Monday, March 31, 2014

How You Can Give One to Save One!

We are the featured family this week on the Give One Save One adoption advocacy website. Please check out our new video over at GIVEONESAVEONE and read more about how you can help us this week.

Most importantly: SPREAD THE WORD!

Use the GIVEONESAVEONE link to post to Twitter, Facebook, your blog, EVERYWHERE! The more people who know, the more people can be part of our story too!

(Go ahead, be a little obnoxious…believe us, our daughter’s adorable face is worth the trouble!!)

GIVEONESAVEONE encourages each of its readers to donate $1 to their weekly featured family. The idea is that if each of us gives $1, we together make a big difference.

The donations are tax deductible and go directly to our agency.

Want to help?

Check out GIVEONESAVEONE this week (starting today, March 31st).

Share the address with your friends and family to see if they’d like to give $1 too.

We hope you enjoy the new video we have posted today!

(We know you are really going to like it!)

(An extra challenge to consider: what if we each gave $1 everyday for 1 week? That would make an even bigger difference to a little girl who has never known a family!)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What a Fisher Price ride on toy says about a little girl

Tonight, Rob and I sat at the dinner table and watched a video of Lucy taken in the play room on the top floor of her orphanage. Lucy is on one of those Fisher Price ride on toys for toddlers.  It is pink and reminds me of the Barbie ride on that Julia had when she was about two years old.  From the side of the video, you can see an adult arm and hand motioning for Lucy to come over, and you can hear a woman’s voice speaking to her in Albanian.  However, the woman is out of the video camera’s range.  Lucy cautiously pushes over to the woman but stops several feet short of going to her. Lucy’s face is serious as if she is thinking about what she wants to do next or possibly not do.  After a few seconds, Lucy begins to back her Fisher Price ride on toy up and makes her decision.  She continues backing up slowly, keeping her eyes on the woman, and then ultimately she turns the toy around and pushes clear to the other side of the play room before looking back.

After Rob and I finished watching the video, Rob began to chuckle and looked over at me and said, “Boy, are we in trouble.” He was referring to the serious face Lucy had been giving the woman and then Lucy’s apparent defiance by pushing away when the woman was obviously motioning for her to come.  We definitely saw a little stubbornness in Lucy’s eyes, but it made us both happy.  Lucy felt comfortable enough to not do what she was being asked to do. I liked seeing that in my daughter.  Some people call it having a strong will. My grandmother called it having gumption. One of the missionaries who works with children at the orphanage said to me that Lucy when she became comfortable with a person was very adamant about what she did and did not want. Whatever you call it, it has probably served its purpose for Lucy as she has lived in the orphanage.

What else did I notice in the video that we ended up watching at least three times in a row? I noticed how small her hands were.  I noticed how big her brown eyes were and that yes, she did have some of the longest eyelashes I had ever seen on a child as another adoptive mom had told me who met Lucy last year.  I noticed how curly her dark brown hair was and wondered what it would look like if I let it grow long instead of the short cropped cut that she has now.  I noticed how fast and capable she was on the Fisher Price ride on, which was completely opposite of her brother at that age.  I noticed her tiny little mouth and remembered that several people told me that she loved to sing.  I wondered if I would get the chance to hear her soon.

And, then it happened.  I noticed how my heart began to ache at the very sight of her.  This incredible longing to hold my daughter for the first time, and all of the emotions that moment brings began to quell up inside of me.  It was a feeling that was bittersweet and familiar.  I remembered having those feelings before our first trip to meet Yuli and living with them every day of the six months between our first trip and our final pick up trip for our son.  It seemed as if every day was an emotional roller coaster as we waited for those final travel dates to be with our little boy forever.

With Lucy’s adoption, I have tried to keep myself busy with the tasks of first completing our home study and now finishing our dossier. Of course, I am also working full-time and raising two other children while we wait.  But, there are moments when I let my heart and my mind go to that place where I am enveloped with thoughts of my daughter. I let myself dream about our first meeting, touching her face for the first time, holding her tiny hand in mine, and carrying her on my back down the streets of Albania  in the Ergo.  I want to know what look she will give me the first time she sees me.  I want to tell her “Te dua” (I love you).  These are times when I let myself feel the longing of making our family whole, and I let myself feel the emotion that brings at full strength.  These are the times when the waiting is hard…so very hard.

