Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thank You


We would like to thank Dolores & Tom Jones for their extremely kind donation to our adoption fund.  Your kindness is greatly appreciated.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hiking With My Son

Today when I got home from work, I was greeted by Benjamin who smiled and I knew instantly that he wanted something.  But what?  It did not take him long to blurt out, "Wanna' go for a hike?"  My inner response is, "No, not really."  He's been wanting to hike a local mountain, Crowder's Mountain, for some time now but with this summer being in the high 90's to triple digits, I've told him we'd do it when it was cooler.  Today it's 88 degrees, so how could I resist?  (Yes, there is a twinge of sarcasm in that), but still, I relented.  Benjamin was thrilled and as I changed clothes, he fixed us some food to take for a picnic (peanut butter sandwiches, apples, grapes, chips, and water).

It's a short drive to the mountain and we stopped at a picnic spot to eat our food.  It was nice to sit in the shade, eat, and listen to him talk about whatever he wanted to talk about.  When we'd finished and disposed of our trash, we went to the trails.  Now there are 12 different trails one can take.  They range from easy to strenuous.  Which do you think he chose?  Well, as we all know, "easy is for babies."  I wanted to add, "And 44 year olds who don't go hiking all that often."

As we hiked up the mountain, I kept reminding myself of why I was doing this: for my son.  Spending time with him can be some of the best and most rewarding for both of us.  We share and laugh and, because Mommy's not with us, we can engage in lower body humor that boys like.  At the start of the hike, Benjamin started off way ahead of me, hurrying up the path, and calling back, "Come on, Papa!"  I knew better and paced myself.  What I had to catch myself from doing was simply watching the path and not looking around me at the scenery, something I do too often in my daily life where the tasks at hand crowd out simple pleasures.

When we reached the mile marker, we took our first rest and drank water from the water bottle.  We sat on some rocks and talked a bit more.  He told me about previous hiking trips he'd taken with his friend Shane on this mountain.  I liked how happy he was to be out here in nature with me.  After a moment, he was ready to start back on the trail.  Once again, he took the lead.

In my head, I sang John Denver songs.

The further we got and the steeper the inclines, the more I realized how infrequently I really did stuff like this.  And I began to wonder how far up the top of this mountain really was.  The higher we climbed, the more my son encouraged me with, "Come on, Papa.  Not much further! (How many "not much furthers" can a person believe?)  You can do it!"  I kept making references to Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings. He was so happy when we made it to the top of Crowder's Mountain - just as I would be so happy when we made it back down.

The climb down was, in some ways, harder than the climb down, though we did it by making up silly songs to the tune of "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain."  One of my all time favorite sounds is my son laughing.  From the very first time I made him laugh, I loved hearing him do it.  This was no exception.  We both laughed and sang loudly in our off-tune voices.  When we got back to the car, he looked at the back of my shirt and asked, "Did you pour water down your back?"  No, that's sweat.  "Wow!  You're soaked!"  After getting in the car, he first told me to "Crank up the AC," before he added, "I always have a great time with you, Papa."  That made the whole climb worth it.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Watching The Olympics

This year, as our family is watching the Olympics, we are paying close attention to not only how American athletes do (such as when we'll be shouting, "Go Lolo!" or my wife will be loudly cheering for our volleyball teams) but we will also be watching how athletes from Ukraine do.  Why?  Because Ukraine is the country we're adopting from.  During the opening ceremony, we cheered for their athletes.  We will see how they fare in the medals, such as Olena Kostevych earning a bronze in shooting.  It's exciting to think that this foreign country will be a part of our family, that its history will be a part of our family history, their culture will be included in our own.  Our family has gone to the library to check out books on Ukraine to help us better understand the place where our child will be coming from.  Because of a child, a whole other country is opening to us.


Bible Verse of the Day

"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But  whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."

- 1 John 3:23

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thank You


Our family would like to offer our thanks to Fogartys for your kind contribution to our adoption fund.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Another Note Of Thanks


Our family would like to express our deepest gratitude to Mike Shaw for his donation to our adoption fund.  Thank you.

We're Now On Vimeo!

If you'd like to see the story Benjamin wrote about adoption, here's the link to it on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/46516735


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Little Things

One thing I've noticed over the years is that no matter what we give our son for a present, what he often plays with the longest is the box the gift came in.  He is now 12 years old and he still loves boxes and building with them.  I work for a toy company and they often ship displays to our house.  As soon as Benjamin sees them, he immediately responds, "I get the boxes!"  

Once, when my wife was out of town, he and I took quite a few very large boxes, opened them up, and made a maze in our living room (once we had moved all the furniture out of the way).  We would take turns blindfolding each other and then whoever was blindfolded would try to find their way through it.  Sometimes we would change the maze while the other person was inside of it just to make the maze more complicated.  My son loved doing that and often laments that we don't have those boxes to build mazes out of anymore.  

We have made houses, forts (including one that whoever was in would shoot Nerf darts at the attacking force and the other would have to dodge the darts), castles and puppet theaters out of boxes.  The possibilities were endless as were the hours of fun we had.  It's like that episode of Spongebob where he and Patrick get inside of a box and use their imagination to create all sorts of things and noises. Poor Squidward is baffled by what he views as their nonsense, though he desperately wants to understand how they do it.

How many kids are like Squidward and don't get it?  How many of them miss all of that because they are seated in front of their computers or game systems?  I can't help but see how limited too many kids are in their imaginations because they have so many things to entertain them that yet complain often that they're "bored."  

When I was a kid, we spent most of our time outside, playing in the woods, and making up our own games.  With two pieces of rope, we would play "Jump the creek" where we would all take turns jumping over the distance of the two pieces of rope and would move them further and further apart.  My friends and I would often put on our own "shows" to entertain ourselves.  And, like my son, I used to love playing in boxes as well (see photo below).

