Saturday, August 29, 2009

Amazing Amazima

I've been reading Katie's blog for a while now. And every time I read it, I am nearly moved to tears. Every time I read it I think "The world needs WAY more Katie's in it." Every time I read it, I wonder what I could do to become more like Katie...to live more like Jesus' hands and feet in this world. She's young - she's only 20. But she's doing it. She has become a mother of 13 orphaned children in Uganda; sometimes more, as she takes in sick children for treatment and TLC. She also feeds hundreds of others every week...provides free medical treatment whenever she can...all while she shares the gospel with those she's helping. She's not just PREACHING it TO people...she's living it in her actions. She's the real deal, folks. And the world needs more Katies.

Go check out her blog - just click on the clip below.

I am angry that the result of this is that these sweet ones suffer in their innocence. I have said it before and it still holds true: I DO NOT BELIEVE that the God of the universe created too many children in His image and not enough love or food or care to go around. In fact I believe that He created the Body of Christ for just that, to help these little ones, the least of these. And I believe that except for a handful, the Body of Christ is failing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ungrateful

We had big hopes for this weekend. It is the last weekend before school starts, so we know life around here is about to get busy. Mostly everyone is excited about school starting, but there's a little trepidation in the mix, too. The boys have had a rough week or so; their nerves about a new school year coming out in bad behaviors.

Z and I wanted to do something fun with the boys this last weekend before school starts. We wanted to treat the boys with a fun new activity and help us all blow off a little steam. So yesterday we ran a couple errands and set off to play a crazy-expensive game of mini-golf. The mini-golf course is in our mall, and its a black-light course, which the boys thought was really fun. They had a great time (as did Z and I) and then we headed off to dinner at a yummy Italian restaurant.

The day was meant to be fun. It was meant to be a treat. But on the way home, we heard a chorus of complaints from the back seat. Something wasn't fun enough. Someone was upset that he didn't get to ride his bike today. Blah, blah, blah.

I have to be honest and say that I was disappointed. We had just spent a large amount of money on a treat for all of us (something we don't do all that often)...and the boys (one in particular) simply didn't appreciate it. Ugh.

This has become an increasing problem over the past few months, but yesterday made me realize that Z and I aren't doing a good job of helping the boys understand the value of money, the value of family time, and being grateful for what we have. We've decided the boys need to start earning their own money through chores and allowance and that they have to start paying their own way for some of the fun things they want to do. Perhaps they might appreciate what they have a little more if they have to earn it.

So, I need some help. What are some chores that you have your kids do?

What's the "standard" allowance these days?

What things do you do with your family to help your kids learn these lessons?

Our boys are 5 and 7 years old.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yesterday, at dinner-time...

I had the following conversation with Jellybean:

"Mommy - this is just what I wanted!" (as I'm placing his bowl of food in front of him)

I'm glad, kiddo...I made it just for you (and your brother).

"Mommy - have I had this before?" (looking more carefully at the food)

Yes.

"Did I like it?" (looking unsure about trying the food I've just put in front of him)

Yes. You had it before AND you liked it. I bet you will like it again.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Silver Lining?

I'm looking for it.

Lately I've been in a season of trial (this you know from the fact that this blog seems to have turned in to a space for venting all current adoption-related frustrations). It seems as though all we've been faced with so far in adoption #2 is frustration. We're losing hope, rapidly. We're questioning whether or not we're on the right path. We're wondering if we should jump ship before more frustrations present themselves. We're wondering if we should go back to researching more options. We're wondering if we should stick it out and HOPE that there is good news in the end. We're wondering if we should count our blessings and feel content that we have two wonderful boys, who we love like crazy (and who bring us amazing joy).

But, the truth is, no option feels like the right option. Our faith that things would work out has been tested over and over again in this process and its reached the point where our faith is failing us. We can't step out in faith when we have no faith left.

This adoption process started with such hope and excitement. Our boys' little brother would be joining them! They would all be able to grow up together in the same family!!

Then things took far longer than expected.

We asked that our homestudy be approved for 2, because the boys also had a baby sister...we thought JUST IN CASE she is relinquished by the birth family, we wanted to be ready.

Eventually we find out baby sister has died. In another orphanage. Another family had legally adopted her. The agency director who facilitated the adoption refuses to provide us with any information about her (including how she died or simply providing us some photos of her for her big brothers to have some day). The agency director was rude, mean, and down-right insensitive.

