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Monday, December 27, 2010

Stats update

I'll post something more meaningful later this week when we officially hit the 8 month mark of waiting on the 30th. But for now, here are our latest "stats"

On the VERY unofficial wait list, we are next for a boy 13-18 months, #2 for a boy 8-18 months.

HOWEVER... we got our monthly update from our caseworker for December and the average wait times have increased again. So as of now, the average wait time for a child under 12 months is 9 1/2 months and the average wait for a child 13 months or older is 9 months. sigh. And the overall time frame from referral to actually bringing the child home has gotten longer. Now it's looking like it'll be closer to 6 months before we'll get to bring him home once we do get our referral.

With all the craziness of Christmas and houseguests and cooking I really did great with waiting over the past few weeks. I have convinced myself our referral is NOT coming in 2010.

But my heart still beats faster every time I think about him or talk about our adoption. I am so ready to not be waiting anymore.

On a positive note, my Christmas sewing fundraiser was a great big success! Thank you so much to all of you who purchased something from us! Once everyone sends their payments in, we will have raised over $1300 towards our adoption!!! That should cover the cost of one of our round-trip plane tickets to Ethiopia! How awesome is that!?!?!?  What's even more awesome is that now I can relax & enjoy my kiddos again without sewing every free moment! ha ha!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The perfect Christmas picture...

...will never happen!

We've had four different "photo shoots" in front of the Christmas tree this year. Why is it so hard to get two kids to sit still and smile in the same direction?  And what in the world will we do when we have three?

So in honor of all you parents out there in search of the perfect Christmas picture... here are our "best" ones!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year I would like a referral for a little boy. From Ethiopia. Between 0-18 months. Please. I think I have been a good girl this year.  If you can bring me this, I don't need anything else. Ever.  Well, unless I can convince my husband to do another adoption one day. I'll keep you posted on that one.

Love,
  Kirstin

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

SEVEN MONTHS!

We've been waiting seven months to meet our little brother!
We have been on this rollercoaster ride for almost a year now but today marks 7 months on the official wait list for a little boy 0-18 months old. It is funny to think that I titled a blog post "Rollercoaster" back in March. I didn't know how right I was.

The latest Rollercoaster we are on I would like to call "My Startling Discovery."  You know how I always talk about that unofficial wait list? And how I stalk it almost every day? The list tells you when each family was placed on the waiting list and what they are waiting for (boy/girl, age of child, siblings, etc).  Remember, I check this list every day. Last night I made a "Startling Discovery."  I had NEVER NOTICED that the families ahead of us that are waiting for boys are all waiting for boys under 12 months old.  When I've been saying that we're #5 for a boy 0-18 months I was wrong - we're actually #4 for a boy 0-7 months.  We're #2 for a boy 8-18 months and we are NEXT for a boy 13-18 months (well, there is a sweet family on hold just above us for a child 0-18 months and I am praying they can get back on the list asap, which would bump us down one.)

yikes.

I can't believe I never paid attention to that age range. I saw it but it never clicked.

And now I wish I hadn't seen it. I had just commented yesterday to a friend that I really didn't think we'd have our baby home until July (which could still be true). I convinced myself we were still far enough away from a referral that I wouldn't need to even think about it until January.

Right now, I'm waiting patiently. Almost contentedly. I know we will bring our child home. I know it will all work out at the right time.  Even with my "Startling Discovery," I'm still not carrying my cell phone around with me. I even left it in the car when I took the kids to the library this morning, sort of to prove to myself that I'm not obsessing about getting THE CALL. The wait list I get to see is very unofficial. There could still be 10 families in front of us waiting for boys 0-18 months. I'll never know. But I do know that call is coming someday.

And today, that's good enough for me!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Art of Losing Myself...

I'm selfish. 

I struggle with this daily. It is so tempting to put myself first, put my kids first, put my family first.  Ignore what's going on elsewhere and imagine that my little family in our happy little house is the whole world. That way, I am free to get annoyed about small things like dishes left on the kitchen table and laundry that never gets put away, as if that's the worst life ever hands out.

But Christ calls us to live differently: to place others above ourselves; to be aware of our brothers and sisters who live next door and those who live across the world.  We need to be connected to others in order to truly know their needs. Rob and I were talking recently about how we feel we are not doing enough. The more we know about the brokenness in this world the greater the urge to DO something.  We've been to Africa. It wasn't enough. We give regularly to certain causes. It isn't enough. We are adopting an orphan from Ethiopia. It isn't enough.

None of that will ever be enough. The brokenness out there is bigger than I am. I will always struggle with the feeling that I'm not doing enough. Thank goodness God didn't choose me to be the world's savior, 'cause boy am I failing at that one!  I was reminded at church this morning of two things:

1. I need to lose myself more
2. God is bigger than everything I worry about.

I realized that lately I've been ignoring some of the reasons we are adopting. I catch myself saying we're adopting because "we want another child and there is a child who needs a family" as if that child is just happily playing on a playground, waiting for some parents to happen along.  While that is certainly part of our motivation, we are adopting for other reasons as well.  For one, God tells us to care for orphans.  That means God knew there would be orphans and he made a plan for them to be cared for... it's us.  I have seen the state of things in Africa. I have not yet been to Ethiopia, but I've been to Swaziland and I saw the poverty, the hurting, the brokenness.  I want desperately to keep at least one child from suffering in that way. God knew there would be poverty and suffering - He tells us what to do about that in the Bible, too. Again, his plan includes us.

I have two options. I can stay selfish. I can put on my tunnel-vision goggles and only see what's happening in my own life.  Or I can lose myself. I can choose to open my eyes and see those who are suffering. And I can do something about it.  God has a plan for us to reach out and live in true community with others. I won't be doing any saving... it's all Him. I don't want to miss out on any part of what He's doing because I've stuck my head in the sand of my own life.

It may not lead to the "American dream", but I praise God every day for the opportunity to live selflessly.  I have a long way to go, but God has changed my heart. I want to live every day for others. That desire could only come from the Creator who designed us in such a way that we need to live in community, putting each other above ourselves (because, trust me, it is not part of my nature!)  When I am truly putting others first, I find such joy - much more so than when I achieve my own self-made goals.

We're doing something new this Christmas. I'm an avid Christmas card fan. I love to get them, love to send them out. We have a Christmas card list over 100 people long.  This year, I'm still designing a card but we won't be mailing it. I'll be emailing it out (maybe posting it on the blog) and making a donation instead.  It is one way I'm going to keep the focus away from me and outward towards others.  This is hard for me. I love Christmas cards. In fact, I still have the ones we received last year so I can compare them to ones we get this year & see who has grown, what has changed, etc. 

I'm such a nerd.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Not a project...

I like projects. In fact, I like projects so much that I often take on new ones before my old ones are finished. I just love having something that I'm working on, whether it's a sewing project like the birthday banner on my sewing table right now for our good buddy in the neighborhood, or doing the Both Hands fundraiser. I just love being involved in stuff. To a fault, probably (just ask my sister-in-law about the window valance she asked me to make LAST YEAR that I'm finally bringing to her next week!).  I tend to take on more than I can realistically do (hence the not sleeping and the many cups of coffee that define my days!).

But you know what? Adopting a child is not a project. This is not just another "thing" I'm involved in. This is not a child I plan to "save" or "fix."  While caring for orphans is certainly part of ministry, this is not a "ministry" for us.  I don't ever want my child to feel as if he were a cause that I was championing at this particular stage of my life.  People have talked with us about our adoption as if it is charity work or as if we are taking on some kind of difficult-yet-noble task.  I promise you, that's not it. 

There are 147 million children out there who don't have mommies or daddies to love on them. One hundred and forty seven million kiddos. Minus one, once we bring our little one home.  It's a tiny dent, but a dent nonetheless. We want another kid. It just makes sense to us to adopt.

It's easy to think of adoption like a project. We have to fill out a hundred and one pieces of paper, many of them government forms that have to be notarized in a very specific way.  We had to provide health certificates, bank statements, do interviews with social workers, and complete trainings.  The whole process is very project-like.  But if I expect this to be a project with a finished product at the end, I will be sorely disappointed. 

