Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Lists


No sooner are all the presents unwrapped (and it's always amazing to me how quickly that happens and how there tends to be that let down of looking about and scratching my head thinking, "We spent how much and it's all done?") and Benjamin is already starting on his Christmas list for the next year.

Before Benjamin was born, my wife and I decided we were not going to be one of those parents who go into debt to buy our child Christmas presents.  So often, we would see parents in line, spending hundreds of dollars on toys that would probably only be played with for a week or two before they got broken or forgotten and would later end up in a yard sale.  We tended to focus on getting him toys that he could play with more long term: blocks, art supplies & easel, sidewalk chalk, Legos, board games, etcetera.  One of the longest lasting gifts was his plastic food.  I can't even count the number of pretend meals we had in his room. Of course, like many children, he often preferred to play with the boxes over the toys.

When he was younger, the lists were full of the toys he wanted.  Ones I can remember are the Imaginext castle, the Whac-a-Mole Tower,  Eyeclops, and a Star Wars Volcano.  So often, though, it was the toys I picked out for him that weren't on his list that were the ones he played with the most: Tinker Toys, Tube Trax, Toobers and Zots, toy gears, and an erector set - see a pattern?  He loves to create, make, and invent things.  Benjamin used the tinker toys and rubber-bands to create an amazing pulley system.

See below for just a few of his creations:




I remember one Christmas when we got him one of those wooden Thomas the Tank engine tracks because he always played with them at Books-A-Million and Toys R Us.  He did not, however, play with them at our house.

As he grew older, his Christmas lists began to be full of science kits, microscope, crystal growing kits, a poster of great scientists, and he asked for one of a large Tesla Coil (as Nikola Tesla is one of his heroes - along with Bill Gates, and Adam & Jamie from Mythbusters).  For anyone who doesn't know what a Tesla Coil is here is a photo of one:
Needless to say, no, he did not get one.  At least not a large one.  Here's his:
Here's his Tesla Coil lit up at night:

This year his Christmas wish list is as follows:
- a 10 uF Capacitor 
- Breadboard jumpers
- Breadboard (and no this has absolutely nothing to do with bread)
- Jameco Power Supply
- Circuit Helping Hands 
- Copper Clad PC Board
- Electrical Tape (yes, electrical tape)

Not your typical 12 year old.  Of course, this works to my advantage because Benjamin hates to get his haircut, but since the place I take him to get his hair cut is right next to Radio Shack, he agrees on the condition I let him go in and browse.  The manager and associates there love when he comes in because my son will talk to them about this kind of thing, while I either stand there not understanding the conversation or mill about and look at remote control cars.

Although his Christmas wish list has changed greatly over the years, one thing hasn't: every year for both Christmas and his birthday, the one thing Benjamin has asked for on every list was a sibling.  From the time he was little until now, that has been his biggest wish.  It's so thrilling to see that something he has desired and prayed about since he was five or six is finally coming true.  And it is even more exciting that we will be going over there to find his sibling at Christmas this year.  This definitely shows the faith of a little child.

For those of you who have been praying to God for something in your own life, do not give up hope, because God truly does hear our prayers.  Just ask my son.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

You're Invited!


Ви запрошені!  or "You're invited!" in Ukrainian.

Yes, the invitation finally came!

I feel as excited, nervous, and joyful as the day Danelle told me I needed to take her to the hospital because she was going to give birth to our son.  Just as I'd waited 9 whole months to finally meet my first child, we started this process of adoption at the end of April (which is the month of both Benjamin's and my birthday) and now we prepare ourselves to go over to Ukraine to meet our second child.

Back in 2000, driving my wife to the hospital, I was thrilled and filled with trepidation and running a whole gamut of emotions about an event we'd been anticipating and preparing for, just as we have done throughout this adoption journey.

So now we get everything ready for the journey.

Thankfully, we have someone house sitting for us and watching our other family member (our dog Chloe) for us while we're gone.

It's amazing how emotional I get when I think about the reality of this - we are bringing our child home.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Profiles in Adoption: Mary Beth Chapman


Mary Beth Chapman is an author and wife of award-winning singer / songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman.  Their family adopted three children from China; the youngest of which, Maria Sue, was tragically killed in an accident in the family's driveway.

