Thursday, May 31, 2012

Save The Adoption Tax Credit

Here is a link to FAQ about Save The Adoption Tax Credit:

http://adoptiontaxcredit.org/faqs/

"Like" them on Facebook. 

Pass this information on.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SIBLINGS: RIVALRY & REVELRY

As we move through the adoption process, I am continually talking to Benjamin about what he thinks life will be like with a sibling.  His talk is full of promise and hopes and I try to encourage this, as well as temper his fantasies of life with a little sister will be like.  Of course I realize that no matter how much we talk about this subject (about the changes our family will face); I know that Benjamin will not truly understand until there is, physically, another child living with us.  Only then will he probably struggle with what therapist Heidi Wiste calls “the letdown when reality replaces fantasy.”  Benjamin cannot understand what it means to have a sibling until he really has one.

In contemplating what it means to have a sibling, my sister is four years my junior, I thought about how the Bible has portrayed this relationship between siblings.  Going all the way back to Genesis, the first siblings gave a very unflattering portrait of the lengths that rivalry can go to with Cain and Abel.  Things don’t improve with Jacob stealing his brother, Esau’s, birthright or with Joseph’s brothers being so jealous that they, at first, plot his murder and then opt to sell him into slavery.  Even Jesus’ brothers thought he was crazy and tried to take charge of him.

When I was four, my parents brought my newborn sister home on a surprisingly snowy late March day.  I was thrilled.  My wife, however, responded to her parents bringing her new sister home with, “Okay.  I’ve seen her.  You can take her back now.”

Growing up, I remember my little sister following my friends and me around.  At times I was protective of her and, at other times, I just found her to be a pest and wanted her to leave me alone.  One thing I enjoy doing with my son is watching the cartoon Arthur on PBS.  The relationship between Arthur and his little sister DW very much strike a chord on what its like between older brothers and little sisters.  So, too, does the one between Jem and Scout in one of my favorite books To Kill a Mockingbird

One of my fondest memories of my little sister came from one of my most painful birthdays.  It was at Putt Putt and when it came time for everyone to partner up to compete against each other, all of my friends chose somebody else.  It was my birthday and I was the reason why they were there, didn’t they realize they were supposed to fight over who got to play as my partner?  Clearly they didn’t.  Hurt, I stood there and watched all of them going off to play the first hole.  It was then that my little sister proudly came up to me, took my hand, and said, “I’ll be your partner.” 

I also remember how we fought and argued like all children do.  Once, my parents won a cruise.  My sister and I desperately wanted to go too.  Calculatedly, my parents told us that if we didn’t argue once between then and the day of the cruise, we could go.  Needless to say, we lost out before the end of that very day, though we begged fruitlessly for “another chance.” 

With the addition of a new sibling, Benjamin has the opportunity to create one of the longest lasting bonds he can have, even longer than the one he has with us, his parents.  Many siblings help and love each other long after their parents have died.  He also has an ally and helpmate when my wife and I age, become frail and need to be taken care of.  We will no longer be his responsibility alone.  Also, studies show that having sibling bonds help kids with their sense of well-being and attachment as adults.

Every Christmas and birthday, Benjamin has asked for a sibling.  He has often spoken of being lonely as the only child.  All of his friends have brothers or sisters.  When talking of his future sibling, I ask him about the relationships (good and bad) that his friends have with their siblings.  We have discussions on what it will mean to be a brother, something I ask him.  He talks in terms of taking his little sister “under” his “wing.”  Even before his sister gets here, Benjamin feels protective of her, something I felt about my own sister.  Not completely altruistic, he has already used the term “mine” in reference to things as well. 

I understand that it will not just be the adoptive child who will be experiencing loss.  Benjamin, too, will face his share of losses: his privacy, being an only child, and getting all of the attention of my wife and myself.  Benjamin and I talk about what the “positives” and “negatives” of bringing another child into our family might be.  We also talk about ways that he can bond with his new sister.

