Thursday, December 23, 2010

Check. Check. Check.

Okay, so I know my last post went off course, but isn't that the absolute beauty of God? We have plans, He changes them. Truly, He is the one who charts the course. When I let Him.

My mom very graciously agreed to keep our kids from Sunday to Tuesday so JD and I could tackle a bunch of adoption stuff. He had taken Monday off because our physicals were scheduled for that morning and we were supposed to meet with our social worker afterward. We had originally booked a sitter, but when my mom came through to keep the kids it freed up the whole day for us! Yee-haw! What a blessing!

Remember those trainings I mentioned? Well, because we hadn't even started them (!), our social worker said it'd be best to postpone our appointment until we had some of it under our belt. So we had a new plan for our day. And wouldn't you know, it was a better plan.

Our physicals went well. We were poked and prodded, but left with HIV consent forms signed and TB tests administered (with the requirement that we go back on Wednesday to have the results read).

Since we'd fasted for our physicals, we headed straight for brunch after we were done -- sans kids! It really doesn't matter if it's breakfast, lunch, dinner, caviar or mush...a meal without children is a true treat. We thoroughly enjoyed the seamless conversation. Yes, we love our children, but let's just be honest...virtually nothing can be discussed in the presence of four children 8 and under.

We left brunch and headed to the county police to get our fingerprinting done for the FBI check and Child Protective Services check. That took about an hour. Not too bad.

To our bank we went to get four money orders to submit to our social worker with the fingerprints to pay for the background checks. Do you know that banks charge several dollars per money order? Even to their members/customers! That's ridiculous. So off we went to a grocery store to get them for 50 cents each. Sheesh. We may've only saved ten dollars, but it's the principle!

We then ran to our social worker's office to drop everything off to her. How nice it is to 'dump' paperwork in her lap that's been a monkey on our backs for weeks! In addition to unloading that stuff, JD had emailed her his autobiography (all 6 pages of it!) to her a week or so ago and two of the three required personal references have come in! Whoo-hoo!




After that, we were headed home to begin our 15 hours of on-line training. This is the true hold up to completing our home study. Our plan was to sit in front of the TV (if we could get the laptop to feed through the TV) and wrap gifts. By the time we got home (after an impromptu visit with a dear neighbor whose a widower -- when we have the kids with us, we really struggle to capitalize on these opportunities), we had only an hour or so before we had to meet friends for dinner. And listen to how that came about...

In true God-always-comes-through fashion, just that morning I'd sent an email to friends who have adopted seven children -- with their eighth on his way (if you're in the Richmond adoption community, it's likely you know exactly who I'm talking about!) -- to see if she and her husband might be spontaneously available to meet us for dinner that night. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that we found out from our placement agency (Wide Horizons) that because we're likely adopting children over the age of two, in addition to completing the routine requirements, we have to interview two families who have adopted older children. I made contact with two couples that we've gotten to know over the last year or two and both very graciously agreed to meet with us. But when? Christmas was only two weeks away at this point and, frankly, I was pulling the plug on a lot of this adoption stuff until after the holidays. We just thought it would have to wait until the new year. But a spontaneous thought led to us being able to meet with these wonderful friends that very night.

We so enjoyed our time with them. They are a wealth of information! It warms our hearts to see how God is bringing forth those who have gone before us. We are learning so much about what this process is like and what it will be like to bring children home. The ups and downs and the realities and blessings. What a wonderful evening! God was so good to us to align our schedules on the fly.


One of the greatest blessings from chatting with these friends is that I hadn't realized that two of their children were adopted from Ethiopia. Wow. This made me all the more excited! They had the most wonderful things to say about their Ethiopian adoption experience including what wonderful people their daughters are. I just feel like that's where we're headed. But we'll go wherever God wants us to.

Later Monday night, we went home after dinner, watched two of our trainings and got all our Christmas gifts wrapped! Whoo-hoo! For a couple whose often up til the wee hours of Christmas morning getting things done, this is huge for us.



On Tuesday, on my way to my parents', I dropped off two of our three reference sheets for our Abba Fund application. It's time to get that application in because our home study is near finished. I figured it might take our references a couple of weeks to get them in the mail. But I got an email on Wednesday from our pastor saying that he was putting the his reference in the mail today (Thursday!). Wow. That's incredible -- especially the week before Christmas! God's clearly moving things along and, well, I'm pumped.


We're truckin' along and may actually have our home study done in early January! That's pretty darn cool considering my original goal was Christmas. I feel like God said, 'Relax, Heather.' And then that obedience was rewarded. I love Him.

May the true Spirit of Christmas fill your hearts and homes these next 48 hours!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not the post I started...

