Saturday, September 29, 2012

Breakfast For Dinner


When we were at the grocery store, Benjamin announced, "I want to fix dinner by myself."  Now, he has previously fixed one dish by himself before: a combination of green beans, corn, and ham (that he'd shredded up).  Not necessarily the worst dish a kid could have concocted on his own, except for the fact that he had added salt.  A lot of salt.  Lot's wife worth of salt.  The whole thing tasted like a salt lick.  With that meal in mind, I was hesitant to agree.

"What did you have in mind?" I inquired.

"Breakfast," he replied.  Breakfast for dinner is one of our favorite meals and I agreed, on the condition that either I or his mom supervise him.

"One of you can watch, but I'm the one doing all the cooking," was his independent way of agreeing to my condition.

"So, what breakfast items are you going to want to fix since we'll need to pick them up while we're here?"

He decided he would fix bacon (his favorite), sausage links (mine), and French Toast.  Not the healthiest of meals, but sometime you just go with it and know that you'll just have to walk it off (The same way I did when we got that dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  We got them for "free" on national speak like a pirate day because Benjamin dressed like a pirate. Despite what they said, those doughnuts weren't free.  Not really, since I paid for eating so many of them by having to add time to my daily walks).

So when it came dinnertime, Benjamin put on the apron and set to work - on the bacon first, of course.

If either my wife or myself made any suggestion, he kept telling us, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."  Like Fezzik the Giant said to Vizzini about his constant use of the word "inconceivable," (in one of my favorite movies The Princess Bride, which I can't believe turned 25 last week), I wanted to tell Benjamin, "I don't think that means what you think it means."

And while he was cooking, we weren't allowed to call him "Benjamin" but were to address him only as "Chef Benjamin."  Always the dramatics.  

After the bacon, he then fixed the sausage links and, then, finally, the French Toast.  Since I'm normally the one who fixes dinner every night, it was nice not to have to (although I knew I'd be cleaning up after him).  

I set the table before we all sat down, said the blessing, and began to eat what was a delicious meal. Watching us eat the food he'd prepared made Benjamin one proud chef and he kept asking, "So?  How is it?" 

When I told him it was delicious, he leaned over the table and told me, "Then kiss the cook."  I did and then said, "I guess we'd better go take you to IHOP to put in your application now."  He smiled.  

It's funny to watch Benjamin growing up.  He's always been one to say, "Let me do it myself" or "I can do it."  And, most of the time, he can.  He'll go up to a clerk in a store and ask them for exactly what he's looking for (especially in places like Radio Shack or Best Buy) or when he was younger and asked the principal about starting a science fair at the elementary school he went to or got her to make announcements for anyone who had old electronics that they didn't want anymore to bring it to school so he could have them (And they did.  He ended up taking apart old radios to see how they worked).  And I love him for it because it's part of who he is.  



Friday, September 28, 2012

Any News?


Since we've had quite a few people asking, I'll give everyone the "skinny" on where we now stand:

All of our documents are now with the government in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.  The state adoption center has to review all of our dossier and forms before issuing us an invitation to come over.  From talking with others, this can take anywhere from 5 weeks to longer.  So we wait and pray and trust that all is according to God's timing.

Once we get the invitation, we have 2 weeks to get ready and go over so that we are there at least 2 days before our scheduled meeting.   Then we meet with officials from the national adoption center and they show us albums of children's photos and information within the age range we are approved to adopt.  We select a child from the album and they tell us which orphanage the child is in.  After that, we go to whichever town, village, or city the orphanage is in.  This can be anywhere from a 9 hour drive to a 12 hour train ride.

At the orphanage, we get to meet with the child in the afternoons, after school.  We spend time with the child and see if it's a good match.  We also review the child's medical record, as well as have a private medical doctor examine the child in the presence of a member of the orphanage's staff.

Once we have chosen the child, the files for the case are submitted to a judge in the district where the orphanage is located.  A hearing is held in which both Danelle and I have to be present.  The judge will then review all the documents and make a decision, usually on the day of the hearing.  After the hearing, one of us can return home.  After we receive the adoption decree, the remaining parent gets the child a Ukrainian passport, apply for an immigration visa to the U.S. and then brings the child home.  30 days after arrival, we have to register the child with the Ukrainian consulate and submit periodic reports every year for the first three years and then once every three years until the child turns 18 years old.

When we've told people about this process, we tend to get asked, "And if you don't find a match, then what?"

Our answer is a simple one, "We have been praying from the outset of this process that God has the right child picked out for us and that we will know which one we are supposed to adopt."  All of this journey has been one of faith and this is just another part of that stepping out of our comfort zones; trusting that God has called us to undertake this adoption.  There are those who think we are crazy, but, to tell you the truth, I'm used to being thought of as crazy by now.

While we wait for the invitation to come, we have been applying for grants and continue to do so to help raise money for this adoption because it's costly.  We've also been raising money on the global funding site Indiegogo and have less than 25 days left on there.  Here's the link:
http://www.indiegogo.com/blackwelladoption?a=908669

Our yard sale was a success and helped raise money for the adoption and we thank those who came out to support us.

We've also been grateful and humbled by those of you who've donated through this blog.  It's also been amazing to see how God is using this blog to reach people around the world.  As of today, it has had over 10,000 hits from 82 countries.  And don't think we take that for granted because each country that has visited our blog has been one we have been praying for.

