated. I realized as I was listening to her a little more about what the Bible means about the Lord giving us the desires of our hearts. I had learned this before through a sermon on Andy Stanley's podcast (recommended), but it made more sense as I listened to my friend's complaint.

The thing she wanted from her boyfriend was a certain action. It wasn't a particularly complicated action, and there wasn't anything fundamentally sinful about the fact that he wasn't doing the action. But as I listened, I realized that what my friend really wanted was to have a deep need met. She wanted to feel loved and valued. That is her true desire; that is the desire of her heart, the desire that God has promised to fulfill.

God won't necessarily change her boyfriend's behavior, but He does promise to fill that need in my friend, if she will let Him do it His way. If she insists that only by a change in her boyfriend's behavior will she allow the need to be filled, then it might never be filled. Because God hasn't promised to fulfill the desire of the situation, but the deeper, permanent, God-given desires of her heart.

This same lesson is being learned in my heart through this adoption process. I'm feeling led to really search my heart and learn what it is that I desire. Will I trust that God will fill these needs His way, in His time? Or will I insist that this situation change (that I adopt another child) in order for my deep desires to be met? God knows what it is I long for, and He can fill me up, if I choose to "delight myself in Him" and "commit my way to Him," which are prerequisites for my deep heart desires to be met.

So during this time of waiting, I am being led to delight in Him and commit my ways to Him, waiting on Him to make clear my path to fulfillment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Next Steps

Well, we were granted an interview by Generations. Honestly, I would have been shocked if it had turned out otherwise. It seems like we're exactly the kind of folks they are looking for.

Here's the email my hubby sent in reply (I made it anonymous for the web):

Hi Cathy,

Thanks for inviting us to continue in the process. When we began this journey we asked the Lord for direction and he gave us a date: Nov. 15th. We've established that as the date by which we would make a decision to move forward or put adoption on hold for now. In the meantime we've prayed that the Lord would raise every issue that needs to come up for discussion and resolution so that we can proceed with full confidence. He has been answering our prayers in remarkable ways, guiding us on this journey, but mostly teaching us about Himself.

All of this is to say, we're not sure if we should invest yet in the interview part of the process. I'm especially interested in your perspective: is the interview something that helps couples discern whether to move forward or is it more informational for those who are completely decided? Perhaps it would be better for us to wait until after Nov. 15th when we've received clear direction from the Lord? I welcome any thoughts you may have on this.

By the way, ***** and ***** are some of our best friends. ***** told us she's related to you (cousins by marriage, I think). Cool!

Blessings to you and the Generations staff for all you are doing to save lives and glorify Christ.

Grace and peace,

(My husband)

The Lord is granting me peace and leading me to trust Him in all things. Am I willing to go His way instead of my own way? Am I willing to find and fulfill my place in His kingdom, or do I insist on living my dreams as I have dreamed them? Either way, whether he gives me the grace for another child or not, I want to seek first His kingdom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Pre-Application

Well, it's been mailed to Waco! Now we await a phone call.

We're moving forward and just trusting that God won't let us get out of His will as He holds us in the palm of His hand.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Update on our Friend

A couple folks have asked about the friend who stayed with us for a couple weeks. (See here).

Well, I just got a phone call from her.

While she was living with us, we helped her by giving her plenty of good nights' sleep, food, probably more advice than she could take in, and an atmosphere of peace. She was able to arrange several job interviews. We would help her get ready for these interviews, my husband would drive her to them and wait for her to be finished, and I would help by watching her daughter during the interview.

Well, she just called me, and she got one of the jobs! It's in her major (she has two years towards an accounting degree under her belt), and it pays $13.50 per hour, which is nothing to sneeze at! Now she can work on signing a lease and getting her life back on track. I'm so happy for her. She's coming over to have dinner and do laundry tonight. It gets a little chaotic around here with my two kids and her toddler, so I have permission from my hubby to hop in the car and go to the library with the kids for a while if I feel too closed-in during the evening.