In the end, it's a child, not a project. And it's a son who will join our family in the same way my first two did: into the arms of two parents who love him very much and know we'll figure out the rest along the way!

Want to know the latest update: we're now #14 on the unofficial wait list, still #5 for a boy :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spoiled...

It's 11:30 at night and I have to leave for work at 6:15 tomorrow morning so this is going to be short & sweet. I have LOTS that I want to blog about and I promise I will actually write something thoughtful this week.

But for now... I just have to tell y'all that I am spoiled rotten. I have no idea how in the world I wound up with such a wonderful family, such amazing friends, and such a great church family.  God is so good!

Here are the highlights of my day yesterday:

1. It was my birthday. I never tell anyone when my birthday is - I hate attention. But I want to brag on my husband so I'm not only going to admit I had a birthday, I'm even willing to tell y'all how old I am! (remind me to tell y'all someday about how my daughter ratted me out at the fundraiser 10 minutes before we were going to leave!!)
Look what I woke up to:
My sweet husband BAKED me a birthday cake and decorated it himself (he even got out my fancy cake decorating tools!)

2. Our fundraiser - It was like having our own Chick-Fil-A party! My dad was in town so he got to be there and we had friends in & out all night long! I won't know the total of how much we raised, but I know we came home with a quite a bit of cash (which leads me to #3)

3. I'm not going to say her name but one of my friends humbled me beyond belief yesterday. She had wanted to be part of our Both Hands project but has been super crazy at work. I didn't even think twice about it - just figured she'd been busy and it wasn't a big deal. She came to our Chick Fil A fundraiser with money she had raised from her family and friends and then she & her husband MATCHED the amount they raised. Amazing.  God is showing me so much about how to be selfless - I'm surrounded by some great teachers.

I went to bed feeling spoiled (not in a bad way, I mean just really really loved!) I had prayed a few months ago that I would stop focusing on the money we "needed" to raise. If adopting our next child completely wipes out our bank account, then so be it. We are not on this earth to hoard our money.  But I have been completely overwhelmed at how many people have a heart for orphans and want to be part of bringing one home to a forever family.

Latest update? Still #5 for a boy but we are #15 overall on that unofficial wait list! It's starting to feel close!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chick-Fil-A

We've told folks about this on facebook but in case any of y'all who read this blog are local, I wanted to invite you to our Chick-Fil-A fundraiser tomorrow night!!!

On Thursday, Nov 11th from 5-8, the Chick-Fil-A at Guilford College will donate 15% of your purchase to our adoption! If you come, please make sure to give them your receipt & tell them that you'd like it to go for the adoption fundraiser. It's no extra cost to you- you pay only for your meal - they do the donation!

Isn't that cool? I just love Chick-Fil-A. They're the best.  And we are so excited that they're willing to help us out.

So in case you were looking for an excuse to eat Chick-Fil-A this week... here you go!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orphan Sunday

I'm always a little late to the game in blogger-world but I learned earlier this week that today would be Orphan Sunday. Our adoption agency suggested that folks try to get something printed on their church bulletin for the week. I called Rob immediately and learned our bulletin had already been printed for the week but that maybe something else could be done and then I just kind of let it go.

The cause of orphans has become so important to our family in the past few years. I first worked with orphans in the Republic of Georgia when I was in college. And then Rob went to Swaziland in 2008 where so many of the children have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS and our commitment solidified. Over the next year, God just kept orphans on our heart and in December 2009 we started the adoption process. And I guarantee you, we aren't done caring about orphans once we get our son home. We'll continue our commitment to Swaziland and see what God has for us in other areas too. I have long-term plans to be a foster parent one day. And y'all all know I'm still advocating for a domestic adoption after our international one (Rob's not budging... imagine that!) ha ha

I read a blog today about someone who, last year on Orphan Sunday, was waiting for their child from Ethiopia. Their church didn't mention Orphan Sunday last year.  I'm not sure how long their daughter has been home but she's home now. And in the year since Orphan Sunday 2009, many other families from their church have decided to get involved in the cause to help orphans - many by adopting. This year their church not only had it in their bulletin but they had speakers in each service talking about God's love for orphans and His call for us to do something about it. Afterward they had booths for domestic and international adoptions and foster care.

Can I tell you a secret? I'm mad at myself for not asking our church to at least acknowledge Orphan Sunday today.  And I dream that our church will not only recognize it next year, but be already doing something about it. It's not about getting words printed in a bulletin, it's about working to lessen that number of orphans in our community (global community and local). We are not the first family in our church to adopt by any means... I'm just praying that number continues to grow.

It's already happening in our community. As people have learned we're adopting, I've had other moms confide in me that they're considering it. I am praying that more families will consider adopting.  I know God does not call all families to adopt, however he does call all Christians to care for orphans.

I'm not going to ask you what you're doing to care for orphans today on Orphan Sunday. God doesn't tell us to care for them on one day of the year. What is God telling you to do for orphans in your life? Is he telling you to go on a mission trip? Is he telling you to work with kids here?

Or maybe he's tapping at your heart telling you he has a child for you; one just waiting to be able to say the words "Mommy" and "Daddy" to someone.  God started tapping on my heart a long time ago. Our child isn't even home yet and I'm already glad I listened.

Friday, November 5, 2010

SIX MONTHS

This past month has gone by so fast that I realized today that I've been telling people that we've been waiting "almost 6 months" and we actually hit the 6 month mark on Oct 30th! oops! :) Praise God for a fast month of waiting!

I promise I'll do my own update post later but for now - PLEASE go read this blog post. This woman speaks my heart:

http://itsalmostnaptime.blogspot.com/2010/02/i-dont-want-my-children-to-be-happy.html

And for those of you wanting the stats, here we go:
We are sitting at #17 on the unofficial wait list (#5 for a boy)
Average wait time is still about 8 months... that means about 2 months to go for us.

And yes, I am still praying the referral comes by Christmas! :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NOT about me...

Our Both Hands story was on the news tonight. It was very exciting to think that our story's been shared with lots of people. And the kids thought it was cool to see our family and friends on TV.

Here's my problem - the segment is called "Hero Central." Y'all have heard me struggle with this before. It took me years to overcome low self-esteem and I finally did it by recognizing who I really am: a beloved child of God.  The last thing I want to do now is to swing to the other side. I don't want to be prideful about what we've done. Because we didn't do it. God tells us in the Bible to help widows and orphans - so we have. That's it. I posted a link to it on my facebook page and now I'm afraid to check it. I'm scared I'll see nice comments about how great we are.  We are NOT great. God is. I'm a chronic over-analyzer, and now I will go to bed fearing that people will think that I posted the link to the story so that I could spread the word about how great we are. Ugh - I don't want to do that.

But thinking that way makes it all about me again (sheesh!).  I have been praying for this fundraiser almost as much as I've been praying for my son in Ethiopia. I pray that this entire adoption process would glorify Him.  And this is just one more part of it. If just one person saw the news tonight and thought "wow- a God who would take care of widows and orphans in that way must be pretty cool" then I'm happy.

So if you watch this (or watched it), please read between the lines: this story is about Jesus. Leigh, the newscaster who did the story on us, is a Christian and if you notice she starts the whole story by quoting part of James 1:27.  That's what it's all about. God tells us to take care of orphans and widows.

And isn't it amazing what happens when we do what God tells us to do?

So... deep breath. Here it is:  http://www.digtriad.com/life/community/herocentral/story.aspx?storyid=150000&catid=256

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just who do you think you are?

Rob often puts sermons on his iPod so I can listen to them during my long commute to work. Recently, he put one on there and the pastor said this:

"Any label you are wear with pride... the gospel strips you of 
and
any label you wear with shame... the gospel strips you of"

I have been hearing those sentences over and over in my mind lately. He's so right. I can't be boastful or prideful of anything I've done because, in reality, I am not the one who did it. I've never done anything "good" on my own - it has always been God working through me (or in spite of me).