We were devastated.

As a result of baby girl's death, little brother was taken out of the orphanage by the birth family. Who can blame them? The problem? We already love little brother. The other problem? Little brother is sick. If little brother doesn't get medical care, he will die. We can't help but feel like he's been handed a death sentence by being removed from care. We can't blame the birth family for doing it...but the whole situation stinks.

Again, we were devastated.

We agonized over what to do next. We put the process on hold while we contemplated lots of options (ending the process where we were, going the route of trying for a biological child, researching other international adoption programs and agencies, domestic adoption, foster adoption). In the end, we decided we wanted to adopt from Ghana again. A myriad of reasons...but that was our decision.

The same day we made the decision, we learned about a little girl who eventually captured our hearts. We love her. We want the best for her. But she's complicated. There are details that need to be worked out - lots of details. We're praying about it. We're working on the details. But every piece of potential good news is met by an equal piece of discouraging news. Every time. Our families aren't necessarily supportive of our desire to add this particular child to our family. They have concerns. They have valid concerns.

I think we are letting her go. Unless there's some amazing intervention allowing us to bring her into our family, we're letting her go.

Again, we're devastated.

And now what? We feel drained. We feel damaged. We feel hurt and beaten. We simply feel exhausted.

And every option from here feels like a bad option. Looking into other programs and other agencies? Nope - don't have the energy left to do it.

Ending the process right here where we are? Then all of this would have been for nothing. I cannot believe that all of this pain and heartache (and expense) has been for nothing. We want another child...there are MILLIONS waiting. Surely, something HAS to work out sometime.

Continuing on the same path...waiting for a referral of the perfect child from Ghana? It sounds exhausting. The wait will be long. It seems crazy to wait and wait and wait for the perfect child from Ghana when there are so many children waiting elsewhere for a family. But I just don't feel like I have it in me to start all over with another agency and another program.

So we'll wait. Until we simply cannot do it anymore. And then we'll re-evaluate.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bad News

It seems lately, day after day, we've been getting discouraging news. I keep thinking that "Today! Today will be the day the tide will change and we'll get good news." But it isn't happening.

Today was a day met with more discouraging news.

The fleece has gone unanswered.

Just more frustration.

It is oh so very hard to stay positive in the midst of all this discouragement.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Airport

This evening I drove to the airport to pick up my mentor and friend after a long field trip collecting plants. Our airport is a small airport. There is basically one big "waiting room" where people hang out before a loved-one departs and where others await their loved-one to arrive. I love hanging out at the airport. There are always happy reunions and tearful departures. That waiting room is always an emotional place for someone.

Tonight I watched as (what appeared to be) a youth group send off one of their dear friends to somewhere distant for a long period of time. There were tears. There were huddled prayer times (both before she left, and after she made her way up the escalator).

I watched as loved-ones arrived to eager hugs and kisses. I watched as little girls waited for their Daddy to come down the escalator to come home.

I watched as one young man waited for this special someone. He nervously watched the clock...and when people started coming down the escalator, he stood off to the side, watching and waiting...all the while holding a single long-stem rose.

As I watched these tender moments, I was reminded of those very emotional moments I've spent in airports. Some of which were in that very same room.

When I was a senior in college, I said good-bye to my worried parents in the airport as I headed off to Tanzania for a month-long trip. I was EXCITED. I knew this trip would have an impact on my life...I just didn't know how. I was nervous. My parents were worried. There were tears, but to be honest, my tears were short-lived. I was on an adventure!

The reunion after that trip was less emotional for me...but it was so great to return to happy (and proud) parents.

During our first year of marriage, Z and I were separated by war. He spent the entire first year of our marriage in Iraq. When he was granted his two-week leave to come home, I met him in the airport. The very same airport I sat in tonight. I was so incredibly excited that he was coming home for two weeks! We had talked through email leading up to these weeks...we made big plans. I knew those two weeks would go so fast. But at the same time, I was SCARED. Hugely scared. What if Z wasn't the same person I married? What if war had changed him? What if he no longer felt the same way when he saw me that he used to? What if we spent the whole two weeks fighting? I had heard of lots of soldiers who came home to crumbling relationships. I had heard of lots of soldiers having experiences during war that changed them. What if we didn't "connect" any more?

