Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ghosts of Halloween's Past



As kids we looked forward to Halloween for the simple pleasure of the candy.  Who didn't divide up their loot into piles according to what it was? Okay, only the OCD kids like myself then.  But before that moment of candy accounting came, there was the trick or treating. When I was much, much younger the costumes came in boxes like this one below:




Basically, you had an uncomfortable plastic mask that cut into your face, especially around the eyes, and made it hard to breathe.  Then you either froze because of how thin the plastic costume was or you complained that your Mom made you wear a coat over it.  “How will they even know I’m Spiderman?!!?”  Of course the material, which was made of something like a cheap garbage bag had thin ties in the back that tended to tear from the costume before Halloween night even came.  One year I went as Charlie Brown, but mostly I went as superheroes like Superman and Batman.  Back when I wore those costumes, I carried one of those plastic pumpkins to put my candy in.  As I got older, I quickly realized how this limited the amount of candy I could get and, therefore, chose to carry pillow cases instead.

As I got older, I graduated from the cheap, uncomfortable store bought costumes to the do-it-yourself put together kind using whatever you could find at home.  How many others of you went as hobos?  As I mentioned before, I moved from the plastic pumpkin to the much more loot efficient pillow cases (generally two on a good night).   Also, I went from having my dad escort me and my sister around, to me and my friends running amok from house to house in an attempt to see who could get the most candy.  We tended to stay away from the dentist who lived in our neighborhood (healthy snacks and toothbrushes) or any home that gave out homemade treats because, even if we liked them, our parents would've chucked them in the trash (This was, after all, the age of fear that someone had put a razor blade in an apple).  The only problem with do-it-yourself costumes were the fact that when a parent asked, "What are you supposed to be?" they usually meant it and weren't just being condescending.  My younger sister always had it easier than me because she took dance and simply wore whatever previous dance recital costume she had that fit her.   

Unlike today, the costumes were not a minimum of $30 and any decorating someone did was also home-made and not the elaborate staging that homes now do for Halloween. I think there was only one house in our neighborhood that went all out and decorated the exterior and interior into a haunted house.

When we trick or treated, we stuck to our own neighborhoods.  Nobody's parents drove them to another neighborhood like they do now.  We also had to avoid the teenagers who roved the neighborhood in search of unchaperoned kids whose candy they'd steal.  Back home, no matter what the age, I would immediately dump all my candy out onto the kitchen table to see what I'd gotten.  I was always thrilled by anything chocolate.  That part of Halloween hasn't changed for me.  Of course, as a kid, you always wondered why you got soooo many packs of those Sweet Tarts (As an adult you realize: Because they're cheap!).  The advantage to having a sibling was that we then negotiated to trade for candy we really wanted.  "I'll give you two of these Mounds bars for one of those Reese Cups."  (This didn't work since neither of us were fond of coconut and both of us loved Reese Cups).  Having a sibling meant you counted your candy to ensure that they didn't take any of it, though we did have to pay the "parent tax" by giving our parents something from our spoils (This was especially true when my Dad had to walk with us).  

It's hard to believe that now I'm the one walking my son around the neighborhood as he trick or treats.  Where did the time go?

 Being 12, he now has no use for cute costumes like train engineer or Buzz Lightyear. The only costume we ever made him was the year he went as Max from Where The Wild Things Are:


Our poor dog, Chloe, had to suffer being chased around the house with him yelling, "I'll eat you up!"


That was the last cute costume he had.  After that it was the angel of death, a mad scientist, and, last year, a zombie nerd:


It's funny, though, because no matter how he dresses, other kids who are trick or treating keep calling him "Harry Potter," partially because of his glasses, I guess.  It drives Benjamin crazy.  "Can't they see I'm a (fill in whatever costume he was dressed in that year)?"  Still, I wish he dressed as Harry Potter, which he did way back when he was 4.

The older he gets the more gruesome and scary he wants his costumes to be. This year he's going as a demented doctor with a blood-stained lab coat and bloody knife (Yeah, I really do miss when he was Robin.  See below, he's the one on the far left).



When I asked him when he planned on stopping going trick or treating, he responded with, "Hey!  You're never too old for free candy!"  (He's clearly picked up my spiritual gift).  Like me, Benjamin's also a candy counter who stacks his candy into piles.  Having inherited my sweet tooth has also made him sly about his candy.  Probably around the age he is in the photo above, my wife and I made the mistake of telling him that we were going to take his candy after he had a couple of pieces and that we'd put it somewhere safe so that we could give him a little everyday instead of gorging himself on all of it in two (like I used to do).  Over the course of the week, we noticed him eating candy.  I asked my wife, "Did you give that to him?"  "No, I thought you did," she replied.  After searching his room, we discovered that he'd hidden pieces all over the place so he could get some whenever he wanted a sugar fix.

