Monday, November 26, 2012

Little Man Monday

Dear Little Mister,

Well, last week we celebrated our second Thanksgiving where we thought of you and missed you. We prayed for you. We talked about you.  We shared our disappointment in the slowdown and how it looks like we won't see you for a while.  We are so, so excited to have you around. Each family occasion and holiday is just a good time to miss you. Then again, we are also so thankful for the family God has given us.  We love your Uncle Pete and his lady, your grandma and grandpa. And we know you're going to love them too.

I don't know if I've expressed to you yet how much or how often we pray for you and your birth mama and family. In our house, we know the truth of God, the way He orchestrates it all. The way He loves you and knows your whole life and who you are and who you will become, even before you are visible in an ultrasound photo (not that you'll have one--you probably won't).  We trust Him so much, not only with our lives and our future but with your life and your future.  In fact, we talk to Him a lot about you because we know He loves all of us so much. He cares about our thoughts and He listens and responds when we talk.  One of my regular prayers is that He will soften your heart toward him and draw you to him.  I pray even before we know you he will prepare your heart for his goodness.  I know this is deep. But as you read this in your adult years, I want you to know that the love story of God's goodness started long before you knew Him.

Your dad just got home. It's late and he's been working long hours for our family so I'm going to spend some time with him.  I'm sure he says hello and sends a hug.

Before I go, I wanted to let you know our Christmas tree is up and we put you on it. Well, I mean, it's not you per say. But it is a globe with a heart over Ethiopia.  It reminds us part of our heart is with you. I am looking at it as I write this post.  It's such a beautiful reminder of you.

OK, love you much, Little Man.  You have our heart.



Monday, November 19, 2012

One Year Down, ? To Go

One more link on the chain as of yesterday. Verse: 1 Cor 16:13-14 "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love."

Yes, we put it in our thankfulness tree to take pictures. Please forgive the laundry in the corner. It's real life around here, you know.

Well, it's been a year.  Maybe I should explain that a little.

A little more than a year ago, Hubs and I went to Fed Ex, took a picture, and then sent all our IC (that's Imaginary Child, if we're explaining things this morning) paperwork to Virginia. Remember?

So then, our agency made a list and checked it twice and it seemed our paperwork was acceptable.  So they sent our paperwork on a plane to Ethiopia. That's the date we celebrate. The day our dossier went to Ethiopia or, DTE. That was one year ago yesterday.

After gathering paperwork for around nine months, by the time we sent our dossier, we knew the 12-18 month time frame was not realistic for us. We knew it would be longer.  But, well, I am not sure we had any idea the slow down would really "take" as it has and we would really be waiting as long as it might seem.

So, here are some answers to some questions we get a lot. We're an open book here at 20S&C (Yes, I made that up).

Q: Where are you on the "official list"?

A: Well, there is no "official list." On the unofficial list, the one kept voluntarily by those waiting in our agency, we are about 54th.

Q: 54th? That doesn't seem so bad! Where did you start?

A: Well, about 71.

(person asking question): Oh. Well, that sounds a little worse then.

A: Yes, it is. Kind of. I mean, if you divide it out and things move as they have, it could be nearing six years of waiting before our person is home.  But, we can't really think about that. Really, we can't. Who can? We have to just live by our day-by-day.

Q: But I don't understand. You say there are millions of orphans. Why, oh why, would it take so long to get one home?

A: That, my question-asking friend, is a super complicated answer.  It has to do, for the most part with ethics. I think we all can agree we only want people to adopt children who really need homes. And for the past few years, Ethiopia had been severely under-regualted. So, well, they're really regulating now. There are agencies and individuals, unfortunately, who take advantage of people and situations. And adoption definitely has that potential to be one of those situations. So Ethiopia has slowed things down. Required more paperwork. Double and tripled checked cases. And in reality, we can't be upset about that. Because ethics have to be a priority. But according to our understanding, it also means kids are staying in orphanages longer and families are waiting longer. It would be great if we lived in a perfect world where all of this could be seamlessly handled and situations were never complicated. Then again, if we lived in a perfect world, thankfully, there would be no need for adoption. Alas, there is, so we have extra paperwork and all that jazz.  And yes, I severely simplified this answer. There's tons that goes into it. Or as I like to say, anytime you involve two sets of governments, things get complicated.