And on the other side, how amazing that God can erase our past mistakes! We may still suffer the consequences of our bad decisions but as far as God is concerned, it does not define us. I have a hard time forgiving myself when I make a mistake. I got a speeding ticket this summer while on a long car trip and I was so angry with myself I cried for about an hour.  I think about some of the mistakes I have made in my life and it could be tempting to think of myself or define myself in light of those decisions.  But God does not define me by those mistakes. He sees me as His child, made in His image. Wow.

I was thinking about some of the "labels" I wear with pride: Mommy, Being "Green", Good at Sewing, Adopting... and I am humbled to think that the only reason I even get those labels is because of what Christ has done for me. I don't deserve them - I haven't done one thing that God didn't think of first or give me the ability to do. I am no better than anyone else.

And the labels I wear with shame: Judgemental, Critical, Quick to Anger, Impatient... and I praise God that I don't have to define myself with those.  I wish this list could just disappear - I don't want to own any of those things! Ugh. It stresses me out just to have written them down. I'm working on all that junk, I  promise!

I'm thinking about all this because of how much support we've gotten for our adoption lately! We're in the middle of the big fundraiser and have raised almost $3,000 so far.  I do not want to be prideful about the fact that our family is adopting or that our fundraiser is successful. The only reason both of those things are happening are because God is so amazing!

Our Both Hands fundraiser project is going to be on tv... News 2 has a segment called "Hero Central."  I am beyond thrilled that they want to tell our story but really uncomfortable with that "Hero" part. I am not a hero. (in fact, I've already blogged about that here!)  We are not heroes. God is the hero - He's the one who had the idea to take care of widows and orphans (James 1:27). All we're doing is what he's told us to do. :)  If you are local, it's supposed to air on Tuesday, Nov 2nd at 5. Or 6. I'm not sure. I will be a total stressball for about three hours before and after, in case you are wondering. I'm not good at standing up in front of groups of people I know... the thought I'll be on tv makes my knees weak.  I wonder if I could get them to call it "Regular People Central" just for the night.

I am an imperfect sinner, covered by grace, made in the image of a God who loves me so.
No other label will stick.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

PROJECT DAY!

Wow. Today was our Both Hands Project Day. I don't even know if I can adequately describe just how awesome the day was.  We had an INCREDIBLE team come work on Dottie's home today.  Here are the fruits of our labor:

BEFORE! Look closely - you can see rotting wood on the corners of the house
AFTER! Pretty new paint job and brand new wood to replace the rotted parts!


BEFORE - notice the rotting wood at the very top!

AFTER! Brand-new wood with a fresh paint job!
I have lots to say about today, but the biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is something Dottie said to me. She told me that this was the first time she has ever been "recognized" as a widow by someone outside her peer group and offer to do something for her.  She has been a widow for 25 years. Friends do check on her regularly and some men from our church helped fix her stairs when she had hip replacement surgery but they have all been in her same life stage.  She just couldn't believe we were really there to help her just because she's a widow. She kept saying how much she wants everyone at church to know what we've done for her because she hopes a project like this will happen again some day, not necessarily for her, but for some of the many other widows she knows.

You can't spend a day helping someone and not feel wonderful. I definitely have that "mission-trip" kind of glow about me. But I also am feeling convicted. It only took us about 6 1/2 hours to do all of that work on Dottie's home. She said to me "I know this is just one day for you, but this means the world to me."  Six and a half hours out of my life to "mean the world" to someone.   This kind of "event" shouldn't be an event at all. It should be just something we do.

I know I've left this experience with a greater commitment to the widows in my community. I won't be waiting for an "event" for my next chance to do something like this.

And lastly.... THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to our amazing, incredible, wonderful Both Hands team.  Y'all were absolutely great today!! You took time out of your regular life and not only helped a widow, but are helping bring an orphan home to his forever family.  You are part of our child's story. We will never forget that. We love you!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tomorrow...

Tomorrow is the day I have been so excited for! I am excited about our fundraiser for many reasons - it is helping us be able to bring our son home! But the actual process of it is all about what will happen tomorrow. Tomorrow we will go love on a woman who lost her husband to cancer 25 years ago. Tomorrow we will show up bright & early (8 am!) ready to paint her garage, replace some rotted wood on another structure, and clean out her gutters.  Okay, maybe we'll drink some coffee first.

Tomorrow we will be the hands & feet of Jesus, taking care of a person he loves so dearly.

A big part of this fundraiser has been about us - that's the part I'm so uncomfortable with. I know we need to fundraise and I know I need to push my pride out of the way and let God use others to help make this happen. But tomorrow we get to make it all about Dottie! I love that!

I told Rob the other day that I am so hoping that someone else we know decides to adopt and decides to do a Both Hands fundraiser... I will totally run it for them!  So, dear blog readers... anyone praying about adoption? Just know you have someone waiting in the wings to help you with a giant fundraiser! I am not kidding! I'm so good at this stuff when I can do it for someone else!!!

Please pray for all of us tomorrow... for Dottie, for our team as we work, for my kids (they'll be there for most of the project day), and for our son in Ethiopia - maybe something extra good will happen for him tomorrow too.

Tomorrow is going to be a great day!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

All kinds of stuff goin' on!

We are smack dab in the middle of our big adoption fundraiser! We're doing a Both Hands project and we are so excited about it.

We have been completely and utterly overwhelmed by the amount of support we've gotten from our family and friends. God brought us to Greensboro five years ago and we knew no one here. Not a soul. I spent the first week here unemployed, in our apt with no furniture, watching episodes of 24 on our laptop because I had no where to go and no one to do it with.  After being here five years, we have an incredible church family we love, some amazing friends, and it really feels like home.

Thursday night of last week, we had friends sitting around our kitchen table and dining room table to address envelopes and write on letters to send out about our project. This is not the final count 'cause there are still more people sending letters but as of right now, we have 566 letters going out!  I just hope I can explain one day to our son just how loved he was before he even got here.

I just read this quote on someone else's blog (which is funny 'cause I'm reading a book by David Platt right now and I'm guessing this is the same book. I haven't gotten to this part yet):

"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes. So when you and I hear staggering numbers and statistics about the poor and needy around us and around the world, we have a choice. We can switch the channels on our mega-TVs and continue our comfortable, untroubled, ordinary, churchgoing lives as if the global poor don't exist. We can let these numbers remain cold, distant, and almost imaginary. Or we can open our eyes and our lives to the realities that surround us and begin considering the faces that are represented by these numbers."  --David Platt

 

You know what? The people around us are NOT ignoring statistics. We have twenty-three people officially on our "Both Hands Team" and many more who are planning to come help us work on Dottie's home this weekend. All of those people are DOING something for an orphan and a widow. Amazing. Usually when we hear quotes like that it is to inspire people to start doing something. I was so excited to read that quote and think "Our team is doing it!!!" THANK YOU to all of you!

 That is exciting enough... but want to hear more exciting news! After almost one whole month of no movement on the unofficial wait list... there was a referral!!! We are now at #18! Still #6 for a boy though. But I don't care. I was SO excited to see another referral come through! Goodbye and good riddance 19!

More on the exciting front (although this part is scary to me). I think we're going to be on the news! I got a call from News 2 and they want to do one of those "feel good" stories about our project! I am thrilled to get the word out about the importance of adoption and about the Both Hands idea. I am not thrilled that I might have to be on tv. Anyone want to pretend to be me?

 

On a serious note, I have a prayer request. We really want to bring Riley with us to Ethiopia on the first trip. He really wants to go. However, he just had to have his shots for his annual check-up and it did NOT go well. I'm talking MAJOR freak out and it took two nurses to help me hold him down (the child weighs 34 pounds). I still get upset thinking about it and he gets upset talking about it. I am having to decide if I want to put him through getting all the vaccinations in order to go.  I am really not sure we can do it. I hate to not take him over a couple shots but y'all should have seen this child in the doctor's office. I have never seen him so fearful and have never heard him scream like he did. It was just awful.