I want for him to unplug from his computer or the TV or video games and I try to encourage him in his love for playing outdoors.  My wife and I often take him out to nearby mountains and creeks to go hiking and exploring.  One thing he and I like to do is to find river rocks and make small dams (replacing the rocks where we found them when we're done).  

There will come a day when he won't want to play in boxes anymore but he'll get to relive those earlier moments when he has kids of his own and he sees how much they prefer the boxes.




Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Note Of Thanks


As we've stated on Indiegogo (http://www.indiegogo.com/blackwelladoption?a=908669), anyone who donates to our adoption fund we will thank on our blog.  As Ephesians 1:16 says, "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."  Indeed, we do give thanks to Jack & Yulia Helm for their kind contribution.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

We're Now On Indiegogo!


As part of a way to help raise money for our adoption, we have joined the global funds site Indiegogo.  If you'd like to contribute, here is a link to that site:
http://www.indiegogo.com/blackwelladoption?a=908669

One of the "perks" for contributing is an illustration of a name (yours, your child's, a niece's or nephews) according to their interests.  Below is a sample in which I illustrated the word "adoption."

The cost of adoption is expensive and any size donation will help, even if it's a $1 that dollar will help. Indiegogo gets 4% of money raised on that site so if you want to donate straight to our adoption fund, there is a donate button on this blog that goes directly to our Paypal account set up for the adoption.

Again, thank you for any support: financial or prayers.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Heather Platt on Adoption


Adoption is quite a journey for everyone involved.  I don’t think there is a clearer picture of God’s pursuit of us, and our own adoption into His family than when we adopt an orphan.  I’m so thankful that the Lord put this burden on our hearts to adopt.  I can’t imagine life without our oldest son, Caleb, and look forward to the other children He has for our family in the future.

We are all called to take care of orphans and widows (James 1:27).  How that looks in your life might be different than how it looks in my life.  If you feel the Lord leading you to adopt, sit down with someone who has gone through the process before you and gather information.  Pray and seek the Lord’s guidance, and He will lead you to the right place, or type of adoption, and ultimately, the right child for you family.  It will not be easy. Adoption is not for the faint-hearted, but persevere.  The joy of loving a child and eventually receiving their unconditional love is worth it.

Many people say, “I could never adopt because it’s just too expensive.” To that I say, “The Lord will provide in ways that you could never ask or imagine.” If He has truly put the burden and desire on your heart, He will give you wisdom to know how to make the finances work. It might take time, but there is a lot that can be done. I know MANY families who have raised money through various means…by cutting things in their budget, not taking vacations, selling some of their possessions, selling ornaments, jewelry t-shirts.  Some families have had carwashes, community fundraising dinners etc. You name it, it’s probably been done! I have seen congregations get behind their pastor and his wife financially and through prayer, when they see them reaching beyond themselves to bring a child who needs a mommy and daddy into their family. The Lord is bigger than your finances, and He delights in taking care of the fatherless…


Heather Platt is the wife of David Platt, pastor and author of Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Boy & His Dog

All throughout the adoption process, my wife and I have been talking with my son about the change that will happen once we adopt another child.  My son has been an only child for 12 years so he doesn't fully grasp how different things will be once he has a sibling.  One night we were talking to him about how he was going to have to learn how to share.  Benjamin was fine with the idea of sharing us with another child.  It was only when we talked about how he'd have to share, Chloe, our dog that he got upset.  "No!  Chloe is my dog!"  Just the idea that Chloe would sleep in another child's bed at night and not his bothered him.  It's good to know that he's fine with sharing his parents but he draws the line at his dog.  I guess there really is nothing like the love between a boy and his dog.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Latest News On The U.S. - Russian Adoption Pact


