Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Behind the loads of laundry...

and the balls left out in the yard...

and the toothpaste smeared on the counter with the cap left off...

and the 2-year-old free lance artwork...

There's a little girl wanting me to come snuggle on the couch...

and a little boy ready to take me on in Yahtzee...

There's a little-big-boy experiencing all things new...

and there's a young boy evolving into a leader on and off the court...

There's a little girl sneakin' marshmallows while she's 'helping' in the kitchen...

and there's two boys learning the bond of brotherhood...

There's sweet little voices singing their ABC's....

and there's a father and husband leading our family in the truth of the scriptures...

What more could a momma ask for?


From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. (John 1:16)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Adoption: It's War

Yesterday at church our pastor shared this verse:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Jake likes to say that our family of seven can walk into a room, and share the gospel without even saying a word. That’s because this type of love, God’s sacrifical love manifested in us, is unnatural. It doesn’t make sense to the world. We live in a me-centered society. When we sacrifice our comfort, our home, our dreams, our time, our conveniences, our lifestyle, our money, our security, etc. for someone else it seems out of place and uncommon in our world. And this is why adoption showcases the gospel. Because the act of adoption represents a teeny, tiny fraction of how God so loved us. When we were broken, destitute, sinners, God sent a sacrifice for us, to bring us into a relationship with Him. And every day that I wake up, I think about Jesus dying in place of my sin, and it is absolutely inconceivable to me. And that’s why I can’t keep quiet about it. Because I want others to know the love that God has lavished on all of us. I am a blogger, so I like to use words to explain things. But as this verse above says, there is a way that we can showcase the gospel through our actions. By loving one another. In 1 John we are urged to love not with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18). There are countless ways in which we can do this. And adoption is one of them. When we love those that are hard to love, when we welcome children into our homes who society tells us aren’t worth it, when we step up and care for orphans and widows who share not one ounce of genetics with us, this says something to the world around us about God's love.

I am sure you are wondering why I titled this post as I did now that you’ve read these first few paragraphs. Well, I just wanted to start from the mindset that adoption represents the gospel, so that you can understand why the devil hates it so much.

Yesterday, at an adoption meeting at our church this quote was shared:

Adoption is not charity, it is war. (Russell Moore)

Much of this warfare is spiritual. Since adoption is an exact representation of the gospel (see Ephesians 1:4-5, Galatians 4:4-7), Satan is completely against it. And to those just beginning the adoption process, I believe Satan tries to capitalize on our fears, in order to paralyze our decision to adopt.

I remember when we began our adoption, I sat down in the living room to organize all of the paperwork we had gotten from our agency. This was when we were with our first agency, the larger, national one, and I was advised to sort of make a check list of all the steps we would be going through so that we could stay on track. I remember JJ and Jayla were in their rooms napping, and I sat on the floor and started making piles of papers. I ended up with an entire circle of stacks of paperwork surrounding me as I sat there in the middle of it. At this point, I took a look around and became completely overwhelmed. My mind floated to my to-do list up on the counter of all the other things that I needed to get done during naptime…..just organizing this paperwork alone had taken 45 minutes of my 2 hour chunk. And then this thought popped into my mind Why are you doing this? You can have kids of your own. Why are you going to spend all of this time and money on a child when you can have children biologically? And that was a lie from the pit of hell. It was the devil capitalizing on my fears and causing me to doubt what God had asked us to do. And this was one of the many times these little thoughts would pop into my head. I’ve shared others with you at length in other posts– What if the child ruins your family? What if you don’t love this child as much your biological children? Etc.

Two days after we sent our adoption application in, Jake got a text message from his past girlfriend from high school, asking him if he would like to meet her for breakfast the next morning. She had just moved to Iowa, and had gotten his phone number off his basketball website and wanted to catch up. Now, I understand that many of you might see this as harmless. But, as a believer in Christ Jesus and biblical truth, I know from scripture that Satan does not roam around with thorns on his head, steam coming out his ears, with bright fiery red clothing. Satan is a deceiver. And he will tempt us on the path towards sin sometimes in the most tiny yet enticing ways. Thankfully, Jake recognized this as a clear attack from the enemy and kindly declined the invitation. Then he called me right after he got the text message and told me about it. I remember hanging up the phone and bursting into tears and just thanking God for His protection and for giving me an honest husband. Jake could have easily not told me about the text, or worse, accepted the invitation and kept it a secret. Only until a week later did I realize what Satan was up to. That week our family pastor shared a story about a fellow youth pastor he knew of who had just gotten caught up in a 2 week extra-marital affair….and it had all started with a few unintentional moments in which this pastor happened to be in a room alone with another woman. Hearing this story was a defining moment for me. It was then that I knew it was no coincidence that this text message came only 2 days after we had sent in our application. Satan knew he wasn’t able to halt our decision to adopt, so he was going to attempt to ruin our marriage instead.