I do wonder how much longer he'll want to trick or treat.  Part of me will be sad (after all, who's candy will I go through and pick out pieces from if he's not out there getting it for me?), and then part of me doesn't want the teenager who goes from door to door, not even dressing in a costume, and mumbling something as he holds out his Wal-Mart bag and I toss some in just in the hopes he'll move along and not do anything to my house or pumpkins (that was something I remembered about the day after Halloween when the streets would be littered with smashed pumpkins).

And even though my son no longer dresses up as a "wild thing" it doesn't mean that my pumpkin won't be one:


HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!




Extra! Extra! Read All About It!


To let everyone who's following our blog know, our Ukrainian facilitator turned the new and improved dossier pages in to the SDA this morning.  She sent word that if everything goes well, we should be traveling to Ukraine next month.

So instead of our child spending Christmas here with us, we may be spending it in Ukraine with her or him.

Please pray that our dossier will get approved this time so that we can get the invitation over.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Review of Breadcrumbs


Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen."  

Using fairy tales as a backdrop, Ursu weaves a tale about loss, change, and the challenges that come with trying to deal with them.  

The main character is Hazel, 11 years old.  She was born in India but was adopted as a baby.  Now she struggles with fitting in.  The only real friend she has is her next door neighbor, a boy named Jack.  Since they are both 5th graders, they are both having to deal with an age where boys and girls don't play together.  At their elementary school, a boy and girl who hang around each other are seen as "going together."  But they're not.  They're just friends, though Hazel sees a subtle shifting in Jack's behavior towards her.  Even her own mother is trying to encourage her to play less with Jack and more with a girl named Adelaide.  

Being a girl who doesn't fit in, Hazel doesn't want to give up her friendship with Jack because she feels that she does fit with him.  They both have big imaginations and love to create their own worlds. There is a lot of references to not only Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales (The Little Matchstick Girl, The Red Slippers) but nods to Narnia, Middle Earth, Hogwarts, and A Wrinkle in Time.  

Then, one day, Jack disappears.  

Tyler, a friend of Jack's who has always disliked Hazel, then confesses to her that he saw Jack go off with a woman "all white and silver and made of snow . . . like an elf or a witch . . ."  At first, Hazel thinks he's only saying this to make fun of her, just like how he calls her "Crazy Hazy," but Tyler looks so serious.  Eventually, Hazel begins to believe that Tyler was telling her the truth and she sets off into the woods to find Jack.  

Like all fairy tales, Breadcrumbs contains both magical and dark elements that work to tell the story of a girl who desperately wants to belong.  In one of the chapters, entitled "Temptations," she even wrestles with her being adopted and the issue of her birth parents.  Ursu writes:

"She wondered about her birth parents and if they ever wished for her, if they knew what had happened to her, if they knew she was half a world away.  Or was she only a missing piece to them, a hole at the center of things, an ache that had no name?"

It is this struggle that really makes the whole narrative moving that speaks about the need to belong and the transforming power of friendship.  


The wonderful illustrations are by Erin McGuire.





Sunday, October 28, 2012

Read All About It! Our Latest News



For anyone who's never undertaken the roller-coaster of emotions that an international adoption can be, here's where we stand in the process (Make sure you're taking notes, a quiz will be given later):

We received word that our dossier had gotten a "soft" return (Trust me, it didn't feel soft).  This meant that the SDA had found a minor, technical error in one of our documents and had returned them to our Ukranian facilitator. Word was passed on to us, that we would have to get 7 documents redone (Why seven when only one had to be corrected?), notarized (again), and apostilled (again).

Danelle and I got 6 of them notarized at our bank on the Thursday after we had gotten this news on Wednesday.  The 7th document (my letter of employment verification) Danelle would drive up to Raleigh to get from my boss, which they had notarized, and then Danelle made a mad dash to the State Capital to the Secretary of State's office to have all of them apostilled.  She got up very early and left at 3:30 am to get all of this accomplished.  God and a lot of coffee got her through this whiz-bang of a day.  Then she rushed back from Raleigh to Charlotte to meet another couple who were flying out to Kiev on Saturday.  Thankfully, they flew out before "Frankenstorm" could affect flights on the East Coast.

They took our documents to our Ukrainian facilitator, who will now translate them into Ukrainian and resubmit them to the SDA on Wednesday (which is the day dossiers can be submitted for the age range we are looking to adopt in).

Both our American and Ukrainian facilitators were amazed that we, mostly Danelle, had gotten all of this accomplished in so short a time.  They don't know Danelle real well as she is efficient and task oriented.  When she sets her mind to getting something done, she does.

So now, those documents are with our Ukrainian facilitator and we do what we were doing before - waiting.

We are praying that now this dossier will get reviewed promptly and we will soon receive our invitation over.  

It can be so easy to be impatient when all we are wanting is to bring our child home.  Certainly we were frustrated (to put it mildly) by a minor technicality delaying a trip that we were awaiting with such hope and expectations; but the fact of the matter is, that we have always prayed that this process would unfold according to God's will. So even this seemingly small bureaucratic matter is still part of God's plan and purpose for this adoption.  We believe that He may have done this because the child we are supposed to adopt won't be available until that time.  Or it may be for another reason that we don't yet know.  What we do know is that God is in control and that our faith and trust is in Him.