US-Russian adoption pact met with caution, hope

By Rick Callahan
Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS
When they adopted their son from a Russian orphanage in 2007, veterinarian Dan Genatiempo and his wife, Nancy, endured a year filled with red tape, tens of thousands of dollars in travel costs and months of anxious waiting.
The suburban Indianapolis couple recently began the process of adopting a Russian sister for their now 6-year-old son, Max. But they aren't overly optimistic that their second adoption will be any easier, despite the Russian parliament's approval of a long-awaited agreement to simplify the adoptions by Americans.
"I think it's going to be a beneficial thing, but as far as changing the process real drastically, I honestly don't expect it to," Dan Genatiempo said Wednesday.
The adoption climate between the two nations soured in April 2010, when a Tennessee woman put her 7-year-old son alone on a plane with a one-way ticket back to Russia. She said the boy had emotional problems and claimed she had been misled by a Russian orphanage about his condition.
Russian officials responded by threatening to halt all adoptions by Americans.
Adoption agencies and prospective parents hope the agreement ratified on Tuesday will ease tensions between the two countries over the abuse and deaths of Russian children adopted by U.S. parents. Russian officials say at least 19 adopted children have died at the hands of their American parents.
Opportunities for international adoptions have declined dramatically in recent years as countries such as China have tightened restrictions and begun promoting domestic adoption and foster care to keep more children in their native countries.
Russia was the third-most popular country for international adoptions in 2011. Only China and Ethiopia had more. Many American families turn to international adoption after being frustrated by a shortage of healthy U.S. infants or long wait times for private adoptions. Others are drawn by interest in foreign cultures or a desire for a child of a specific gender.
Although a total shutdown of American adoptions of Russian children never happened, the Russian adoption process has slowed dramatically over the past several years. The State Department says 970 Russian children were adopted by U.S. families in 2011, down from 5,862 in 2004.
Part of that decline can be attributed to Russia's recent embrace of a foster system allowing Russian families to care for orphans in exchange for compensation, said Inna Pecar, president and CEO of KidsFirst International Adoption Inc., an Indianapolis-based adoption agency. The high cost of traveling - Russia now requires adoptive parents to make three trips to Russia - also has been a factor, Pecar said.
In the wake of the incident involving the Tennessee woman, about a quarter of the nearly 25 American agencies that handle Russian adoptions stopped taking applications from parents seeking Russian children, said Tom DiFilipo, president and CEO of the Joint Council on International Children's Services.
The 2010 episode rattled adoption agencies, the Russian government and adoptive parents, he said.
"It was an isolated incident, but it was definitely something that shook the adoption community," DiFilipo said.
He hopes those agencies will resume taking applications now that an agreement between the two nations is nearly in place.
The agreement, which advocates said still needs the signature of Russian President Vladimir Putin, stipulates that Russia will only work with U.S.-accredited adoption agencies - those recommended by the State Department. In addition, it establishes a central adoption authority in Russia, according to Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption, a nonprofit adoption advocacy group based in Alexandria, Va.
Both he and DiFilipo acknowledged that it will take time for Russia to implement the new regulations, but they said the rules create a solid framework for international adoptions.
"It's a huge step in the right direction," Johnson said.
Many agencies and parents say they'll wait and see how the changes proceed.
Jennifer Doane, clinical manager of the Russian adoption program at Wide Horizons for Children in Waltham, Mass., said people are pleased the agreement has been ratified and hope "it will make adoptions go more smoothly and quickly."
But Lowell Highby of Nevada, Iowa, doubts that will happen.
Highby adopted a 10-year-old boy from Russia in January 2010 but said his attempt to adopt a girl in July 2011 ended in heartbreak. When he traveled to Russia on one of the three required trips, he said it quickly became apparent that there was political pressure to avoid sending children home with Americans.
"They were going after the orphanage director and social services agency about not doing enough to find a home for her in Russia," Highby said.
The Russian government is focusing on the small percentage of adoptions that don't turn out well instead of the thousands that do, Highby said. Lost in the mix are children in orphanages longing for a home, he said.
"What's happening to Russian kids in Russia? Let's focus on that."
Highby said he would still like to adopt another child but doubts there will be much of an increase in Russian adoptions as a result of the agreement.
"With the process becoming more difficult and convoluted and more expensive, I don't see that happening," Highby said.
Keith Wallace, CEO of the Evansville, Ind.-based Families Thru International Adoption, said he isn't rushing to resume accepting applications for his agency's Russian adoption program.
He said his organization, which has helped Americans adopt about 1,000 Russian children in the last two decades, first wants to see how the adoption system is implemented before accepting new applications from hopeful adoptive parents.
"In my opinion, it's not a good decision to sit there and think everything's fixed just because the law has been passed," he said. "The implementation of laws is different than the passage of laws."
"I want to know exactly what path they're going down before I start walking down the path with them."
---
Associated Press writers Carson Walker in Phoenix and Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this story.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What Would Your Mother Think?

Last night, as my wife and I were getting ready for bed, I asked her, “So what do you think your mother would have thought of your adopting a child?”  (Her mother has been dead 17 years and mine has been dead for15 years though neither of us can believe it’s been that long).  My wife thought for a moment before replying, “She probably would have thought I was crazy.  What about yours?”  I had been thinking about this long before I had even asked my wife the question, but still I had to answer, “I don’t know.  I really don’t.”  Nor could I answer that question today as I continued to mull it over.  

What would my Mom think?

I know she would think this was out of character for me.

Would she think I was crazy?  

Maybe.  

I’m sure there were plenty of times while I was growing up that she must’ve asked that question to herself, especially during the teen years.  

She may have even responded in her usual fashion whenever I joked around, “Not funny McGee.”  How would she have taken it when I said, "But I'm not joking"?

My Mom liked things to be nice and pretty, which adoption is not.  The more I read about children who grow up in orphanages, the more I understand this.  But the fact of the matter is that life isn’t always nice and pretty either.  Life can be messy and full of unexpected things that pop up out of nowhere that you’re not prepared for.  She also liked comfort, but one thing the Bible is clear on is that God most often calls people to leave where they’re comfortable, to trust Him, and follow Him where they are extremely uncomfortable.  God loved us sacrificially and I really do think He expects us to be willing to love the same.  But as Jesus told us, for all that we leave behind He will give us so much more, including family. 

Mom, like my son, grew up an only child and she hated it.  I can remember her telling me repeatedly over the years how much she disliked being an only child and how much she had longed for siblings.  My son is the same way.  I know she would have wanted us to have another child and, if we had have been given another one, then we probably wouldn’t be adopting.  I can’t help but believe that God had this in mind when He gave us only one.  My Mom had been a strong Christian, but I’m not sure she would have seen this as God’s plan for us the way that we see it is.  Growing up, we came at faith so differently.  I have always been a questioner.  Even as a boy, I would ask her theological questions (Where did God come from?  Did God have a mom and dad?  Why did he put the tree in the garden if He knew Adam and Eve were going to eat it?  Why didn’t God just cast the devil to one of the uninhabited planets?) and she would get frustrated and blurt out, “Because that’s just the way it is!”  And the older I got the more I questioned and the more complex the theological nature of those questions became.  Yet would my Mom see what I’m doing now as my letting go of my questions and trusting God?

I have. 

Every day I learn more and more how this adoption is not about me or my wants or any criteria I might have for some imagined child that exists only in my imagination.  There is a real child out there, somewhere, who needs a family and will become part of ours.  But this adoption is bigger than that child or our family.  This is about God, His glory, and our obedience to His will.  I have to trust in that and, if I explained this to my Mom, would she think me less crazy? 

More than likely, she would be nervous for us.  I’m sure the, “But you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into” train of thought would be there.  And we don’t know, but we trust in a God who does know.  And I trust in a God who keeps giving me Psalm 37:5 over and over again in my life:

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him.
And He shall bring it to pass.

I believe that, through adoption, God is showing our family His heart and that it is to be our hearts too.  After my mother died, one of her closest friends who she grew up with, came up to me and told me, “You were your mother’s heart child.”  This meant a lot for her to tell me this and I feel the same about my own son.  Yet in the bigger picture, I realize that we are all God’s heart children. 

Would she understand this if I told her? 