In 2003, she and Steven started Shaohannah’s Hope, which would later be renamed Show Hope.  Knowing that for many families, high adoption costs keep many of them from adopting, Show Hope is a non-profit organization that not only help families financially with adoption grants but also provide life-saving medical care for orphans with special needs.

Their adoption journey started after their daughter Emily went on a a trip to Haiti with Compassion International.  Mary Beth told of how that trip made Emily "come back so on fire to help the vulnerable children of the world."  Their daughter was relentless and would continually bring Steven and Mary Beth information from Bethany Christian Services about international adoption, including information about the plights of little girls in China.

As Mary Beth wrote in her book Choosing to See, "Adoption was for other people, mentally healthy people, more flexible people . . . Deep down, I really did want to be open for whatever God wanted us to do.  I was just really, really scared of my abilities as an adoptive parent."

Despite her fears, in the end and after much prayer, she agreed that their family was called to adopt.  Still, she feared about how she would be with adoptive children.  "What if I can't do this?  What if I feel differently toward this child than I do my biological ones."  This fear was instantly wiped away the moment she saw Shaohannah Hope.  Her heart melted and she loved this little girl in the same way she did Emily.

Little did she realize they would end up doubling their family from their three "natural children" to add three "supernatural children," as she describes them.  Mary Beth sees this now as a "blessing" and she " . . . looks at those little ones every day and just thinks, 'I could have said "no" and stayed safe and cautious and I would've missed all of this."

When asked what advice she would give couples considering adoption, Mary Beth said, "I think ultimately my encouragement would be to just make it a serious item on the prayer list and seriously consider other children in your home and what God is calling you to… I think some are called to encourage; some are called to adopt; some are called to help finance. There are so many different things we can do."

For more information about Show Hope go to:
http://showhope.org/

You can also read in more detail about the Chapman's adoption journey in Mary Beth's amazingly heart-wrenching and beautiful book Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope.




Monday, November 26, 2012

DNA, Character Traits, & Star Wars



While our children get 50% of their DNA from their mother and 50% from their father no matter whether they're a boy or a girl, this does not translate to their parents' traits.  Is it any wonder then that we can look at our children sometimes and see so much of ourselves in them and then, at other times, be completely baffled as to where they get certain habits or behavior.  Typically, when Benjamin gets in trouble, one of us will say, "Do you know what your child has done?"

There are times when Benjamin can be so much like me that it's like seeing an alternative universe version of myself.  I can see it in the way he makes a certain remark, his sense of humor, or his lack of rhythm (Yes, sad, but true, back in the late 80's, I was permanently exiled from Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation.").

But then there are times when I, like many parents, scratch my head and think, "Are you really my kid?"

For example, I love deli sandwiches or sub sandwiches.  Absolutely love them.  Nothing beats a great deli sandwich with a Dr. Brown's Cream Soda.  But does my son share this love?  No.  Not at all.  The only type of sandwich he'll eat is a peanut butter one.

Another example, I love to read. Long before we had a child, I dreamed of the day when I would have one and how we could bond together going to the local bookstore.  When he was little, Benjamin loved books and for us to read to him.  Now, however, he refers to reading as "boring," the deadliest sin to a kid. He views reading as a punishment.  One morning, as I was taking him to school, he started on a tirade about how boring reading was and how much he hated reading.  Then, as we pulled into his school, he asks, "Can I have some money for the book fair?"

Now, one of the most important events from my childhood came in 1977.  Some of you are scratching your heads and wondering what this would be, while others of you are shouting out the answer to your computer screen.  Yes, it was the release of the Star Wars: A New Hope.  My parents took me to see this and, since this was the time before movie trailers were everywhere, I had no clue what this movie was about.  But once I'd seen it, my life had been changed.

I was 9 years old and all I could think about was how I wanted my own lightsaber and to fly my own Millennium Falcon.  I wanted to be a Jedi, not like Luke (who could be whiny) but more like a super cool one, such as if Han Solo were a Jedi. From the moment I saw that film, I collected Star Wars figures, comic books, trading cards, and even drew my own comic books that bore more than a passing resemblance to Star Wars.  This passion only intensified with Empire Strikes Back, which remains my favorite of the Star Wars movies (How could it not be?  This was the film that introduced Boba Fett).  This meant more action figures and more trading cards.  A friend and I went to see this movie and we stayed in the theater and watched it 3 times in one day.  It's true, Return of the Jedi, lessened my enthusiasm a bit.  Like many from my generation, I was not a big fan of the super cute and cuddly Ewoks, which seemed more like a merchandising ploy.  It also killed off Boba Fett in a way that was less than impressive.  My wife still thinks it's funny that I can get so upset about these things.