 

 But let's end on a good note... two more orphans were matched with their family today (the family who got their referral got siblings!). Two children who will NOT grow up with an uncertain future with no one to guide them.  And we are one spot closer to our child!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Clean Water

Today is Blog Action day in order to raise awareness of the clean water crisis in our world. I am excited to dedicate my blog today to helping that cause.  The UN has set a goal to halve the proportion of people in the world who don't have sustainable access to clean drinking water. Please consider signing the petition (look to the right) to thank the UN for their commitment and encourage them to make it a priority. Right now about 900 million people rely on water sources that are not clean. NINE HUNDRED MILLION people just like you and me drinking dirty water.

We are so spoiled here in the US. We walk to a tap, turn it on and can drink clean water every day. We waste it by leaving the tap running while we brush our teeth, or by just pouring out a cup if we didn't drink it while it was cold.  Our children don't die from disease they got from the water they drink.

So many people in the world have zero access to clean drinking water. Can you imagine for a moment if that was you? No clean water. No guarantee that the water you drink won't bring you some kind of disease. Clean drinking water is so important. 22,000 children die each day due to diseases they caught from drinking dirty water. 

I experienced this firsthand while in Swaziland. I went down with the women one day and the girls the next to go fetch water from the stream for the community. I will never forget the moment I saw a woman lean over with her bucket to fill it up from the stream. She was standing downstream from her donkey and the water flowed over the donkey's hoof and into her bucket. I wouldn't use that water to wash my car and this is the water she was bringing back for her children to drink.  She doesn't know if that water might bring them a disease that could kill them, but they need water and this is the ONLY option she has.

For me, this is more than statistics. I have held children and hugged their grandmothers knowing that they have no access to clean water. These are people I know. Children I have cuddled. A community for whom I pray every day.   I looked into their eyes and promised them I would not forget them, that I would tell others about their plight. They have done nothing to deserve their life's situation (just as we have done nothing to deserve the relative wealth we have in the US).

Please do something today. Sign the petition. But do more. Blood:Water Mission is a great organization dedicated to building wells in Africa. Get involved with them.

Poverty is not a money problem. It is a relational problem. Until we stop thinking about it in terms of "us" (the not poor) and "them" (the poor) it doesn't matter how much money we throw at poverty. It won't go away.  Today I ask that we all pray about how we can become part of the solution. Donating money is great, but what MORE can you do?

You can make a difference. One person can. And many "one persons" can. Be one of them!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scared when I shouldn't be...

When I started this blog I promised myself I would always be honest about this adoption journey. I knew we were embarking on a rollercoaster journey but it's scary sometimes how the ups and downs happen quickly.  I hoped our blog would keep friends/family updated on what was going on but also to inspire others to pray about whether adoption might be right for their family.

Right now, I'm scared. This is not a good adoption day. I've had other not-so-good adoption days so I know I will be just fine but at the moment, I'm scared.  We committed to this adoption before we knew where all the money would come from. Irresponsible? I don't think so. We prayed so hard about whether this was really the right path for us and trust me, I even tried to convince God otherwise. So we committed. We are bringing this baby home no matter what. God isn't a "here's the plan first and here's your safety net, now go" kind of a God. He's a "trust me, follow me no matter what" kind of God. He asks us to make big sacrifices.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

As I researched grants/loans/fundraisers, I learned about the Both Hands idea (see blog post to learn more). I was so excited and thought "this is it! This is the fundraiser for us!" And I can honestly say I did not worry about the financial aspect of this adoption again.

Until now.

It's crunch time. Our letter-writing party is on Thursday. That means our AMAZING team of friends who have stepped forward to say they want to help is getting together to address envelopes and send out our fundraising letter. It will be completely out of my hands after that. It's up to those who receive the letters to decide how they want to help.

But this is the important part (that I need to remind myself of). This fundraiser is NOT about us raising money for the adoption. We will figure that out (or God will). This fundraiser is about glorifying God. It's about making the connection between widows and orphans and reaching out to a member of our community. It's about a team of people working together to help others, just like we are supposed to do! This kind of event shouldn't even be an "event" at all - we should be reaching out to each other all the time!

Tonight I pray that I will trust in the God who led me to this journey in the first place. That this isn't all about me or what I want to happen. I pray for every person receiving one of our letters - that the letter itself would be a blessing to them, whether they choose to give, or pray for us, or decide to look into adopting themselves one day. Above all, I pray that this entire experience will point to Jesus. That, in all that we do and say, He will be the one who gets all the praise for the outcome.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Paper Pregnant

I have two good friends who are pregnant right now and it is so exciting! I really had to grieve not being pregnant again when we made the decision to adopt. As far as we know, there's no reason we couldn't have another biological child but we feel strongly that God wants us to adopt an orphan. I had easy pregnancies and Allyn's birth was picture-perfect (no pain meds, only in the hospital for an hour and a half before she was born, 6 hours total labor).  I would LOVE to do it all again.

But God has called our family to do something different this time. So I'm enjoying my friends' pregnancies from afar. I know I will not have another biological child (if we do have any more after three, we will be adopting again). And I am at the point where I am very okay with that. In fact, I am so looking forward to adopting that when we had a tiny pregnancy scare last month, I was really upset at the thought that anything would derail this adoption!

My friends are nice enough to have timed their pregnancies particularly well (ha ha). One is due in January and I am hoping we'll get our referral around then. I'll need something to focus on when I'm stressing about getting a referral call and a friend's baby sounds like a great thing!! :) And my other friend is due in April - potentially around the time we could be traveling for court and then having to come home without our child for a little while.  Another nice distraction! :)  That friend of mine and I have been on the same track with our kiddos - our oldest are about 5 months apart and our youngest are only 20 days apart. She & I both are praying that God will keep us on the same schedule :) If she wants to go into labor the day I return home without my child from Ethiopia, that will be just fine with me (you hear that, Collins??)

This time I am "paper pregnant" (apparently that is what they call us wait-listers in the adoption world).  I don't get to see ultrasounds, listen to the baby's heartbeat, or feel those little (and not-so-little) kicks.  I don't get to watch my kids see my ever-growing belly and enjoy how they react to the idea of a baby in there.  But my kids do know what's going on. In fact, when I told Riley that my one friend was having a baby, he said "Oh, is she adopting?"  Adoption is what Riley will remember - he won't remember my pregnancy with Allyn (he was 14 months old when I got pregnant again). Bless her heart, Allyn probably won't remember anything.

Some of our friends taught Allyn's Sunday School class this past week and told me she mentioned her "baby in Africa."  That is the first time she's ever said anything about it unprompted! I'm excited to think she is catching on!  The funny part was that she mentioned it in response to them talking about Baby Jesus. Not quite the same, but whatever. Someday when her younger brother is bothering her, I can remind her she once compared him to Baby Jesus.

Years ago I began praying that God would change my heart so that my desires would match His.  While I am far from "arriving" at that goal, it has been amazing to see how much He has honored that request.  When we were first married, Rob and I were both grad students and I had a full-time job while he worked part-time. Not a lot of money coming in, but we never felt poor.  I prayed that God would help me not want "stuff" and He really did change my heart about that. I continue to pray about that and I can honestly say that in my heart of hearts I don't want stuff. I am perfectly happy without a new handbag or clothes/shoes, cell phone, whatever.  We have made some major financial sacrifices (me staying home with the kids, adopting vs. having a biological child) and are on what I call "the adoption budget." No extras. I thought it would be tough. It's not. We're just fine without the extras.

And now that we're going to be a family of five, I still pray that God will keep changing my heart. I was always interested in adoption and have been praying about it for years. When the time came for us to adopt, I was really ready to do it. We keep having to answer the question "Why are you adopting?" It seems like such a weird question for us. We're a family who wants another child. There are children who need families. Do we need to say more? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

You know what is so different about adopting versus being pregnant? I don't remember yearning for my biological children like I do for this next child. Maybe it's because when I was pregnant my children were physically with me. But my heart leans out of my chest when I think about how much I want to hold my next child. As if it is trying to move in his direction, wherever he is.  I can physically feel my heart yearning to know him. In fact, I'm not sure I truly understood the meaning of the word "yearning" until now.  He is out there and I'm not with him. ugh.