Throughout this process we have viewed all of it as not only our stepping out in faith but also one step closer to bring home our child.  We know that somewhere in Ukraine is our son or daughter.  God already knows this child and has this child picked out especially for us.  When we go over there, we go with the expectation that our God is a faithful God.  As Psalm 33:4 says, "For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does."

Thank each one of you for your continued love, support and prayers.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two Hands


"God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give."

- Billy Graham

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chosen


I remember back when I was in school before children had self-esteem and the P.E. teacher would pick two boys as captains and then tell them to take turns choosing their team.  Immediately, other kids would raise their hands frantically as they called out, "Pick me!  Pick me!  Pick me!"  How my stomach would become anxious and churn knowing that being one of the shortest boys in our class meant that I was going to be waiting on that line for awhile.  The longer I waited, the less kids there were to be picked, the worse I felt.  It's hard not to be chosen until someone has to pick because you are one of the only ones left standing there on the line.  All of us want to be chosen because to be chosen means to fit in.    

It's the nerd in me, but I love to look up words in the dictionary.  Sometimes I'll even just flip through a dictionary to learn a new word.  So when I started thinking about being chosen, I wondered what old Webster had to say about it.  One of the definitions was, "To select from a number of possibilities; pick by preference."  Another was, "To want; desire."  These are all active, not passive.  

To not be chosen is to be rejected.  At some point in our lives we've all been felt rejection.  For many, the rejection they felt in their youth has carried over into their adulthood so that they cannot get past the hurt.  One example that immediately comes to mind, is Michael Jordan.  Michael Jordan was one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  When he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he didn't take that opportunity to thank all of those who had gotten him there (such as Dean Smith, his coach at Carolina), but chose instead to berate all of the people who didn't believe in him, especially the high school coach who didn't pick him for the team.  After all those years and all his success, Michael Jordan could not see past the early rejection.  This is a man who got nearly 30,000 points in a single season, who'd been in 41 NBA finals,  and was picked as MVP 6 times.  But none of that mattered.  

Scripture tells us that " . . .God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong." (1 Corinthians 1:27).  How different that is from our way of thinking?  Can you imagine a team captain intentionally choosing the "weak things"?  His team mates would question his leadership.  "What?  Why did you pick him?"  (Something I heard said when a boy did pick me early on for his team in gym).  Henrietta Mears, who was a Bible teacher  at Hollywood Presbyterian Church and who would go on to teach Billy Graham, once said, "God does not always choose great people to accomplish what He wishes, but He chooses a person who is wholly yielded to Him."  

To be chosen by God is to be "hagios" or "set apart."  This means they were chosen for His purpose.  Just as when God chose Abram to be the father of many nations, why God chose the Jews to be His people, and, after Christ, why He chose to adopt us into His family.  Many of us wonder at God's taste.  Certainly the
theologian Charles Spurgeon did when he wrote in his autobiography, ". . . I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him . . . and He must have (chosen) me for reasons unknown to me, for I could never find any reason why He should have looked upon me with special love."

Yet God did.  

The idea of choosing and being chosen has been much in my mind as our family draws closer to the time that we go over to Ukraine to chose our child.  From what we've heard, when we go over there, the government will show us photo albums of children within the age range we are approved to do adopt from.  We then have to pick a child from among all those photos of children.  Part of me is thrilled by the idea that one of them will be our child, but part of me is heartbroken for all the children who we cannot pick.  This will become even harder when we actually go to the orphanage the child is in.  We have heard from others who've adopted about how other children ask, "Won't you adopt me?"  or "Are you here to adopt me, too?"  One family told us of a little boy who would run outside to wave goodbye to them every time they left the orphanage.  On the last day, when they were leaving for the last time, he was standing outside in the rain, waving.  When I heard this and saw the photograph they showed us, I found myself in tears.  

People keep asking us, "How do you know what you're going to get?" or "How are you going to know which child to pick?"  All we can say is that we are trusting God.  We pray every night that He will guide our decision and lay it on all of our hearts exactly which child we will adopt.  There is a part of me, deep down, that believes I will just know when I see the photograph of the child we are to adopt.  I believe the Holy Spirit truly will prompt us.  

But it will be hard.

I've written before, but I'll repeat myself (a Blackwell habit), that when I looked up the word "Adoption" in the dictionary it gave the definition as "to be accepted."  That is something we all want.  All of us want to be chosen, to be accepted for who we are, to believe that someone else finds something loveable about ourselves.  That's why kids call out, "Pick me!  Pick me!"  They want to be seen and for someone to not only see them, but to say, "I want you."  This to me is the whole miracle of adoption.  



The Quote of the Day


Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Did It!


Thanks to all of you who have followed this blog and have caused it to have over 10,000 hits since I started writing it back in May.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad!


When I was a little boy, I looked up to my Dad the way little boys do. You admire them for no other reason than him being your Dad.  As you grow older (out of the teen years), you begin to understand why you wanted to be like your Dad.  Then you get married and have a son of your own.  This really makes you appreciate, love, and sympathize with what it must have been like for him. You see just how hard parenting really is. You see how difficult it can be to support and raise a family.  You realize how much of a role model you are for your child even when you don't know that they're paying attention to you (and more often than not, paying closer attention to what you do more than what you say).