In those moments, all I can do is remember that our trip to meet Lucy will be in God’s timing, and I must accept that and trust in His timing.  It does not mean that I cannot long to be with my daughter.  It means that I can take solace in knowing that today we are one day closer to making that happen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A little update

This last week has been extremely busy for our family.  We are gathering documents for our dossier, and then we are going through the process of getting the documents notarized, certified and apostilled.  We are trying to get all the tasks completed for the dossier so that when our I-800 approval arrives we will be ready to send the entire dossier packet to Albania.

Some of the documents on the dossier are easy to acquire while others are more difficult and time consuming.  I think the one that will be difficult this time will be the updated medicals for both me, Rob and the kids. We all had physicals last year for our home study, but our insurance will not pay for any more physicals for us or the kids until a calendar year has passed since the previous medicals were done. The calendar year will not be up until June.  Just to take the kids to the pediatrician to have a physical and the required TB testing done again will be $600 out of pocket.

I did manage, however, to set up an appointment for Rob and myself. I will just need the TB testing, HIV testing, and drug screen done, because I recently had an office visit with my physician.  Rob will be getting what is called a combat physical, which will be coded as an office visit, and he will also have to have the same testing as I do. Then we will need to coordinate with the doctor to make sure that the notary is there when the paperwork is filled out. Oh, and I did I mention that there cannot be any mistakes or white-outs on the paperwork? It is just standard procedure for an international adoption.

Sometimes, the amount of stuff that we have to do and the amount of money that we have to raise for the adoption overwhelms me, but then all I have to do is pull out Lucy's picture or play one of her videos and the strength to finish this starts pulsing through my veins.  She is my daughter, and I will do whatever is necessary to bring her home, even if it means humbling myself to say that we need help in raising the funds.

We started a fundraiser event on Facebook Sunday night called 150 Envelopes for Lucy, and it has been amazingly successful.  We are asking everyone to just take an envelope.  The envelopes are numbered 1-150. If you take envelope 7, then you are committing to a donation of seven dollars. We are asking that the checks be made out to our agency instead of us. Once you verbally commit to an envelope, we mail the envelope to you with a self-addressed return envelope that you put your check in and mail to us. As of my post tonight, almost half of the envelopes have been taken.  All of these amazing people are blessing us by their generosity and desire to have Lucy united with her family.  And, God is showing us one again his plan for us, which we have known since the first time we laid eyes on Lucy.

We pray for Lucy daily, and we have also begun praying for the director and the sisters who run Lucy's orphanage. These women have a huge responsibility to care for these children, and every adoptive parent who has been to Lucy's orphanage has praised them for the great love and care they show the children. We are thankful that Lucy's situation is better it seems than the one our son was placed in after he was born.

Please continue to pray for us as we still have a few mountains to climb on this journey. The one thing that our 150 Envelopes for Lucy fundraiser has taught me though is that we are not alone on this journey.  We have a whole community of friends and family walking along beside us.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Do Something!

I am just going to come out and say it. This post was difficult to write.  I have been pondering my words for several days and trying to think of the best way to say what I needed to say.  I did not want to upset anyone with my words, but at the same time, I needed to answer the question that I get asked continually with truth.  I finally realized that I just needed to say it.  I needed to speak from my heart and let the thoughts flow into words on this page.

What is the number one question that I get asked about international adoption?  “Why would you adopt from another country when there are so many kids in the United States that need a home?” That is the question.  However, the implications behind the question lie much deeper.  The implication is that American families should just adopt from the United States. There is also an implication that the need here in this country is so much greater than anywhere else in the world so how can we turn our backs on those children that live here in this country.  Sadly, many times the person that is asking me this question has never and would never consider domestic adoption or foster care adoption in this country.

I am not going to debate the importance of domestic or foster care adoption versus international adoption in this post because I believe that they are all important ways of creating a family.  I support anyone who chooses to adopt by any of these means because a child gets a family, and doesn’t everyone deserve to have a family to love them?

What I do want to talk about is why international adoption matters. Is our ability to love a child really constrained by the borders of our own country?  I don’t think so.  Our love should be boundless like the love that Jesus has for us.  When a child is born thousands of miles away in another country whether it be Bulgaria, Ethiopia or China, that child deserves a family.  In a perfect world, these children would find families in their birth country to love them and care for them and to help preserve the culture of their birth, but we don’t live in a perfect world.  The truth is that we live in a broken world, and these children, especially the ones with special needs, will have little hope of finding a family in a country where there are no services for children with disabilities, where there are no handicapped parking spaces, or handicapped seating in restaurants.  So, if there are willing and able parents in the United States who can love these children and provide them with the healthcare and the services that they need, then who are we to stand in their way?