It turns out we were both nervous about this reunion. But, by the time we got his bags from the baggage claim, made our way to the car, and got out of the parking garage I knew we were going to be fine. We were talking like there hadn't been months and months of separation. Things were the same. WE were the same. I exhaled.

Two weeks later, I had to take him back to the airport. I cried. Buckets and buckets of tears. We were blessed to be given a pass for me to go wait in the terminal with him...so I didn't have to drop him off ages before his flight at leave. Instead I went with him to the terminal and waited until he boarded. He boarded at the last possible minute. And after he was gone, I sat in the terminal for another half-hour and cried.

But my most recent memory of the airport was of meeting my two boys for the very first time (in that very same airport). I brought my friend K to the airport with me that day. I hadn't slept much at all the night before - I was so excited! We arrived early, and I paced nervously as I waited for the plane to arrive. I worried about whether or not the boys would like me. What if they didn't like me, or were afraid of me? What if they didn't like the way I looked? What if, what if, what if? What if I made a blubbering fool of myself when I meet them? What are all these other people in the airport going to think when I start crying when these two little boys arrive with their daddy? Will Z look different to me when I see him for the first time as someone's daddy?

I remember huge tears escaping my eyes the very moment I saw them. I spotted Z first coming down the escalator...and as soon as the people in front of him reached the bottom, I could see those two precious boys holding his hands (one on each side of him). I was paralysed at that moment. I couldn't run toward them...I could only wait where I was for them to come to me. I bent down, mumbled "hello", "welcome home" and "I love you" to each of them and handed them the stuffed toy I had brought to the airport for them. We spent a little time hanging out there, getting acquainted...Our homestudy social worker and her family came to meet us there and it was wonderful to have that moment with another person who knew what that moment felt like...The time was surreal.

The airport is a special place. Its hard for me to go to an airport without those memories creeping to the surface. Those memories contain some of the very hardest moments and some of the best moments of my life.

And The Winner Is....

My friend Carolyn has updated her blog to let us all know who one the quilt raffle! I am so humbled that a little something that I whipped up with my mom has raised such a huge amount of money!! So exciting!! A huge thank you to all of you who went to Carolyn's blog and donated some money toward this great cause. The raffle for this quilt is over...but there is still time to donate money. Hop on over to Carolyn's blog to read more!

Below copied from Carolyn's blog:
REBECCA MAAS has won the quilt!!! We have raised about $3250. toward the fence due to this raffle! AMAZING!!! Thanks so much Chanda and Peggy for this BEAUTIFUL piece of art!!!

We are going to do this quite often....Raffles are way fun...

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT and encouragement to get through the first phase....

AWESOME...just AWESOME!!! I believe the tattoo day (MONDAY) is gonna bring in the rest.....I will so be taking pictures of this ordeal!!

Please keep the prayers coming!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Reiman Gardens, Take 2

A couple of weeks ago, my mom and my niece *M* came to visit. We had a great time spending the weekend with them...and one of the highlights was our afternoon at Reiman Gardens.

The botanist in me likes to think the kids really enjoyed seeing all the flowers. But, the realist in me knows that the kids were far more interested in the giant dinosaur models and butterflies. Oh, well...at least we had pretty things to look at!

Here are a few photos from the day:










Proverb of the Day

"Live patiently in the world knowing that those who hate you are more numerous than those those who love you."
-African Proverb

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Can you believe he's 7 already???

Today was Jellybean's 7th Birthday. I can't believe he's 7 already. Craziness I tell you...absolute craziness.

Now, Jellybean has had a while to think about what he wanted to do for his birthday this year and he was VERY specific about what he wanted.

He wanted to go bowling for his birthday. He wanted cousins D and A to come along. He wanted to go eat pizza at Pizza Hut. He also wanted to have yellow cake in the shape of a rectangle with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.

So, I guess he got the birthday party of his dreams today. Bowling, cousins, pizza, cake, plus presents.

He had a great day!








Friday, August 7, 2009

I'm Afraid This Is About To Get Long...

How does that saying go? "When amongst friends you should never talk about religion or politics." Or something like that. I admit that I don't follow that rule very well...though, its usually politics that gets me tripped up.