Oreo balls (mint and regular this year!), sweet Crispix mix, pretzel kisses, fudge and Christmas cards have been my past times these last many days. Oh, how I love this time of year. Listening to Christmas carols in the kitchen, pulling things in and out of the oven and watching little fingers swipe chocolate-lined bowls has been my joy. I actually found myself smilingwhile I wiped chocolate off yet another little mouth (this is not my norm -- normally, I'm saying, "Omigosh! Get over here. You're a mess"), but...

...there's something about Christmas.

Okay, I have to insert something here.


The very moment, after I wrote 'there's something about Christmas', Avery turned from the Christmas tree and said to me,

"I wonder what it would be like to have Jesus right in front of us."

Oh thank you, Lord, that an innocent child after inspecting (yet again) the packages under the tree with her name on them, would turn from the tree with Your Son on her heart.

I'm speechless.

Thoughts like hers aren't created by us.

They're created by You.

Of course I can't let a priceless moment like this pass by without talking with her about imagining what it would really be like if Jesus were here with us. These are the moments when the Holy Spirit says to me, 'Stop what you're doing and be here with her.' And so I did.

The instant the word 'imagine' entered my mind, I thought about the amazing song "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe, so I found the video on YouTube and showed it to her.

Just listen to the words.

(I tried to embed the video, but it wouldn't work. Still figuring out this blogging thing).

(The first time I ever heard this song, I wept in my car while driving).

Avery and I then talked about what we would do if we were surrounded by His glory. Would we fall to our knees? Dance for Him? In awe of Him be still? I told her I think I'd run to Him and just collapse in His arms and feel his arms around me. She said she would run to Him and hug Him. She then started to giggle and cry. She wiped her tears and giggled and wiped her tears and giggled.

Then she asked to 'watch more videos about Jesus,' so we watched 'You Reign' and 'Beautiful' by MercyMe too.


What precious moments with a precious child.

My goodness. Where was I?

Somehow I can't update you on our adoption stuff now. I'm wasted. :)

God, You truly amaze me.

[Okay, as if this moment could get any more 'amazing', Brooks just lifted his shirt and said, 'Mommy, these are my mipples.' That is not a typo. I can't take it. Kids are awesome.]

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Social Workers...Lots of Info...Lots of Work to Do!

So where was I? Has it really only been a week since I posted last? With the amount of information we've received in the last week and the ever-mounting masses of work we have to do, I can't believe it was only last week that we had our home visit. Wow. Ever had one of those weeks when so much has happened that you feel like a month has passed? I think a lot of us are probably having that experience these days. And here I am talking about not being squeezed while being stretched. Mmm. So easy to fall into these traps.

Last week, our social worker from Jewish Family Services came to our home for our home visit (as part of our home study). She's really sweet. She came notepad-ready. We showed her around our home. She saw every nook and cranny including our backyard (quietly mumbling as she wrote on her notepad, 'fenced-in yard with play structure'). It was kind of fascinating to me because she was seeing our home with fresh eyes. The place we see every day; day in and day out. I don't even notice the fine details anymore. Sad yet sweet at the same time.

We decided to let Brooks and Jackson be up and about when she arrived so she could meet them and have full access to our house and then put them down for a nap while we met. They were cute. While they rolled all over our couch downstairs and fidgeted and wiggled as four-year-old boys do when an adult is speaking to them, she asked, 'So what do you think of the idea of having more brothers or sisters?' Jackson answered coyly with his chin down and a smirk on his face, 'It's goooood.' Brooks answered loudly and boisterously, 'It's fine with me!' Hilarious. And to nap they went!

Payton was all business when our social worker asked her how she felt about our family adopting. She said she was totally fine with it and excited. Avery (although we'd already talked to her and Payton about our social worker coming and wanting to ask them questions) went into I'm-too-shy-to-talk-to-you mode. She curled up into JD's side on the couch and mumbled out an 'It's fine.' Mind you, this is after 15 minutes of her doing endless kick-overs (we called them 'back-walkovers' when I was a kid) in the middle of the room where we were meeting with our social worker. Really? No timidness there. Omigoodness, this child is clearly enjoying gymnastics, but we had to ask her to take it somewhere else or hold off until we were done with our meeting.

We ran down the list of the things we still have to get done as part of our home study (fingerprinting, get four money orders to be turned in with our background check forms, finish autobiographies, complete 12+ hours of on-line training and the list goes on). For a time, I felt like we were kind of ahead of the wave. But now I'm starting to feel that familiar sensation of being tossed and tumbled about involuntarily as we succumb to all that's piling up to do. I had a self-imposed goal of completing our home study by Christmas. Clearly, that's not going happen and I'm happily letting that go because it is after all Christmas. And I'm choosing to enjoy this time of year instead of going through it in an adoption paperwork-induced fog.

Last Friday, I sent an email to a woman with Commonwealth Chapel (a local church here who administers for the ABBA Fund). The ABBA Fund is a funding source for Christians who want to adopt. They want to remove financial barriers so Christians can follow God's call to adopt without the costs of adoption being an obstacle to bringing children into families. That's huge. A huge blessing. A huge ministry.