But every day gets us a little closer. There have been no referrals on the unofficial wait list since the last week of September. SOMETHING has to happen soon!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Be still...

This adoption feels like it has come to a standstill for me.

I've been having a bit of a hard time with the adoption process lately.  That doesn't make much sense because you'd think after 5 months I'd have the whole waiting thing down. And we've just started our big fundraiser so I've been busy with that. And I've been sewing like crazy (all to raise more funds for the adoption). Oh yeah and I have two kids, one of whom does not nap so it's not like I actually have any down time.

But right now I just feel like life is moving painfully slowly.  I had taken some "time off" from stalking the unofficial wait list but just yesterday I realized I have somehow started back to checking it every day. I get on there and immediately count to see what number we are. And it's always 19. And my heart always sinks just a little. I think I may have a life-long aversion to the number 19.

Want to know the two hardest things for me to do in life? One is ask for help, the other is to have patience.  Ask anyone who knows me even in the slightest and they'll tell you how terribly independent I am. And then I wonder where my daughter gets it from!  I was the first-time mom who didn't even take anyone up on their offers to come over and hold the baby or do some laundry so I could take a nap. (by the way, that was really dumb. I still can't believe I turned those offers down!)

I want to do everything myself and I want to do it fast. Rob says I have "hurry sickness." He's right. I watch the people in line at the grocery store in the other lines and if someone behind me gets to their cashier first, I inwardly groan and am mad at myself for not having gotten in that line. And I get really annoyed at people who drive below the speed limit, especially if while driving behind them the "estimated arrival time" on my GPS goes up a minute or two.

But guess what two things God is asking me to do through this adoption: ask for help and have patience! Sheesh! It's as if he wants me to be a better person or something! :) 

"Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act." Psalm 37:7.

That's my prayer today. I need help learning to be still and wait for God to act. I want to hurry up and do everything myself.  But when I do that, I always mess things up or forget part of something or do something wrong.  I'm so prideful sometimes thinking my way is the best way and I can do it fastest/best.  I can't even express how thankful I am that God is patient with ME and doesn't treat me the way I do him.

Most of this adoption process has been pretty great. But this part is painful. I'm being forced to see how prideful I am: how much I try to rely on myself instead of on God to maneuver my way through this life. But I'm thankful for the lesson.  Because deep in my heart of hearts, I don't want to rely on myself. I don't want to do things my way.  I'm not so prideful that I can't acknowledge that the creator of the universe may just have a better way.

I need this lesson now. When we have three children, my life is not going to be more conducive to being still.  So today I pray that I will use the time I have now in order to learn how to be still, to really listen, to not be in such a hurry all the time.

So if you see me rushing out of the grocery store (after having turned down the offer to help me with my groceries from the check-out people), carrying all the groceries in one arm and Allyn in the other and holding Riley's hand, please feel free to yell across the parking lot "HEY! BE STILL!" I just might listen! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

FIVE MONTHS!



We must have taken forty-five pictures trying to get both kids to hold up a "high five" at the same time! This was the best I could get! :) I should really post the reject pictures - they're hilarious!
Imagine how hard it will be to get good pictures of three kids!!!

This is going to be a quick "update" post so I'll just hit you with the stats these days:
We are still #19 on the unofficial wait list. #6 for a boy
Average wait time for a family waiting for a child 13 months old or older: 8 months
Average wait time for a family waiting for a child under 12 months old: 9 months


My secret hope is that I'll see his face by Christmas.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The siblings are ready...

We've been enjoying the last bits of summer around here (aka the 93 degree afternoons!). Now that it's a little cooler around lunchtime, the kids & I have been eating lunch outside on our front porch. They have a little toddler picnic table and love to sit there for lunch & snacks. We were talking about how next year, they'll have another sibling to join them at the table and how we'll have to scootch over a bit to make room for him.  Allyn, my two year old, says "I want him to sit right here!" and pats the spot next to her. I also asked the kids what they want to teach their little brother. Riley said he'll teach him "to get riled up and be crazy" and Allyn said she'll teach him "to dance." They are READY for their little brother to get home (so is Mommy).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dear Little One....

Dear Little One,

There is so much on my heart today that I want to share with you. I'm hurting because I fear you are hurting or alone or hungry right now. And my arms reach out but they just can't reach to you. Yet.  It's hard to explain how it is that I love you already. I don't know your face, the shape of your eyes or how they brighten when you smile. But I dream of you all the same. I dreamed of you on Saturday night and for now I have to be content with holding you in my dreams. But we snuggled a lot that night :)

It breaks my heart to think of the losses you are going to suffer. You have probably already lost your birth mom and dad. And I bet they loved you a lot.  And I promise them that I will always take good care of you and I will love you just as they do. You will be mine but that doesn't make you any less theirs. We will always honor them in our house.

God loves you so much too. It isn't His plan for you to lose your birth parents. We live in a very messed up world and I just don't have the answers for why a lot of bad things happen.  But He still has a plan for you. When you lose your parents sometimes you are called an "orphan."  God tells us in the Bible "I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you."  God is working hard right now to bring you home to our family. For some reason, it costs a lot to bring a baby from Ethiopia to the United States and God is already helping us to get all that money together so that you can come and be a part of our family.

We've started a fundraiser, too. I already have an incredible story and we haven't even really started yet! We have these good friends, K &S. They love you too. And S knew about the fundraiser we are going to do and so he started asking his friends to see if they wanted to be a part of it. In just a few short hours, he raised $1000 for you! The verse behind our fundraiser is James 1:27: "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." S didn't tell them that but one of the men who gave him some money just put the money in S's hand and said "James 1:27."  Mommy cried when K & S called us to tell us about it. We are hoping you will be home with us in time to go to their wedding. They are pretty amazing.

There are so many people here who are praying for you and are wanting to be a part of bringing you home.  It makes me realize that our "family" is really pretty big.  Mommy and Daddy had no idea just how blessed we are. We thought God was asking us to do a big thing by adopting a baby from Ethiopia but we had no idea just how much joy you would bring to our family... and you aren't even here yet.

We love you so very much. I so wish there was a way for me to tell you that. To hug you or hold your hand. I know that day is coming and I'm really trying to wait patiently for you. But my big secret is that I'm not waiting patiently at all. I simply cannot wait to hold you in my arms and introduce you to your brother and sister, who love you lots too!

Love,
    Mommy

Monday, September 20, 2010

the BIG fundraising post!

It's time! It's time! It's really happening!!!! I am SO excited! We are about to start our BIG GIANT fundraiser for our adoption!

When we felt like God was telling us to adopt internationally, I originally told him, "I can't do it." I really did. I told Him that He must not have done his homework. He must be confused - international adoption is SUPER expensive and Rob is a youth pastor and I am a part-time social worker. He must have forgotten that we aren't in the most lucrative of careers.

I'll never forget the moment when I was standing in the nursery at church to pick up Allyn. I told a friend there that we had been really excited about the idea of international adoption but we were disappointed because it was just too expensive. She said five simple words to me: "You can pray about it." I don't even know if this friend has any idea how impactful that moment was for me. I had prayed about adopting and I got an answer. I just didn't like it so I decided we weren't supposed to do it; at least not internationally.  I went home that day and prayed HARD. And that was when I knew without a doubt that God did do his homework. He knows our salaries AND he still wanted us to adopt internationally.

I started doing research on grants, loans, and fundraisers and when I found the Both Hands site with Lifesong for Orphans I immediately knew we had found our fundraiser!!  So here it is!

James 1:27 has become my "life's verse" over the past few years. "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."  I had really been focusing on the orphans part but I have to admit I have done nothing for a widow at all.