But dinner's already assembled and in the fridge waiting to be baked (my daughter and I had fun making it today together while brother was at school). So the evening looks to be somewhat effortless, except for cleanup afterwards.

Now, I know that it doesn't always turn out this rosy. You can't take every homeless single mom, put her on your couch, pray for a job, and let her loose. But my husband really felt led by God to take her in when we did. And he felt led by God to push her out when we did, too. And it seems to be working out well.

And at no time during her stay did I get overly stressed or more anxious than I had the skills to handle. God is good. He has set me free from anxiety and depression, and he has given me the honor of serving my Liberator alongside my husband. Daily I depend on Him and watch Him work.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mopping and Moping

I was mopping my floor today while the family napped (I know it's the Sabbath, but mopping happens to be relaxing for me). Anyway, as my mop sogged the floor, my heart was feeling soggy, too. I hate this state of flux about the possible new baby. And I also hate my own discontent with this state of flux. No discipline that comes from the Father is to be despised, even though it's painful.

So I knew what to do. I called my mom and boo-hoo'd. Ahhh...some things never lose their power to console. (What can I say? I'm diabetic. I can't drown my sorrows in a chocolate shake anymore.)

Afterwards, I received a precious email from my mom, and I wanted to post a few lines here:

Betsy, You are so beautifully transparent—if I were in charge, I'd give you at least 18 more children. I am so thankful for your heart, your mind, your spirit. My tears cloud my eyes as I type. It's the Mommy thing—wanting her daughter to have everything she ever wanted—but the wise woman in me knows that it is HE who is wise and not me.

Our Loving Heavenly Father is listening to his child, Betsy, and HE sees, feels, and knows all of your wants, fears, desires, and questions. And speaking from this end of the family, I await that time when you all know—whether it is the clear "silence" as you speak of or the "go for it, kid; just sign the dotted line, and go for the onesies."

I wait with you. Love, Mom

Thanks, mom. I'm so glad God gave me to you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Continuing Saga...

Well, we put this adoption stuff before the Lord, asking Him to teach us, and He is not letting us down.

This blog was originally started as a way to keep my thoughts organized about the complex steps involved in adopting and to keep whoever is interested updated on the progress. It has lately morphed into a somewhat philosophical "dissection of a learning process" with more questions than answers and more confusion than closure.

I thought that deciding to adopt was the growth process. From there on out, I expected that the rest would be, to put it bluntly, paperwork and picking out onesies. But things are not working out as I expected. God is really using this process to teach my hubby and me so much about Himself (have I mentioned this already?) :-)

Anywho...here's the latest.

See, I've got this family of really smart people. They include my parents and my big brother and sister, who kinda helped raise me, too, because I was the baby of the family, and at least five years separates me from them.

All four of them are perceptive, wise folks who love me lots. And all four of them, in the past two days (and basically independent of one another) have told me that they are rather nervous about the idea of us adding a baby to our family.

The issue for them isn't adoption. That is a well traveled road for our family. One of us in the family is legally adopted, and my siblings and I grew up in a home where my parents displayed adoptive hearts. (As an example: Once my mom brought home from church a young Russian woman who was visiting America and needed a place to stay for a few days. Mom put her in the extra room. She ended up staying for seven years.)

So my family's issue isn't adoption. Their issue, to put it plainly, is me. They are concerned about me. And they make some good points.

First, my own health. Now, it's not that I'm not healthy. I'm very healthy. I'm certainly in better shape than most Americans. But I do have type-1 diabetes. This illness, as anyone who has it knows, it complicated, irritating, and at times, extremely stressful.

Here's an example. Last night, we had a picnic dinner with some of our best friends. We brought chili, and they brought cornbread. We had a delightful time. During the meal, I had a second piece of cornbread because it was yummy, but I forgot to take a second shot of insulin. I didn't remember until I tried to go to sleep at 10:30 and realized that I was feeling horrible.