Now that I'm a Papa myself, I can call my Dad when I need advice or simply have someone laugh on the other end of the phone when I'm telling him, "Do you know what your grandson did today?" and then proceed to tell him, only to have him chuckle and tell me, "Sounds like somebody else I know" or "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, does it?"

Also, as I grow older, I catch myself saying something just like my Dad says it or catching glimpses of him in the mirror when I'm getting ready in the mornings.  Dad has gone from being an abstract hero to being a real role model, someone I admire because I've actually gotten to know him.  It's true, I can't tag along behind him like I used to do, but I can follow in his footsteps to being   a great Papa to my own son.

I also like seeing how much Benjamin loves my father.  There is nothing that makes him happier than either hearing we are going to visit my Dad or that my Dad is coming to visit us.  He loves spending time with my Dad and my Dad loves spending time with him.  I love watching the two of them interact together.  I love that my son has a close relationship with his "Granddad Bob."  And I want Benjamin to see me have a close relationship with my Dad.

Every son wants their dad to be proud of them and every dad wants their son to be proud of them.  I am.  And I'm proud to be your son, Dad.

Today I will do more than wish my Dad "Happy Birthday," I will also say a prayer of thanks that God gave me such a wonderful Dad.  I really and truly am grateful.

Dad, thanks for all of your love, support, and encouragement.

Someday I hope to be you when I do grow up.

I love you.

Your son,

Elliott




Friday, September 21, 2012

And Now We Wait . . .

On Wednesday, all of our dossier and our I-171H was given to Ukrainian government for them to review  and then invite us over to adopt a child. Once they do notify us, we only have two weeks to prepare.

So, until we hear from them, we wait.

Throughout this process we have prayed that everything would proceed according to God's time and that we would not stress over it.  Sometimes this is easier to pray than to actually do.  Patience isn't always something that comes naturally to me, especially when I'm driving.  Like many people, I tend to want things to happen according to my schedule so that it doesn't upset my routine.  But what I'm learning more and more is that God is not only not a respecter of persons but of routines and schedules.

Old Testament scholar John Oswalt notes that "waiting on the Lord" implies two things:

1. Complete dependence on God
2. A willingness to allow Him decide the terms

This means I have to let go and trust.

Oswalt wrote that to wait on the Lord is to "admit we have no other help, either in ourselves or in another . . ."  It is to "declare our confidence" in God's eventual acting on our behalves.  "Thus waiting is not merely killing time but a life of confident expectation."  Confident expectation is a great phrase.  When I read that phrase, I immediately thought of my son at Christmas time.  He is definitely confident in his expectations about the gifts he's getting.  He never doubts that we will get him gifts that he will love and appreciate.  And he is so confident that he wants to hurry Christmas along until Christmas morning so he can open them.  Every December we put up a cloth calendar in his room that he uses to mark each day until Christmas Day by putting an ornament, sleigh, teddy bear on that particular day.  Each day he marks off is an excited expectation of the next and how he is getting closer to when he can unwrap each present in a fury of tossed paper and ribbons (It never fails to amaze me how quickly it really is all over).

That's how we tend to be when we are waiting on the Lord.

And it can be hard when we are waiting on something we really need: whether it be a job, financial provision, the selling of a house, a healing, or waiting to adopt a child that desperately needs a family to love him or her.

"All in God's time," I often heard said, but what does that really mean?

While we are on chronos (chronological or sequential time), God is on kairos (the appointed time in the purpose of God).  Madeleine L'Engle in one of my favorite books, Walking on Water, refers to kairos as "real time" and "That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time." She then relates it to a child at play who is so wrapped up in their play that they don't even notice the passage of time at all.  This is how we are to be with God, so enraptured in Him that we are oblivious to our schedules, and trusting Him that everything will happen according to His appointed time.  As Psalm 27:14 tells us, "Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!"

This isn't always easy, especially as the waiting grows longer and longer.  Just look at Abram and Sara waiting for God's promise to be fulfilled in their having a son.  That story also shows us the dangers of when we try to impose our time schedule on God's.

I work for a toy company and our main focus is the Christmas season.  That's when toy companies make 60% of their sales.  Needless to say, toy companies don't want their employees taking any time off between November and December.  Ideally, I would like to go over to Ukraine in October before the busy season begins, but that is out of my hands and I have to trust in God that when we are notified to come over, that God has it all in control.  This is, as every step of this journey has been, a test of faith.  Just as when I was in school, I wish this test were multiple choice.  The fact is, I don't like waiting.  Yet that is exactly why God wants me to.  In his book Adopted For Life, Russell D. Moore writes, "There's something about patience that God deems necessary for our life in the age to come and so . . . God makes us wait."

God wants me to learn patience.  That's why He lets the car pull out in front of me and then drives soooo slowly or puts me in the grocery line behind the person who will have an item that needs a price check  or gives me a son who likes to test mine.  Or He leads our family to adopt: a process in which so much of what needs to be done is out of our hands.  I find it is so much easier to have patience when there's nothing and no one to try its limits.

And scripture is constantly reminding us to wait on the Lord.  Psalm 37 repeatedly tells us to wait on the Lord and adds that those who do will "inherit the land."  The prophet Isaiah also urges God's people to wait on the Lord saying that those who do:

 . . .Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson wrote about that the central words in Psalm 130 were "watch" and "wait."  He says that those words are "at the center of the psalm and that "waiting and watching add up to hope."  That's why his book is entitled a long obedience.  But in this frenetic, and instant world, we want things instantly.  