Here is how the Both Hands fundraiser works. We assemble a team and do a one-day project on a widow's home. That same team sends out a letter (that we've already written) to as many people as possible that explains James 1:27 and how we are following God's call by adopting an orphan and how our team has helped a widow. That letter asks for support both through prayer and financial means. The money goes straight to Lifesong for Orphans (and donations are tax-deductible - awesome!). At the end, we apply for a grant from Lifesong for Orphans for the amount raised and we can use it to help us pay for the adoption costs.

I was (and still am) super uncomfortable about asking for money to help us with this adoption. But we are estimating that it is going to cost us about $27,000. Needless to say, we don't usually carry that much cash with us on a daily basis! :)  But here's the thing: God has called ALL of us to care for orphans and widows.  But he may not have called everyone to adopt an orphan or work on a widow's home.  Instead, He may be calling you to sponsor a family who is adopting in order to be a part of bringing an orphan home.

I hope you are still reading at this point because, dear friends who actually read my blog (and I love you so much for it), I need your help! I would absoutely LOVE to have TONS of people involved in this project with us! If you would be willing to send out letters and work on a widow's home, please come to our Kick-Off Meeting/Info Session on Tuesday, September 28th at 8pm at our church (Friendly Avenue Baptist). We'll be meeting in one of the Sunday School rooms in the new building. (email me at yklj@hotmail.com or respond to this post to let us know you're coming)

Or... if you wouldn't feel comfortable sending out letters and working on a home, would you be willing to receive a letter and support us by praying for us and/or donating? There is an orphaned boy in Ethiopia and we desperately want to be his family. But we need help. If you would be willing to receive a letter, please send me your name & mailing address! (yklj@hotmail.com or just leave a comment... I won't post addresses, I promise!)

And, most importantly.... please PRAY! Pray for our child in Ethiopia. For all that he is going through right now and the giant loss he is going to go through by losing his birth family. Please pray for our family for the patience and love we need in order to welcome him into our family. And please pray for our fundraiser. Pray for the hearts of those who receive our letters. Pray for our widow, that her life may be positively impacted by this project. And above all, we pray that God will be glorified through our adoption and through our fundraiser!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Mom Thing

My baby is four today! Except that he's not my baby: he's my oldest. And he's quick to tell me that not only is HE not a baby, but his little sister is not a baby anymore either - "she's a toddler", he says.

That means I've been doing the mom thing for about four years now. Want to know my secret? I still don't know what I'm doing! ha ha. I pray. A LOT. And then I pray some more. And in between my prayers there's lots of discipline and snuggles and jumping and running and general craziness. And sometimes mayhem.

I remember leaving the hospital with my newborn first child. We just walked on out of there and nobody stopped us. I half expected someone to see me leaving with a baby and say "HEY LADY! Wait a minute! You don't know what you're doing! You can't leave here with him!" But instead everyone smiled and waved goodbye as Rob & I pulled away in his old Isuzu Rodeo that looked so strange with a carseat in the back.

Lately I've been reflecting on how this next baby's start in our family is going to be so different. For one, we've been waiting for him much longer than a typical pregnancy. Adopting is like being an elephant (they carry their babies for TWO years before giving birth).  We've been talking about and praying for "Our Baby in Africa" (as the kids call him) for almost a year now. And when he arrives, there will be no contractions, no late night/early morning phone calls to family and friends to arrange for childcare. He won't be a tiny, helpless baby that I can nurse whenever he cries and make life all better again.  He won't already know the sound of my voice or the sound of the kids' voices. Rob can't read to him at night like he read to my first two in utero. We miss out on bonding with him for the first many months of his life.

But you know what? Even though I am the first to admit I"m not a perfect mom, I do sorta feel like I have this mom thing down. I've learned some of the tricks of the trade and my first two are still alive. That has to count for something, right? (just kidding).

I often talk with my friends about parenting styles/techniques and the phrase I find myself saying most often is this: "God gave YOU your child because He knows that YOU know what is best for him/her. Not your parents, not your neighbors, not your friends. YOU know what is best and get to make the decisions."  I have some dear friends who parent very differently from the way I parent. And know what? They're great parents. We don't all need to parent exactly the same way to be effective.

And while I don't believe adoption is God's first choice for my child (his birth parents would have been), circumstances are that I get the honor of raising him. And I believe God has a hand in that.  He knows who my next child is and has decided that Rob and I get to be his parents. What if I had been too scared to do an international adoption? Or too scared to adopt at all? I would miss out on parenting this awesome kid that I haven't had the honor of meeting yet.

So I'll keep doing this mom thing. And I thank God for those who are on the journey with me. I don't do the Mom Thing by myself - God has given me some awesome friends and family who certainly help me out along the way!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One of those days!

Ever have one of those days where everything goes wrong? I had one of those today. And by 2:30 I thought I was possibly having the worst day I'd ever had.  I even called Rob and begged him to come home early from work.  It was after that when Allyn took her diaper off and pooped in her crib and THEN I found out that the shelter I'd reserved for the kids' joint birthday party for tomorrow had been given away yesterday. There was some kind of miscommunication and we were the unlucky ones.

What I want to do is cry. I want to say "poor me" and feel sorry for myself. It's been an incredibly stressful day for me today. I want to stamp my feet and then bury my head in the sand.

But instead I will CHOOSE how I want to respond to today. Well, let me be honest: first I'm shedding some tears and having a very tiny pity party (and maybe I'll admit to throwing my dustbuster). But THEN I will take a deep breath, and remember what life is really all about. Today was hard, but I have friends and family who love me and are there for me (and offered to come clean my house for me!!).  I got stressed out today, but I have access to clean water. My children have warm clothes and access to schools.  And, most importantly, I have a Savior who is bigger than all of this.

He is bigger than Riley's GIANT double ear-infection that caused me to rush to the pediatrican today.
He is bigger than the four different shirts (and hence, four different trips to Target) I had to buy in order to make Riley a birthday shirt because I kept messing it up in one way or another.
He is bigger than all my loads of laundry.
He is bigger than poop smeared on Allyn's favorite blanket (she managed to miss her loveys and I can't figure out how that was physically possible).
He is bigger than me. Life is not about me. It's about HIM. And I praise God for that!

And, thank God, I can start all over again tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The ringleader

Riley started back at school this week which leaves Allyn and me on our own three mornings a week. Can I confess something? I'm a little nervous about just me & A hanging by ourselves that much! I have recently realized that Riley is our ringleader! We both take our cues from him and he sets the pace for the day for us! We are going to miss him lots while he's at school.

I am so excited to spend some quality time with Allyn this fall because it is our first opportunity to do something just the two of us. She really is a different kid when her big brother isn't around and I L-O-V-E the chance to give her 100% of my attention. Last year she was still taking a morning nap while Riley was at school so we didn't get to hang out that much.

The idea of three kids is starting to sink in and I'm trying to get as much "alone" time in with my first two as much as possible now. And while I do have my days when I wonder "how in the world am I going to wrangle three children!?!?", there is one worry I do NOT have. What I never wonder is "how in the world am I going to LOVE three children?"

I worried about that when I was pregnant the 2nd time. I worried and wondered how I could ever love another child as much as I loved my first. And then she came. And it's like that part in the movie where the Grinch's heart grows... my heart just grew. My love for Riley never became less but my love for Allyn is just as strong and just as big. But it's also different. I love them both the same but I love them in such different ways.

And this next one? I already love him. Because he's not just a thought. He's not just a dream of a child. He very likely already exists, has already been born, and is living and breathing as we speak.  And as much as I love my children, God loves them so much more. That is amazing to me. They are HIS and yet he is entrusting me with their care for their short journeys on this Earth.

Can I tell y'all how amazing it is to be adopting? That may sound crazy because y'all have heard me whine about paperwork and waiting and paperwork. And waiting. But I've experienced more joy and peace through this process than I can explain.  When we realized God wanted us to adopt internationally, my first emotion was fear (mostly due to the cost).  But he's asked me to do something that I NEED him to help me do. So I rely on him and grow closer to him and it brings so much joy and so much peace.