I hope so. 

Ultimately, I cannot worry about what others will think anyway.  As a Christian, I want to please God more than I do those around me, including my family.  It’s amazing that God chose our family to undertake this journey: that He’s using us to go to another land and return home with a child who we will love into our family and, ultimately, teach her or him about God’s love.  In seeing our family do this, I cannot help but think that my Mom would understand that this adoption was all part of God’s plan.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adoption Quote Of The Day


Biblically speaking, adoption is about more than just child-placement. As I've written, the Greek word for adoption is a compound of the word “son” and the word “to place.” Taken together they mean placement as a son. So, biblically speaking, adoption does speak of child-placement. But we when we look at Scripture’s overall usage of the word adoption contextually, we find that it actually stresses the renewal of creation (see particularly Romans 8:19-23). Adoption has two primary aspects not one: child-placement and creation-renewal. It’s also important to realize that the Bible really never separates these two aspects from each other either. Where you have one, you also have the other.

- Dan Cruver, Together For Adoption


Saturday, July 14, 2012

God's Heart

"Adoption is a redemptive response to tragedy that happens in this broken world.  And every single day, it is worth it, because adoption is God's heart."


- Katie Davis, Kisses From Katie

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hurray! Home Study's Done! We Have To Do What Now?



We are now officially done with the home study portion of the adoption process.  Now comes the fun - the I-600A, which I was disappointed to discover wasn't something Barney Fife cited on "The Andy Griffith Show," but is the Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition.  

This application is 8 pages of instructions and 3 pages to be filled out.  We have to mail the application in to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services so they can determine if we can properly care for an adopted child.  Along with the application we have to mail the USCIS the following:
- Two sets of fingerprints
- Proof we're U.S. citizens (such as birth certificates)
- Marriage certificate
- Certified check for $890

When the USCIS approves our I-600A, they'll send us am I-171H form, which is a Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition (Whew!  That really rolls of the tongue, doesn't it?).  We'll also be sent a request that the notice of this approval has been sent to the U.S. Embassy or consulate in the country we plan to adopt in.  The I-600A is valid for 18 months from the date of the approval.

To download a copy of the I-600A form go to the USCIS site at:
http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis

As if all this doesn't sound like a ton of fun, we have to begin gathering more information and documents for our dossier.  The dossier is a collection of forms containing detailed information about us.  This involves us compiling documents, getting them notarized with various seals from county, state, and U.S. government.  More paperwork.  More legwork.  Although many of the documents were needed for our home study, the majority of them will have to be notarized, certified, apostilled, and authenticated.


As to what goes into a dossier, here's a listing that was posted on Adoption.com:

  • Health statement for adoptive parents - usually a written report by your physician (on his letterhead) after you have undergone a complete physical examination
  • Financial information – usually written letters from the financial institutions with which you do business stating your account balances
  • Adoption petition (provided by your adoption agency)
  • Post Placement Agreement (from your adoption agency)
  • Form I-171H (this is the only time a copy of a document is allowed in the dossier) from the USCIS
  • For married parents: certified copies of birth and marriage certificates
  • For single parents: certified copy of birth certificate
  • Certified copy of divorce decree (if applicable) – obtained from the probate court of the county where the divorce was finalized
  • Certified copy of death certificate of former spouse (if applicable) – obtained from the state office of vital records
  • Proof of home ownership (or rental agreement) - a copy of your most recent monthly mortgage statement or your rental agreement
  • Employment verification - must be on company letterhead and have a recent date – ask your company’s human resources department for a letter stating how long you have worked for the company along with your current annual salary. (Note: You must include employment verification even if you are self employed.)
  • Homestudy – obtain a certified copy of your homestudy from the social worker who conducted the homestudy
  • License of your adoption agency (Note: check to be sure the date on the license is valid)
  • Results of your criminal background check – visit your local police station to obtain this document
  • Copy of the photo pages of your passport
  • Letters of reference – it’s okay to use the same references you used for your homestudy.
  • Copy of your most recent Federal income tax return – if you don’t have a copy, the IRS can provide you with a copy (go to http://www.irs.gov/faqs/faq1-6.html for instructions on requesting a copy)
  • Power of Attorney (given to your adoption agency coordinator)
  • Photographs of your family, relatives, pets, and house
Overwhelming, isn't it?  Especially for me since I'm not highly organized or good at filling out forms.  So your prayers and support will be greatly appreciated.  

Simplicity Is Not Necessarily That Simple


Having written recently about ways to raise money for an adoption, I was also going through our house to find items to put in a yard sale for that very purpose.  My wife and I have already sold our china, crystal, and silver to a company that sells replacement patterns of old and new silver, china, and glassware.  There is a table that was my grandparents’ that I’ve already decided to put in the yard sale and I sort through my books, DVDs, and CDs (yes, I still have CDs and like to listen to CDs).  As I look through all that we have I find myself asking: What am I willing to let go of?

Moving from room to room in search of items for the yard sale, I inspect the room and ask if I either get use out of or enjoyment from a particular item.  William Morris said, “Have nothing in you houses that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  This can be hard for me because I like to collect things.  So, when I look for things to sell I have this inner debate that goes, “But you don’t use it.  Yeah, but I might.  But you don’t now.  True, but there might be a time when I will.”  While I’m not a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, I recognize that argument as one that hoarders used when they are forced to clean their homes out. 

Living in the capitalistic West, I like so many others believe not in “less is more” but in “more is more.”  And even then, more is not enough.  Yet the Talmud tells us, “Who is rich?  He who rejoices in his portion.”  Do I rejoice in my portion or simply want for more?  Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” but, all too often, I don’t want my “daily bread” I want the whole bakery.  Simplifying is not my natural inclination.  I like to acquire, but is much of what I have empty abundance? 

When I’m in a room, do I even notice a particular object and would I miss it if it were gone?  If I admit the truth, more often than not, I could put many things in a yard sale and forget they ever existed.    