I checked my blood sugar, and it was 300 (way above safe). So I had to immediately take insulin and stay up until my blood sugar came down and my body was able to relax back to normal. I was agitated, feverish, weepy, and miserable until the insulin finished its work. It took two hours, and my husband stayed up with me for moral support. This morning, he told me to sleep in because of the ordeal the night before. He took the kids with him to the ministry-training summit that we were all registered to attend today. He'll have to tell our ministry team, "Sorry, but Betsy had a sugar spike last night. She's resting today."

All because I had a second piece of cornbread.

My precious family has been with me through all of this: my diagnosis, my learning to live with the illness, my birthing of two high-risk "sugar babies" (as the docs call babies of diabetics), and the many mood swings that go along with blood sugar ups and downs (if you're someone who loves a type-1, you know that "mood swings" is the nice word for it).

So it's not that I'm not healthy. I am very healthy. But my life is complicated by my health issues.

Not only am I diabetic, but I'm also just naturally a very intense person emotionally. I feel things very deeply. I am an all-or-nothing kind of gal. I can experience total elation and intense despair all before breakfast. So my family is concerned for me in that area, too. I have done a great job with my two little ones. But both my mom and my brother have had three kids. And they both tell me that three is a whole new ballgame. Having more kids than hands is a huge step. And for a personality like mine (plus a chronic illness), it just might not be good idea.

Lastly, my whole family knows how important it is to me to seek God's will. They have pointed out to me that God hasn't given me and my hubby a clear "calling" to this adoption. I can't help but to agree with this point. I have been a woman of prayer for many years. I have heard God's silence before, and I have heard His voice. Right now, He's not speaking much to me about adoption. He's speaking to me about many deep, important issues. But not this one. And God can't be manipulated. He can be ignored at our own peril, but he can't be manipulated. And so I continue to wait for spiritual confirmation about this adoption.

Also, my family has talked to me about my clear skills and giftings in working with young adults, young Christians making critical life decisions. Toddlers are not so much my forte. Their argument is this: Why not, in whatever spare time I do have, throw my energies into the ministries that my husband and I are involved in now: Marriage mentoring, assisting the impoverished with life choices, explaining to new Christians the mysteries of the Bible. I have to admit, that's a good point, too.

OK, so that's my family's concerns. But now it's my turn: I want a baby.

I want, want, want, want a baby.

I'm crazy about my children, and I want another one. I drool over the little size-zero shoes. I bought a crib. I think about baby names all the time. I am clearly not ready to say adios to my baby-nurturing days.

Also, I've learned a lot of lessons from my struggles. And these lessons might very well make me a better mom, a more patient person, and a better candidate for handling the chaos of another child than if I hadn't gone through these things.

Besides, I don't want to let diabetes stop me. I don't want to let my intense-emotional personality stop me. I don't want to let anything stop me. I want a baby, dammit.

So anyway, while my husband and I were sitting up waiting for my blood sugar to come down last night, we chatted about this all. My husband, if you don't know him, is amazing. He is nearly always at peace. He is hard-working, long-suffering, fun, delightful, able to not take himself too seriously, and brilliant. And I'm not just saying this because he's hot.

So anyway, when we started this whole adoption thing several months ago, my husband told me that when he was praying about it, he heard this from God: "November 15th." (I know it sounds weird. And unless you've had similar experiences with God, it might sound crazy. But it would take days for me to write about the many times that we have gotten weird words just like this from God and they have turned out to be amazing insights.)

Since that word from God a few months ago, we've wondered more about this date. What does it mean? My husband brought it up again last night.

He thinks (and frankly, he's usually right about spiritual matters) that the date might be the day that we finally know what on earth we are "supposed" to do.

