Monday, February 24, 2014

Nontraditional Valentine's Day

We've never been "Valentine's Day" people. I think this is because we both try to do special things for each other when the moment strikes, not because of a specific day on the calendar. That and we are not big into spending money for the sake of spending money. So we've spent many a Valentine's Day at home on our couch, sans gifts, perfectly content to just enjoy a night together.

Which is why, when I returned home from Austin I was surprised to have Eric run into our spare room and tell me he was grabbing my Valentine's gift. Because, you know, it wasn't Valentine's Day. And we don't do gifts.

He came back with this little guy:

A cute little minion-shaped Valentine box. It was filled with my favorite candy (Hot Tamales) and the sweetest card ever. So then, I pretty much had to put it on my desk, right?

Magically, it started to be filled with Valentines from kiddos from church. Magically or my coworkers put it on Facebook. One or the other. Either way it was adorable and I loved receiving so many fun Valentine messages from kids.

So what I'm trying to say is my Valentine's Day had pretty much already been made. I didn't need anything else and it had already been a great holiday. Before the holiday started.

But it got better from there.

I got to work on Valentine's Day and there was a special Valentine that wouldn't fit in my minion:

Tears brimmed in my eyes. My sweet friend had found this and thought of us. It is sitting on our mantle right now. I am sure, at some point, I will frame it. It was a reminder that though our little guy is not with us, he's always with us.  And we can't think of love without thinking of him.

So, to get to the more "non-traditional" part of our Valentine's Day. I'm about to lose some of you. I know. That's ok. I'm cool with it.

E and I had been talking about getting new tattoos soon. We both wanted one. E's third. My first. I want one to commemorate IC's adoption but I wanted to wait until we got him home. So, I had another idea in mind. We talked and talked and talked about it. 

And since we had no Valentine's plans, we thought that might be something fun to do together. We planned our tats and assumed the tattoo parlor would be nice and quiet since everyone would be out to dinner with their special someone. Surely no one else planned to get tattoos for Valentine's Day, right?

Well, that would have been true last year. Or the year before. Little did we know, though, the tattoo parlor we chose was tired of such a quiet, boring Valentine's Day. So they ran a special on Facebook. They were giving a huge discount to people who came in as a couple and both people wanted tattoos.

When we arrived the place was packed! We were told it would be a three-hour wait. We filled out our paperwork, finished our designs, paid, and went to dinner. Dinner was so lovely and leisurely.

Two hours later we came back and found we still had an hour-long wait. We finally got into the chair and left with permanent ink.  Please note the photos were taken within a few hours of the art. They are a little red. They're still healing but we are both really pleased:

My foot. From Esther 4:14. If you are really perceptive you might notice I used this wording in talking about my experiences at IF. 

Husband's arm. It definitely makes a statement. And of course, that statement is we are grafted into God's family through the cross. How blessed we have already been through adoption.

We had such a wonderful night we've been talking about making it a Valentine tradition. Then again, we may run out of skin.
For now we'll just call it a beautiful memory. Nontraditional and beautiful. Just like us:).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Adoption: Where Are We Now?

Well, it's been about a month since I shared our news with you. Our sweet little 7 year old IC became ours.

I thought I'd give an update. It's not much. But we are thankful for each and every piece of progress.

Last week I got a call from our family coordinator. She let us know that IC's relatives had a court date where they relinquished him officially and gave consent to our adoption. That was hard but it was a required step in the process. And it's over.

We also, surprisingly, got more photos of our cutie!! Right after we got our referral we sent a care package with a traveling family. Since our guy isn't in the transition home run by our agency, we didn't bother sending a photo release and figured we wouldn't get any photos.

But I got an email one morning with the heading "care package photos." It was from our family coordinator. When they gave IC his first package from us, the staff took photos. So now I have photos of him looking at photos of us.

Guys, it's about too much.

I mean, what in the world is he thinking? His big, beautiful smile can't surely contain all the emotion. So, so much emotion. I wish I could share the photos with you because it's really wild.

In the specifics of our progress on the American side, things aren't as promising.  I called immigration two weeks ago. Our case had not been assigned to an officer. They said they were hopeful it would be soon.

So I called again last week. The woman on the phone was super nice (and said "I remember talking to you last week") as she told me we still didn't have an officer. Still. Which means for now it's just sitting in a stack, right where it started 3 weeks ago. And she said I could call in a week but there wouldn't be more for me to know. I should wait two weeks.

That's five days from today. I won't even pretend to tell you I'm not counting. I'm counting. Every single day. I will call them in five days and try to "smile through the phone" as I beggingly ask if someone has looked at our darling boy's file.

Because, to me, it's not a file. It's a little boy.

Oh sure, he's made of paperwork and pictures, not flesh and blood.

But what they're holding in a file just a few short hours from my house is my son. And until they:

  • review it
  • decide they have the paperwork to move forward on the case
  • send it to Ethiopia
  • review it
  • interview a birth relative 
  • write a letter to go in our file; and finally
  • invite me to Addis to stand in a courtroom and legally become a mom

I will be a wreck. Because I don't know how he's doing. I don't know if he slept ok last night. I don't know if he has friends. I don't know if anyone asked him how his day was. Or if he got to eat his favorite food. Or if he ate any food at all. Or if he's safe, happy, ok.