Q: So, well, what are you doing in the meantime?

A: Have you met us?!? We are busy! Our regularly scheduled lives are happening. We have jobs and church and small group and a marathon to run. Plus, there are tons of books to read and trainings to do. And believe it or not, we'll be updating all this paperwork soon. Yup. It all expires. So we'll be updating all that in the next month.

What's that? That's not what you meant? You meant what's up with our family planning? Well, we don't know per say. Besides, that's a really personal question, isn't it? Well, I guess we are close enough. We have no idea. We talk and pray and talk and pray and we know God will work things out according to his plan.  We're not too stressed about it. Most of the time.

So that's where we are.

What have we learned?

I don't know if I have an easy answer for that. But here's a bulleted list. Because I cannot turn down a chance for a bulleted list.

*We are not in control.
     --Never have been, never will be. Really, never want to be.  God has this. Oh, and everything else. And we? We cling to the cross.  That's it. All we can do.

*There is no timeframe in adoption.  Ever. Don't believe anyone who gives you a beautiful timeline where everything is perfectly laid out.
     --Adoption just doesn't work like that. It's messy. And things change. Whether you're doing domestic or international or foster to adopt, everyone we've talked to agrees. You can't have a timeline. It could go faster or slower. It could stop altogether (we pray this doesn't happen. a lot.). But really, you just have to abandon the idea of a timeframe. It will help you sleep at night.

*We have good people.
     --Friends, families, blog readers. You all have prayed with us, cried with us, loved us, supported us, hoped with us, dreamed with us, laughed at us (i meant with us), and really just been the body of Christ. Lucky for us.  I mean blessed. And you know what? We've got many more years of this. Good thing you all love us so much. Wink.

*The adoption community is a beautiful, supportive web.
     --We have met some of you in real life and hugged and cried and felt like lifelong friends. And some of you we haven't met at all. But I still feel the same. This bond is crazy. It's like we're the only ones crazy enough to go through all of this and so we automatically feel a special love for each other. And that is a beautiful and much needed thing.

*We are absolutely in the right place.
     --We are just as committed to adoption as we were when we started this journey. Probably more so. We feel like we're where we are supposed to be at this moment and I am so thankful God has placed us on this journey. It's stretched and grown us. It's brought us closer to each other. And closer to Him. Truly.  It's so hard but I am so thankful.

Well, I've spent enough words for now. I've got plenty time to write more.

Thanks for loving us well. We love you back.  One year down. No one knows how many to go.


eric, jess, and IC.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thankfulness: A Project

Full Disclosure: Reposted from my work blog

It seems all I have to do is talk to a friend or get on facebook to realize we all are longing for ways to show and understand gratitude during November.  Many are listing something they are thankful for each day this month.  I love this idea but decided to pass on it this year.  Still, I wanted to find a way to really appreciate the Thanksgiving season before rushing on to Christmas.
One of my favorite things to do is read blogs.  As I was reading Ann Voskamp's blog last week, I came across a great way to center your heart and home on thankfulness.  She has beautiful, free printouts to make a Thanks Giving Tree.  I decided to make my own and document it for all of you.  While I don't have children and made it specifically for my husband and myself, this would be a wonderful project for the whole family.  You can print out your own here.

First, grab your family and cut out the leaves. There are plenty! They need not be perfect and I have a hunch a leaf cut out by your four-year-old will make your tree that much more special, if not exact.  For those who aren't into cutting things out, they can gather sticks from the yard.  Word to the wise: gathering sticks in the dark is not necessarily the best choice.  Not that I know from personal experience. Yes, yes I do. :).