Not wanting him to think he will be forgotten when the “new” child arrives, I tell him that he’s not being replaced and that Mommy and I want him to know that we will never, ever love him any less, that he is special to us, and that we will continue to encourage and nurture his identity and interests. 

Some questions we address with him:
What does adoption mean?
Why is our family adopting?
What do you think will be different after the adoption?  What will be the same?
What it the adoption is hard?  Who can you talk to if the adoption is difficult for you?

I want Benjamin to have a strong bond with his adopted sister and to love her as I loved mine.  In The Message translation of the Bible, Psalm 133 opens with, “How wonderful, how beautiful when brothers and sisters get along!”     

Monday, May 28, 2012

Q & A Part 2

Here is another small interview with Benjamin on adopting a little sister:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Making Pizza

"You and Mommy spend more time on trying to get a new child that you hardly spend time with the one you already have," my son complained.  Though his complaint was exaggerated, I told him, "Okay, we'll do something that you want to do.  So what will it be?"  I expected to hear some sort of science experiment, but instead he replied, "Make a pizza.  From scratch."  From scratch?  Didn't he realize that we hold firm to the Rachel Ray doctorine that you don't make anything from scratch?  Clearly not.  Still, I agreed to undertake this effort with him on the one condition that he had to be there for all of it and not quit when he got tired or bored. 

Now, the last time we tried to do anything culinary and creative it was when he and I attempted to make a gingerbread house at Christmas.  The finished product then was a gingerbread house that was condemned as being too "unsafe" and "unfit" for any gingerbread families to live in  - or near.  Apparently a collapsed roof is not seen as a plus in gingerbread real estate.  With our pizza, the only thing I would have to wonder about is whether or not it would be edible.



First he combined all the ingredients for the dough and then mixed in the Cuisinart.


Then we had to put the dough into an olive oil-lined bowl with Saran Wrap over it, put the bowl in the refrigerator for an hour to let the dough rise.  While we waited, we watched an animated version of one of Benjamin's favorite childhood books: William Steig's Pete's a Pizza.  If you've never read the book, you must rush to your local library and check it out immediately!  My wife and I would play this game with Benjamin on rainy days when he was "bored."  There's also a cute animated version on YouTube (of course) if you want to look it up and watch it. 

 Once that hour was up, he took the dough out, kneaded it, and then rolled the dough with a rolling pin.



After rolling the dough into a somewhat circular shape, he added the sauce and some cheese.



We put the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes.  This is how it looked when it came out:


But the real question was, "How does this ugly pizza taste?" 



Benjamin and I had a great time making the pizza and the mess.  Every so often while we were making the pizza, we'd pretend a customer had entered our establishment and we'd call out our greeting, "Hey!  Welcome to CiCi's!" 

I'm sure this won't be the first time that Benjamin will be jealous, especially once his new sibling is here, but we just have to take time and make him feel special too, because he really is.

Quote of the Day

“I want to work on behalf of the poor, the way God has asked me to. That is something that has been neglected in my own life. I think in the American Church, a lot of us have been so self-nurturing in our self-grooming. You know we have the ultimate worship experience, we have all the tools we need for a great devotional life, and all these resources. Now what? “Here am I, send me.” I want to go, and I don’t want to be afraid. I want to take all those “what ifs” women have, I want to take those to their end conclusion. Every single time you will find that God is sovereign. So I feel like I want to ignite that pilot light in other women. Get excited! This is an exciting time to be alive. It is an exciting time to be raising kids. To be, like Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

- Sara Groves


Adopting Love

Here's a link to a great story about adoption:

http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/local/east-volusia/2012/05/13/the-two-young-brothers-werent.html

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Unto The Least Of These . . .

National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month.  Here's a link to the website:

http://www.fostercaremonth.org/Pages/default.aspx

Prayerfully consider foster care or adoption.  Isaiah 1:17 tells us: Learn to do good.  Seek justice.  Help the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the orphans.  Fight for the rights of the widows.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Quote of the Day

"The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence."
- Rick Warren

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Q & A With Benjamin

Here is the first part of an interview I did with our son Benjamin about his feelings on adoption:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Adoption Tax Credit

Please LIKE this Facebook page to help save the Adoption Tax Credit:
https://www.facebook.com/AdoptionTaxCredit

Steve Taylor

Christian singer, songwriter, music producer, and film director Steve Taylor adopted his daughter in 2004.