Our family continues to thank all of you for your prayers, encouragement, and love.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Hope



"Carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Perspective


Feeling discouraged by our news yesterday, I flipped on the radio as I was making the bed, and Philips, Craig, & Dean's "You Are God Alone" was playing.  Once again, God used a song to speak to me right where I was.

In this song, they sing of how God is on His throne through the good times and bad.  That He is God alone.   The bridge then goes:

Unchangeable
Unshakable
Unstoppable
That's what You are

And He is.  

When the song finished, the radio announcer spoke of how Dan Dean (of Philips, Craig, and Dean) is battling prostrate cancer.  "You find out some devastating news, you get a phone call, you're standing in a corridor at the hospital, and in those moments, you have a choice to make," Dean reflects on learning he had cancer. "You can fall into doubt, and questions and fears. The temptation is there for all of us to do that. In the moments when I can't see God's hand, or see His face working in my life, I make a choice to believe that He's there, that He's involved in the daily affairs of my life, that He's in control, that He knows what I'm walking through."  Dan Dean, like he sings in this song, is trusting in a God who is there and never changes.  

After I had heard the disappointing news about how our dossier was "soft" rejected, I phoned my Dad.  I told him everything and he said he'd just gotten a prayer request e-mail from his church.  In that e-mail, it said a couple who'd just had their first baby discovered that their little boy was born with his spine exposed and the doctors weren't sure they could operate and fix this.  A time that should have been filled with such joy and promise is now full of heartache.

Another couple we know who were adopting a special needs child internationally, got to their country only to find out the child had died.  Now they grieve in the same way parents do a miscarriage and are wondering how they are going to proceed.

It's stories like these that put ours into perspective.  Ours is a minor blip, a delay.  Yes, we have to let go of the idea of our adopted child having their first Christmas with us at home.  But while we continue to hope for a child, our hope is in God alone.

It also shows that no matter what we are going through, no matter how difficult, God is still in control.  Joshua 1:9 says, "Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Disappointment & Setbacks



Today, not more than an hour after I had posted my blog entry about God's fingerprints, we got the call that the SDA had "soft" rejected our dossier due to a minor technicality of dates about my income (it only had dates for 5 months when there should be 6 months).

Because of this, Danelle and I have to have 7 different documents redone, notarized, and apostilled.  We then have to send them to our facilitator, who will then resend them to our translator in Ukraine, to be translated and submitted to Ukrainian government again.  This also means that we won't be travelling in November as we had anticipated, but possibly in December or even January.  Immediately after hearing this, I phoned my boss to tell her.  As I've mentioned previously, I work in toys and this is our biggest and busiest season (60% of toy companies' profits come from the Christmas holiday).  Once again, God's fingerprints were there as she repeated, "You do what you need to do."  She told me that other reps in the area have all offered to cover my area while I'm gone.  For all of this, I am humbled and grateful.

I was waiting to pick our son up from school when Danelle called me from work, she was sobbing.  As she began to tell me what had happened, I kept telling her and myself, "We said that all of this is according to God's time and it still is."  Of course, how much easier it is to believe that when things are going your way and much more difficult when even a minor setback occurs.  We don't know why but we know that God does and He has a reason.  Maybe the child He has for us is not available until the later date.  I don't know His reasons but I do know God and can trust that this, too, was according to His will.

So though it is a lot easier for me to say I see God's fingerprints when everything is moving along smoothly, I still have to believe they are there even now when it I'm angry and upset and confused and wondering why.  The phrase that keeps coming back to me, as it has throughout this entire process, is "Either you trust God or you don't."  And I know that we will.  Psalm 9:10 tells us, "And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You."

I know that when we look back on this time, we will be able to see that all of this was indeed God's plan and it will be used for His glory.

For those who follow this blog, your continued prayers and encouragement are deeply appreciated.

Fingerprints


Fairly early in the process, my wife and I had to get our fingerprints taken for our background checks.  My son went with us and they took his fingerprints, too, just because he wanted to experience it with us.  Then, one of the detectives, took him to another room where they analyze the fingerprints.  All along the wall were large photos of different types of prints (loop, double loop, spiral, bifurcation, ellipse, and so forth) and Benjamin examined his and identified what type they were.  He was thrilled and he looked at the sheets with our fingerprints on them and told us what kind we had.  It was also interesting to learn that with the exception of twins, no one shares the same genes since there are variations in the DNA.  This creates the ridges which make up our fingerprints and makes each person's unique.  Learning facts like that just makes me more in awe of a God who creates us unique in such details.

Throughout this adoption journey, I have been constantly been amazed by how often God's fingerprints could be seen as He reminds us again and again, "I am here.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.  I will provide."