I am not trying to freak anybody out with this post. Actually the opposite. I want to expose the ways that the devil has tried to deceive us in case others are experiencing similar things. Because here’s one thing I’ve learned - Satan wants us to keep quiet about our fears, our sins, and our struggles. The bondage and entrapment of fear (and sin) is BROKEN when we confess and share with God and others about our struggles. This is why, if you are just starting an adoption or heading into foster care, it is integral that you find at least one other couple who has gone through adoption (or done foster care) in which you can meet with regularly. Get your fears out in the open. Ask questions. Even the hard ones. And actually, even if you are just considering adoption/foster care, and haven’t fully decided yet, talk to someone who has been through this!! I know you might be scared to even tell someone that you are considering adoption/foster care, but do it anyways! In the moments following the video clip at church when adoption was put on my heart I rushed out of the sanctuary on a direct route to the bathroom. It just so happened that I was intersected en route by one of our head pastors (the one who had just presented the orphan clip!). He clearly could see that I had been crying, and instead of telling him what just happened I made up some joke and ran into the bathroom. Had I not already written myself off as crazy, it would have been a great time for me to ask him to pray for God’s direction for our family. It seems silly now, but I was actually worried that he would hold us accountable to adopting if I told him about it. Anyways, what I am saying, is talk to those who have done what you are thinking about doing. This will become invaluable to you along your journey.

I also want to add that we don’t need to fear that Satan is going to somehow overtake us. If we are in a relationship with Jesus, then we have one who has gone before us and broken the power of the devil. Chapter 6 (verses 10-18) in the book of Ephesians gives many practical steps in which we can guard ourselves against the evil one. PRESS ON! God is faithful. He will come through!

And just to put an exclamation on this post, I am including this video of Justice below. He’s recounting what he learned at his kid’s ministry (D6) time the other night. Even if you only watch about ½ of this, I think you will understand why the devil put up such a fight to keep Justice from getting his visa. He surely didn’t want Justice to be able to learn these awesome things about our Almighty God:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adopting An Older Child

Let’s face it, the older orphaned children are the ones less adopted. Line them up next to an infant or toddler, and generally they will get picked last, time after time. Babies are cuter, more impressionable, less opinionated, and are perceived by many to come with less baggage than a school age child, adolescent, or teenager. Older orphaned children are often given the label of being less trainable, less loving, more challenging to parent, more hardened of heart, and of having extreme behavioral and emotional issues to work through. That jam-packed sentence is enough to scare anybody off, including myself. Which is why when we started our adoption, we requested a child aged between 1 ½ to 3 years. This was the age that I was comfortable with. This was the age that I sort of had a handle on how to parent because we were living it out with JJ and Jayla at the time. This age seemed doable. So what happened? Well, God happened. Slowly, throughout our adoption, we sort of stumbled into adopting an older child. Although in hindsight I can now see that what was really going on was God slowly warming our hearts up to taking in Justice, but He did it in small steps. I can honestly tell you that if Justice’s referral was the first referral we had gotten we would have easily passed it on and waited for the referral of a younger child. Shocking to think about, isn’t it? But we really would have. Over the course of 1 year we accepted Solomon’s referral…age 4. Then when that fell through we accepted our next referral…two boys aged 3 and 8. Then after their referral also fell through we received Justice’s referral a few months later. I remember sitting there with my laptop, getting ready to open Justice’s referral info….and just praying…..God, please make it clear. When I opened up Justice’s referral I saw his age listed as 5. I remember saying to myself that is older than we were hoping for. I knew with that age we would already have to start thinking about school options and everything. And then when I looked at his picture I thought, wow, he even looks older than 5….but it was so hard to tell. I called Jake and the first thing he said was, “Doesn’t it look like he has red hair?!?! We HAVE to take him!” I couldn’t really tell if he had red hair or not from the picture, but I could see that it was a lighter shade. But Jake was so excited and his emotions overflowed into my heart. As I prayed for God’s direction on whether or not we should accept the referral, God really gave me such a peace in my heart about Justice. And we eventually accepted. As I’ve blogged about before, we now believe that Justice is older than what his birth certificate has him currently listed at….6. But, I smile at that because I think God did that on purpose. If Justice would have been listed 2 years older when we got his referral….listed at age 7 instead of 5, we likely would have passed his referral by. But it didn’t happen that way, and GOD ROCKS!

Two Sundays ago at the adoption awareness event, the parent panel was asked by someone in the crowd if we could sort of advocate for adopting an older child. Jake spoke up and said that older orphaned children for the most part understand the opportunity that they are being given by way of adoption. Of course this is not always the case, but the large majority can really comprehend this chance they’ve been given….to have a loving family and the security of having their basic needs met. That’s not to say that they won’t test your love and have issues and things to work through, but they understand what is being done for them.

After Jake mentioned this a few of the families on the panel chimed in with stories of how their older adopted children supported this comment. One family had adopted a school aged girl from China. This child was deaf and had never been taught how to communicate. When she was adopted her new family taught her sign language. And one day this little girl was sitting in her room, with tears rolling down her face. When her mom walked in she asked her why she was crying. And the little girl signed back that she was so grateful to have a room with toys and things to do. She said that she was so bored at the orphanage in China.

Another story was about a young adopted child who got to experience Christmas. When the next year came around, and Christmas was up again she said to her mom, “You mean we get to do all of that again?” Just the joy of getting to celebrate Christmas was so fulfilling for this child, and she couldn’t believe that they got to do the wonderful celebration all over again.

On a rainy day this summer a fellow adoptive mom blogged about her daughter from Haiti saying that she was so thankful to have a nice, warm house with a roof that didn’t let in the rain.