When Madeleine L'Engle submitted the manuscript to one of my favorite childhood books, A Wrinkle in Time, it took her years to get it accepted and published.  She believed in her book but publishers thought the subject matter was too complicated and she continued to get rejection letters.  Madeleine L'Engle became discouraged and wondered why a book she felt God had given her about theology and science was facing continuous rejection.  The book was finally accepted after 2 1/2 years and she discovered that the time was exactly right for its publication because the book was not only noticed and not forgotten but was embraced and won the Newberry Medal, which is the highest honor a children's book can get.  She only understood God's timing after events unfolded, not during, not while she was facing rejection after rejection.

Madeleine L'Engle, like all of us, is finite and we cannot understand the infinite plan of God.  Unlike God, we cannot see the whole map of time spread before us.  We can only trust Him.  As a man once said to me, "Either you trust God or you don't."  Simple but not easy.

Isaiah 64:4 tells us there is no other God and that He "acts for the one who waits for Him."

Our family waits on the Lord because we truly believe that His time will be the right time and He will have the right child for our family according to His time.  We trust that no matter when we are invited to Ukraine, that 
God will take care of us and that we need not fret, worry, or question.  

One of my favorite U2 songs is their rendition of Psalm 40 simply entitled "40" off their album War.  Like the Psalm, it begins, "I waited patiently on the Lord . . . He inclined and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit . . . He set my feet upon the rock and made my footsteps firm."

For those of you who are reading and are waiting on God for something, I hope this encourages you because hope is coming and you, too, will "sing a new song."



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rich Mullins On The Least Of These

Oct. 21, 1955 to Sept. 19, 1997


Over the years there have been those men & women of God who have resonated deeply in my own faith. Rich Mullins was one of those who have and continue to open my eyes to God's truth.  Like Rich, I believe that if we are to truly seek out God's heart, we have to obediently identify ourselves with the poor as Jesus so closely did.  "Whatever you've done to the least of these . . ."

Since today is the anniversary of his death, I thought I'd post this clip.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Orphan Ministry Luncheon


Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia, NC is hosting an Orphan Ministry Luncheon.  The address is:
1729 East Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC  28054



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Yard Sale Exhaustion


All the way up until today, we have been getting donations for our adoption fund yard sale.  We started putting items in boxes in our guest bedroom and when that room became full, we began putting boxes into our living room.  By Friday night, we couldn't move in either room.  Needless to say, we were ready for this yard sale to come so that we could clear out and clean up those packed rooms.

The ads we placed on Craig's List and in the local paper both stated that the yard sale began at 8 am.  But who listens to ads?  Certainly not bargain hunters looking for that amazing find that they could buy cheap and then discover that it was a lost piece of art by one of the Impressionist painters or something else that would turn up on Antique's Roadshow to be a major find worth thousands, if not millions, of dollars.  They wouldn't.

By 7 am, we were beginning to haul boxes out of our house and set up tables and, as we were, those die-hard yard sale shoppers were already milling about our front yard and sifting through boxes of items we hadn't set out on the tables yet.

This was our biggest yard sale (in terms of items for sale) thanks to all the wonderful people who donated.

Benjamin was thrilled we were having the yard sale because he wanted to be our "barker" to draw in the crowds.  When we told him it wouldn't be polite to be yelling out so early in the morning, he was disappointed until we said he could be our security patrolling about to make sure no one shoplifted.  His face lit up and he asked, "Does that mean I get a taser?"  What he was really good at was showing kids the toys that were for sale and promoting different features on items or demonstrating how something worked.

And it's true about one man's trash being another man's treasure because it never fails to amaze me how items I wouldn't take a second glance at were snatched up while other, much nicer items, were not.  This is always the case at every yard sale we've ever had.  As the person's paying me, I always want to ask, "Really?  You want this?"  But I refrain because a sale's a sale!

It always cracks me up how you can mark an item cheaply and, yet, someone will still try to haggle with you to get a better deal.  "How much is this?"  "Fifty cents."  "I'll give you a quarter."

When people found out what the money from the yard sale was going to, a few refrained from taking the change from their purchases by telling us, "Consider it a donation."  Others asked us about the adoption and there were even a couple who had adopted and talked to us about their experience.

Once noon rolled around, we sorted the items to keep for another yard sale and those designated for Goodwill.  Then we hauled boxes back to our garage.  I think it was harder hauling these fewer boxes than it was bringing out all of the items this morning.

Still, we were glad when it was over and for the money we raised for the adoption.  Thanks to those of you who turned out.  Now, I'm going to take a nap.




Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yard Sale!!!



We're having a yard sale this Saturday and it's been so wonderful to see how many people have joined with us to donate items for it.  One of the sweetest stories about someone who's donated items is the 5 year old son of one of my wife's co-workers.  The co-worker was talking with his wife about getting up some things for our yard sale and mentioned getting some toys from their son's room.  When the little boy heard this, he wailed, "Noooo!  Not my toys!"  He calmed his son down and then explained why they were donating to our yard sale: about how we were "adopting a child who didn't have parents to love them."  When the little boy heard this, he went up to his room and came back down later with some stuffed animals he wanted to donate.  

The generosity of others is incredible and we never expected so many people to be so kind and charitable towards our family.  We are filled with such gratitude towards those who have donated not only money and items for the yard sale, but their prayers, love, and encouragement.  There have been times when we have really needed those words of support.  