I've never said that I was a perfect Christian. I know that I am FAR from it. I don't think there is such a thing...unless you're Jesus Christ himself. We're human. We have failings. And I have my fair share (well...my fair share and a few more I picked up along the way). To be completely honest, sometimes I don't even bother trying to be more faithful. Sometimes it feels like too big of a burden.

Last night I had a chance to go out for dinner with a good friend of mine. I didn't realize just how much I NEEDED that get-away until we were sitting in the restaurant deep in conversation and the employees of the restaurant were cleaning around us (clearly hinting that "hey - we're closing - its time for you to go!"). We talked about what was going on in her life...and when she started wrapping that up, I totally took over the conversation to talk about what's going on in mine. Specifically what's going on with us in the adoption world.

During the course of the conversation, I realized that I have a problem. A spiritual problem to be exact.

I'm a little bit angry.

Let me explain. When we started the process to adopt, we were no where near ready to do so. It wasn't in our plans. It wasn't on our radar screen. Not even close. We hadn't financially recovered from the first adoption process. We were still getting used to the dynamics of being a family of 4 and to being parents. But our boys' little brother was in need of a place to go. Of course we HAD to do it. We didn't know how we'd manage, but we'd find a way.

We stepped out in faith.

Then things took a turn for the worse. Twinkie (the boys' brother) was no longer available for adoption. Other terrible things happened. We grieved. We took time to think and pray about what we should do. In the end, we decided that we still wanted to adopt again. We still felt like that was what was being asked of us. And we still felt connected to Ghana. We felt like perhaps we were supposed to be on this path to be ready at just the right moment to adopt the child who needed us the most.

We stepped out in faith.

We told Anita we were ready to continue on. The same day, she told me about a little girl in Ghana who has a long, tragic story (even though she's very young). Might we be interested? Think about it.

I haven't stopped thinking about it. About her.

But the truth is, this little girl's situation is complicated. Her future is a HUGE question-mark. Her health is complicated. She might have far more serious issues than we (than I) feel comfortable dealing with. I put together a packet of information about her to share with international adoption doctors, one of which spelled out a very bleak picture for this little girl.

We've been thinking about how we could make things work for us to adopt this little girl...and we haven't come up with any clear answers that we have peace about. She will have special needs (though no one knows to what extent). She will need to be in the kind of environment that will help her reach her full potential (whatever that is). But around here, daycare programs that would be suitable for her are unbelievably expensive. In the range of $800-$1,072 a month (plus what we have to pay for the boys' after school program (which is about $300 a month). We simply cannot afford it. Pure economics.

If I'm completely honest with myself, I KNOW that I feel something for this little girl for a reason. I KNOW that I am being called to play some role in her life. I KNOW that there's a reason why I can't get her out of my mind (even after we told Anita "no"). The problem is that I don't know exactly what my role is supposed to be.

And if I go even further with my honesty, I will admit that I am a little angry about that. Angry at God.

Yikes!

Got that? Yeah, I'm not perfect. Not even close. My faithlessness is clear to all when I say that I'm angry at God about this.

I'm angry because I'm tired. Stepping out in faith is not something that comes naturally to me. I don't like the "unknown". I don't like not knowing how we'll be able to do something. I don't like not having a plan. A plan where every step is clearly thought out and all expenses are accounted for.

But during this process, I've done it. I've stepped out in faith. I've believed that we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, even if it meant I felt a bit outside of my comfort zone.

I've stepped out in faith.

But He keeps asking me to do it over and over and over again during this process. He keeps pushing me to do MORE. Why? Why can't this step be good enough for now? Why do I have to keep pushing myself to go out further on a ledge? Why does it have to be an uphill battle all the way?

It isn't fair. I wish I could sit back in this wait and know that the perfect child is out there...and we'll know who she is at the right time. Instead, I am sitting here wondering if I already know who the perfect child is...I'm just too afraid to step out in faith again.

The truth is, I'm tired of stepping out in faith without getting a clear and obvious sign that "THIS - RIGHT HERE - THIS IS THE STEP YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO TAKE!!!"

"GO HERE AND I WILL HANDLE THE REST."

"TAKE THIS STEP AND HAVE PEACE IN YOUR HEART"

I can't do any more steps out in faith without that sign. This process is too hard. Its too complicated. Its too frustrating.

I'm admitting my weakness. I'm laying down my fleece.

I need a sign. A "knock you on the forehead" kind of sign.

Pray for me.