Mother Teresa said, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” And, isn’t that what adoptive parents are trying to do? They are trying to remedy a great poverty in our world.  Adoptive families are wanting children who were previously unwanted.  They are loving and caring for children who have known what it is like to feel unloved, neglected and ignored.

Can you imagine being a three month old baby and not feeling loved? It is almost difficult to comprehend, but it happens in orphanages every day around the world.  Imagine a room filled with 20 to 30 metal cribs and in each crib is a child, but there are only one or two orphanage workers to feed and change all 20 to 30 children.  The workers simply have too many mouths to feed so the babies are given bottles with large holes cut into the nipples of the bottles. The bottles are then propped up next to the child laying in the crib so that the liquid flows quickly down into their tiny mouths.  There is no holding of these children while they are being fed, no gentle pats on their small backs after the feeding, and no soft rocking in warm arms until sleep falls again.  The feeding is over and done almost as quickly as it started, and then the children are left alone, untouched in their cribs for hours.  No one is there to rock you so you learn to rock yourself, back and forth, side to side, harder and harder in your crib.

Diapers in many orphanages are changed only once a day so the children lie in their cribs for hours with not only a soiled diaper on but with wet clothes soaked from urine and feces.  You might think that there would be babies crying and screaming every day in these rooms at the orphanage because that is what a child who has been held and loved will do to get the attention of the mother.  A baby will cry when his diaper is soiled or when he is hungry because he is uncomfortable. The child knows that his mommy can remedy this discomfort. Why? Because his mommy has done it over and over since the child’s first day of life.  However, orphanages are sometimes the most quiet places.  Why cry when you know that no one is coming?

When my son first came home from Bulgaria, he would never cry.  He would fall and hurt himself, but he would never cry.  As little boys do, he would get into all kinds of scrapes while playing outside, but not one tear would fall.  It wasn’t until months later when he realized that mommy would come and kiss his boo boos and hug his hurts away that he began to cry when he was injured.  He learned that I would come and help him. He learned that I would wipe away his tears and give him a Band-Aid if needed.  He learned that I would give him food whenever he was hungry. He learned that I would hold him when he was sad or tired.  He learned that I would cheer for him when he did a good job.  He learned what it was like to feel loved.  He learned how to be a part of a family.

I firmly believe that all children whether born in this country or in China, Ethiopia, the Ukraine or any other country deserved to be loved. Love should have no boundaries or borders, and it should not be constrained by our nationality.  A child should not be deprived of a family because there is an ocean lying between him and his family.

So what happens if we put up the walls and decide that children in orphanages in other countries are someone else’s problem? What if we turn our heads in apathy because these children live thousands of miles away, and we don’t have to look them in them in the eyes every day? What happens then?

Per documented research on children living in orphanages in Romania, a child will be three months behind in development for every one month that a child spends in an institution. I have seen a four year old come home to his adoptive family and be developmentally and physically around 18 months.  These children will grow up in these orphanages and will lag behind in almost all areas.  They will be given a limited education, and they will be put on the street, sometimes as young as 14 years of age with no skills, no money and no prospects.  They will fall prey to human trafficking, particularly the girls who are at a much higher risk.  They will not have the opportunities to succeed that they so desperately deserve. A family would give them everything they need to succeed in life and stop this unbelievable tragic cycle.

You might ask how I know that the descriptions I have given of the babies in the orphanage are accurate. My simple answer is because I have been to such an orphanage. I have described the place in which my son spent the first three and half years of his life.  What I have seen, I cannot unsee.

God has given me a heart for orphans and a desire to help adoptive families in any way that I can.  He has also called me not once, but twice, to be an adoptive parent.  As I have said many times before, not everyone is called to adopt, but everyone is called to help the orphans. James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Sometimes that calling comes in the form of helping adoptive families by praying for them and being there for them on this very difficult and emotionally, mentally, and financially taxing journey.  

One of my favorite songs right now is by Matthew West, and it is called “Do Something.” If you have not heard this song, I greatly encourage you to take a listen and do something!  Here is a portion of the lyrics.

Do Something – Matthew West
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something.”