For those of you who are local, we hope to see you Saturday.  It will be from 8 am until noon.  

We have lots of items for sale:
Clothes
Toys
TVs 
Computer monitor
Books
CDs
DVDs
Household items
Small kitchen appliances
Golf clubs
Framed pictures & picture frames
Gardening items
Baby items
& Much, much more!

Come by, come buy, & support a great cause!

For those of you who can't come, please pray that our yard sale is a great success.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Word About Sara Groves


My son and I love to listen to Christian music in the car.  If I had any quibble about Christian radio today, it's that like most radio stations, they have a tendency to play the same group of songs over and over again.  Forgotten from this mix is one of  my favorite Christian singer / songwriters, Sara Groves.  I honestly don't believe there is a better songwriter in contemporary Christian music than her.  Through her songs, Sara Groves reveals an honesty and a struggle with her faith that most Christian singers prefer to gloss over.  Certainly it's rare to hear such vulnerability, authenticity and a real passion for Christ in the upbeat Pop Christian music that is more surface than substance.

I first came to hear her music way back in 2000 when her hit "The Word" was released.  This was the only song of hers that I've heard on Christian radio, which is a shame since her albums consistently make Christianity Today's best albums every time she releases one.  Her music touches me in a way that most Christian music doesn't, probably because of the fact that it is so personal and conversational.

Her music has so affected my life that one of her songs, "I Saw What I Saw," was highly instrumental in encouraging me not only to adopt but to continue this adoption process.  Even though the song was written about her trip to Rwanda, the following lines had me in tears when I imagined orphans waiting for someone to love them and accept them into a family:

Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
(what I am made of)
And what I know of love

I can't help but feel conviction when I hear her sing, "Your courage asks me what I'm afraid of."  I don't know what our child will have gone through before we have adopted him or her, but the thought of a child asking me, "What are you afraid of?" in the face of what they have endured humbles me.  I can only respond by ignoring my insignificant fears and follow the heart of Christ.

When Sara repeats that chorus, she ends it with:

Your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
And what I know of love
And what I know of God

Only by ignoring my fears, can I show this child what I know of love and of God.  A God who gave His only son so that I could be adopted into His family.  After that sacrifice, anything I give up to make this adoption possible seems insignificant.

For anyone who doesn't know the music of Sara Groves, I highly recommend you buying her CDs (especially from her website http://www.saragroves.com/) or downloading her music from iTunes or Amazon.  My recommendations on which albums to start with are these three:


1. Add To The Beauty


2. Tell Me What You Know (This is the album "I Saw What I Saw" came off of).



3. Invisible Empires, which was her last CD.

For those of you who didn't follow this blog back when I had the video for "I Saw What I Saw" up, here it is:






Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our Thanks & Gratitude

We would like to thank Angela Sakryd for her gift toward our adoption.  Her generosity is proof of her kindness and her dedicated friendship.

How Literature Helped Lead To Adoption


When I was younger, my Mom introduced me to one of her favorite books: Anne of Green Gables.  She always talked about Anne with an "E."  Being a dreamy child who, more often than naught, lived in my own little world, I instantly connected with Anne Shirley because she did the same.  Not being a boy who saw books as being a girl's or boy's book, I devoured the entire series (I love series books, probably starting with those about Narnia.  It was C.S. Lewis' fault that I spent so much time in my closet hoping it would open up to another, more magical world.  My closet never did and I always put that down to being something that worked only with wardrobes).  Anne and I were kindred spirits (just as I was with Jo March, Peter Pan, Meg Murray, Alice in Wonderland, Stuart Little, and so many others).  

One of my favorite Anne Shirley quotes (and there are many) is, "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"

I loved any literary character with imagination.  Whenever I read a book, I entered that world and inhabited it.  My reluctance to leave these worlds is probably why I've loved series books for so long and continue to read them (The Hunger Games trilogy being the last one).  Books have also played a large part in shaping how I see the world.

One of my favorite writers is Charles Dickens.  He has written about the plight of the orphan in numerous books, Oliver Twist being the most obvious.  Dickens is an amazing author who knows how to bring a reader into his complex and lively novels filled with characters who have the most wonderful names (and is the one who J.K. Rowling owes a great debt for that in her own work).  He is a master of creating the worlds he writes about so much so that one can feel the misty damp or smell the plum pudding or see The Old Curiosity Shop.  And he had a heart for the poor, the neglected, and the oppressed in his society.  Is it any wonder, then, that so many of his novels are populated with orphans?  Because of his concern for them, it should not be a surprise that I grew up with a concern for orphans.


It wasn't long after I discovered Dickens that I stumbled upon Charlotte BrontĂ« and her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.  Like Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre is an orphan but, unlike Anne, she grows up in cruelty and neglect. Despite this, Jane develops a real moral center and a definite sense of self that is more than her background.

Just as I loved Anne Shirley for her pluck and imagination, I loved Jane Eyre for her dignity in a society that did not recognize her worth.  This is seen in my favorite quote from this novel.  It comes when Jane responds to Mr. Rochester, who she believes is toying with her and belittling her feelings, "Do you think I am an automaton?  - a machine without feelings?  and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?  Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong! - and I have as much soul as you - and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal - as we are!"  

How can a reader not love her for saying this?