I was a bit shocked. I thought that we already knew what we were "supposed" to do. Didn't we? Why else would my husband be leading us to complete all this paperwork, committing money to the process, even getting our kids excited about the idea? Why on earth would God start something in us that He didn't intend to finish? You would think that instead of "November 15th," God could have saved His breath (and four syllables) with a simple "No." Then I could have moved on with my life and thrown my energies into one of my seven other current hobbies instead.

But after my ranting, my husband reminded me of something. He reminded me of the purpose of creation.

God's primary purpose in creation—and in His tender care of us, His children—is to raise a family for Himself. To grow us into maturity...to grow us into Christ...to grow us into citizens fit for the kingdom of light.

He often does heal our diseases, fulfill our dreams, and bring rest to our souls. But His primary purpose is to raise up mature children and to enjoy them. So it might very well be true that He is working out our maturity through this process of pursuing another baby even without the promise of our heart's fulfillment in the end.

So anyway, I thought I should update everyone on this morsel. Here's a summary:
--My family is pretty smart, and for some reason, they have all four felt free (in one 24-hour period) to independently tell me of their concerns. And these concerns are all really similar.

--I am shocked, scared, and angry that we might come so far and end up choosing not to adopt...and it all will have still been in God's will. What kind of crazy plan is that?

--I am tempted to just put the whole thing (the adoption process) on hold until I know more about the end result. 'Cause one thing that pisses me off is wasted time and energy. But my husband makes a good point: we are learning and growing through all this, and it doesn't hurt anyone to keep going (there's no birth mother involved yet).

--Most importantly, to be totally honest, I'm at peace. Even in my distress, I'm at peace. It's that peace that passes understanding. That peace that the Bible refers to as our "guard," which protects our hearts. It's that peace I never had before Christ transformed me. I trust Him.

I love my hubby. I love my kids. My life is happy. Right now, I feel all discombobulated. But I've been there before. I have mourned a lot of loss due to my diabetes, and I will survive if I have to mourn this loss, too.

Just like I totally believe that I can handle another baby—no matter what anyone says—I know that I can also handle the baby-shaped void. God has saved me from a lot worse—if you know my testimony, you know what I mean.

Thanks for reading. It really does help to not feel alone as I go through this all. My husband says that he wants to write a post here soon. So be on the lookout for his perspective!

Love to friends and family, Betsy

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

To Clarify a Bit...

I've had some interesting discussions with friends and family since the last post (a mere few hours ago) and thought I should clarify something.

I think I made it sound like God is clearly calling us to transracial adoption. That would certainly be fine. But that's just not the case. He doesn't seem to be "clearly" calling us to much of anything except a deeper understanding of Himself and His ways. We can't even honestly say that He's clearly calling us to adopt (though He doesn't seem to be hindering it or decreasing our desires).

We asked God a question: "What race should we adopt?" And as He so often does, He seemed to ignore our question and instead give us much more than merely an answer. He pulled back some of the veil and allowed us a deeper understanding of Himself. In this case, since race was the issue at hand, that is the issue through which He's revealed a tiny bit of Himself to us.

He really is gracious to speak to us in the midst of our current obsessions, isn't He?

If anything, we now have a greater peace about adopting whatever it is we have our heart set on...without the pressure to make a social statement in the process. As for me, my "rescue the world" mentality is getting healthier, I think. It's changing more to a "love the world" mentality. That's kind of huge for me.

The previous post was supposed to be all about God's sovereignty and His tender care, not really about transracial adoption, or even race relations. We haven't finished filling out our pre-app yet (almost!) and what races we indicate we are "open" to will likely never be shared with anyone but ourselves. But as for my adoptive heart for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I must declare, it is becoming more open all the time!

Thanks to all our wonderful friends and family!

"Wow" is All I Can Say

I am simply amazed at how much we are learning about ourselves, the world, and the gospel as we are contemplating and preparing for this whole adoption business.

From the start, my husband and I have been going to the Father and laying it all down before Him. "Show us Your will, Your way, in this matter." We've given Him full reign. And He has been showing us so much!