Now I won't get in to the last three Star Wars films, which were all travesties.  But the fact of the matter was, that when Benjamin had gotten old enough, I tried to share these beloved classics with him.  And he couldn't have cared less.  Even as he got older, I kept trying only to be rebuffed with, "Science fiction's not really my thing."  What?  My child doesn't like Star Wars?  Say it ain't so?  But, unfortunately, it was.  My VHS tapes (I don't have any of the DVDs because those are all the corrupted, George Lucas-tampered with versions of the movies) were put away to gather dust.

Then seventh grade started.  Benjamin's best friends both love Star Wars as well as his favorite teacher.  Suddenly, he began to ask me questions about the movies and about the characters.  The VHS tapes came out.  We watched those.  I even watched the dreadful newer Star Wars movies on DVD from the library. My son and I were sharing these films together.  True, he loves the Ewoks.  Yes, he doesn't get my love for Boba Fett.  But he's watching the movies without having to be coerced or forced (no pun intended).

I pulled out all of my old Star Wars trading cards and let him have the ones I had duplicates of (on the condition that he did not trade them with anyone).  He's even doing chores to earn money to buy the new packs of Star Wars trading cards (unlike the ones I bought, these don't come with that hard, nasty tasting stick of bubble gum).   He's decorated his room with my old Star Wars figures alongside his Dr. Who action figures.

Now, when I look at him, I can say in my best James Earl Jones impression (and with that deep Darth Vader respiration going), "Benjamin, I am your father!"        




Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!


We would like to thank all of you who are following our adoption journey and have become a big part of it. 

Our family is truly grateful for all of you who have supported us financially, emotionally, and through your prayers and encouragement.  Today we will definitely be thankful that we can include you as part of our soon-to-be-growing family.  

So wherever you are, thank you.

May you be thankful for whatever family you're with and for whatever meal you are about to enjoy (even if it's just toast, popcorn, and jelly beans).  To all of you, our family would like to wish a very

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

During The Holiday Hurrying & Scurrying

It doesn't seem, at least in terms of retailers, that there is any other holiday except Christmas. Working for a toy company, I'm in the big box retail chain stores a lot.  Before Halloween had even arrived, K-Mart was already playing Christmas music.  It's a bit disconcerting to walk in and see ghosts and goblins but hear "O Holy Night" coming out over the sound system.All of the stores had Christmas decorations and artificial trees up before we even got to November.

Thanksgiving is irrelevant as they have even moved "Black Friday" up to the Thursday of Thanksgiving in the hopes of getting a jump on their competitors (despite the fact that the competitors are doing likewise).  People will be camping out to get the "hot" electronics and toys.  That always amazes me.  The only thing that could get me to camp out was if they had an internal organ that a loved one needed to live - and not the latest, newest product from Apple.  The news will have stories of police being called in, of people getting hurt to get an inexpensive waffle iron or cheap towels (as happened in some of the stores last year).  Instead of taking time to be thankful for what we have, we scramble and fight for things we don't even really need. People will spend lots of money they don't have for things they don't need and won't want by the time the next latest and newest one comes out.

 

Amidst all the hustle and bustle that is to come with the holiday season, we get so caught up in finding the "right" gift for loved ones that we don't even spend time with them. Take time to truly be thankful this year. And as you are spending time with your family, remember those who are without one.As you are out doing your shopping this year, please take time to think about those children around the world who want only one gift: a loving family.

Please, please remember them in your thoughts and prayers.





Monday, November 19, 2012

Profiles in Adoption: John Waller


Christian singer-songwriter, John Waller is best known for songs like "While I'm Waiting" (used in the film Courageous) and "As For Me And My House."  