I don't know. And it is harder than I could ever, ever imagine.

Sometimes I keep my distance from all the thoughts because they are just too overwhelming.

We still have absolutely no idea when we will travel. All those bullet points up above? They could take a month or six months. There's really no way to tell.  It all depends on who looks at our paperwork, how much they like it, and if they need more from us. Or if things get lost on the way to Ethiopia. Or of someone takes vacation.

But in the meantime, our son is sitting in their pile. Their pile they see as paperwork.

So would you pray? That the paperwork would be a child to them? That each person who reads through it would be efficient and thorough and handle it with the care they would if it were an actual child standing in their office?

Because to us, he's a child.

Thanks for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us. This is the beginning of a long, arduous journey. We're gonna need you, your prayers, and your love for years and years and years to come.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What IF:

I spent a weekend this month in Austin. I was one of those crazy people that saw some awesome bloggers/writers I love were having a conference with:

-no agenda
-no description
-nothing to go on

and I said, "Yeah. I will wait by my computer and get a ticket."

Which was good because they sold out in 42 minutes. Thanks to the timer on my iPhone, persistence, and a gift to pay for my trip, I got to attend this "IF:gathering"thing.

Each time I talk about this someone asks me what IF:gathering is. I want to give you a brief explanation but it's, well, hard.

A bunch of intelligent, Jesus-loving writers and bloggers from ALL across the denominational and political spectrum came together and asked:

"If we really believe God is real, then what does that mean for our lives?"

And they invited us to explore that concept as well.

We walked into the music hall in Austin with a literal key as our ticket to the conference. The tables were farmhouse picnic tables with beautiful floral centerpieces and I began to wonder if I was out of place. If this was a place for fancy, decorative women who had perfectly-kept houses and put-together outfits.  I seriously began to wonder if the colorful-tight-loving girl with puppy paw prints all over her wooden floors and fourth-day-wash hair would fit in.

I began to wonder if the whole thing was so tidy that we wouldn't really get to our dirt.

But it didn't take long to know that wasn't the case. I mean, the minute I heard Annie Lobert on stage, I knew the planners wanted more from women than a nice ambiance and false pretense.

So I dug in on Friday afternoon. I loved worshipping. I loved seeing other women really looking at their lives. And I loved running into old friends and meeting new ones.

I came with a group of 19 women but I am, as my friends say, a "super extrovert" and with a 1200 women I had never met, I was in extrovert heaven! I met so many new friends. And, of course, hung out with some old ones (not old friends, just old relationships).

I loved:

  • that we got to discuss in groups what God was calling us to
  • that  we had time to journal, one of my favorite ways to communicate with God 
  • that our meals were specifically planned to spur us on as we built community
  • that we shared communion together in a reverent and real way
  • that there was amazing free coffee all weekend long!
  • that I saw so many adoptive mama friends who know my heart and share my DNA for loving adoption
  • that we got to WORSHIP and I got to participate. This never happens at home!
  • that theology was not discussed beyond the basics of Christianity--that it was more important to be unified than to decide whether Calvinists or Arminians were "right"
  • that no one gave the "right way" to follow Jesus' calling on your life, that his plan was the right way

In fact, every single woman who spoke had a different story. No cookie cutters there. The only expectation is that we were expected to really spend time evaluating what God was calling us to and whether we were following him with reckless abandon.  We asked hard questions of each other and didn't expect answers.

We were called to love our neighbors. Our literal neighbors.

We were called to befriend people. Like actual, real friendships through dinners and conversations.

I shed so many good tears at the conference and left renewed and really thankful for Jesus' redemption, joy, grace, and friendship with me. Wow. It was so much.

But the weekend wasn't over.

So adoption. It makes you super close to people you've never been in the same room with.

My friend J is one of those people. She, too, is a first time mama to an adorable elementary-age boy from ET. Only her boy is home! We've spent many an hour huddled around keyboards discussing what God wants from us and spurring each other on to hard things. We've listened and "chatted" and understood each other when no one else could.

So when she offered to pick me and my friend Courtney (another one of these friends who became an IRL friend in May and has been irreplaceable ever since) up for dinner, it was a no-brainer.

We went to 6th street and tried to be cool, Austin weirdos.

After all, if I can't keep Austin weird, who can? I am pretty sure weird is my middle name.

We had dinner and went next door to see an elevated view of the street, one of the hippest in Austin, I'm told.

And then we left and ate massive, delicious, fried donuts from a trailer.

I still have dreams of those donuts.

It was the kind of night that you feel like you've been together for an hour but you realize it's been four. And you have to wake up early. So you hug, knowing God brought you together to encourage and love each other in a way others don't quite get.

At 6 am we went back to the airport after about 48 hours away. I sent this goodbye/hello photo to the husband and took off, back to the land of snow and ice.

I left renewed. The kind of renewal that makes you so tired that you go home and sleep on your couch for two hours because you are so exhausted. But renewed none the less.

So what if? What if God wants more from me than to-do lists, half-lived lives and acquaintance-like friendships? What if he really wants me to feed the hungry, love the unloveable, and share his word with everyone in my path?

What if I am where I am, when I am for exactly such a time as this?

What if? Well, I think only time will tell. But I was so glad for a good reminder.