This woman and I were able to talk this Monday and had a wonderful conversation. It looks like we will be Commonwealth Chapel's first recipients of grant or loan monies. Kinda cool. However, now I really need to get the ABBA application complete and submitted so we can get the financial piece in place. Omigosh more paperwork. I think the application's about 8 pages long with personal questions and three more references (pastoral, employer/co-worker and friend).

We then had our first meeting with our social worker with Wide Horizons for Children (WHFC) in Massachusetts. Clearly, JD and I did not jet to Massachusetts -- this was a conference call. It was so nice to start talking specifics! One of the things we narrowed down is that it might be best to change our age range from age 3 to 7 to age 0 to 6. For two reasons: one is because children from other countries' ages can be incorrect (especially Ethiopian children) and we really want to keep a good buffer between the oldest child's age and Payton's age. She feels very strongly about remaining the oldest child in our family. We could be told and it could appear that we're adopting a 7-year-old but when the child is examined by a doctor here in the States, we find out that s/he is actually 9-years-old. The second reason is that we're not seeking a baby, but wouldn't turn a baby or young toddler away if s/he were part of a sibling pair that we felt God was presenting to us. We're not opposed to going back to little, little ones if we know that's what God wants us to do. We're also interested in a sibling pair where one or both of the children are deaf. This seems like kind of a no-brainer for me (as many of you know, I used to work with the deaf and hard of hearing), but this is all truly something I'm having to hand over. I can't tell you how much I want to drive this train. JD and I were just talking last night because (probably mistakenly) I've been looking at children available for adoption again on-line and it brings forth all kinds of desperation in me to speed this process up! Especially because I'm 'meeting' many who are deaf (and precious, I might add).

Now, on top of the things we still have to get done for our home study, we have things to get done for WHFC -- like interview two families who have adopted older children (older = 24 months or older. Isn't that crazy?), complete additional trainings around adopting older children and complete a service providers worksheet by locating and contacting the following service providers: early intervention specialist, school services (check!), international clinic (what's that?), pediatrician (check!), dentist (check!), therapist, interpreter(s), family respite. Oye.

Ya know what I want to do right now? Curl up on the couch and watch a Christmas movie with my boys and write my Christmas cards! So, I think that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to set most of this stuff aside until after Christmas. There will be plenty of doldrum days in January and February where I'll be yearning for something to sink my teeth into. I want this journey to be fun and enjoyable (aka 'able to be enjoyed'). And as I've learned has been the case often in my life, my self-imposed deadlines, goals and timeframes are often killjoys. I may dabble here and there with this stuff, but I'm going to let go of the rush factor. Hear this, Heather: the home study will not be completed before Christmas! Now that is freeing for me.

I think there's been this part of me that feels anxious to move as fast as we can so we can pluck two children out of despair as quickly as possible. A friend was asking me the other day if I ever imagine throughout my day what these two precious children are doing across an ocean...are they sleeping? are they playing? I told her I do imagine that a little, but more so than that I pray for their heart state. Throughout the day, I pray that they have a new understanding in their hearts that we're coming for them. I pray that their little hearts have this new feeling of peace and conviction that they have a family and that their orphanage won't be their life forever. That they're short-timers there. That they have a mommy and daddy and four siblings. That they may not be able to articulate it, but they have a different feeling inside them. If I can believe that and trust that God's got this, then I don't have to miss this glorious Christmas season drowning in adoption to-dos and deadlines. I can trust that they're going to be fine until we get to them. And more than that, God knows who these children are before I even open my browser to look at children available for adoption. He knows if they're two girls, two boys, a boy and a girl, deaf, hearing, African, Asian, and the number of hairs on their heads. He knows. I don't have to know. I just have to trust.

That's another thing I should mention, after our conversation with our WHFC social worker, we are keeping our options open between Ethiopia and the Philippines. Although, China might work for us too if we decide to adopt two children who aren't biologically related, but who are siblings nonetheless by simply living intimately together in an orphanage -- just like Payton, Avery, Jackson and Brooks will be to them one day.

One final comment, JD and I are discussing making this blog private to protect the identities of those mentioned -- especially our children. Please post a comment if you would like me to add your email address to receive notices of new posts. I'm still learning how all this blogging stuff works, so I think it's that simple, right? Help me out, my blog-savvy friends out there! Thanks so much! :)

Furthermore, if you have a blog (public or private) or have wrestled through this issue, please feel free to share with me your thoughts. Would love to hear them!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Knitting and Weaving

This is what I'm talking about when God knits and weaves through our lives and how I need to be able to sense when He's on the move.

I posted 'The Soul's Speed Limit' on Monday.