Last week at school Justice had a take-home-project to do in which he was supposed to describe something that he was thankful for, and then we had to draw a picture on a corn cob cut-out to illustrate it. When I asked him what he was thankful for he said, “Oh Mommy, you know what I am thankful for….” pause, big smile, and then he said “coming here.” :) And this was what we came up with for the picture (sorry for the blur…couldn’t get the camera to focus):

It’s kind of hard to see, but he drew a little picture of me, Daddy, JJ, Jayla and himself there on the bottom husk. :)

And here’s a video that perfectly illustrates all of this:

And because I don’t want to leave you in tears, here’s a video to make you laugh!


I am so not a movie person which is why it is laughable that I am writing a post on movies….which you would have never known from the title of this post….which was purposeful because I thought no one would take the time to read this if you knew it was about movies. But now you know, and now you’ve got to read on. So, have you seen this movie?

This is the new Karate Kid movie….a remake of the classic. Jake rented this one a few days ago for JJ and Justice, but everyone in the house got hooked! It was on continuous play for almost half a day, and I wish you could have been here to see the crazy boys in my house…..the picture below was taken on the 3rd time the movie was playing. By this point they sort of had certain scenes memorized and were really into it. This was the end of the movie at the big match. And all my boys were on their feet, cheering on ‘Dre’. I think they seriously thought they were there in the stands. Of course by the time I fumbled around and found my camera the mass chaos was almost over, but you still get the point....

Notice Justice doing some kung fu moves. He was definitely the one who completely embraced this movie the most. After the 3rd run on the big screen he wanted to watch it again. Since we had to return it the next day, I figured we might as well make the rental worth it so we moved it to our little portable DVD player. Jayla decided to snuggle in as well. :)

If you would have gotten to observe Justice watching this movie as I did you would have seen how he seriously may have thought that he himself was the main character. The main character of this movie, Dre, gets bullied in school, which causes him to want to learn how to be able to fight back. During the bullying scenes, Justice would talk to Dre out loud, really seriously saying ‘don’t do that’ or ‘watch out he’s gonna get you’ and on and on. Whenever Dre was fighting Justice would get up on his feet and pretend to fight along with him real intensely! It makes so much sense that Justice would love this movie because about a week after he was home with us Jake asked him what sport he wanted to learn. And he said he wanted to learn how to fight. Hence, also, his Halloween costume choice….the ninja. The day we came home with his costume he put it on right away and then within about 10 minutes he was out at the end of our driveway practicing ninja moves. I wish I would have gotten it on video. People driving by had to wonder what on earth was going on.

Since I’m on a movie roll, let me tell you about one more movie I just saw. If I am going to watch a movie I usually have to go to the theater where I am forced to sit there and get my money’s worth. Otherwise if I try to watch it at home I feel myself being pulled away into housework and the millions of other things I should be doing rather than sitting on the couch! Anyways, here’s the movie....went to this one with some girlfriends the other night....

Wow. Wow. Wow. From the opening scene I was hooked. This movie was so emotional, stressful, and so REAL. The characters were just so every day REAL. There’s no other way to put it. This movie is actually about adoption, and it does a really good job of elevating the love birthmothers have for their children in making the decision of adoption for their child. I literally woke up with knots in my shoulders the next day though. There are some really stressful and heart-wrenching scenes in this one.

There you go. Two good movies to see for all you movie-goers out there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


By now I am sure you are aware that November is National Adoption Month which means there are lots of events going on to bring awareness to the orphan crisis that our world is facing. If you ever wanted to find out more about adoption/foster care, now is the time as there is likely an awareness event going on somewhere near you over the next few weeks. I wanted to invite you to an event being held TONIGHT at our church:

Cornerstone Church of Ames
56829 U.S. Highway 30
Ames, IA

The event starts at 6:30pm and will be held in the Equipping Room. We will have 5 different families giving their ‘testimonies’ of how God led them to open their homes and lives to orphans and those in need. Three families will be speaking on their international adoptions, one family will be sharing about foster care, and another family will be sharing about hosting a student from a Native American Reservation in South Dakota called Rosebud. Each family will be sharing some awesome insights centered around fears, obstacles, sacrifices, etc. I can only imagine how powerful, honest, and inspiring each of these stories will be.

Jake gets the opportunity to share a bit of our story again tonight which is so exciting. Since our adoption was just finished it seems like we are getting so many opportunities to share about our journey. Soon our story won't be so 'new' anymore, but for now we are soaking up every chance we get to speak on behalf of those who have no voice!!!!

If you ever wanted to know more about adoption, foster care, or opening up your home to those in need, tonight is another chance!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Need A Laugh?

What is it about this store and my red-heads that always makes for some good old fashioned trouble? I don’t shop at Fareway regularly for our groceries, but I usually make a trip there once or twice a month to grab some meat and other things. Yesterday we had gotten our items and had one last aisle to go down on our way to the check-out register. By this time our cart was full, so JJ and Jayla weren’t catching a ride but instead skipping behind me down the aisle. I stopped our progress towards check out to look at some breadsticks and all of a sudden I heard Jayla say….