If you don't know his work look on YouTube.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And then . . .

Having finished our second home study visit, we are working to complete the home study portion of the adoption process.  Today, Danelle, Benjamin and I had our photos taken for the passports.  Thankfully, mine does not look like my driver's license, which has me looking a shade of orange that is a cross between the tanning mom and one of the oompa loompas from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  After we had our photos taken at Sam's Club, we applied for our passports at the post office.  From there, we went to the court house to get our local background checks done.  And, finally, to the Gastonia Police Office for our fingerprints.  Benjamin was thrilled that they fingerprinted him, too (though it is was simply for fun and not because he had to).  I told him, "This better be the only time they have to fingerprint you!"

Of course all if it cost money.  Today we spent $445.  This doesn't include our having to mail off our fingerprints and the fee to send them to the SBI.  Once all of the home study is completed, then the real work begins with not only taking classes but also building our dossier.   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Home Study Part 2

Tonight was our second home study visit.  This meeting focused mostly our parenting style and discipline. We, of course, left out references to the rack or boiling in oil (although both are educational in terms of Benjamin gaining a better understanding of these things in Mark Twains' The Prince & The Paupe, which he's reading in school).  What Danelle and I did talk about was how we set our expectations ahead of time and that Benjamin knows the consequences of his actions should he disobey.  Another topic that was brought up was what our main focus in how we raise Benjamin.  We told the coordinator that we, as Christians, view our main focus to be Benjamin's relationship with God, that he realize that the world does not revolve around him, and that he grows up to be a godly, compassionate man who believes strongly in helping others, especially those who are less fortunate to him.  That is one of the main reasons why Benjamin is coming on the trip with us when we go overseas to meet the child we adopt.  It is imperative that he understand that, while we may not be wealthy, we are still so much better off than  a great many others in the world.  We spoke of parenting styles and of how Danelle and I provide a "united front" and support each other in our parenting of Benjamin.  I also spoke of how we allow Benjamin to be upset with us so long as he realizes that he still has to obey us.

The coordinator then began to ask us how we would parent the child we adopt.  Like all parenting with children, how you parent often varies from one child to another.  Growing up, my Mom would tell both my sister and I to clean our rooms while she was gone somewhere like the store.  When she returned, she would know that I would have my room clean while my sister would greet her not with a clean room, but flowers she picked her.  My Mom had to motivate us differently because our personalities were different.  The same is true with interests.  She would focus on encouraging us in our separate pursuits and even spend the day with just one of us doing what we liked doing. 

I told the coordinator how we planned to bring the child's past and culture into our lives so that they don't feel completely cut off from who they were before the adoption.  Benjamin and I have been to the library and checked out books on the country we are adopting from, so that we could learn about the culture, the celebrations, and the foods so that this can become a part of our family.  This is a way to show the child that she is important to us and we want to embrace her completely.  Danelle also mentioned how we would be open to discussing and talking about the adoption and the birth parents on holidays like Mother's Day, Father's Day, or birthdays.  The more we know about our child's background, the more we can better understand how best to raise our daughter.

The second home study ended again with our questions and going over exactly what documents we still needed to get to complete the home study portion of the adoption process.

Both times, the home study did not come off as a cold scrutiny of our family but as the coordinator sincerely caring to help us along in the process and to help us achieve our desire to bring another child into our family.

  

Don't Have to Be an Einstein

"Only a life lived for others is a life worth living."

- Albert Einstein

Monday, May 14, 2012

Famous Couple Who Were Both Adoptees

  Country singers Faith Hill & Tim McGraw were both adopted. 

Thus Far in the Process . . .