I've often been my own ringleader in life. I've focused on making my own decisions and following my own plans.  But through this adoption I've had no choice but to put that ringleader aside and focus on Jesus. There is NOTHING I can do to change the wait time, the process, or the things that will happen to my child before he lands in my arms. But I can pray for peace and strength for my child and for myself. And trust that my true ringleader, the only one who has never and will never fail me, has my child in His arms and is watching over this whole crazy process.

Monday, September 6, 2010

and the winner is....

MEGAN!!
Way to score right at the buzzer! Megan D (Chemical Kitten) is our winner!


But don't be sad if you didn't win... as soon as Megan lets me know which one she wants, the rest will be up on the etsy site for $6 each and all proceeds go, of course, to bringing that sweet baby of ours home! If you are local, you don't even need to pay shipping - I'll figure out a way to get one to you if you order! :)

Megan, would you send me your mailing address (you can just send it through facebook if that's easier)

Thanks SO much for all your comments! I was surprised to see who all is out there! Thanks for reading and most of all, THANK YOU THANK YOU for your support and love for us as we navigate this adoption process. We can feel your prayers... please keep 'em coming!

And I really loved getting some comments (hint hint). There just might be a mystery giveaway at some point... so keep the comments rolling! hee hee!

Monday, August 30, 2010

FOUR MONTHS and a fun GIVEAWAY!

Four months on the wait list AND Riley turns four in September!

Wow. Here we are sitting at four months on the wait list.

We're still in the stage where there is NO way we could get a phone call with a referral so the wait isn't agonizing yet.  But we started the whole process in December. Nine months ago. A pregnancy ago. I think that might be why I'm not waiting quite as calmly.

Right now, the average wait time for a child under 12 months old is 9 months and the wait time for a child 13 months or older is 8 months.  I'm guessing that means (if nothing changes) that we are smack dab in the middle of our wait. Sigh.

BUT... as you all know, I stalk the Gladney FBI, which is the unofficial wait list for our agency. We are sitting pretty as #22 on the list and number FOUR for a boy! FOUR!!!

Lately I've been wondering how many people actually read our blog! I kinda thought it was only a few close friends and family but then while on our Heart for Africa trip a few people mentioned to Rob that they're reading the blog. So it is time to find out who all is really out there...

you know you want one

Want one of these? Leave a comment and you'll be entered into a raffle to win one! I'll put the names of everyone who comments (make sure your name is part of your comment) into a hat and I'll pick one to be the lucky winner!  I'm about to have these available in my etsy store and I thought this would be a fun way to kick it off!

That is your mission. You have one week! I'll announce the winner on September 6th!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Crunching the numbers

I haven't had a true UPDATE post in awhile. Mostly because there really aren't any updates when you're on the waiting list. And trust me, when we have THE news, everyone will hear about it!!! Based on my shout when I got the email that we were finally on the waiting list, I have a feeling my neighbors might come running when we finally get our referral!

But here are the latest "numbers" of our adoption story:
We're still waiting for a little boy aged 0-18 months at the time of referral.
We've been on the wait list 3 1/2 months, but began the whole process 8 months ago. No wonder I'm starting to feel antsy... I was in my last month of pregnancy by this time with my first two kids!
We are still sitting UNOFFICIALLY at #24 (if you don't count the family at the top who is "on hold").
On that UNOFFICIAL wait list, we are actually #6 for a boy 0-18 months.
The average wait times have gotten longer. When we first started the process, the wait times were 8 months for a child under 12 months old and 5-6 months for a child 13 months old or older. 
Right now, the wait is 9 months for a child under 12 months old and 8 months for 13 months old or older.

Those little dreams I had of getting a referral this fall aren't possible right now. But I am trying to be patient. I know that God knows my child. He knows where he is and what he's doing.  He sees my child when I cannot.  For now I'm trying to be content with the privilege of praying for him until I have the privilege of seeing his face.

and maybe I'll get a referral for Christmas :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"You are MOMMY!"

Yesterday my baby girl turned 2. I love watching my kids grow up.  I did allow myself a moment yesterday to grieve the loss of her baby phase but I really strive to focus on the moments right now instead of missing the past. I have a friend with two boys - one just graduated from college and got married and the other is headed off to college. She has the best attitude towards her kids growing up - she enjoys them right where they are and finds joy in each phase! And she managed that through their teen years!  I want to grow up with my kids that way.

I always get a kick out of asking my kids for our "adult" names. Last night, I was trying to see if Allyn would say that my name is "Kirstin."  Riley knows our names so he was telling Allyn that Mommy is "Kirstin." Allyn turned to me and said "NO!"  I asked, "I'm not Kirstin?" and she responded, "No! You are MOMMY!"

But she is right in so many ways. When you become a mother, everything changes. It changes in the moment you see the little lines on that pee-stick-thing, the moment you hear a heartbeat, and the moment they really let you walk out the door of the hospital to take the baby home all by yourself (as if you have any clue what you're doing!).  And when you are adopting, that changing process is only slightly different.  You become a mom the moment you decide "we are going to adopt." And life changes. It changes when you send that last package off at Fed Ex, when you get the official approval from your adoption agency, and when you get the coveted email with the subject "WAITLIST."  It will change for me again when we pass court, and when we finally bring that baby home.  The milestones look different but the emotions are the same.

Being a mom is as much a part of who I am as my eye color. I hear about women who fear the loss of "themselves" in becoming a mom.  But I am much more "myself" as a mother than I was before.  Yes, I come last in a way that wasn't true before, but people who put others before them lead much greater lives than those who put themselves first.  And I learned a lot about that watching mothers and grandmothers in Swaziland.

I've never been much of a clothes-buyer but even I noticed that my wardrobe wasn't being updated as often once we had kids.  In Swaziland, I saw a completely different version of this. We brought blankets & jackets with us out to the community one day. The kids lined up outside the tent of the church & we brought them in in small groups to find them a jacket that fit and a blanket. The women (mostly grandmothers since the middle-generation has mostly died of HIV/AIDS related illness) all stood outside the tent and kept the kids organized. Once all the children had had their turn, the women came in (we had some adult clothing with us) and finally had a chance to sort through what was left to see if there was anything for them.  Many ignored the adult clothes completely and chose to look through what was left of the kids' clothes to see if there was anything else for their children. These women are Mommies.

Hi, my name is Mommy. That name carries unbelievable responsibility and sacrifice but it brings with it a joy that I've found nowhere else. It's the best label I've ever been given. And I'm so excited that one day I'll have three small ones who call me that (more if I can get Rob to agree to my "secret" plan to do a domestic adoption one day... but that's another story!)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

If only it were this easy...

I had to share this story!

Yesterday, I showed the kids the little blow-up travel pillow I used on the airplane on my trip to Africa. Riley tried it out & pretended to be asleep on an airplane. I asked him where he was flying to & he said "Africa."  When I said "Where in Africa?" he said "To Ethiopia to get our new baby"  He then hopped off the couch, announced that he was in Africa & crossed the room to go behind our big chair. He came back out holding his arms as if he were holding something & proudly presented "our baby in Africa" to me! He then brought him over to Rob and said "Whew! He's heavy."

 Someone is very ready for a little brother. Someone else is ready to be holding another son. I'm trying to be patient but most days it's pretty hard.  Moments like these with the kids I have in my arms now make it easier, though!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Swaziland

We're back from Swaziland and I've found that I need to learn some more adjectives.  When someone says "how was your trip?" my instinct is to say "it was great." But honestly, it was not great. It was heartbreaking, overwhelming, intense, frustrating, angering and so full of joy and peace all at the same time.  But I will say this: God is at work in Swaziland and I am beyond honored that I got to play a small role in what He's doing there.

What a beautiful smile!
I have so many stories to tell that I don't know where to start. We worked mainly in a community about two hours away from where we were staying. They had no access to clean water, there was no one there my age (most of my generation has died due to HIV/AIDS-related illnesses) so the community is mainly made up of older men & women and children.  It is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited with some of the most beautiful people.  And boy was it hard to be an adoptive parent with a completed home study and CIS approval while holding an orphan in my arms. (Swaziland does not allow international adoptions by the way).