Now, before I tell you what happened next, may I accentuate the fact that Jayla has the LOUDEST little girl indoor voice on earth. Her normal, everyday voice could put an opera singer to shame. So, when she said this, she not only caught JJ’s attention, but also caught a glance from the 4 sets of elderly couples that happened to be in our aisle (Fareway was PACKED yesterday). And now that you can picture the scene, here’s what happened next…..

Once I heard her yell this I turned around to see what the commotion was all about, and I caught the TAIL END of a FULL-OUT NAKED BOTTOM as Jayla had pulled her pants DOWN instead of up. The angle of how she was standing was just perfect to MOON every single one of the great-grandmas and great-grandpas that were staring at the little girl with the loud voice! And then, all 8 of these Fareway-goers looked at eachother simultaneously and started ROLLING WITH LAUGHTER! Whew! I thought I was going to get some bad looks on this one! Of course laughter was the exact response Jayla was hoping for, and she pulled her pants up and continued hopping along the aisle with a big old smile on her face. But the best part of all of this, was watching JJ’s reaction. After the moon and the response of laughter I kid you not he was SO EMBARRASED. He quickly turned and started walking towards me with these eyes that said ‘I cannot believe she just did that!’ Of course he thought it was a little funny too, but I am telling you, his face turned the exact shade of cardinal red as his ISU sweatshirt that he had on.

Sorry JJ, but I am guessing that this will not be the last time that we get embarrassed by some antics from our sweet and sassy little Jayla. But it sure made for a good laugh!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Choosing an Adoption Agency

This is a big step and a big deal. I am not an expert on this, but I can maybe share some things to think about.

Jake and I went the route of deciding on what country we would adopt from first, and then this helped us narrow down our search for agencies. That’s just one way to start, and there are a slew of others. Keep in mind that many countries often have qualifications/specifications for adoptive families. These qualifications will be listed on agency websites for each country. Some countries have a specific age that they require the adoptive parents to be before they can adopt….on average this age is 25 years. Some countries specify a sort of ‘cap’ on children already in the home that a family can have heading into an adoption. Some countries require the prospective adoptive parents to have been married for a certain number of years. All of these things can play into where you eventually land on adopting from.

Some agencies have their own qualifications for prospective parents as well. For instance, one of the first agencies we looked into was America World Adoption. However, I found in their qualifications section that the youngest child in our home had to be at least 6 months old. At the time we started looking into agencies, Jayla was only 4 months old, so this agency did not end up being an option for us.

Another thing to consider is if you have a certain age of child/children you are picturing adopting. If you would like to experience adopting a newborn, you will probably want to start with looking into a domestic adoption….again let me highlight that being for a newborn. There are many countries that have infants available for adoption, but just keep in mind that if your child is 4 months old at the time of referral, you may not actually be bringing he/she home until 6 months to 2 years later depending how the rest of your process goes. Some countries, like Ghana, very rarely have infants available for adoption. There are always exceptions to this generalization, but Ghana for instance mostly has children available that are 1 year and older. This again is because there are not many orphanages in Ghana, so birthmothers don’t have that as an option. Generally the birthmothers in Ghana will care for their child as long as they can nurse. After that, finding outside help is literally a life or death scenario.

Those are just a few initial things to think about. When you actually start filing through agencies, I would suggest that first and foremost you would do the good old ‘word of mouth’ approach. Which agencies have any of your friends, family, or people at your church used? What was their experience with their agency? If you don’t have any contacts of those who have adopted, the great thing is that agencies have a list of families who have used their agency that you can call or email. This is a tremendous resource in being able to ask really anything you want about the agency from someone who has actually used them for an adoption. We are on the list to be contacted for our agency if any prospective parents have questions, and we’ve been contacted a few times.

Below I am including a few agencies that my friends have used, and have had good things to say about. This list is by no means all-inclusive…..just people I know who had a good experience with their agency. One thing to note, if you end up going with a large, national agency (such as the first one listed - America World), you will be required to complete your home study with a licensed case worker in your state. If you need a case worker for home studies in Iowa, this is our case worker and she does independent home studies as well:

Homestudy for Iowa families
Carla Tripp

Here are a few agencies that my friends and fellow bloggers have had good things to say about:

America World Adoption
My friends: http://nicoladoption.blogspot.com/
Country my friends adopted from: Ethiopia
Other countries this agency assists adoptions with: Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Rwanda, Ukraine

Holt International
My friends: http://tam4buit.blogspot.com/
Country my friends adopted from: Ethiopia
Other countries this agency assists adoptions with: Bulgaria, China, Haiti, India, Korea, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Guatemala (not accepting new applications for Guatemala right now though)

Bethany Christian Services
My friends: http://nate-natalie.blogspot.com/
Country my friends adopted from: U.S.A.
Other countries this agency assists adoptions with: Bulgaria, China, Columbia, Ethiopia, Guatemala (not accepting new applications right now), Haiti, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine

Abrazo Adoption Associates
My friends: http://thejlees.blogspot.com/
Country my friends adopted from: U.S.A. - Texas
Note: This agency is infertility only.

MLJ Adoptions, Inc.
Note: Many families from my church are currently using this agency for adoption from the Democratic Republic of Congo and have good things to say. They are all in-process.
Other countries this agency assists with: Ukraine, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Ethiopia, Russia, Taiwan, Nepal, Vietnam, Guatemala (currently closed), and Bulgaria.