As I've mentioned before in my blog, "While I'm Waiting" has been a great song of encouragement to us as our family waits for our invitation from the SDA to fly over to Ukraine.  Something else I've mentioned is how God has used songs to speak to me throughout this process.  It was after I heard "While I'm Waiting" on 98.3 FM that I also heard about how John was adopting from Ukraine.  When I got home, I immediately looked him up on the internet to find out more.

John and his wife Josee are currently over in Ukraine (the photo above is of him in the capital Kiev).  They have 5 biological children and are adopting 3 from Alexandria, Ukraine (Max, Anya, and Olga).  Pray for them as they are over there.  As he wrote:

"Tomorrow we travel to Alexandria, Ukraine where our 3 children are in 2 different orphanages. We will be reunited with Max and Anya and meeting Olga for the first time. She is excited to meet us and particularly thrilled that we have dogs.... I'm gonna tell her the dogs are a gift if she can teach them not to go in the house anymore! HA! Seriously though...my heart is so full of joy to hug and kiss these children. I cannot wait to be the daddy they've never had."

If you want to find out more about their adoption journey, go to his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

Here is a video with John and Josee talking about their amazing adoption journey:


Quote From Mother Teresa

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

- Mother Teresa



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ways to Celebrate National Adoption Month


Since this is National Adoption Month, here are some ways you can help to create more awareness about it:

- Contact your local library.  Ask them to read a story about adoption when they have their weekly story time.  

- Plan a neighborhood fund raiser to donate the proceeds to a non-profit foundation.

- Promote awareness of adoption within your place of worship.

- Use the resources at websites like the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to print up flyers to put up in your workplace, local library, or other sites that have local events bulletin boards.

- Collect clothing for local orphanages.

- During Thanksgiving with your family, take time to pray for those kids in orphanages and the foster care system.

- If you've created a Lifebook, offer to hold a class on creating one at your local library or place of worship. For more information about Lifebooks, go to:

- Provide respite care for families who are fostering children.  

- Volunteer.  Call your local agency to find out what help they need.  They may need someone to drive foster kids to appointments (dental, medical)

- Donate items to children's homes or foster care agencies.  

- Reach out to families who are fostering or have adopted children.

- Donate to organizations like Show Hope, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, The Gift of Adoption Fund, or many other worthy ones.

-  Support the adoption tax credit.  To find out more about how to do this, go to:

There are so many ways you can become involved.  See how you can truly make a difference in the life of a child.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Profiles in Adoption: Mariska Hargitay

"Adoption Is Not for the Faint of Heart"



As part of National Adoption Month, I decided to have profiles of different people who have adopted.

The first is Mariska Hargitay, best known for her Emmy-winning role as Detective Olivia Benson on NBC's Law & Order: SVU.

In the span of 6 months last year, she and her husband Peter Hermann, adopted two children: Amaya Josephine, now 13 months old, and Andrew Nicolas, 9 months.  She spoke to Good Housekeeping about how her biological son, August, thought the adoption was all his idea.

"He said, 'I want a baby sister,' and Amaya came," Hargitay said, "Then he said, 'I want a baby brother,' and Andrew came."

As easy as she makes that sound, the adoptions weren't.  She describes the process, at times, as being "heartbreaking."

"I'm not gonna' lie," she admitted, "There were wrenching moments.  I say to everybody, 'Adoption is not for the faint of heart'."

Mariska and her husband started the adoption process 2 years ago, meeting with an adoption lawyer, going through the process of the home study, and all that's involved with beginning an adoption.  There would be two failed attempts before they finally found someone near New York City who wanted to put her baby up for adoption.  They met the woman, finalized the adoption plan, were present in the delivery room when the baby was born, named the infant, had her for 2 days when the birth mother changed her mind.

"It was nothing short of devastating," Hargitay explained, "But . . .it was probably the greatest, happiest ending.  I mean, it was so painful for us, but it was deeply joyful and deeply right for her."

Then, just over a year ago, they connected with the woman who gave birth to Amaya.  Hargitay even helped deliver the baby girl.  Of that moment, she said, "That moment was profound.  That was one of the most meaningful moments I've ever had in my life."

Though they had not planned on adopting another child, not even a year later, Mariska and Peter got a call about a boy who was born prematurely and was waiting to be adopted.  She described the decision to adopt him as a "no-brainer."  "It was like a miracle," she said, "And I don't use that word lightly.  I've never made a bigger decision so quickly.  My life is so blessed."