The first fingerprint we saw was how He opened my wife's heart to adopting.  For years, I have wanted to adopt but Danelle wasn't ready.  Since I felt that God was pressing on me this call for our family, I gave it to Him, praying, "If this is truly Your will, Lord, then open all of our hearts to adoption."  This was a prayer that was not answered immediately, but after quite a few years.  Then, this year, she said, "I think God's calling us to adopt."  And with that, we started this amazing journey but the first, and most important step in this journey, was doing so out of obedience. As 1 Samuel 15:22 tells us, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice . . ."  This doesn't mean that this adoption hasn't and won't ask us to make sacrifices, but we did all of this out of obedience to God's call and, because we have, He will provide.  When we have made sacrifices, they weren't really since selling things we owned or giving up things were hardly a sacrifice when measured against bringing our child home.

Another way we have seen the fingerprints of God in all of this is through His using others and brought them to us to be part of this journey: family, friends, coworkers, and people we hardly knew before this process.

I work for a toy company and my job requires that I call on accounts like Wal-Mart, Target. Toys R Us, and K-Mart in the area.  When I was calling on one of my Wal-Marts, I was talking with a department manager who I speak with every time I'm in there.  She knows all about our adoption journey and she was asking me about where we were in the process and if there was any new news.  I was telling her how we were in the waiting period and how we were still raising money to pay for the travel costs and the adoption itself.  She stopped right then and there and began to pray with me.  She prayed that God would open the hearts of people to partner with our family in adopting a child and that the financial needs would be met.  After she had prayed, she then asked me to pray for her, in that through our conversations about our adoption journey, how she has felt God moving on her to adopt a child and to pray that her husband's heart would be open to it.  I prayed with her.  The very next day, I came home from work and got the mail.  Along with the circulars, junk mail, and bills was a check someone had sent us along with a letter telling of how God spoke to them through this blog and they felt led by God to donate.

So often God has used others to not only provide funds, but encouragement and prayer, which are also extremely welcome.  Part of how God has truly blessed us is through the church we attend.  We are truly blessed to belong to a church that has an adoption and foster care group to go to and be a part of.  My wife and I love to see how God is working in the lives of these families who are adopting or have adopted.  It feels us with joy to see the children who were adopted and to know that not only are they in loving families, but they are learning about how to be adopted into God's family.

God has also provided Danelle and I with jobs and bosses that are understanding and encouraging.  When I told my boss of how I might be leaving for Ukraine in November, I did so with trepidation.  Working in toys, we aren't allowed to take time off from October through December.  Yet when I told her how, more than likely, we won't be going until November and how we'd be gone for a minimum of 2 1/2 weeks, she responded with, "Do what you need to do."  Thank you, God.

When I started this blog I did so prayerfully.  I wanted this blog to glorify God.  He chose us to undertake this adoption, not because there was anything special about us but because we made ourselves available to His call.  This blog has been an extension of that obedience and my hope is that God's fingerprints are all over it as well.  Certainly when I began to blog I didn't expect the response that we've gotten.  I thought maybe a few family and friends would read it, but now, in it's sixth month, we have had over 16,000 hits and have reached over 85 countries around the world.  There are people who follow this blog that I will never meet and never know.  We are grateful for those who have let us know how this blog has touched them or encouraged them.  This is completely God and not me.  When we have written each blog we have tried to do so out of humility, honesty, and a real desire that God be glorified.  And we have seen as perceptions about adoption have been changed in people.  There are those who thought us crazy who now tell me, "Through your blog I have seen that God is behind all of this."

There are times this process really does seem overwhelming and we wonder, "How are we going to do this?" we are reminded that we aren't doing this alone.  There have been those moments when He has used someone or even a song to speak to us and encourage us when we needed it most.  We are thankful that we have three wonderful Christian stations in this area (His Radio 98.3 FM, New Life 91.9 FM, and 106.9 FM The Light) because each one of them has been there when we needed it with a song or even interviews with Christian artists like Steven Curtis Chapman and John Waller, as well as ministers like Russell D. Moore and Rick Warren about adoption.

God keeps letting us know that He is with us and that He makes all things possible.    




We got word yesterday, that the Ukrainian government was reviewing our dossier.  If they don't find anything wrong with it, then they will issue a registration letter tomorrow and then, in a week from Thursday, they will issue us a letter of invitation.  Can it really be that close?  

When we finally do travel to Ukraine, I'm sure we will continue to see God's fingerprints. Deuteronomy tells us, "The Lord Himself will go before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged." We will see that He is with us and has gone before us to make a way so that we can find the child He has chosen for us so that we can bring this child home.  We will see His fingerprints after we're home and adjust to having another child as part of our family.  When the difficulties and trials come, as we know they will, God will be there.  There may be times when it will be difficult to see His fingerprints but they will be there because He will always be there.    


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Orphan Sunday


"Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings."
Helen Keller

There are over 132 million orphans worldwide, according to UNICEF.  Over 95% of those are over the age of 5.  

As Christians, all of us are not called to adopt, but we are all called to take care of the orphans. Each Christian should be asking themselves, "What am I doing to defend the cause of the fatherless?"