Foster Care for the State of Iowa
My friends: http://tim-and-christy.blogspot.com/

The agency we used in our adoption of Justice:
About A Child
Countries: Ghana, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

I also wanted to note this awesome post on domestic adoptions that was on a blog that I follow: http://joiningthejourney.blogspot.com/2010/10/domestic-adoptionorphan-or-not.html

And on this same blog she also posted some other domestic adoption agencies a few days later:

Feel free to post more agencies in the comments section or any other tips/things to think about when considering agencies! Thanks!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Adoption Realities

I received an email and article from a friend yesterday that in a roundabout way got me thinking that possibly I have painted this fluffy little picture of adoption on my blog. A few of my latest posts have been about stepping out in faith. But to some this could look as though I am advocating for people to wildy jump into adoption, almost blindly, without giving it too much thought…..like something along the lines of: 'if you feel God has placed adoption into your heart then go for it, because it’s all going to be ok.' And I think I sort of am saying all of that in the context of stepping out in faith even when you don't know what the outcome will be. However you can take out the 'without giving it too much thought' part and the ‘it’s all going to be ok’ part....I am NOT saying any of that! ‘Going for it’ should obviously include prayerful consideration and many talks with your spouse. If any of you were at the event on Sunday you would know from Jake’s speech that our adoption has been anything but fluffy and peachy! Adoption has completely ruined our life….but in a good way. And that’s why I can’t shut up about it. Because this journey has changed us and challenged our faith SO MUCH. Anyways, since many of you weren’t there on Sunday to hear the awesome speakers, and to listen to the honest and revealing answers from the adoption panel, I feel that I should do this post on adoption realities. So here we go.

I haven’t posted enough about adoption realities/struggles/trials after the child is home. Realities such as behavioral issues, bonding/attachment issues, and the list goes on. At this point, we haven’t experienced any of these in our adoption with Justice, which is why I haven’t really blogged about it. His transition into our family and lifestyle has been extremely smooth. From the things I’ve read, I think this is somewhat rare with international adoption.

I remember back when we shared with our families that we would be adopting from Africa. One of the responses that we got was ‘Have you really thought through this? It sounds like you are just on some sort of emotional high with adoption. What if the child comes and ruins your family?’ This family member wasn’t trying to talk us out of adoption, rather I think he was trying to give us a reality check. The funny thing was that this family member was right! We were completely unprepared for anything that we could potentially face. We were simply moving forward in faith. Mostly heart, not much brains…..which could definitely translate into an emotional high to some. I will be the first to admit that we really had no idea what we were getting into. We just felt it was clear that God was asking us to start an adoption. So we did.

Enter the 10 hours of adoption literature reading that was required as part of our homestudy. And actually 10 hours is a considerably small amount compared to what some other agencies require. The first book that I read was this one:
(Adoption Parenting: Creating a toolbox, building connections. Edited by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae, PhD)

And my goodness. If we didn’t know what we getting into at the start, we certainly were brought back down to earth after reading this book. This book is close to 500 pages detailing every single scenario that you could ever imagine that comes along with adoption….most of the accounts are written first-hand by adoptive parents and professionals regarding real-life scenarios and stories. My favorite chapter has an excerpt titled ‘The One Thing I Wish’ which is a collection of notes written from adult adoptees sharing their thoughts with adoptive parents on things they hope we consider as we raise our adoptive kids. Some of the hardcore topics in the book include night terrors, attachment problems, food aversions and obsessions, post-adoption depression, issues regarding the subject of race and transracial adoption, parenting children who’ve experienced fetal alcohol syndrome, addiction, sexual abuse, trauma, precocious puberty, loss and grief, transitions and behavior problems, introducing the adoptive child to siblings, making plans to visit a birthmother or birthcountry, self-harm, sensory issues, lying, hoarding, scarring of shame & abandonment….really anything you ever wanted to know (or didn’t want to know) about adoption is in this book! And most of this book shares strategies for preventing failure, and tools for overcoming failure when things have gone completely wrong.

And that’s the great thing about the adoption process. Your agency should completely and fully prepare you to experience almost every single adoption reality that could ever happen….good, bad, or awful. That is part of their job! So, even if you feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants heading into adoption, take note, you will be slammed in the face fully educated with all possibilities of what could happen…..before you are even a few months into your journey.

At the event on Sunday, one of the parents on the adoption panel noted that oftentimes the horrible possibilities with adoption are worst case scenarios that your agency must share with you to be sure that you are prepared for anything. Hearing bad adoption stories can really stir up fear in your heart (it did mine) with the ‘what if’ scenarios. However, sometimes the ‘what ifs’ do become realities. I am sure we can all think of at least one example in which a family we know has experienced really rough situations after their adopted child has come home. And I can think of a few examples in which the word ‘rough’ is an understatement. Some families have gone through some really heart-breaking things and have had to make very hard decisions for the best interest of their adopted child. As with anything you embark on, things could go terribly wrong. But in my opinion, reputable adoption agencies do a good job of being your ‘reality check’ in adoption. If you start an adoption off some sort of ‘emotional high’ you won’t be able to stay there for long if your agency is doing their job. Hopefully in the long run you will find yourself adequately prepared for the issues and realities that often accompany adoption. This is also one service to make sure that your adoption agency offers: post-placement guidance/support/help. Some agencies do not do a good job in being there to help you through things after your child is home. So, just another thing to be thinking of if you are reviewing agencies.