To put is simply, it's been through the experiences we've had since we opened our hearts to adoption that He's been speaking to us. For one thing, we brought a friend (who is African American) into our home for a couple weeks. She is a single mom who grew up in poverty, and she was homeless for a short time while she got settled into a new job and got into a better shelter than where she was. Hopefully, with her first new paycheck, she'll be able to secure a lease and get back on her feet.

While she was living on our couch with her precious little girl, she and I had some great talks: about race, about culture, about church, poverty, and life. She's a Christian, and we worked with her church to help provide her what she needed. (She goes to a "black church," she calls it.) We talked about adoption, and about a mother's hope for her child, and about the weight of guilt when you realize that you haven't provided the best for your child, despite your intentions.

This started a lot of great conversations between my husband and me, too. What is our understanding of "culture?" Does it fit what the world around us believes? Does it fit with the priorities of the Holy Spirit of God? Does it even fit with how our family lives daily?

Then last night, while the kids were asleep, I was up late working on a deadline (I'm a freelance book editor). And in a show of solidarity that my husband has granted me ever since we were college students studying for finals, he was staying up with me to help me "make it fun." I was doing some mindless formatting work, so my brain was free to listen to music or talk radio or something. I mentioned that we hadn't listened yet to some teaching that we had received in the mail from a Christian teacher that we really like, Sam Soleyn. So we picked one of his newest teachings, and just sat and listened, amazed. It was addressing all the issues that God was bringing up in our hearts!

The teaching is called, "The Culture of the Kingdom," and it talks about the reality of life in the New Testament church, the importance of a new "Kingdom" culture trumping all earthly understandings of culture. In Christ there is no "man" or "woman" and no "east" or "west." Yet men and women do not cease to be themselves when they become one with Christ. In the same way, culture, nationality, and all that comes with these (skin color, historical needs, cultural personalities, etc.) do not cease to be. But they come under the rule of Christ the King in such a way that they cease to divide people.

When my friend was living with us, there was a lot of talk about what was the "black" way to do things or the "white" way to do things. But when we were able to simply talk about God's ways, we were able to cut through some of the crap (and that's what some of these supposedly "cultural" differences are) and just get down to human needs and Christ's provision.

Anyway, Sam teaches it much better than I ever could explain it. But I feel like my husband and I are on the brink of some deep learning about the Spirit of God that is going to influence everything about us...to free us up to love others in such a way that it is less demanding, less exhausting, less stressful, yet more open, more "adoptive."

We have been asking the Lord to reveal anything in our hearts that would harm an adopted child: any racism, any sexism, any sense that our blood is somehow superior to another's. But rather than answer our prayers directly, He is revealing more and more of Himself to us. His ways. His views. His plans for all of humanity.

So does this mean that God is saying, "See, all races are great. So go out there and get the strangest combination of races you can find and pretend that it's all normal." Nope. He hasn't given us any definitive instructions. He's more just wooing our hearts for His ways.

It's not that race, nationality, culture are evil things. We do not just melt into some nirvana mass of souls when we become one with God. Nor do we learn to reject these yucky bodily shells, as the Eastern mystics would pursue. Rather, we are people of worth. We retain our value, our culture, our heritage. But chiefly, we are Christians. Jesus does not say that every tribe and tongue will blur into nothingness. He says that every tribe and tongue will find their place in Him.

Well, that's it on the deep thoughts. On a practical note, we haven't finished filling out our pre-application, yet. The funny thing is that now I have an entire book full of thoughts I could use to answer the "What is your idea of a Christian family" question on the pre-app. But they only give us three lines!

Tonight is date night, again, and we'll hopefully get this thing filled out, at least most of the way. Thanks for your prayers and support!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Picked an Agency, But They Haven't Picked Us Yet

Well, my hubby and I had a date last night and chatted it up. We picked Generations agency in Waco, Texas.

I thought it might be interesting to see what the attraction was for us to a particular agency, especially because our attractions have changed quite a bit from when we started this whole process.