So much of the literature I have read over the years has been filled with orphans.  Each one of them has made an imprint not only on my imagination, but on my heart as well.  In so many ways, it was these novels that have led to my desire to adopt a child.

Since it all started with Anne Shirley, I bought a 100th anniversary edition of Anne of Green Gables to give to our adopted child.  And I'm sure that, deep down, I hope to adopt an Anne with an "E" of my own.



Monday, September 10, 2012

A Short Review of Patricia MachLachlan's Baby


What would you do if a baby was left on you doorstep with a note from the mother asking you to take care of her baby with the understanding she would come back for her one day?

This is the story behind Patricia MacLachlan's slender novel Baby.  Despite the shortness of the book's size, it is far from short on its emotional effect on the reader.  Reading the story, I got to know the selfless love of the protagonist  Larkin's family and care for them as they grow attached to baby Sophie.  And I found that I was asking myself if I could be so selfless as to take in a child whose mother will be coming back for her?

MachLachlan writes a beautifully powerful story as the family not only comes to love this new baby but to deal with the loss of their own nameless one.

Now I'll admit that I'm an old softy who has teared up reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Little Women (the death of Beth gets me every time, especially in the most recent film adaptation of it with Wynona Ryder), so I'll man up and admit that as this novel came to its conclusion, I found myself choked up.

I highly recommend Baby, especially to anyone considering fostering a child.  And I promise you, this story will write itself on your heart.

Thanks to Cristy for recommending this lovely, lyrical book.

We Would Like To Thank



Our family would like to give a great big thank to Janine TurbĂ© for her kind and generous contribution to our adoption fund.  We value your friendship & support.  May the Lord bless you and keep you (Numbers 6:24).

Quote From David Platt

" . . . God knows every detail of our lives, and when we step out in faith to follow him, he will show us that our greatest security is not found in the comforts we can manufacture in this world but in the faithful provision of the only one who knows our needs and the only one who is able to meet our needs in every way."
- David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream


Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Addition to the List

My son Benjamin was disappointed that I'd forgotten to add Sophie from Roald Dahl's The BFG, so here it is.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Books I Love With Literary Orphans



This is a wonderful book that I loved as a kid and one that my son loved when we read it to him.  If you haven't read it, read it!  Now!  Seriously!


Another book I read as a child that had a big impact on me.  Ever since I've read this magical book, I've always wanted to create my own secret garden.


Jane Eyre remains one of my all time favorite books and, like Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, I have read it numerous times.  (I know that Pride & Prejudice's protagonists are not orphans but I just had to mention it anyway because it's one of my all time favorite books).


There are so many orphans in Dickens, but my favorite, like Charles Dickens', remains David Coppperfield.
Runners up would be Pip in Great Expectations and, of course, the obvious, Oliver Twist.  "Please sir, may I have some more?"


Last, but definitely not least, is one of my favorite series that featured the most famous orphan in contemporary literature: Harry Potter.

So, these are some of mine.  What are yours?  Let me know since I'm always looking for a good book to read.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Compassion




One Sunday our pastor announced to the congregation that anyone who was interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion International could go to a table out in the lobby to get more information.  After the service, I made my way through the crowds, over to the table where photos of children were lined up in rows.  Scanning the table, I saw one photo of  a little African boy with a very serious expression.  Instantly I knew that he was the child I wanted to sponsor.  There was something about this serious boy in his red shirt and blue shorts that looked too big for him that created an instantaneous connection with me and I rushed back to my wife and son to show them the photo of this boy from Rwanda.  My wife was surprised.  "I thought you would pick a girl," she said.  My son's first reaction was, "Can we go and visit him?"

On that child profile that we got, we had personal information about him and we read all of it.  To the side of the profile was Matthew 18:5, " . . .and whoever welcomes a little child in My name welcomes me."  In welcoming this African boy we were welcoming Christ.  This was not just sponsoring a child, this was a form of worship.  It was a call that Jesus had made to us and we heeded  Him.  Over the 9 years since we first agreed to sponsor him, we have written him and he has written back.  The last letter came with a photo.  In this photo, he had gotten much bigger and there was a huge smile on his face.  I loved that smile.  The photo is up on our refrigerator so we see his smiling face everyday.  I smile when I see his smile.  And I pray for him and his family.  We pray for him every night in our prayers.  This is not some nameless child in Africa but a child our family loves deeply.  All of us wish we could just wrap our arms around him and hug him tightly.  He is precious to us.  In his own way, he is partially responsible in leading us on the path to international adoption.

The dictionary defines compassion as the "Deep awareness of the suffering coupled with the wish to relieve it."  Matthew 9:36 tells us about Jesus, "He was moved with compassion."  What's interesting about this word compassion was that it was not found in classic Greek or in the Septuagint.  Compassion was instead coined by the evangelists themselves since they couldn't find a word that fit with the deep expression of love that they wanted to convey.  Jesus' whole life and ministry was filled with compassion for others.  He came as a servant, which is a very unpopular word in modern culture where we long to be served and noticed.  His actions stemmed from His love and compassion for humanity.  Jesus identified Himself with the poor, needy, and forgotten.  And He called his followers to do the same.

It has been nine years since we first started sponsoring a child and our family is grateful for the opportunity to do so.  We are not only helping to change his life but he is doing so for us as well.  He has connected us to a child in a family in a community in Rwanda, Africa that we are daily praying for.  He is not nameless and his name and face are what we see when we hear any news about his country.  This child has opened our hearts to love others in another place in the world that we have never visited.  In his beautiful, smiling face I see Jesus.