If you’ve adopted or been in a family who has adopted, I would love it if you would weigh in on this topic in the comments section. How did your agency prepare you to face ‘adoption realities’? Do you have any reputable resources to recommend for those considering adoption? Or, maybe you weren’t fully prepared for a hardship or failure that you faced with your adopted child post-placement. What would you say in this regard to those considering adoption? How did you overcome a trial/hardship post-placement? Or maybe you would like to post on this topic. If so, leave your blog in the comments section and let us know when you will be posting. :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More Thoughts on Adoption Finances

I’ve blogged once before about adoption finances regarding the details of our own personal story and how our adoption was financed (click here to read). However, I wanted to touch on this subject again, because finances are such a HUGE ‘paralyzer’ in considering adoption. At the adoption awareness event on Sunday this subject came up again and again with many of the attendees that I was able to chat with. It seems that there are MANY couples out there who are completely emotionally ready to adopt. They’ve considered the effects that adoption will have on their family, lifestyle, and future and are willing to forfeit their own comfort in order to follow what Jesus has placed in their heart. Many times a husband or a wife even has a little spot already carved out in their heart for their adopted child somewhere out there in the world. BUT…..when they look at the monetary figures that go along with adoption, and stare back at their own income/living expenses, on paper it just doesn’t make sense how it could happen. An excel spreadsheet doesn’t lie. Sometimes it just doesn’t look possible. I wanted to include an excerpt on this exact topic from that book I am always mentioning “Adopted for Life” by Russell D. Moore. After the excerpt I will conclude with a few more thoughts of my own.

(excerpt from pages 135-136)
Can you put a baby on Visa or Mastercard? How can you afford to adopt when it’s so expensive? This is often one of the first questions I’m asked by couples interested in adoption. Can we afford it? Is adoption something only economically affluent people can pull off? Will this process bankrupt us for a generation or more?

First of all, yes, adoption is expensive. Some adoptions can be very expensive. But let’s put the cost in perspective. Have you ever been to a parenting seminar where an expert starts talking about money? Have you heard these experts rattle off the figure of what it takes to raise a child from birth to 18? It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? When you hear a figure like that, you don’t think of anything else on which you could ever spend that amount of cash. It sounds like something only a hyper-wealthy entrepreneur could afford. But look around. There are parents everywhere. They’re not Rockefellers or Hiltons. They’re not all tycoons or heiresses. Garbage collectors have children, as do discount store shelf-stockers and coffee shop clerks and people in every other occupation you can imagine. Child-rearing itself is expensive, but all kinds of people do it – because it’s a priority, and families adjust their internal economies to fit.

The same is true with adoption. When you hear the cost of an adoption – and the costs differ wildly depending on the kind of adoption, where it is, and so forth – you’ll be tempted to despair. That money, though, is a final figure, with everything accounted for, in most cases. The money isn’t rung up on a cash register at the end as someone scans your baby’s leg across an electronic reader. The cost is dribbled out a little bit at a time across the entire process – an attorney’s fee here, an agency’s fee there, an airline ticket here, a birth mother’s hospital bill there, and so forth….

The main reason I wanted to share that excerpt is to highlight the mindset of thinking of the adoption cost in small chunks….instead of just staring at the final, daunting figure. This mindset, combined with what I shared in my previous post about trusting God to provide for you if He has clearly led you to start the adoption process could be powerful. With these two things combined, you could essentially gain the mindset of depending on God each step of the way instead of focusing so much on the end.

I know it is common language for a Christian to say ‘God will provide’, but the truth is, that I have example after example of God doing just that….providing the financial means for families to adopt, even when it looks merely impossible from the get go. The author of the above excerpt gives his own awesome testimony of how God came through for he and his wife in this exact area of finances. He starts off the story by saying “When Maria and I started the adoption process, we had no money. I was a doctoral student, working as a part-time research assistant, and my wife was a low-paid office secretary……and yet, God was, it seemed, leading us to do something that would cost possibly more than the two of us combined made in a year….” and he goes on to share the cool way that God came through. And that’s just it, when you adopt, the entire process forces you to FULLY rely on God for your every need….from the beginning, much of your faith WILL BE TESTED in the area of finances. There are not many other ways in the life of a typical American Christian in which we are forced to completely have to rely on God to provide. I am talking the fullness of the definition of faith: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). This is one of those times when it is scary and may even seem irrational, but you must go ALL IN, which is only possible if you trust and believe that God is going to come through. Please hear me loud and clear, I am not advocating for someone deeply in debt with credit cards or loans or whatever to go more into debt by beginning an adoption. With that sort of situation it is likely that you need to begin getting your finances in order first. What I am saying though, is don't let your finances become an excuse for not obeying if God has clearly led your hearts to start an adoption. I am telling you that when I first looked up the cost of international adoption I quickly closed out of the internet and said to myself It’s totally impossible. We can’t do it. At least I looked into it. But there is no way. Lucky for me, God kept bugging me and bugging me and bugging me about adoption. And what started as us worrying about money, ended in us understanding that most of our fears centered around the idea of losing the security we had because of our money….not necessarily losing the actual amounts from our savings. I am so glad God kept bugging me. I cannot believe we almost missed out on ALL of this. God made the world and everything in it. He is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples build by hands. He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:24-25). He’s bigger than a chunk of money.