There are many ways: prayer, foster care, adoption, supporting organizations like Show Hope, donate to the adoption funds of people you know who are adopting, or be an advocate for adoption and foster care.  The perfect time to be the latter is on Sunday, November 4th.  This is a day that is celebrated in churches around the world.  

Be a voice for the voiceless.

For more information on Orphan Sunday go to this link:   

Also, you can friend them on Facebook at:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dance for Joy


Yes, right now our family is doing the Snoopy dance.  We are so thankful and truly blessed to be a part of a church like Parkwood.

Today we were informed that our family was awarded an endowment for our adoption fund.  It's news like that which makes a Monday less of a Monday.

Amidst all of our dancing, we would like to thank all of those on the board who awarded us this grant, Beverly Kelly, as well as Angela Bradshaw and Cristy Brice for their letters of recommendation.

John 15:11 was right when it said, "Yes, your joy will overflow."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More Book Recommendations

The first recommendations of books I posted was such a hit that I decided to post a second one with more of the adoption book titles that have been sent in to me by people who follow this blog.

So, with no further adieu, here they are:


1. Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption & Orphan Care by Tony Merida & Rick Morton


2. Becoming Attached: First Relationships & How They Shape Our Capacity to Love by Robert Karen


3. The Russian Word For Snow: A True Story of Adoption by Janis Cooke Newman


4. The Boy From Baby House 10 by Alan Philips & John Lahutsky


5. Wait No More: One Family's Amazing Adoption Journey by Kelly & John Rosati



6. Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff

Thanks for all of the book suggestions.  Please continue to send your book recommendations in so we can not only read them, but share them with others who follow this blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fears


My son has always had a fascination with scary movies.  It's something he inherited from my wife.  He loved reading the Goosebumps series and going to the classic horror film series our library had (showing movies like The Blob).  But his interest is tempered with a fear of the dark and of monsters.  We have prayed with him, shared with him how God is bigger than his fears, and that God did not give him that spirit of fear.  Now, fear of monsters is a childish one that he will outgrow, but there are other fears that Benjamin struggles with that we, as his parents have to be open to and discuss with him.  On the way home from school today, I got to do just that.

In my head today, I have been meditating on God's fingerprints and how they are all over this adoption process (something I will blog about on another day), and so I wanted to ask Benjamin about God's fingerprints.  I started off by asking him simply, "What do you think it means to have the fingerprints of God on something?"

"It means that God has touched it."

"What have you seen that has God's touch on it?"

"Ministers.  Missionaries," were his first answers.  Then he began to get more specific to his own life, "How God got me into my school when I wanted to go to another one."

"What about in this adoption that we're involved in?"

His answer was not at all what I expected. "Yeah.  He is there with me when I'm afraid."

"What about the adoption are you afraid of?"

"I get scared about us going to another country and finding just the right child for our family.  I'm afraid of how this will change our family."

"So what do you do when you're afraid?"

"I ask God to help me."

"And does He?"

"Yeah.  Because He lets me know He is going with us and that He has a child picked out for us."

Now one thing I believe strongly in is being honest with him, so I admitted to Benjamin that, like him, I get scared about this adoption, too.

"You do?"

"Uh-huh.  I start thinking about how big this whole adoption is and about how we are leaving where we are comfortable (our home, our daily routines, etcetera) and going to a foreign country for a few weeks where we don't speak the language and don't know where we'll be going in that country to meet a child who will become part of our family.  I get nervous about having a child in our home that doesn't speak English and who's grown up in an orphanage and has already faced so much in their young life."

"So what do you do when you're afraid?"

"Same thing that you do.  I pray to God."

"And does He help you?"

"Yes.  Like He does with you, He lets me know that He is with us in all of this and that this is all apart of His plan."

Benjamin smiled and said, "God is so cool, isn't He?"

"Yeah.  He really is."





Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Facts About Ukraine

As we are waiting for the invitation to go over to Ukraine, our family has busily been reading up on and watching whatever we can to learn more about the country our child will be coming from.  It is a beautiful country with a rich history.  We are definitely looking forward to going there.

One of the videos we came across was this one with facts about Ukraine.  Hope you enjoy it.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Review of Thriving as an Adoptive Family


This book is an excellent resource for anyone considering adoption, in the process, or having adopted a child.  It deals with all types of adoption: international, infant, and foster care.  The editors, David & Renee Sanford, have collected articles and stories from adoptive parents and professionals.  The book is broken into four different sections: Becoming an Adoptive Family, Life Issues from Birth to Adulthood, Unique Identity Issues, and Special Challenges.  Each section has both articles by professionals, such as counselors, as well as stories by adoptive parents about the difficulties and issues they faced with an adoptive child.