So often we want to help others but don't know how to.  I'd ask each of you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International.  Here is a link that will connect you to children who need sponsorship.  When you look at them, see our Savior and heed His call to care for the least of these.

http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/default.htm

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Schoolhouse Rock & Adoption

The other night, Benjamin asked, "So we were approved to adopt?"
"Yes."
"And our dossier's being translated into Ukrainian?"
"Yes."
"So we're getting closer to actually adopting a child?"
"Indeed we are."
I noticed that he had a tinge of sadness to him, so I asked, "What's the matter, buddy?"
"Can you play 'Three Is The Magic Number' for me?"

Now for those of you who didn't grow up in the 70's and 80's, on Saturday mornings the network ABC would show these educational, animated shorts in-between shows like "SuperFriends."  These shorts were called "Schoolhouse Rock."  Most people remember "Conjunction Junction" or "I'm Just A Bill."  But there was one of them called "Three Is The Magic Number" and it's something my wife and I have sung to our son ever since he was little.

The chorus goes:

A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
There were three in the family.
And that's the magic number.

"I'm going to miss that song," he sighed after I played it for him.
"Benjamin, that song will always be a part of our family.  You will always be our first child and even though there will be four of us soon, we won't love you any less.  We are just adding a new number to love in our family and you'll see that it will be magical, too."  This reassured him for now and I'm sure there will be many other times we will have to reassure him that our love for him will never change.

It's definitely starting to hit him that his life is about to change.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Movies About Adoption

For the last few nights, we showed our son The Anne of Green Gables series, which we all loved.  If you haven't seen them, I highly recommend renting it.  It's a wonderful film that deals with adoption.



Some other films we've watched that dealt with adoption were:

The Secret Garden




Meet The Robinsons



The musical Annie 



And an episode of the PBS kids show Arthur entitled "Big Brother Binky" 




Wondering if anyone could recommend any other great movies about adoption?

Let us know your favorites!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Awesome News!


Our I-600A was reviewed and approved!

This means the USCIS has deemed us as suitable adoptive parents.  Hooray!

A copy of the I-171H has been sent to us and one will be sent to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and states that we are approved to adopt a child from that country.  

Since Ukraine does not allow you to adopt a specific child, we will have to file an I-600 once we know the child we want to adopt.  Once the I-600 is approved then our Embassy will issue the proper visa for the adopted child to enter the United States as a permanent resident.  

The I-171H will be valid for 18 months.  That means, if we don't adopt within that time, we will have to submit a new I-600A and start the process over again.

If you want to know more about the process, you can go to either of these sites:

https://www.immigrationdirect.com/us-citizenship-children.jsp

http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=474fb881905b3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=474fb881905b3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD

Now comes the exciting part - we wait!  

Yes, we will now wait for an invitation from Ukrainian government to come over.  Guess our family will be learning about patience.  All in God's time.



Monday, September 3, 2012

Prisoner of Hope

 
"LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them."
Psalm 10:17 


I was reading the book of Zecheriah this week when I came across the phrase "prisoner of hope," which he used in referring to God's people.  Wow.  This phrase stuck with me as I began to ponder what it meant for me, as a child of God, to be a "prisoner of hope."  One of the first things I did was to look up the word hope in the dictionary.  Merriam-Webster defines hope as: to cherish with anticipation.  Both the Hebrew and Greek words for hope mean "a strong and confident expectation."  An example of this would be Romans 8:24-25 that says, "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it."  Hope is not passive.  Hope is active.  Hope is not present tense but future tense.  Hope is to see beyond the present circumstances.

Just last week the date of August 31st past.  For most of us, this day means nothing.  But for many, August 31st is the day that 16 - 18 year olds living in orphanages "graduate" and are sent on their way.  Now, in this country, we think of graduation ceremonies as a time of hope and promise.  I know that when we went to my nephew's graduation, it was a time of joy, especially for my nephew.  This is not the case for the kids graduating from orphanages.  Their future is bleak.  Most of them will end up on the street.  For them, many end up drug addicts, prostitutes, or committing suicide.   They are cast out with little resources: career training, families to love them, or a place to live.  In Russia alone, 15,000 orphans graduate every year.  Of those, 30% will be unemployed, 35% will be homeless, 50% will have criminal records, and 10% commit suicide.  60% of the girls will end up in prostitution.

Every year over 14,000,000 children age out of the orphanage system.

Every day, 38,493 age out of the system.

Kids who are nearing that age must see a diminishing of hope that they will find a loving home.  How hopeless they must feel as the day of their graduation approaches.

Psalm 130:5 tells us, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope."  This Psalm starts out with the cry of someone whose life has reached the bottom and they are full of despair.  Still, the psalmist knows he has hope in the Lord.  These kids don't know this.

How can we, as Christians, give hope to these who are hopeless?

Scripture repeatedly tells us that we are not to neglect these kids.  Isaiah 1:17 specifically tells us, "Learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."  And for those who would try to dismiss this as being merely Old Testament and not relevant to Christians, James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

But how can we make a difference?

There are 40-50 million orphans worldwide that are adoptable.
There are 800 million Christian believers worldwide.
If  7% of those who claim to be believers adopted, there would be no problem.