Here’s another cool story that just happened to some of my friends regarding God providing for them in the area of adoption finances. Click here to read.

I should also recognize too that there are some individuals who are just not at all in a position in which they can personally adopt a child at this point, but still would like to obey Jesus’ command to care for the orphans. If that is you, then I urge you to consider donating monetarily to a family who is adopting, just like what happened to my friend above. You have no idea how $100, $200, $300….$1000 etc. etc. could be a COMPLETE answer to prayer for an adoptive family in process. Remember, keep the mindset of the amount due in chunks of money. Maybe their next chunk due is $2000 for a court fee. Imagine you donating $500 of that to them! WOW, that would be a HUGE blessing that God could use you for!!!!! If you would like to donate to an adoption and don’t know of any families adopting then email me, and I can hook you up with some. You can also consider donating to the James 1:27 Foundation (www.james127foundationadopt.org) which I just learned about at the event on Sunday. This is a non-profit organization that gives adoption grants to Christian families residing in the state of Iowa. The grants given are anywhere from $1000 to $3000.

And just one last thought to mention….an inspiring little tidbit along the lines of what I’ve been talking about:

On the despairing shores of the Red Sea, the Israelites couldn’t see what was in the distance. They had no binoculars that could view Canaan or even the opposite shore. But the Lord gave them a simple plan: tell the children of Israel to go forward (Exodus 14:15). The nineteenth-century expositor C.H. Mackintosh believed the Red Sea did not divide throughout all at once, but opened progressively as Israel moved forward, so that they needed to trust God for each fresh step. Mackintosh wrote, “God never gives guidance for two steps at a time. I must take one step, and then I get light for the next. This keeps the heart in abiding dependence upon God.” ~The Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan~

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sierra Leone and My Bucket List

Well, you can probably guess what item on my bucket list I will be checking off just by reading the name of this post! Coming up in March 2011 over spring break, I will get to take my first ever trip to Sierra Leone, West Africa!!! I couldn’t find a good map showing both SL and Ghana so here are two images showing each so that you can see where they are in comparison to one another….pretty close:

All of the trip planning/details are still in the works, but an exciting opportunity has come up for Jake and I to spend about 1 week’s time serving at an orphanage in Sierra Leone called The Covering. The Covering is part of an organization called The Raining Season, which I have blogged about before. You can read about the Raining Season by clicking here. The Covering has an awesome blog which you can check out here: http://savetheorphan.blogspot.com/

There are many purposes for this trip, and let me start by saying, no, we are not leaving Ghana in the dust!!!!! In fact, the main reason for this trip to Sierra Leone is to get our feet wet in an orphanage setting which will ultimately benefit the project we have started in Ghana. You may remember me saying that Ghana has very few orphanages because many have been shut down due to ill and corrupt practices. In fact, one of Ghana’s most celebrated orphanages, The Osu Children’s Home in Accra, was recently the target of a 7 month undercover investigation in which there were horrifying findings of the treatment of the orphans residing there. You can find the article about the investigation by clicking here. The title of the article is ‘Undercover in the Orphan’s Home of Hell’ if that gives you any idea of the details you will be choking down as you read.

Anyways, you know from my previous posts that it has been on the radar within our Ghana project to start a home for orphans in Ghana. Our initial vision was to have the orphanage alongside the academy/school which we bought the land for on one of our previous trips. However, God completely guided us in a different direction for the orphanage home following our visa disaster trip in June. In the months following that trip it became clear that the idea for the orphan home was not to be a long term vision….instead it could be started now. I am going to be detailing this more in some upcoming posts. God’s guidance for the orphan home has really been spurred by the events surrounding the initial visa disaster with Justice. If it weren’t for our unfortunate visa delay in June, none of this orphanage stuff would even be rolling yet…..but it is…..and I can’t wait to tell you more about it!

Jake is also gearing up for his next trip to Ghana coming up at the end of December this year. I decided to sit this one out since I will be accompanying him on the trip to Sierra Leone. Jake has wanted to do this trip in December as an outreach opportunity for any of the kids/coaches in his Kingdom Hoops program. To date there is 1 other coach going, 2 girls from his 8th grade girls team, the Vanderweide family (they were going to be the host family for Prince) and my mom is also going! There are a few others pending. My mom has already been blogging about some cool and personal things that God has done to reveal to her that He has a clear purpose for her to go! I believe she is also going to be blogging some more this week about the trip details. You can find her blog here: http://odlemountain.blogspot.com/ I’ll also be blogging some more about the trip hopefully later this week. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Meaning Behind the Bracelet

Last Sunday at church JJ and Justice each made salvation bracelets in their classrooms. They were SO EXCITED to tell us all about them so I videotaped them each giving their descriptions of the meaning of the colors in the bracelet. First up is JJ’s description. You’ll notice a major difference between the length of his description and Justice’s! JJ had to search for the words to describe each color fully. :) You’ll also notice Justice squirming and shaking his head as JJ explains. :) I think he thought JJ was sort of getting off topic (and JJ's version isn't necessarily full of sound doctrine) but it was still fun listening to JJ explain what he learned as best as he could. :)

And here is Justice's description:

And in case you didn’t catch that, here are the meanings of each of the colors:

Black – represents our sin, which separates us from God.
Red – represents Jesus’ blood when he died on the cross for our sins.
White – represents cleansing/washing away of sin and gaining purity through forgiveness.
Green - represents the growth of our relationship with God.
Gold – represents the promise of eternal life in Heaven….streets of gold!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Justice's First Day of School!