Once you've cut them out, use a hole punch to make a spot and then thread your ribbon. It's completely up to you which kind to use--make it reflect your family.  I used a mix of gold ribbon and red yarn since that's what I had on hand.  When you've tied them all you'll have a lovely pile of fall thankfulness leaves. See?
The pre-made leaves have enough for you to use one each day. Since it's the 13th already, you can catch up by doing a whole bunch of thankfulness leaves on one day. Or you can divide them between family members for the rest of the month, having several family members help each day.
The front of each leaf has a verse.  You can read the verse together and pray the verse for your family.  Then, on the back, list something you are thankful for from the day.  The day I made our tree, our small group had just celebrated one year of waiting with us for our adoption. Thus, this is what I wrote on our leaf for the 11th:

Once you've written it on the leaf, hang that leaf as a visual sign of your blessings.  The true goal is to gain gratitude throughout the month for all God's gifts.  Your family may have a rough day. God's greatness can still be shown for the gifts he gives, even the hard ones.
I chose to make my tree our dining room's centerpiece.  We'll be adding to our tree at family meal time.

I hope your family finds ways to gain gratitude for God's gifts during this beautiful season, regardless of how you choose to express it.
Psalm 136:1 "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekend Update with Jess

Looking forward in my planner earlier last week, I knew this weekend was going to be busy. Full. The kind I like and still have to take a deep breath to get through.

So while I should be writing a letter today, I think I'll wait. Today I'll share my weekend.


So Friday was work as usual but at the end of the day, I headed south a few miles to hang out with high school students. High school students? Yup. There's a retreat called Happening that really impacted my teenage years and helped me form a love for Jesus. When I was asked if I could help, I heartily agreed. I didn't realize at the time how packed my weekend already was. So what was meant to be a full weekend of assistance turned into an evening instead. I helped arrange things, purchased supplies, and got to know, and pray with, the staff.  As I was wrapping up my time with them, I was headed to chat with a friend before leaving.

Here's the thing about this retreat: there are some things they keep "secret" throughout the weekend until they are unpacked. In order to keep them a secret, they hang sheets in certain places in the host church to hide things going on on the other side. Harmless, right? Fun? Yes.

Unless, on the other side of that sheet, a 17 year old boy has decided to run, full speed, into the sheet without knowing what's on the other side.

And what, exactly, was on the other side?   You guessed it.


Before I knew what had happened, this kid smashed smack dab into me.  I spun, my glasses went flying, and both of us landed in sorry heaps on the floor across from each other.

When the retreat coordinator heard the smack and the groaning she came through the sheet to see what had happened and found us both in the fetal position.  She asked me how I was and all I could say (and think) was, "I can't tell you until I know where my glasses are. Where are my glasses?"  She led me to them and I placed them on my watering eyes.  We assessed the damage. Poor teenager had a bloody nose and a bruise that looked like a black eye. I had (and have) a very sore chin, along with a bruised foot and some back pain. The best I can explain it, it felt like my body was in a car crash. Only there was no car.  I iced my chin, made sure the kid (who "just so happened to be wearing a kU shirt--I am convinced he knew there was a Mizzou fan on the other side) was ok, and wrapped up my work to head home.

So that was Friday:).


On Saturday, my one and only goal was to run 20 miles. I mean, I had other goals but I knew (because of an unsuccessful attempt three weeks ago) this 20 mile thing was going to be quite the task.  What I didn't account for was the super warm weather. So Hubs and I popped out of bed at 7:30, grabbed some breakfast, and were on the run by a little before 9. Yes, it was late. But we never sleep in so we were thankful to have a chance to do so.