Despite Andrews continuing to struggle with health issues, Mariska Hargitay said she wouldn't change a thing.  "Adoption is a bumpy ride - very bumpy," she noted, "But it was worth the fight."

In an interview with The Today Show, Hargitay told Ann Curry, "I love talking about adoption because I think it's the greatest thing on the planet.  I think any time you embrace life so fully, so heartily, there are highs and there are lows . . . the process takes you on a ride.  And the end of it is better than any pot of gold that you can imagine.  There's a child."

The original interview with Mariska Hargitay in Good Housekeeping was in the April 4, 2012 issue.  It was done by Liz Raftery.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

National Adoption Day



This Saturday is National Adoption Day.  Some are probably asking, "What is that exactly?"

National Adoption Day is a national effort to raise awareness for the more than 100,000 children currently in foster care waiting to find a permanent and loving home.

This day happens every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Think about it, a day to place children in forever families before a day in which we in the United States take time to be thankful for what we have and for our families.  What better way to do this than through adoption?

Communities across the country are organizing events to celebrate this day and draw attention to this worthy cause.  Here is a link to the page of the official site for this day that shows where events are being held around the country: http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/events

In the past, they have been able to move children from foster care to forever families.

The official site lists their goals for this day as being:

  • Finalize adoptions from foster care in all 50 states
  • Celebrate and honor families who adopt
  • Raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting for permanent, loving homes
  • Encourage others to adopt children from foster care
  • Build collaboration among local adoption agencies, courts and advocacy organizations
Remember, these are children in need of a loving home.  

If you aren't called to adopt, support those families who are.  

Pray for the kids in the foster care system.  

Pray for the families who foster children in their homes.  

Give to organizations like The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption or The Alliance for Children's Rights. 

Volunteer for organizations like The Alliance for Children's Rights.  

Use social media such as Facebook or Twitter or your own blog to promote this cause.  

If you want more information about National Adoption Day, their link is:


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reading Up on Kiev, Ukraine


While we're awaiting to hear from the SDA to issue us an invitation over (it will be 3 weeks since we resubmitted the corrected pages of our dossier - not that we're counting), I've been reading up some more on  Kiev: Ukraine's capital. 

Over 3 million citizens live in this city, which is located on the Dnepr River.  

Kiev is called "the mother of Slavic cities."  

It is located in the north central part of Ukraine (the country itself is the size of Texas). 

The city was named after Kyi, one of its founders.  

Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to the late 9th century.  

Unlike in the United States, New Year is one of their most important celebrations and that is when they give gifts. 

The third most visited McDonald's in the world is in Kiev.  Benjamin was very happy to hear this and his response was, "We have to go there!"  His mother and I, however, are looking forward to trying Ukrainian food.

The city is represented by two major parts: the right bank of the Dnieper, which is the old downtown, and the Left Bank, which became part of the city only during the 20th century.  

The deepest subway station is in Kiev: it is the Arsenal’na metro station, which goes as deep as 105 meters or 315 feet.  

Although Russian is prevalent, Ukrainian is the official language.  

The predominant religious group is Christian Orthodox and there are numerous monasteries and cathedrals to see in the city.  

One of my favorite authors, Mikhail Bulgakov, was born there.  He was the author of The Master and Margarita, as well as the most important novel about the October Revolution entitled White Guard.  There is a museum to him there and it is one of the places I definitely plan to visit.  

Another is the market at Andrew's Descent where one can by many traditional items, such as matryoshka dolls.  

The average maximum temperature when we'll be there will be 26 degrees Fahrenheit.  Very cold for someone who has grown up in the South and it means we will have to buy real winter clothes before we leave (I don't think me pea-coat nor my Christopher Robin coat will cut it there).

This is how we'd hoped to see Kiev:  


This is how it will probably look while we're there:


Well, Benjamin always complains how we don't tend to get much, if any, snow during our winters here, so this should pretty much make up for that.  

Whatever the weather, we wait with great hope and anticipation for the time when we will finally go. It will definitely be an adventure.

   


Monday, November 12, 2012

Tips For Anyone Adopting From Ukraine


Here are some tips for anyone planning on adopting or in the process of adopting from Ukraine.  These tips are especially relevant to anyone doing a "blind" adoption (meaning that they aren't planning to adopt a child they had hosted).