Yesterday was Justice’s first day of Kindergarten!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was SO EXCITING, and yet one of those ‘scary mom moments’ at the same time. To entrust your child into the hands of others is an interesting experience!

I don’t have any real in-depth thoughts about our decision to have Justice start school now, other than Jake and I both have felt that ‘he is ready’. We had been thinking it in our minds separately, and then one night as we were talking about Justice we both discovered that we were thinking the same thing. I think his school readiness comes from a few things:

First of all, his English speaking and comprehension is AWESOME! This was one thing I really did not expect. He’s really only been learning and speaking English since December 2009….which means it hasn’t even been a year yet. Other than adjusting to our accents and learning American words in place of British-English words, he really has had no problem communicating or understanding what we are saying. It’s kind of amazing. English is the primary language in Ghana, however, it is not spoken in the villages or remote towns. But it is taught in most of the schools in Ghana. We enrolled Justice in school around December of last year in Ghana, which is where he started learning his alphabet and some English. His English progressed much further once we moved him in with Esi and family. They speak English in their home, and made it a priority to only speak English with Justice so that he could learn it. If he did not know English well, we would not be sending him to school this early.

Another thing that has really helped our situation is that Justice has transitioned/adjusted to our family extremely well. I know this can really vary with adoptions, and I feel that this is such a huge blessing from God. We haven’t really experienced any of the heart-breaking issues that I’ve read about regarding bonding/attachment gone bad. I think the time that we got to spend in Ghana on our different trips over the past year really helped to solidfy our commitment to Justice in his mind. I really can’t even describe the way that he has just molded himself right into our lives….perfectly. He was a perfect fit and we all know it. This undoubtedly was also helped by his time spent with Esi and family….as he learned how to function in a family setting.

Another thing that has been flourishing is Justice’s desire to learn. He is just ON FIRE for learning new things right now. He asks at least a million questions a day, and is so determined to learn new skills. If I show him something new, I notice him practicing and practicing until he gets it just right. When we toured Justice’s school for the first time last week, he was so wide-eyed! At first when we walked in he kept asking me where the school was! He didn’t understand that the entire building was the school. He was expecting one little room within the building to be ‘the school’. :) When we toured the art room, music room, classroom, and gym, he then realized that all of the rooms were the school. And he looked at me with a big old smile and said “School is going to be SO fun!” And that it was! Here are a few pieces that he brought home in his ‘take home folder’ yesterday:

And here he is stepping off the school bus with Sam! You could see his smile from a mile away!

At dinner time we do our highs and lows for the day, and his favorite part of the day (his high) was going to school and ‘playing football with his friends.’ JJ asked him how many friends he made and Justice said “Oh JJ, I made too many friends and I can’t count them all!” LOVE IT! :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

From the Mouths of My Loves - Edition #2

JJ: Look at all this hair on my legs.

Justice: If I get an Iron Man suit (for Halloween) will I have his powers?

Jayla: Mr. Vegas (our cat) needs a timeout.

JJ: Mommy, are you coming to my football game at noon today?
Mommy: Yes, who do you play?
JJ: Oklahoma.

Justice: I am freezing! It feels like I am in the freezer. Even being in the freezer would be better than this.

Jayla: I want to wear my princess shirt.
Mommy: You wore it yesterday. It’s dirty.

Justice: Are pumpkins a fruit?

Jayla: I like my pockwitz (pockets).

JJ: Justice, when you play at the tournament you have to listen to your coach. And if somebody wants to shoot, you have to pass it to them. And you have to run really fast and play defense.
Justice: Oh JJ, I am not thinking about what you are thinking about. I’m thinking about going to school on Monday! Mommy, when you take me to school on Monday, are you going to go in with me?
Mommy: Yes, on the first day I will go in with you, but on the other days I will drop you off at the front door.
Oh no!
JJ: You don’t need Mommy to go in with you. Mommy doesn’t go into school with Sam, and Mommy doesn’t go into school with Peprah.
Justice: But Peprah and Sam are big!
JJ: You are big!
Justice: No I am not!
JJ: You are 6. You are big.
Justice: No, I am little. You are 4 and you are little and I am 6 and I am little.
This conversation went on for quite some time after this!

JJ: C'mon Mommy, let’s play REAL football.
Mommy: What’s REAL football?
Justice: Tackle football!
Mommy: I’m a mommy, I don’t play tackle football.
JJ: Ok, you can be quarterback.

Sam: Will we have a body in heaven?
JJ: Will there be orange juice in heaven?
Justice: What was God doing before he made the world?

Jayla: I found my homework.