Certainly we don’t live in clutter and, by American standards, we don’t own a lot, but still I can’t help but think about how attached I am to things.  Recently I read Richard Rohr’s book Simplicity and in it he wrote about why people in the Third World are often happier than most people today.  He said, “They don’t need to constantly project their souls onto things, and so they can find it within themselves . . . The poor of the world do not have the luxury of assuming that external things will offer them fulfillment.  They don’t have access to them, so they have to find life at a deeper, immediate, and more simple level.”  In reading this, I realized how much I do attach deeper meaning to things that I own or want to buy.  I can easily think of a justification as to why I need to buy something and how it would help my life (although deep down I know that most of what I buy really won’t).

Rohr's statement was repeated by Katie Davis in her book Kisses From a Katie about how the poorest of the poor, who had little and lived in homes made of sticks and mud, slept on dirt floors "did not blame God or ask Him for more."  How different that is from my own prayer life.  She wrote how they simply "praised Jesus for keeping them alive" and "believed in His goodness."  In their poverty, the people "lived with love and passion, caring for one another . . . and deeply appreciating the simplest gifts life had to offer: the happy giggles of children, the smile and warm greeting of a friend, the beauty that surrounded them, a chance to work when possible, a helping hand when needed most."  How many of us view life that way?  How many of us are too blinded by all that we own or want to own?

All too often I see people who cannot see the world because their eyes are glued to their smart phones.  

Of course, with some things that I own, I view them not just as possessions.  Take the pottery I have: I view these objects as works of art that were made by an individual with their own hands.  I think about the time and craftsmanship that went into making a bowl or vase.  I also think about where and when I got those pieces, usually tied to a trip we’ve taken.  I really do take pleasure in looking at these items. 

With my books, I now sort through them and ask myself: Will I ever read this book again?  If the answer is a definitive no, I give them away or put them in a yard sale.  I also don’t buy books like I used to.  Unless it’s an author I love, I tend to check the book out from our local library.  I am taking to heart what Donald Horban wrote, “We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants.  Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.”  Now this goes against the American system whereby we are constantly encouraged to be consumers.  But I can’t help wondering how much of this physical clutter Americans have are systemic to their spiritual clutter?  Not to mention all of the stress clutter causes people. 

How then can I live in a healthy simplicity?  It’s a struggle.  Simplicity is not simple.  Not for me anyway.  But right now I view each item and weigh it against the far greater value of bringing another child into our family.  Somehow, viewed in that light, it is much easier to let things go.      

Learning From My Son



My twelve year old son loves spending time in Radio Shacks, browsing and talking to the employees about Arduino, Arduino shields, taking apart old computers for parts, and about technological topics.  I don’t understand any of the discussions and it’s funny when the clerk doesn’t know what this 12 year old boy is talking about and they look at me for help and all I can do is shrug and say, “I don’t get it either.”  But I encourage my son because this is what he is passionate about.  

He loves science, computers, gadgets, and taking things apart so that he can understand how something, like a remote control, works.  Often we have to go to the library so he can check out books on whatever subject he is interested in (computer programming, Arduino, robots, etcetera).  Benjamin will watch “how to” videos on You Tube about whatever he’s curious about to help him understand it better.  And he will talk at great lengths about what he’s interested in.  While most boys his age are talking about their favorite sports heroes, my son can talk about Bill Gates and Nikola Tesla.  Oh yeah, and Adam Savage from Mythbusters (one of his favorite shows).  

When we go to see the doctor, they are amazed at how Benjamin will converse with them on medical subjects he’s read about in his copy of Grey’s Anatomy, something he purchased with his birthday money one year.  Wherever we go, be it the doctor’s or dentist’s or Radio Shack, the people there inevitably ask me, “How old is he again?”  

Needless to say, he doesn’t always fit in with other kids his age.  Sometimes this concerns me because along with being intelligent, he’s a sweet kid who is totally unlike his peers and this often leads to being picked on.  One day last year, I picked him up from school and he was all upset.  When I asked him what was wrong, he told me, “Tomorrow is dress like a nerd day at school and one girl told all the kids in my class that all they had to do was dress like me.”  I hate how cruel kids can be.  It’s all I can do to not barge into his school and hurt any child that would be mean to my son.  I want kids to see Benjamin as the amazing and smart boy that so many adults, especially his teachers, notice.  When he got his yearbook at the end of the school year, I looked at what other kids had written in it.  They wrote about all the great things they believe he will invent, about how he will become a famous scientist, one joked that he would take over the world, and about how amazing he is. So maybe he doesn’t fit in, at least not in the traditional sense; I mean he’d rather wear his M.I.T. t-shirt than one for a sports team, but that’s him.  Unlike so many people (including adults), my son knows who he is.  He’s not ashamed of that and he doesn’t try to hide it.  Watching him, I can’t help but be proud and learn how, in many ways, I should be a bit more like him myself.






Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Recommendations From Others


Here is a list of books recommended from readers of this blog.  If you have a book on adoption or parenting  please send in your recommendations.

1. 10 Steps To Successful International Adoption: A Guided Workbook For Prospective Parents by Brenda K. Uekert

2. Cross Cultural Adoption: How To Answer Questions From Family, Friends, & Community by Amy Coughlin

3. Lifebooks: Creating a Treasury for the Adopted Child by Beth O'Malley

4. Raising Adopted Children: Practical Reassuring Advice For Every Adoptive Parent by Lois Ruskai Meline

5. Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wished Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge

6. The Complete Book of International Adoption: A Step by Step Guide to Finding Your Child by Dawn Davenport

7. Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family: Real-Life Solutions to Common Challenges by David Sanford

8.  Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory C. Keck

Friday, July 6, 2012

DOUBTS & SECOND GUESSING



When I was younger and in the Boy Scouts, our troop went camping at a local mountain.  Along with hiking, one of the activities the troop leaders had planned for us was repelling down the side of a steep cliff.  Now I am someone who has never liked heights.  While other boys in the troop lined up to repel down the side of this mountain using what appeared to me was only a couple of ropes, I edged further from the troop and the side of the cliff.  There was absolutely no way that they were ever going to get me to do that.  While other boys took their turns and then crowed about how much fun it was, I shrank back and refused.  One of the troop leaders told me I didn't have to repel, but why didn't I just let them put the harness on me.  Somehow he convinced me that putting on the harness was all I was going to do - until I found myself standing on the edge of that cliff.  The hardest part was that first step.  Nothing in me wanted to take that first step off solid ground and I could feel my stomach growing tighter and tighter with each passing second.  I'm not sure how long it was but I did end up repelling down the side of that cliff.  Now, I'm not one of those "Feel the fear and do it anyway" types.  Still, I have found myself at a point in my life where I'm tired of being guided in my decisions by my fears.  