The only access to water was the river where animals also come to drink. Women and children walk about 20 minutes to the river once or twice a day to get water for drinking, cooking, and washing.
Here are just some tidbits of info to start:

In the community where I worked, there were many "double orphans" (children who have lost both parents and don't have anyone to care for them). They pretty much stay in their shelter all the time and come out ONLY on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays when the Gogos (grandmothers) of the community cook a meal for all the children of the community. These kids can count on only three meals per week. They don't even go down to the river to get (very dirty) water for themselves.

One of the beautiful Gogos in our community who feeds the children three times a week.
I visited the city dump where children LIVE. Not only that, but people walk from far away to come there. That was almost harder to take than knowing people live there. A met a woman who walked several miles with her child on her back to come sit at the dump all day. They pick through the garbage to find whatever food may be left over.

It costs $3 to see a doctor in the emergency room. Most Swazis don't have that much. And over 50% of them have HIV/AIDS and are NOT medicated.  I prayed with children who had been hospitalized for over a week for pneumonia. A parent HAS to stay with them in order to cook their food and take care of them in the hospital (which means if that parent has a job they have to not work during that time).

We found this little child at the dump and brought her to the hospital. She was at the dump with her mother & grandmother and they had walked quite a ways to get there.
If you want to help the best thing you can do is go. There's a trip headed to Swaziland this fall and the trips for next summer are already posted: http://www.heartforafrica.org/Trips.aspx.  Get to know the people of Swaziland and bring them a message of hope as you work alongside them to help them solve the poverty problem. We are no better than they are but it means so much to them that you travel so far to be with them as equals.

Poverty is a relational problem. Throwing money at Swaziland will not solve the issues. But if you can't go, consider donating to Project Canaan. In short, it's land Heart for Africa has bought in order to grow crops, build a baby home and provide jobs and food to the people of Swaziland.  You can also buy a bag of maize from the first harvest at Canaan.  I just bought a bag that will be delivered to the community where I was working (it's church #10 - Mashobane Grace). It gives the Heart for Africa staff an excuse to go out to the community (remember, it was 2 hours away from where we stayed) and check on them & see how they are doing AND deliver the maize. Awesome... here's how you can do that: http://www.heartforafrica.org/store.aspx?panel=1&categoryid=15

Friday, July 30, 2010

3 MONTHS

WFU friends, can you tell where my kids are in this picture?
If you are reading this, please pause for a moment in order to be proud of me for having the technical prowess to schedule a post! I am currently in Swaziland, Africa working with children who have been orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic there. The trip is not at all adoption-related other than my joy at being on the same soil as my son!! I wrote this post before I left :)

We've hit the three month mark on the wait list! The only new big news during our third month was that we were approved by Lifesong for Orphans to do their Both Hands fundraiser. I am beyond excited about it. The short version is that we help a widow in our community and, in doing so, hold a fundraiser for our adoption expenses. It's based on James 1:27 that says "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." The idea that we could raise funding for our adoption AND help a widow in our community just makes my day!

The best thing that happened this month was a comment from one of my friends. I was having a rough day adoption-wise and found this comment on my facebook page: "(name of friend's daughter) came home last night and told me "do you know there are kids who are orphans?" We ended up in a long conversation in which I explained her you would be adopting a child from Africa. (She wants us to do the same!) I mentioned that by giving some of her jackets to some children in need she was helping in her own way, etc... Thanks for being at the source of a great conversation with my child!"  That was exactly what I needed to hear when I was feeling down and I thank God for placing such amazing friends in my life to help me along in this crazy journey! He's already using this adoption - I just needed to be reminded of that.

Those of you who are seeing my kids... please give them hugs from me! I am sure I miss them terribly by now but I'll be home in 6 days!

We're now #27 on the unofficial wait list and the first families who are having to travel twice have made that first trip! It looks as if we will be getting 3 one-hour visits with our little one and then we'll see him from across the room during court. I'm cooling on my idea of bringing Riley on that first trip (maybe the second one?) just because of how emotional the court process can be.

We are still praying about some of the health concerns that we might be open to in our adoption. Please pray with us about that. I am really struggling with some decisions here and I would love some clarity. Most of all, I'm just praying for "our baby in Africa" (that's what the kids call him).

I'll blog again once I'm back from Swaziland and have hugged my kiddos fourteen million times. Then maybe I'll be ready to look at computer instead of at their little faces :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Africa bound tomorrow!

I'm off to Swaziland tomorrow morning EARLY! I plan to get up at 4:30 to go on one final run so I can clear my head, do some praying, and tire myself out for the trip!

The last few days have been hard. Getting ready to leave the kids has been really tough. I have no doubt that God wants me to go and I am so looking forward to going. It's the leaving part that is so hard. I pray that I can come back safely to my children. I'm praying that they handle being away from us for such a long time.

The other thing I've been thinking a lot about is that while I'm a mom worrying about leaving her children, there are some moms who are heading into this trip allowing their children to go while they stay behind. I am SO proud of these moms - letting their teenagers go serve God in a far away country.  I have always prayed that I will be ready to let my kids go when they were ready to do whatever it is that God has called them to do. These moms are my role models and I thank God so much for them!

So off I go. I will be saying some special prayers for my future child and the future children of some of my friends who are also adopting from African countries while I am there. I know God doesn't care where we are when we pray but I am very excited to pray for these children while standing on the same continent!

Thanks to all for the prayers, the good wishes, the offers to watch over my kiddos while I'm gone... I have felt so loved over the past week with everyone checking in on me! Y'all are the best! I can't wait to share about my trip with you when I get back! :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If it were my child..

Packing for the trip to Swaziland is making me think. A lot. First I was packing up clothes that my wonderful friends donated. I knew who gave me which bag and I imagined (or remembered) my friends' children wearing those clothes and thought about and prayed for the child who would soon wear them.  My friends came through in a major way - Rob took lots of the stuff with him and I have almost completely filled my huge suitcase with more! (y'all ROCK by the way). Then tonight it was my turn. I hadn't yet taken out my own kids' winter stuff to pack up. We actually don't have much, since we know we have another boy on the way and since we've borrowed lots of clothes from friends.

But the things I did have turned out to be pretty sentimental: the very first little fleecy snowsuit I bought for Riley so he could go on a youth trip somewhere, and the little zip up hoodie sweatshirt that I have pictures of him in when he was first holding his head up. My favorite pj's of Allyn's... she was so cuddly in them!  I began to cry as I folded them up and my instinct was to say "you can keep these, they have sentimental value" but my immediate second thought was "how much more valuable will the memories of these clothes be if you know they are keeping a child warm."  I would much rather keep the memories in my mind and know that those clothes are on a little body somewhere rather than in a box in my attic.

I kept thinking about 1 John 3:17: If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?  I can't claim to love God and then hang on to my material stuff because I want to store it up in a box somewhere for the day I want to think about my kids as babies. That makes no sense. And when I really think about it, those are the clothes I especially want to send.

I often hear people use the words "if it were my child..." Sometimes it's related to parenting advice but often it's with regard to a child in a tough situation.  If it were my child who was cold and had nothing to wear, I would hope someone somewhere would send him something warm.  And then I realized: this time, it IS my child. I have a child somewhere in Africa who could be pretty cold right now.  Families who are adopting always bring over lots of humanitarian items... items that are likely feeding, clothing, or diapering my son at this very moment or will in the very near future. Praise God for those families!

I can't wait for my planned "activity" with the kids tomorrow. 'Cause guess what? I didn't pack those winter clothes. Not tonight.  Tomorrow, the kids and I will sit down at the table and talk about each one. I'm going to tell them my memories of when they wore them and then we'll talk a little about the kids who will wear them. THEN I will put them in the bag.
(and let Riley delightedly use the vacuum cleaner to suck all the air out, thus probably ruining any possible memory of having learned an important life lesson).