Tomorrow night we have our second home visit from our home study coordinator.  Our first visit went really well.  During the previous visit, we were asked all about our backgrounds (childhoods, family life, relatioships with parents and siblings), about our jobs, and why we want to adopt.  The coordinator took a tour of our home.  It ended with us asking the coordinator all of our numerous questions about the paperwork we had to fill out and what was required for the home study to be completed (physicals, background checks, fingerprinting, etcetera).  Tomorrow night, we get to cover the topic of parenting.  At some point, the coordinator is supposed to interview each of us separately, although we are unsure if that will happen tomorrow night or later by phone. 

We have also been filling out paperwork - lots and lots and lots of paperwork.  Kafka in all of his stories could not have imagined all the paperwork involved.  I'm sure once we are done and we stack the papers in a pile, it will be thicker than a Russian novel.  As I am making calls to different places (court house, police department, doctors . . .) and filling out paper work for the home study and researching grants, I have to keep reminding myself why I am going through all of this: somewhere in another country is a little girl who doesn't know us and we don't know her but she will be our daughter.  My wife, Danelle, even mentioned yesterday, on Mother's Day, that it is highly likely that, come next Mother's Day, she will have two children to celebrate with.  God is amazing!   

Friday, May 11, 2012

Here's an adoption quote of the day from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables:

"It's lovely to be going home and know it's home . . .I love Green Gables already, and I never loved any place before.  No place ever seemed like home."  - Anne Shirley

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

BUT YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GETTING . . .

One of the comments we have heard enough times to warrant a blog is when we tell people we’re adopting, they respond, “Really?  But you don’t know what you’re getting?”  The implication being that we don’t know what the child we’ll be adopting is going to be like.  Perhaps those asking have merely seen that dreadful film The Orphan and are concerned that we, like the parents in that movie, will end up adopting a murderous female with hypopituitarism (a condition that stunts growth) who is merely posing as a little girl just like Esther did in the film (This is not, I repeat not an endorsement for that schlock). 

More than likely, these well-meaning people are merely asking in their own way: Will the child have emotional or psychological problems?  They might also be concerned because we might not know the child’s family history. 

Quite a few are taken aback by the fact that this little girl won’t speak any English (We’re told it takes 3 months for them to speak English and 6 months for them to speak and understand English fluently).  Although like so many things these days, there’s an App for that. 

All of these things may be true, but the fact of the matter is that even when we had our biological child, we still didn’t know exactly what we were getting.  Actually every morning I wake up and wonder what Benjamin has in store for us today.  Children can often be like The Three Faces of Eve and you just hope that you get the good personality that day.  There are days when I don’t know if he’ll be well-behaved or attempt to argue with every directive we give him as if it were a court and he was a lawyer trying to debate and change the decision of my wife and I.

I never would’ve expected to get a son who was interested in science and computers and wanted to start his own business (He’s 12).  He even got upset with us when we punished him one day and he stormed off with, “Why can’t you treat me like a business man?” 

Yet no matter what I go through that day with him, by the time he’s asleep (They are always at their best and most lovable then), I creep into his room to watch him sleeping and to kiss him on his forehead.  I love him because he’s my son.  One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote the following in her amazing book Walking On Water: Reflections of Faith and Art:

“When I was a child my parents loved me not because I was good but because I was Madeleine, their child.  I loved them, and I wanted to please them, but their love of me did not have to be earned.

Neither does the love of God.  We are loved because we are His children, because we are.”


God loves me because I am His.  Of course, God didn’t exactly get a great deal when He adopted me into His family.  Romans 8: 14 – 16 tells us: For as many are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of bondage, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.”  I can only imagine the angels’ reaction to this news.  “Really?  You adopted him?  Have You taken a good look at him?  I mean, that one’s really damaged goods.”  I’m sure there are those who look at who God’s chosen and wonder:  WHY?   They would quickly point out someone else that would make more sense: someone who’s wiser, richer, more powerful, more successful, more athletic, better looking, and a whole list of things the world choose, but God doesn’t choose as the world does – or He never would’ve used little David to slay Goliath or sent His Son into the world in the way that He did.  Many view God’s wisdom as foolish.  Sometimes, when I think about Him adopting me, I admit that I wonder about God’s taste.  