We really love the Christian focus on this agency...as well as all the respect and love for humanity that comes from that perspective. We started our search with the priorities of speed, cost efficiency, and reliability. But as we've prayed and asked God to shape our hearts, we have seen other, beautiful priorities rise to the surface: a peaceful sense of God's perfect timing, fair division of resources, and care for the human spirit.

Well, I don't know if I'm describing this all well enough, but here's a sample of what's attracted us to Generations ("G"). I'll compare it to what we heard from some other agencies we talked to ("OA").

--OA: Reduces the incidence of disrupted (change-of-mind) adoptions by "dropping" birth mothers when they start to waiver.
--G: Reduces disruption by counseling mothers face-to-face, traveling to their homes, and not matching them with adopting couples until they feel sure and secure of their choice. Either way, the birth mothers receive full support during the pregnancy.

--OA: Charges a huge fee (understandable) but gives a discount for black babies.
--G: Keeps fees even for everyone, not giving different treatment to any race.

--OA: Tracks down the birth father
--G: Actually offers free counseling to the birth father

--OA: Requires that parents not have too bad of a criminal record, be financially stable, etc.
--G: Also requires that at least one parent work 20 hours or less per week and take at least six weeks leave after the baby is born. Require that parents attend church together and have a stable, happy marriage.

--OA: Emphasize their ability to recruit birthmothers.
--G: Emphasizes their respect for the courageous choice made by birthmothers and fathers.

--OA: Mentions the importance of keeping the child's "culture" alive through education and celebration of heritage.
--G: Mentions the importance of unconditional love and acceptance as the family's unique "culture" is built, regardless of skin color.

--OA: Asks us to call them when we're ready to sign the dotted line.
--G: Makes it clear that they will get back to us about whether or not we've been found worthy of one of their fabulous babies.

Generations just feels right for us.

Our next step is completing the "Pre-Application Form," which contains, along with basic information, such essay questions as "Please write in your own words what a genuine Christian is to you," and "In your understanding, what is a Christian family?"

After that, we mail it in with $50.00. If they like what they read, we get invited to an interview, where we pay $125.00 for the privilege. We are then invited to officially submit an application (along with another check for $125.00). Woo-hoo!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thanks to Recommendations...

Two more Texas agencies are now under our consideration: Generations in Waco and Gladney in Fort Worth. So many great agencies with a heart to place children in loving homes. It just makes my heart melt to read some of the stories....

But I digress.

We now have four agencies to pick from, since we have ruled out the one in San Antonio. They have a no-corporal-punishment clause, which we just couldn't, in good conscience, consent to signing. I can't swear never to spank, since I don't even know my child yet, and I believe that some children might benefit from loving, controlled, occasional spankings. It's not that it's such a huge deal, but I just thought it was strange that I had to sign away my right to do something that's perfectly legal.

I called the other agencies to inquire about their policies on the topic, and they all sound reasonable (thought I haven't heard yet from the one here in Austin). Most of them just ask that we have wisdom when it comes to corporal punishment, that we see it as just another tool in our toolbox of parenting, not something to use to take out our frustrations. We certainly agreed on that!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Baby Names

We asked the kids for baby names for the new baby. This is what they gave us:

Our daughter: For a boy, Olten. For a girl, Rezaneena.
Our son: For a boy, Chuck. For a girl, Flower.

God bless little Rezaneena Flower.

We're Pregnant! (with anticipation)

Well, it's official. Well, no actually, it's not. We can still change our minds. And so can any birthmother who is out there. So, nothing is whatsoever official. But in my heart, it feels mostly official.

And that is this...we're going to have a baby (through adoption)!

Who on earth knows when? Some time in the next 6–36 months. Gee...not quite the predictability of a pregnancy, is it? There's no doctor telling me the size of the baby's head and the due date. Instead there's an agency giving me their average wait per couple for the past ten years.