Starting off with welcoming the child home, they editors then frame the first section by dealing with attachment disorders and bonding with the child, familial relationships, developing a support network (something I can't highly recommend enough, even if you are at the beginning of the process.  We are involved in an adoption and foster care group and it gives you a perspective from parents at different stages), and ends with Nurture & Discipline.  This last section is important to understand since traditional methods of discipline (such as time outs, deprivation, grounding, and corporal punishment often do not work with a child raised in an orphanage).  Rob Flanegin also breaks up the 4 phases of adjustment relating to adoption.  They are:
1. The Honeymoon Period
2. The Settling-in Period
3. The Testing Period
4. "I'm more a part of the family than not" stage

The second section breaks up into different age groups: from infant to adolescence and the challenges each age raises in an adopted child.  This section deals with both cognitive, identity and physical development, as well as talking about adoption with the child at various ages.  It covers the effects orphanage care has on a child.

Part three is the shortest section of the book and deals primarily with issues such as grief and loss and ethnic identity.  Ron Nydam provides 7 steps to helping an adopted child resolve their loss:
1. Face Your Own Sorrow
2. Lead the Conversation
3. Ask Questions About Sorrow
4. Honor Birthparents, Birth Story, Birth Culture
5. Practice Openness in Adoption
6. Join the Sadness and the Anger
7. Be Ready to Seek Professional Help

Along with the first section, the last is the longest as it confronts the difficult challenges of dealing with sexual abuse, the effects of drugs and alcohol, and physical and learning disabilities.

All of the chapters are written from a Christian perspective and offers encouragement and solid advice for any adoptive parent.  The authors all offer wisdom on the emotional, social, and spiritual challenges that adoption brings to a family.

I recommend this to anyone who is considering adopting, is adopting, has adopted, or is the extended family member of someone who's adopted (this latter group is dealt with in terms of how their reaction can have a real impact on the parents and the adopted child).

Now this is a great overview book, so if you are looking for a book that is more detailed on specific subjects (such as attachment disorder) then you can go to the resource guide in the back for the authors and titles of other books dealing with subjects related to adoption or to the websites listed.


Monday, October 15, 2012

While I'm Waiting


Since we are in that waiting period of the adoption, I found myself again touched by how God can speak to me through a song.  This one was, appropriately enough, "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller.  As if to really drive the point home, I was listening to 98.3 FM His Radio this morning and was about to change the station when I felt God tell me, "No.  I want you to keep listening."  So I did.

Lo & behold, Rob Dempsey & Leslie Nease interviewed John Waller.  He spoke about his song "While I'm Waiting," as well as about the fact that he and his family are about to adopt from Ukraine.  John told of how God spoke to him in a dream and said he was to adopt a girl named "Anna."  His family ended up hosting a 10 year old girl from Ukraine named Anna and her older brother, who's 15, named Max.  Through the process of hosting these two kids for the summer, they fell in love with them and decided to adopt them both; adding to their family of 5 kids.  John and his wife will be travelling to Ukraine in December to adopt Anna and Max.

Hearing his story and listening to this song makes me amazed that a God who created the universe would take the time to speak to me and encourage me so much.  Our God truly is an awesome God!

Here's a video for "While I'm Waiting."  Hopefully it speaks to those of you who are waiting and gives you encouragement.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why Ukraine?


"Why Ukraine?"

That's a question we've gotten quite a lot of since we've told people we're adopting from there.  Even now, as we are awaiting our invitation to go over, we still get that question.  There are many reasons why we decided to adopt from there, but the simple fact is, God called us to.  Both Danelle and I felt that Ukraine was where God wanted us to adopt from.  We also realized that, unlike kids in this country who need homes, the statistics for those who grow up as orphans in Ukraine are bleak.

- Ukraine has over 100,000 orphans.
- Only 10% are orphaned due to the death of a parent.  The majority are orphaned due to parents alcoholism, abandonment, or imprisonment.  Many of the children have experienced abuse at the hands of their parents.
- Every year, 2,000 mothers abandon their babies at maternity hospitals.
- Orphans typically live in state run homes, which may house up to 200 children.
- Children graduate from these orphanages by the age of 16.  Most end up on the street.
- 10% commit suicide.
- 60% of the girls end up in prostitution.
- 70% of the boys end up in crime.
- Those who grow up in orphanages are marked as "wards of state" and this will show up on every document about them.  When they apply for a job, they are less likely to get one due to the discrimination against hiring "wards of state."  In a country with 28% unemployment, the future for these kids are bleak.
- 40% of them will end up either drug addicts or alcoholics
- 50% of them will end up developing HIV or TB (this is the most widespread disease among Ukrainian teens)
- Because they end up on the street, these kids end up victims of slave and sex trafficking.