When we bring our daughter home, we will love her in the same way that we love our son: because she is ours. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Home Study: Part 1

None of us want to be judged.  Perhaps in our overly self-critical minds when even the notion of someone judging us we have an entire Supreme Court of Simon Cowell-like judges on the bench.  Like magazines do with photos on their covers, I tend to want to airbrush all the imperfections of my life so that no one sees any of the flaws, failures, foibles, and frailties.  Like many, I know all too well that I’m an imperfect husband, Papa, son, brother, friend, and, especially follower of Christ.  Needless to say, when I heard that part of the adoption process included home studies, I found myself once again having to confront my fears and insecurities.  All I could think is: What if I don’t measure up?

Before our home study coordinator came to our house on Sunday night, we did some major “spring” cleaning.  And I could’ve sworn I heard Miss Hannigan from the musical Annie telling me, “I want this place to shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!” 
At one point, after we had taken down all of the hanging pictures dust the walls behind them, I asked my wife,“Is the home study lady really going to check behind them?”  Was she going to walk through our home with a white glove on, trailing her finger along furniture for dust?  As I was hanging one of the curtains we had washed, my wife told me, “Make sure you hang that so she doesn’t see the frayed part.”  Isn’t that how we are with our lives as well?  Wanting to keep so much hidden in the fear that others will harshly judge us?  That if someone really knew, there is no way they could accept us?  Still, I cleaned all the way up until shortly before the counselor got here.

All the while I am more concerned with how the home study coordinator was going to view us? 

Our son Benjamin is strong-willed and often likes to speak his mind.  The best image I can give you of him is Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with him, I put a sample of the comic strip below.  Both my wife and I were very nervous about how Benjamin would answer questions directed towards him, especially in regards to our parenting skills and about what he thinks and feels about punishment.  When Benjamin was little, we went to a social function at our church.  We had finished eating and Benjamin wanted ice cream. I took his hand and we went to get in the line for it.  As we are waiting, he notices that they are blowing up the inflatables for kids to play on.  Of course he wanted desperately to get over there to them, but I held his hand tightly and said, “Just wait, the inflatables aren’t even ready yet.  We’ll get ice cream first, OK?”  His response was a very loud denouncement of, “Let go of me you devil!”  Now I wasn’t expecting anything of that nature now, but what would he say about me?  Daily he calls me “mean” and once, when he was younger, told me I was “fired.”  To this little Donald Trump, I responded with, “Hey!  I wish I could quit!”  And there are times when we’re both right.  And other times, I find myself going to him and apologizing for when I was wrong.  Would he remember those times or merely the times he found me unfair?

And then there is all the baggage of my life that I was bringing to this home study.  How would it go over when I told the coordinator that back in 1995 when I had lost my job and could not find one I suffered from depression that I had to see a Christian counselor as well as had to have a doctor prescribe me antidepressants?  This isn’t the sort of thing that in my past, I wouldn’t have wanted to be open and honest to anybody about.  I would have preferred to give superficial answers or try to answer as I thought someone would want to hear. 

The term hypocrite originally referred to actors who wore masks on stage to portray different characters, but isn’t this exactly what I have been doing for so long in my own life?  Was I going to come to this home study with a whole repertoire of masks to project a self-confident, got-it-together, and George Clooney-coolness? 

And what about that financial sheet where we have to break down our monthly expenses?  Would they look at us and go, “Why are they even considering bringing another child into their home?  They can’t afford one.”

When Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler who had come to him, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have a give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come and follow Me.”  Jesus cut right to the heart of the matter in that He understood that the rich young ruler, being human, could not be perfect.  Not in himself or through his works.  If there’s one thing I have gained from scripture is that it is full of imperfect men and women in relation to a perfect God.   

This adoption process is teaching me that I will constantly be asking myself, “Are my fears greater than my Father?  Which will I be faithful to?”

Before the counselor arrived, I stopped all the busyness we were doing and got my family together and prayed.  I took what was to come out of our imperfect hands and put it into the perfect hands of my Abba.  This is what we will have to do with each and every step of not only this process but our lives. 