So since I'm literally thinking about this issue (adoption as a concept/a new baby/the piles of paperwork/the insane amount of money we're going to have to raise) all the time, I thought I'd start blogging about it! How better to further obsess and share my obsessions with the world? (My sis Bren does it quite successfully, thank you! But I won't be saving you any money on toothpaste.)

So anyway, here is where we are.

--We've decided to adopt domestically (a USA baby) rather than internationally.

--We've decided to use an adoption agency rather than a facilitator or a private lawyer.

--We've decided to use a state-wide rather than a national agency. See, agencies can be divided into national agencies (certified to work with birthmothers in multiple states) and local agencies (certified to work with birthmothers just withing their state or within a mile-defined radius of their office). Why a Texas agency rather than a national one? Well, as it turns out, Texas is the place to adopt. That's because the laws favor clean, quick adoption. There is no birthmother revocation (change-of-mind) period. And she can sign over her rights as early as 48 hours after the adoption.

As for birthfathers, they can sign over before the child is born, and if they don't show up in a month after birth, their rights are terminated automatically. (Sorry dad...gotta stay in touch!) So in the worst-case scenario, you have to wait 31 days to exhale.

But you can also state on your application that you only want to be "pitched" to birthmothers who have already had the birthfathers sign off. In that case, you've just got the 2-day period where you get to cuddle the baby in the hospital nursery, knowing that he/she might not come home with you. Then, after 48 hours and a signature, you're putting a little lovable newborn in your carseat!

After that, for six months, the state visits your home a couple times to make sure you're not psycho (we're hoping to hide it well), and your pediatrician has to give you good marks monthly (so no baby tattoos during this time). After six months, you take your little drooler to court in San Antonio so that everyone can cry while the judge bangs the gavel.

With a national agency, you might get matched with a birthmother anywhere in the country, and the laws there might be a lot tougher to swallow. The scariest stories we've heard are from states where the birthmother gets a week or two to think about it after she's signed. Then you've got a horrified couple having to give a baby back after a week of cuddling and kissing. Not so in Texas. In fact, Texas is such a popular place to adopt that lots of out-of-state couples want to adopt from here. (Some of the Texas agencies we talked to said that they were no longer accepting out-of-state adoptive couples.)

Also, with a national agency you will likely have to travel across the country at a moment's notice when the baby is born (thousands of dollars, anyone?) and live in a hotel for up to two weeks in a strange town with a baby that you might have to give back ('cause you can't leave the state until the waiting period is over). Then, you have to fly back six months later with your infant in order to do the court-date thing. Sounds messy to me.

I'd rather just drive to San Antonio, bang the gavel, and then catch the lunch crowd at Denny's.

What's the benefit of a national agency? One word: speed and efficiency. They are fasty-fast, because they have so many resources and so many birthmothers. They definitely have the best web sites. One national agency we talked to has an average wait time of four months after your homestudy is over (most local agencies quote an average of 9–12 months). Also, they are usually really well organized and able to answer your call on the first ring. Local agencies, on the other hand, will generally do their best to get back with you that day. But frankly, that's good enough for me.

--We've narrowed our search down to three agencies here in Texas. One in Dallas (Buckner), one in San Antonio (Adoption Angels), and one in Austin (Adoption Advocates). We like them all for different reasons, so we're praying and asking the Lord to guide our hearts towards whatever His will is. (We've been praying a LOT through this whole process, but this is the first major, somewhat irrevocable, decision we've had to make.) All three agencies accept birthmothers from all over Texas (which, conveniently for us, is a big ol' state). So we might end up having to fly to Corpus Christi or something, but not across the country.

--Our next step is the homestudy, which involves meeting several times with a case worker, allowing her to visit our home and make sure it's safe and comfy, and writing a check for about $1,200. But we need to pick an agency first, to make sure they approve of our homestudy person.

So there you go. We are open to any and all questions, and we'll keep you peeps posted.