Ukraine is now encouraging long-term foster care in private homes as an alternative to state-run orphanages. The government is also encouraging Ukrainians to adopt.  There is a larger percentage of adoptions in the western region of that country because the socio-economics is better and more from that area are willing to take adopt children into their families.  The eastern region has higher unemployment, drug use, alcoholism, prostitution, and broken homes.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers according to the Ukrainian government for the year 2010:


Adoptions in Ukraine by Foreign Families by Region
Total Children Under 1 1-2 yrs 3-5 yrs 6-10 yrs 11-17 yrs
Crimea 70 2 11 11 33 13
Vinitsa 22 0 2 2 12 6
Volyn 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dnipropetrovsk 86 2 12 13 43 16
Donetsk 187 1 48 46 66 26
Zhitomer 31 0 3 6 18 4
Zakarpatia 17 0 2 6 9 0
Zaprozhzha 101 4 19 17 40 21
Іvano-Frankivsk 0 0 0 0 0 0
Кyiv 102 3 9 21 48 21
Kirovograd 56 4 9 12 18 13
Lugansk 94 6 15 12 33 28
Lviv 8 0 2 2 4 0
Mikolaev 44 0 13 12 15 4
Odessa 108 4 23 25 36 20
Poltava 29 3 7 7 8 4
Rivne 4 0 2 2 0 0
Sumy 31 0 7 2 4 18
Ternopil 4 0 0 0 4 0
Kharkiv 54 2 8 13 28 3
Kherson 16 2 4 2 6 2
Khmelnytski 23 1 11 4 6 1
Cherkasy 29 1 3 6 12 7
Chernivtsi 6 0 1 2 2 1
Chernigiv 39 1 11 10 11 6
Kyiv city 27 1 3 5 7 11
Sevastopol city 14 1 3 4 2 4
Total adoptions: 1202 38 228 242 465 229


Adoptions in Ukraine  by Ukrainian families
Total ChildrenUnder 11-2 yrs3-5 yrs6-10 yrs11-17 yrs
Crimea145554233123
Vinitsa6422171672
Volyn4519101042
Dnipropetrovsk200955238105
Donetsk2791337844177
Zhitomer5218191311
Zakarpatia7726172473
Zaprozhzha11160281364
Іvano-Frankivsk2495442
Кyiv118472623193
Kirovograd8433241782
Lugansk16387412591
Lviv6230101390
Mikolaev521820851
Odessa14359482754
Poltava6828152050
Rivne5011151770
Sumy381616510
Ternopil2045650
Kharkiv10558301340
Kherson7936211291
Khmelnestsky27913410
Cherkasy573313641
Chernivtsi2359531
Chernigiv451418832
Kiev city7840159104
Sevastopol city38197741
Total adoptions:224798461442017950


But the fact of the matter is, these aren't just statistics, these are children.  Kids who want only to be loved and accepted.  Children who want only to be adopted into a caring, loving family.  It's one thing to read these statistics and think, "How terrible," but it's another to look at one of these children's faces and not want to help.


Being a parent, it's hard for me to not think of my own child when I look at photos of orphans.  It's difficult for me to imagine him growing up in an orphanage.  Not a day goes by that Benjamin isn't being hugged and kissed and told how much we love him and how we're proud of him.  To hear that many of these kids have never been hugged breaks my heart.  When I look at the faces of orphans, I can't view them through the lens of them being someone else's problem.  As a parent, I see them only as children in need of a loving family.  

When I think of Ukrainian orphans, I can only think that among them is my son or daughter.



Friday, October 12, 2012

Overwhelmed


Romans 8:8 tells us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."

This is a verse that we are constantly realizing the true depths of as we have stepped out in faith on this journey of adoption.  What we have come to discover is that when you follow God's calling, He will provide others there to encourage you along the way.

Our family is so grateful for His steadfast love and how that love has been shone through others.  One such family is that of Kevin Sommers.  We want to thank them not only for their contribution to our adoption fund, but also for their kind and touching letter they mailed with it.

As Luke wrote in Acts 24:3, "In every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude."

To have a spirit of gratitude means we do not take what we receive for granted.

We truly thank God for the Sommers family, for their generosity and hope that they know that the money they donated is helping to bring a child home.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bibles For Orphans


Orphan Sunday is November 4th and a wonderful way for you to participate is to donate to a great organization called Bibles for Orphans.

Ukraine has over 100,000 registered orphans. 30,000 orphans live without parental care or in a large group home.  Many are without hope.

For only $3 they can get a Jesus Storybook Bible translated into their language to a Ukrainian orphan. The Gospel is essentially an adoption story of how Christ has adopted us into the family of God, so what better way to reach out to an orphan than by giving them their own Bible?  If you're interested, here's a link to their site:
http://biblesfororphans.com/

When you give an orphan the Bible, you give them hope as they read of how God loves them enough to send His only Son to rescue them and bring them into His family.





A Thankful Heart


Throughout this adoption process, our family has been thankful to God for many thing, especially the kindness and generosity of others.  We have been humbled and grateful for the love people have poured out on our family.  It amazes us to see what truly amazing friends we have.  

One of the best things about having lived where we have is that God has given us the opportunity of knowing Mark & Anna and their two adorable girls. Not a day passes that our family does not pray for theirs.  Once again, we would like to thank them for their extraordinary generosity.  

We did not expect this and we cannot tell you how much it means to us that you have showed such kindness to us as we draw ever nearer to bringing our child home.  You have once more helped to make that day possible.  We love your wonderful family.  

Thank you.