Yet, as we are completing our home study, I find myself full of doubts and I ask myself, “What are you doing?  You’re going to bring a complete stranger into your home – for life!”  Like the reactions of some people when we told them we were adopting, I begin to wonder if I was, indeed, crazy for undertaking this international adoption.

I’ll admit it.  There are times when I’m full of fear: rational and irrational, founded and unfounded.  I become full of questions like:

What if you can’t do this?  After all, children who’ve grown up in orphanages have all sorts of attachment issues.  What if the child doesn’t attach to our family?  What if I don’t attach to the child?  You’ve read the books and you know how difficult the bonding process can be for an adopted child. 


And what about health issues?  How do you know what you’re going to be getting into with a foreign child?  You may get little to no information on the birth parents’ health.  Who knows what you’ll really know about the child’s health.


How is this going to affect the dynamic of your home?

Will this child ever think of me as their "Papa" the way my son does?

Oh yeah, and what about behavioral issues?  What if the child really acts out?  What if the child hurts your son?  Aren’t you supposed to be protecting him?


What about all those horror stories you’ve heard and read?  Do you want to be one of those?


Can you really handle this?


This is a major life change.  Are you sure God really wants you to do this?


When our son would become afraid of the dark or monsters, I would sit him down and tell him 2nd Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.”  Then I would ask, “So if God isn’t the one who gives us fear, who does?”


This question then comes back to me now.  God didn’t give me this fear, but I can give this fear to God.  And I do.  In my prayers to God, I open myself up in all honesty to my Creator because He knows me better than anyone else anyway.  I tell him that I’m afraid and lay it all there before Him: every doubt, every fear, and every concern.  I pray, “Lord, I have no idea where I’m going and I can’t really see the road ahead of me.  I don’t know where this road I’ve begun will end, but I trust that though I cannot see or know, You can.  My main desire is to please you in all that I’m doing.  Help me to do nothing apart from that desire.  Lead me on the right road though I sometimes falsely believe myself to be lost.  Help me not to fear, for You are ever with me and You will never forsake me, nor leave me on this path alone.”


As Isaiah 43:2-4 states:
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  
For I am the Lord, your God,
you are precious to me.  You are honored, and I love you.

When I’m done, I remain silent and wait on God.  I once again begin to realize how much God truly loves me and, as scriptures tell us, “Perfect love cast out all fear.”

Are all of my questions legitimate?  Yes, but I have to realize that God has a plan for our family.  We believe He has started us on the path to adoption and He alone will guide us.  God has the right child or children for our family.  We just have to trust Him, even when we don’t feel like trusting. 







According to Ellen Roseman on Adoption.com the common fears of potential adoptive parents are as follows:


1. FINANCIAL FEARS is this going to be affordable?

2. DECISION MAKING FEARS about adoption routing. How to we spend our money wisely and choose the right professionals for us? What about
using the internet? Advertising? Mass mailings?

3. LOSS OF CONTROL FEARS:

a. Fear a child will not become available to you.
b. Fear of openness/open adoption
c. Fear the biological parents will change their
minds and take the child back.
d. Fear the process will take too long.
e. Fear you will be too old to parent or be
chosen.
f. Fear of pressure to take "any" child.
4. DEFECTIVE CHILD FEARS:

a. Fear the birth mother will not take good care
of herself during pregnancy using drugs, alcohol,
or poor nutrition... also smoking.
b. Fear about the genetic background as being
inferior to your own.
c. Fear the child could be emotionally disturbed.

5. BONDING ATTACHMENT FEARS:

a. Fear you won't bond to the child
b. Fear you'll have doubts this is "as good as"
c. Fear you will later conceive- and should have
waited.
d. Fear your adoptive child may later choose
birth parents over you.
e. Fear the biological parents may seek contact
and disrupt your bond with the child.
f. Fear you won't love this child as much as one
produced biologically.

6. FAMILY/FRIENDS FEARS:

a. Fear your family won't accept an adopted
child, especially if racially different.
b. Fear you will be stigmatized and others will
doubt your "real" attachment and parent role.

Fears stem from the pain of LOSS or possible LOSS.
Steps to healing and repairing: It is important not to be "victimized" by losses in life. Life always has "speed bumps" and "detours." Action steps include:

Grieving, Grieving, Grieving
Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge is power
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Support Groups, Therapy when needed, Rituals

Miracles, Wonders, & Worship


I remember driving home from the hospital after my wife gave birth to our son to get her some things she needed from the house.  As I drove I marveled at the miracle of my son’s new life.  It was then that I noticed a heavily tattooed and pierced guy coming out of one of the local tattoo parlors.  “He is just as much a miracle as your new son,” was what popped up into my spirit.  That may have been easier for many to see when his mother gave birth to him than now, but not for God.  It is also harder for me to see the miracle in the political commentator espousing something contrary to what I think on television or the radio.  To make this even more difficult, think of those people who we view with horror and just think that not matter how evil or horrible they are, God still loves them.  The writer Anne Lamott wrote, “The mystery of grace is that God loves Jerry Sandusky just as much as our grandchildren.  How can that be?  It just is.  God loves; period.”  A hard truth to confront.  I’m more of Lyle Lovett type who sang: God does, but I don’t.  God will, but I won’t.  That’s the difference between God and me.