When I opened the front door to let the home study coordinator in, one of the first things she said to us is, “I’m here to help you adopt.”  This immediately put us more at ease.  Throughout the hour and a half she was in our home, we answered with complete honesty about our background and, at times, with the brokenness we felt for the orphans in the country we’re adopting from.  (The statistics for them are bleak.  They only have a 20% chance of being adopted after the age of five.  When they turn sixteen, they have to “graduate” from the orphanages where they have to take care of themselves.  10% commit suicide.  60% of the girls end up in prostitution.  70% of the boys end up in a life of crime.)  But as we answered each question, we were not met with harshness or even judgment.  Instead, we got a small example of God’s grace and love.

That night, I had a dream of us being in the orphanage where our daughter is and of us simply hugging her.  I awakened in tears.  Somewhere in another country is a little girl that we don’t know and who doesn’t know us but God in His infinite love will be bringing all of us together to be a family.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Wall Hugger

I am what you would call a “wall hugger,” in that I’m not someone who likes to move out of my comfort zone.  I tend to like my daily routine and don’t really want to stray from that or have anything upset it.  Back when I was in school, I was never the one to raise their hand to go first, but preferred to go somewhere in the middle.  Safe and comfortable are what I seek.  I would never have been an explorer or a pilgrim or a missionary.  So it came as a shock that God would lay it on my heart, as well as my wife’s, that we should not only adopt a child but do an international adoption.  Like Moses, I want to back out of God’s call and say, “Wouldn’t so and so be a better choice?”  But God is never interested in our idea of the “better” choice.  Unlike kids in gym class, God tends to pick those who we would prefer not to pick or pick last under duress.  I am one of those kids who stood there waiting and waiting and waiting to be picked on a team in P.E. Having a greater vision and a sense of humor, God picks the unlikely and the outcasts.  Don’t believe me?  Look at His choices all throughout scripture. 

My wife and I talked at great length about the decision to adopt.  Of course we immediately found all the obstacles (especially money) involved in not only adopting a child, but adopting one from another country.  But for every reason we could come up with to try and excuse ourselves from this call, God kept reminding us that He is greater.  Back when I used to drive the van for our church to pick up the elderly and those who couldn’t get to and from church on their own, I remember this one older man who, during our conversation, said, in regards to something he’d faced in his life, “Either you trust God or you don’t.” This has resonated with me for years and it will continue to do so. 

In his amazing book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene H. Peterson (who did The Message translation of the Bible) wrote:

            The person of faith is described in this psalm (Psalm 125) as
             “a rock-solid mountain . . . nothing can move it.”  But I am moved.
             I am full of faith one day and empty with doubt the next.  I can be
            moved by nearly anything: sadness, joy, success, failure.  I’m a
            thermometer and go up and down with the weather.

            My feelings are important for many things.  They are essential
            and valuable.  They keep me aware of much that is true and real.
            But they tell me next to nothing about God or my relation to God.
            My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel.  “As the
            mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about
            his people.”  The image that announces the dependable, unchanging,
            safe, secure existence of God’s people comes from geology, not
            psychology (pages 86 & 87).

Wow!! Did those words hit me when I first read them and even now as I reread it in writing this entry for my blog.  Unlike me, God is unchanging and is not swayed by circumstances and emotions.  He wants me to be like Jesus, who could sleep in the boat while a storm raged about it.  I, however, tend to be more like the disciples who were terrified and ask the Lord, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  One of the most repeated phrases by Jesus is, “Be not afraid.”  And in Mark 4:35 – 41, I see Jesus asking not only his disciples, but myself, with his question, “Why are you so fearful?  How is that you have no faith?”  As I sit in this boat with Jesus and the storm of finances, international travel, taking off those weeks form work to go overseas, and a whole host of other seen and unforeseen difficulties and circumstances arise, I have to remember that I follow a Savior who can rebuke all of it with only, “Peace, be still.”

So this means I have to trust Him and leave my wall.  I just have to remember that I’m not leaving my comfort zone alone.