As Ephesians 1:16 says, "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Anticipation

I enjoy riding roller coasters.  Part of that enjoyment comes from the anticipation one feels riding up that first big hill.  Going up that first hill, one hears the clacking of the coaster as it slowly makes its way upward.  That's when the rider's stomach begins to feel that nervous thrill because they know that the rushing downward whoosh is about to come.  It's all about the anticipation of what's to come.

Back during the 70's, Carly Simon had a song entitled "Anticipation," that was later used for a ketchup commercial.  None of us like to wait.  The longer we wait, the greater our anticipation grows.

As a boy, no sooner had the month of December arrived, when I began to anticipate Santa Claus coming to our house to deliver presents at Christmas.  I would count off each day until Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning.  When the former finally came, I remember how my sister and I were practically bouncing off the walls and of how difficult it was to go to sleep that night.  All of this energy was built up inside of us from all the anticipation of waking up Christmas Morning, dashing out of bed and into the living room to see what Santa had brought us.  I remember one year in particular, when this excitement became so feverish, that I awakened in the dark, crept to the living room, and, afraid that if I turned on the light I'd wake my parents up, I tried to make out what I'd gotten in the darkness.  I kept waiting for it to get light outside but it didn't, so I went to the kitchen to see what time it was - 3 am.  I couldn't believe it.  I was so sure it was closer to 6 am and that I could wake my parents up in an hour.  Instead, I had to sneak back to bed.

The English writer Samuel Johnson once wrote that, "No mind is much employed upon the present; recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments."  Right now our family is in the latter.  All of us are filled with expectation at receiving the invite.

It's been 3 weeks since the Ukrainian government received all of our dossier and paperwork.  We've heard from others how long it can possibly take for us to hear anything and, yet, each time I see that there's an e-mail in our account, there's a part of me that gets excited at the thought that it's our invitation to come over there. My son is the same way.  Every day, he asks, "Did we get the e-mail yet?"  I don't even have to ask him which one he's referring to and when I tell him we haven't, in frustration, he grumbles, "I hate waiting."

"But waiting is a necessary step," I tell him.

"Why?"

The best analogy I could think to give Benjamin was about how his Mom had to be pregnant with him for 9 months.  During those 9 months, I was filled with eager anticipation for him to be born, but I knew that he needed to be in his mother's womb so he would develop properly.  "We are waiting now," I told him, "because God is preparing us for this child.  He has His perfect time for us to go over there and we just have to trust Him.  We will go to Ukraine when the child God wants us to adopt is available.  Besides, just like when Mommy was pregnant with you, we are preparing for this child.  Think about how we are preparing a room just like we did for you.  Also, we went and purchased an adoption life book just like Mommy and I got a baby book for you.  The day for us to go over there will come just as that day came when I had to rush Mommy to the hospital so she could give birth to you."

For anyone who's new to this blog, I'm a bit of a dictionary nerd.  I love to look up new words and learn their meaning.  In fact, I'm such a dictionary nerd that one of my dreams is to own the complete Oxford English Dictionary.  That is the ultimate dictionary.  It is 20 volumes and costs a thousand dollars.  That is some serious wordage!

Anyway, when I started writing this blog entry, one of the first things I did was to go and look up the definition for "anticipation."  The first definition read, "The act of anticipating; looking forward to, expectation."  Kind of boring, right?  The second definition said, "Realization; enjoyment or celebration of an event or experience in advance."  I definitely prefer that definition because that is where our family is right now.  We are celebrating in advance meeting our child for the very first time.

I was ecstatic when I first met my son Benjamin after he was born.  He wailed with powerful lungs until I went over to where he was being cleaned up by the nurse and I leaned over and quietly told him, "It's okay, your Papa's here."  And Benjamin immediately became quiet.  We were instantly connected.  Danelle and I truly believe (we have prayed every night for this) that we will know immediately the child or children we are supposed to adopt.  We have prayed that God will stir something deep within both of us so that we'll know. Just as when we first held our son, we long to hold our son or daughter.  And, as we did with our son, we long to bring this child home.


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Adoption & Foster Care Luncheon


Yesterday, on Sunday, October 7th, the Adoption & Foster Care Support Group at Parkwood Baptist Church held their annual Adoption & Foster Care Luncheon.  Over two hundred people attended.  They got to hear stories from families who've adopted & been involved in foster care, as well as hear about ways they could financially support adoption even if they are not planning to adopt, and a representative from New Horizon's spoke about their amazing hosting program.  If you are interested in the latter, you can go to their website for more information: http://www.newhorizonsforchildren.org/horizons/help.html

Along with the speakers and videos presented, there were numerous adoption agencies, a representative from DSS, a home study coordinator, and other organizations involved in support of orphans around the world.

My prayer for all who attended yesterday's luncheon was that their hearts would be opened to the plight of the orphan.  As Noel Piper once said, "All of us are not called to adopt, but we all are called to take care of the orphan."








Our family would like to thank Angela Bradshaw, Cristy Brice, and Beverly Kelly for all of their hard work that went into putting this together. They did an amazing job!