Standing in line at the grocery store (I have a knack for picking the one line that will have the call for the manager) I looked about me at other people.  I really looked at how different each one of them was from each other.  And I thought, “God made all of them like this.”  The shapes of their heads, where there features were set on their face, the color of their eyes, and everything from their physical appearance to the make of their DNA was all created by God.  They were all “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  As I forgot about how long it was taking the cashier to ring a customer ahead of me up, I thought of what Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote, “Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God.”  So as I admired God’s artwork I was worshipping Him in a line at the grocery store. Now this was a rare thing for me, since I’m, typically and inwardly, in a huff at having picked the one line that moved at a glacial pace.  All too often I look at others with a critical and judgmental tone, especially if they don’t meet my standards.   What comes back to haunt me is when I hear my son repeating something I’ve said, such as calling someone an “idiot” about someone else’s driving while riding in the passenger’s seat of my car.  How do I teach him with my words and actions what Donald Miller wrote, “Unless your worldview loves all of humanity, it doesn’t represent the creator of all humanity”? 

Back when my son was in elementary school, I picked him up after school and saw that he was upset.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  “My art teacher said I didn’t do my landscape right,” he sulked.  “What?  What do you mean?  Did you not follow her directions?”  “All she told us was to draw a landscape and I did, but I didn’t use the right colors, she said.”  “Right colors?”  “Yeah, I made my tree purple and yellow.”  Irritated that a teacher would critique art as wrong, I rushed home and immediately took down four of my art books and opened them.  Calling my son to me, I showed him landscapes by Chagall, Bosch, Van Gogh, and Monet.  I let him see how each artist saw the world differently and that none of them were wrong, even if Chagall wanted to paint a green goat or if Van Gogh saw a swirling sky.  Yet am I any different than that art teacher when I view the people in the world around me?  Do I view the world through God’s eyes or my own critical ones?

Rich Mullins once said,   “I grew up hearing everyone tell me 'God loves you'. I would say big deal, God loves everybody. That don't make me special! That just proves that God ain't got no taste. And, I don't think He does. Thank God! Because He takes the junk of our lives and makes the most beautiful art.”

But how will I see when we go overseas and are shown photos of children up for adoption?  Will I see with the loving, embracing eyes of a parent like God who, like the father of the prodigal son, cares not for how others sees Him but runs with overwhelming love towards His child coming home?  Do I see with grace or do I see with the harsh, judging eye of the elder brother?  The choice is mine.  There is a miracle unseen waiting to be discovered and called my child.


Bible Verse Of The Day

"Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.  He will be with you; He will neither fail nor abandon you."
- Deuteronomy 31:8


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ways To Raise Money For Your Adoption


Let's face it, one of the biggest obstacles for many people who consider adoption is financial.  Adoption can be expensive.  International adoption can cost upwards of $30,000.  I know we didn't even consider for years because we thought we couldn't afford it.  For those who are either considering adoption or are in the adoption process, here are some possible ways to raise money to help you pay the costs.

1. Sell things on-line, such as Craig's List or eBay.  We have found better success selling items on Craig's List and have sold things like books and a violin.

2. Yard Sale.  We are not only getting up items from around our own house, but people we know are offering to donate items for the yard sale since they know the money's going to the adoption.

3. We purchased a large box of candy bars from one of the major membership warehouses and my wife took them to work to resell them at a profit.

4. Although we have not tried this one yet, we are considering using the website:
http://www.indiegogo.com/  
This is a "global funding website" that people can use to raise money for everything from an adoption to buy some expensive gadget.

5. Apply for grants.  In communicating with a lot of families who adopted children, we are amazed at how many of them didn't apply for any grant money.  Here are some websites for grants:

- A Child Waits:  They offer up to $5,000 for families adopting older or special needs children.    http://www.achildwaits.org/

- Gift of Adoption Fund: They offer grants from $1,000 - $7,500.  Family must be U.S. Citizens to apply.
http://www.giftofadoption.org/

- Grant Me a Chance: This organization offers grants for those adopting older, sibling groups, and children with special needs.
http://www.grantmeachance.com/

- Help Us Adopt: They offer grants up to $15,000.
http://www.helpusadopt.org/

- Lifesong For Orphans: Offers matching grants from $1,000 to $4,000, with one dollar for every dollar an applicant raises.
http://www.helpusadopt.org/

- Show Hope: Offers adoption grant awards each month.
http://www.showhope.org/AdoptionAid/AdoptionGrants/ApplyforaGrant.aspx

Those are just a few of the grants available.  Other suggestions for raising money for adoptions that I've seen on-line are having your own walk-a-thon with people pledging a dollar for every mile your family walks.  Bake sales.  Car washes.

We are prayerfully considering all of our options as we move forward in the adoption process.

For those who wish to partner with us, we have a donation button that is secure and all money will go towards the adoption. Prayerfully consider this.  If you cannot financially help, we welcome your prayers for our family throughout this adoption.


For others considering adoption, below is a range of adoption costs according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway:


Range of Adoption Costs

Foster Care Adoptions $0 - $2,500
Licensed Private Agency Adoptions $5,000 - $40,000+
Independent Adoptions $8,000 - $40,000+
Facilitated/Unlicensed Adoptions $5,000 - $40,000+
Intercountry Adoptions $7,000 - $30,000

Adoption Fact Of The Day

As of the 2000 census, about 1.6 million children in the U.S. under the age of 18 were adopted. Of those, around 98,000 were one year old or less (this includes foreign adoptions). 


Monday, July 2, 2012

Rich Mullins On Poverty & Children

I don't think I really understood poverty at all until I met these kids - the poverty of those who go to bed hungry and the poverty of those who sleep with indifference.  Wealth can't be defined in terms of what we have, but only in terms of how free we are to give and take.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

ARE OUR KIDS TOO SPOILED?