On Thursday, I got this devotional:

FamilyLife - Moments With You

December 2

Just Say No
by Barbara Rainey

Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost?
Luke 14:28

Join us 2-11-11

One of the main causes of the pressure that invades our lives is our unwillingness to discard optional responsibilities--not because they're a waste of time, but simply because they distract us from the main goals for our family and marriage.

I remember being at my children's school one day, talking with other moms about plans for the coming year. The woman leading the discussion said, "We need some of you to sign up for substitute teaching, to help out on days when faculty members need to be out."

Normally I would have been quick to volunteer. Nothing comes much easier for me than taking on more than I can handle! But on that day, I did not raise my hand.

Every good reason for volunteering popped into my head: (1) I'd be helping the teacher; (2) I'd get to know some of the other students in the class; (3) I'd be supporting my school and could keep better tabs on what's going on.

But at that time, I knew my plate was already more than full. Just then, the woman next to me, whose hand had been one of the first to shoot up, looked over at me, laughed and said, "I just haven't learned to say no yet."

We feel such a pull to be involved in anything that sounds reasonably worthwhile or wins us outside approval. But when people have asked Dennis and me how we do it all--especially back when our home was full of six active children--we have responded, "We don't do it all."

"No" has been one of the most liberating words we've ever used.

How often do you exercise the word "no"? Talk about how you can protect one another by discussing an opportunity before you respond. Being accountable to each other for decisions you make is not easy, but it builds oneness.

Ask God for clarity in decisions--and the courage to know what to say yes to and what to say no to.

Then today, I received this devotional:

FamilyLife - Moments With You

December 3

Four Places at Once

There is a proper time and procedure for every delight.
Ecclesiastes 8:6

Join us 2-11-11

If you were to point your car southwest of Cortez, Colorado, drive exactly 38 miles along Highway 160 and then hang a right on Four Corners Monument Road, in about a half mile you'd run into the only spot in America where you can be in four states at the same time: the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. It's out in the middle of an empty desert, surrounded by dust, rocks and boulders.

But that doesn't stop upwards of 2,000 people a day from visiting Four Corners and waiting in line just for the thrill of having their picture taken standing in four states at once. Truly the American way, huh--trying to be four places at one time!

Truth be told, it's a picture of the way many of us elect to live our lives. We are constantly pulled in several different directions. Our pressure-filled, rush-rush, hurried lifestyle has a way of leaving us winded, dazed and addicted to the next item on our activity list.

It leaves us little time for serious spiritual reflection. Little time for anything more than snap judgments. Little time to share our dreams with each other as a couple. Little sense of where we've been and where we're going.

What's more, I fear that by crowding out any room for meaningful communication, original thought or spiritual insight in our family schedules, we're fueling in our children a raw addiction to activity, constant motion, continuous noise and endless sensory stimulation.

I urge you to stop and check the speed limit on this road you're on. Imagine a life that allows for real living ... the kind you'll never find at Four Corners.

What cutbacks and other restrictions could you impose on yourselves that would make your lives dramatically more manageable three to six months from now? Start by finding one thing you'll say no to.

Ask God to give you both the tenacity and the wisdom to build some margin into your lives and family.

I mean seriously. Does it really say, 'I urge you to stop and check the speed limit on this road you're on'? I marvel sometimes at how God speaks so clearly. The words of our pastor Pete ('our soul's have a speed limit') and just days later, almost the exact words in a devotional.

I so want to go-go-go sometimes. Take today for example. Nothing on the calendar to get done today. My boys just want to loaf around on the days they don't have school. I get it. I do, too. But there's this (ridiculous) pull in me that says, 'I should go to the gym,' or 'we should really get out and do something today.' But to what end? To just put something on the day as if the day didn't happen if we didn't do something. As if just being without doing is wrong. Then I read stuff like these devotionals and feel so convicted about how I want us to live. It is so okay to have one or two days a week when we actually hang at home. What a concept.

As with so many things in life these days, for me, this too ties into this experience of adoption.

I've been such a homebody the last several months that I've started wondering why. For the last several weeks, I've explored this more and suspect that perhaps God's preparing me for the days after we bring our kids home from Ethiopia. We won't be able to go-go-go. It will be many, many days, even weeks (maybe months!) before we can start socializing with friends and family as we do now. We'll just hang at home to allow them to adjust to life with us. To life here in the United States. To life anew.

When our social worker came yesterday, I was telling her that if I could have my way (which is a laugh when it comes to controlling the timing of adoption), I would love for the children to join us in May or June so we'll have the whole summer to just hang together. We kind of 'check-out' in the summers anyway, so it'd be perfect timing to just be together without the demands of school and having to beat the clock all the time.

Sorry for the sermon. I just can't bear to not speak up when God pulls out His knitting needles and yarn. :)

I will update you very soon on how the home visit went yesterday.


Design By Sour Apple Studio | All Rights Reserved