If God hasn't called you and your family to adopt, support those families you know who are.
Donate to worthy organizations like the Abba Fund (http://www.abbafund.org/)
or Show Hope (http://www.showhope.org/)

Also, Christians should mark on their calendars days like August 31 and pray for those kids who are graduating from orphanages.

Support days like Orphan Sunday, which I blogged about previously.

But we must do something, because as Scripture reminds us again and again, God's heart is with those who are brokenhearted, those who are forgotten, those who are poor and needy, with the orphans, and the widows.  If we are to truly call ourselves Christians and followers of Christ then we, too, have to identify ourselves with them. As Matthew 25: 35-37 says, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."

That is how we give hope to the hopeless so that they, too, will become prisoners of hope.


For more information, go to http://www.toomanymillion.org/

Sunday, September 2, 2012

6 Things Adoption Has Taught Me by Shaun Groves


1. Generosity is simple.

In 2007, I visited an Ethiopian orphanage, trying not to make eye contact with any of the little ones around me in need of a father. I’ve always found avoidance to be the surest way to never feel bad about saying “no.” My brother-in-law, who was adopting from Ethiopia, was there with me. “Maybe we’ve made it too complicated,” he said. (I knew by “we” he meant “me.”) “What if God’s will for our life is found wherever someone’s need and our ability intersect?”
Today, if I don’t look away, I’m bound to see someone with a need that matches my ability.



2. Adoption is not for everyone.

Ten months ago, my phone rang. A social worker explained a little boy’s situation in broad strokes. He was four, from India, and was being relinquished by the family who adopted him here in America – because they loved him enough to give him better than they could provide. “Can we place him in your home?” the social worker asked.
The more passionate we become about a cause, the more tempting it is to venerate those who “get it” as saints, and condemn those who don’t as wayward or heartless. But every cause is not for everyone to give themselves to. Adoption is not for everyone. If it were, my phone would not have rung.
Good people are not always passionate about the same good things.


3. Kids are kids.

Forty-eight hours after I hung up the phone, Sambhaji joined our family. Relocated for the third time in his short life, he stood at the front door sobbing, understandably inconsolable, trembling with fear, grieving all he left behind. I didn’t know what to do, where to begin.
My other three kids pulled out Legos and cars and blocks. He watched them out of the corner of his eye and slowly – very slowly – inched his way closer. I invited him to build with me. Reluctantly, he took the colored squares from my hand and snapped them together. Eventually, my oldest boy brought out some silly string he’d saved for a special occasion…or an emergency. This was both. I pretended to not know how the spray can worked, fiddled with it clumsily with the nozzle aimed the wrong way, and doused myself in the face, feigning shock and disgust. Sambhaji threw his head back and cackled, then took the can from me and gave my face a second coat.
Some things just work – on almost every kid in the world: Tickling, cartoons, cookies, fart jokes, hugs, Christmas, bubbles, hurting yourself. Good places to start.


4. There is a tool for every child.

To an adopted child, time-out can feel like abandonment. Losing a privilege the other kids in the house get to enjoy can make him feel less-than. And his tenuous grasp of the English language makes a substantive discourse on the origins of household rules and the personal and societal benefits of following them impossible.
So, I hold Sambhaji and reassure him that I love him and always will, that I will never leave him, that I’m not angry at him. And then, after much cuddling and encouraging, I tell him not to hit his sister in the face with an ice cream sandwich ever again.
No tool fits every kid. And sometimes, no matter how many tools I’ve got, I have to go out and get new ones.

5. Lowering expectations works better than chocolate.

Sambhaji is a hilarious, creative, smart, compassionate, charismatic kid. But for the last ten months parenting him has often been exhausting.
So exhausting that I’ve snapped at my children, raised my voice, retreated to the blue and white mindlessness of Facebook, eaten a few dozen peanut butter cups, hidden in the bathroom for an hour, and walked around muttering to myself “you are a horrible horrible human being.” ALL of this before noon some days. All because of my inappropriate expectations.
I can no longer expect him to flush the toilet and wash his hands without being reminded, buckle his seat belt without help, play alone, or put on underwear. Though these are reasonable expectations for a five year-old boy, like many adopted children, my son’s emotional and developmental ages are not aligned with his chronological age. In some ways he’s two. In others he’s an infant. And in a few he’s twenty.
Managing my expectations – for all my children and my wife – is the only way I can put down the chocolate.

6. Adoption is second best.

One night not long ago, I kissed Sambhaji on the cheek and said, “I love you.” Before I reached the hallway he asked, “What is love you?”
I built a definition from the few words he knew. “I love you means I like like like like you big, a lot!” I said, standing on my toes with my hands stretched high. He beamed. “Again!” he shouted. And again.
Sambhaji has made me a better man, a better parent. I’m his dad way down to my bones and I can’t imagine life without him. I’m surprised by this. Amazed. I love him. But somewhere out there lives a mother who loves him too – so much that she sacrificed having him in her life so he could have a better life.


Originally posted on http://simplemom.net





Saturday, September 1, 2012

We Would Like To Thank You


Our family would especially like to thank Wendy Beam for her contribution to our adoption fund.  We are grateful for your support and generosity.

Thank You So Much


We'd like to thank Diane & Chuck Slivensky for not only their kind & generous contribution but also for their daughter, Anna, who's been a great neighbor and friend to our family.