A recent article in The New Yorker magazine by Elizabeth Kolbert has recently sparked a debate among American parents. In the piece, Kolbert’s conclusion was that American children were “spoiled rotten.”  She wrote: "With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-revolutionary France, contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world."  She speculates on our various attitudes towards our kids: Do we expect too little?  Want too much approval?

On The Huffington Post, Lisa Belkin defensively responded to the article by Kolbert by writing that she thought spoiling our kids wasn’t bad.  She wrote: “Our kids don’t need to be obedient, they need to get into college.  They're focusing on grades and extracurricular instead of chores. And anyway, we all have so little time together, let's enjoy it instead of enforcing discipline.”

One day, my son asked me, “How come you don’t buy me things for no reason like other kids’ parents do?”  Now, I don’t know which kids he was referring to because the parents of his best friends are friends of ours and we know that they don’t just buy their kids things for no reason.  The “things” my son was referring to were expensive gadgets (smart phones, laptops, iPads, iPods, etcetera).  I responded, “I don’t know who these kids are or their parents nor do I know the reasons they just buy their kids such extravagant gifts.  For all I know they are not involved in their children’s lives and, feeling guilty, try to buy their children’s love.”  I can’t answer for other parents, only myself.  I’ve told my son it is okay to want things, but not to spend your life expecting to just get things.  My wife and I work hard for what we have, which is not a lot by American standards but I, for one, don’t go for American standards.  The American dream has become nothing but an empty commercial for self-centered consumerism.  A person cannot buy the latest product from Apple without the next latest, greatest, newest product from them already being announced while they are in line. 

Since I work for a toy company, I spend a lot of time in toy departments at stores.  It never fails to amaze me the amount of parents who tell their children they aren’t going to buy them anything (Why bring them to the toy department then?).  The child pitches a fit and, I have seen this on numerous occasions, the parent ends up getting the child whatever toy the child is pitching a fit over.  Then the parent looks at me and says, “I don’t know why he / she acts like this.”  Really?  You just rewarded them for their bad behavior and you don’t know why they do it?  I’ve even seen a child, through fits, work from getting a cheap toy to a really expensive one.  When my son was little, we went to Target and had told him that he wasn’t getting anything and that we weren’t going to the toy department.  While in the store, he decided to pitch a fit.  What did I do?  I snatched him up from the cart, stuck him under my arm (he’d gone stiff as a board as he wailed and carried on) and I told my wife, “You keep shopping.  I’m taking him to the car.”  Carrying him under my arm, I was mortified as he continued to wail as we walked through the store.  People stared.  And they stared as we went outside into the parking lot.  When we finally got to the car, I put him in his car seat, looked him directly in the eyes, and firmly told him, “I told you that you weren’t getting anything and that we weren’t going to the see the toys.  You will never get rewarded for misbehavior – ever!”  Indeed, he got punished when he got home.  But he never pitched a fit in a store after that.  Kids need boundaries and rules, not everything their little hearts wish for. 

When Benjamin was older and complaining about how we don’t buy him “stuff,” I sat him down with me and showed him our checkbook.  I pointed out the entries for money that was going out (bills, groceries, gas, and so on) and then showed him the fewer entries for money that was coming in.  I talked to him matter-of-factly about how much his Mom and I made.  Then I explained to him how many hours I would have to work for whatever gadget it was that he was wanting.  His eyes got bigger as what I was saying clicked in his mind. 

I’m with Elizabeth Kolbert.  American children have gotten too spoiled.  They often drive better cars, have nicer cell phones and clothes than their working parents do.  These kids have more and appreciate less.  Years ago, when I worked as a college recruiter and interviewed potential students for college, I would ask them how much they thought they would make upon graduation.  Without fail, most of them would reply, “At least $60,000.”  What kind of a rude awakening do they have in store for them?  They are so ill prepared for the real world.  And have no work ethic.  Too often I notice that parents have to nag their children endlessly to get them to do even the smallest chores around the house.  When I was younger, you did work around the house and were not paid any sort of allowance for what you did because that work was expected of you.  In her article, Kolbert writes about how in the Peruvian Andes, however, six-year-olds routinely make themselves useful by sweeping sand off of sleeping mats and catching and cooking crustaceans for the adults' dinner.

Allison Pugh, a sociologist who has studied family life and the author of Longing and Belonging: Parents, Children and Consumer Culture made a different suggestion to Yahoo! Shine. "The New Yorker piece exemplifies the trend in our culture; we blame children for the symptoms without doing a lot of self examination," she says. "We marvel at the six-year-old [in the Peruvian Andes] who just chipped in. That six-year-old wasn't born chipping in; she was taught."

Sociologist Pugh concluded, “Americans work more hours than anyone else in the universe.  There's a drive for efficiency. It's just more efficient to do chores yourself or outsource them rather than teaching children to contribute. That's a shame, but I don't think it's a children's shame, and it's not just the parents' fault. There are only so many hours in the workday.”

My wife and I decided that whenever we go to the foreign country to adopt our child, we are taking our son with us.  We think it is vitally important that he not only see where his sibling will be coming from, but also to see that, despite our not being wealthy by American standards, we are wealthier than many around the world.  He needs to have his eyes opened.  This world is not about him.  He needs to realize that he is to grow up to be more than a mere consumer, he is to be someone who should make a difference by giving of himself and seeking to help others. 

What I try to offer my son over going out and buying him more “things” is to give him more of myself, of my time.  That’s not easy.  Both my wife and I work, but we also believe strongly of investing ourselves in our son.  He may not have the latest, newest whatever gadget or high-tech toy that is the fad and other kids may have, but he has us.  And, while I don’t expect him to go out and catch my wife and I a lobster dinner, we do expect him to follow our rules and to help out around the house. 

So what do you think?  Are our kids too spoiled? 

I WANT IT NOW!