I wish I could tell you I rocked that run, that all was awesome, that we finished in record time, and I went on to finish my to-do list that day. Alas, it was a little less awesome and a little more, "wow I am still alive."  See, we took in so much water that I became a little wonky. There's an official word for it, I hear. It's called hyponatremia.  Basically, my body had enough water, per se, but it for sure did not have enough electrolytes. Or food. So, while I finished 20 miles successfully (after some walking and a lot of praying and positive self talk), shortly after that finishing, I had to ask another dear friend, who happens to date my brother, to come pick us up off the trail.  That would be fine. It would have been a story but not too crazy.

No, the crazy part happened when I got home. I went to drink water and, well, there's no dainty way to say it didn't stay down. No, in fact, it stayed on the floor (I didn't tell the hubs fast enough I might need a trash can). Yeah, four hours later, I still couldn't keep anything down. So I did what any good 29 year old woman would do.  I asked my husband to get me noodle soup and gatorade and I called my mommy.  It does help that mommy is a nurse:).

Mom said this was the last try. If this didn't work I would have to get an IV to fix my fluids. This did not sound like a good plan, for so many reasons. Lucky for me, when Hubs got home with the gatorade and soup, it did the trick.  Hooray!  It worked so well, I was able to make it to Old Navy's outwear sale. Can we say Mizzou Gold trench coat? We can.

So yes, I am fine. But it was rough. And we are re-working the idea of race-day nutrition. I am 3 weeks out.  If you have any suggestions, I am all ears. Seriously. The big plan right now is real food. Not beans or gel or stingers but food. Pretzels, potatoes, beef jerky, PBJ. I am going to try a snack pack and hopefully less sugar and more salt and carbs will help me finish. Because, darn it, I so badly want to finish.

If you don't have suggestions, will you just say a quick prayer that God will sustain my body through 26.2 miles on December 1? I want to finish this time. Then maybe next time we can work on the mechanics of it all.


So Sunday. Well, Sunday is a work day. It was a beautiful work day. Lots of kids. A sermon that reminded me of the goodness of our God.  And then, my very favorite thing that happens in a church (I really think).  We had a baptism service. Sweet friends from 7 weeks to friends in their twenties were washed symbolically with the water. We celebrated God's covenant promise.  We celebrated Jesus.  And we celebrated family and community. I cried for the entire service.  Grace. Water. Overflowing. Mingled. Beautiful redemption.  It's moving, each and every time I watch it.

This time in particular, one of our dear friends who adopted from Ethiopia baptized their sweet one.  We celebrated with her family after the service and it was one of those moments where beauty and celebration and pain and longing all sit and impregnate a room.  All mixed.  I mean, a year ago, our sweet friend wasn't here in this country. And here she is, gold sparkly bows in her hair. A room full of family and friends who are celebrating her dedication to the Lord.

And yet, it made me acutely aware of the hole I try to avoid. The little man. The one I talk so much about but rarely feel with all his force, for the pain it causes.  I want him here. I wanted him to be in the room. Or at least next year. I want it to be his baptism. And still, it's very unlikely he'll be around next year, or the year after that. Maybe even the next. It's a long, hard road.

How timely that at small group that night, friends who love us well in Jesus arrived with a celebration of one year of our waiting. What a surprise as they arrived with cake and Ethiopian side dishes and a card filled with the most beautiful words about our family and our adoption. Delicious. Satisfaction for the body and the soul. I cried. And smiled. And was so thankful for friends who carry us when this journey seems like it's unending.

Here's the cake:

(it says "Congratulations Eric and Jess! Waiting for our little Man. One year DTE")

Ethiopian Sambusas

Not pictured: crepes that were a stand-in for injera, the most difficult Ethiopian food to replicate (in my opinion). The crepes were amazing!!

It was a great night. We finished off with Bible study and prayer and thankfulness for our friends.

So yes, see why I needed a weekend update? 

Bottom line: we long for that little man but our life is so full and so blessed by the Lord.

I hope your weekend was beautiful.  Off to make dinner...