- Check, double check, and triple check everything in your dossier!  The SDA will go through all of your dossier with a fine-tooth-comb

- When you finally get your invitation for your appointment, have in mind what age child you would like to adopt.  The SDA has a binder for each age.  You only have 1 hour to go through it to pick a child, so it's best to decide an age before your meeting.  If you don't, and you tell them a range you are looking for (say a girl between the ages of 8 -10 years old), they will pull out three separate binders for you to go through.  
Sometimes they pull various files for you to look through, but, typically, they just pull out a binder and thumb through it to find referrals for you to look at.

- Once you choose a child, your translator or social worker can call the orphanage or district to see if they can find out more information about the child.  Sometimes they can, but not always. The information you will get at the SDA appointment will be very limited.  You will find out more of the specifics on the child you've chosen when you sit down with the orphanage director, teacher, and the nurse.

- Some people find that the first referral does not work out and they have to go back to Kiev for another appointment.  It is important to get back to Kiev as quickly as possible so that you can start the process of requesting a second appointment.  It generally takes 3-5 work days to get your next appointment.  The SDA only does appointments on Mondays and Wednesday.

- If you are wanting to adopt from Ukraine, you must get your dossier in by the end of November 2012.  If you don't, then you have to wait until February 2013 when they begin accepting them again.  If you can't get your dossier in by then end of November, definitely make sure that the 6-months term of your documents don't expire in February of next year.

- Before you meet with the SDA, know exactly what you and your family is willing to take on in terms of ages, mental and physical disabilities. Also decide ahead of time on whether or not you are willing to adopt siblings.  With the latter, Ukraine has laws that doesn't allow for the separation of siblings.  Sibling groups are in a separate binder from single children available for adoption.

- You will have an easier time adopting older children than those under the age of 7.

Since we are currently waiting on our invitation over, these tips are definitely helpful in our preparing ourselves for our first appointment with the SDA.  We would like to thank those readers who sent in these tips since this is valuable information and can be hard to come by even on the internet.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Quote from Dr. Livingstone



"Do not think me mad. It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live. The noblest thing a man can do is, just humbly receive, and then go amongst others and give."
- Dr. David Livingstone, pioneer medical missionary

Friday, November 9, 2012

School, Shepherds, & Being Where God Wants Us


On the way to school one morning this week, Benjamin gave his usual complaint of, "I don't wanna' go to school."  He began to ask me, "Why do I have to go to school?"  I gave him the usual response of, "View this as an opportunity.  Even though you may not like all of your subjects, think of them as a means to an end.  If you work hard in school and make good grades, then you can have your choice of colleges and universities, and the better your choice the better opportunities you're going to have when it comes time for you to get a job.  If you can get a job that you like then it won't feel like a job."  This had zero impact on his attitude, so I decided to address the issue differently.

"Before he was King David, what was he?" I asked.

"A shepherd."

"Exactly.  Being a shepherd was the lowest position one could have in that culture.  David was just that - a shepherd.  And he was small and puny and his family made fun of him.  His brothers were big, muscular warriors and they teased David.  When it came time for them to go off to battle as soldiers, David was left behind to tend the sheep.  I'm sure he was out there in the fields, pretending to be a soldier, too.  That may have been how he killed that lion.  Finally, one day David's father calls him in from the fields and tells him that he wants David to go to the front where his brothers are.  You know David must have been thinking, "Now's my chance!'  Until his dad says, "Take your brothers their lunch."  David must have been crushed.  Once again, he was given the demeaning task of taking his warrior brothers their lunch.  I'm sure he grumbled and complained all the way to the front."

"Then he got there.  And David saw the soldiers all cowering and afraid as the giant Goliath taunted them.  So what happened next?" I asked.

Without missing a beat, Benjamin told me all about how David took his slingshot, gathered three stones, and trusted in God as he went before the Goliath.  He got all excited about how young David killed the giant.  Then I asked Benjamin, "So what happened to David after he defeated Goliath?"

"He became king."

Benjamin was surprised when I corrected him with, "No, he was sent back to the fields to continue tending the sheep."

"What?  That's not fair!"

"Be that as it may, and I'm sure David probably agreed with you, but that's what happened.  After that great victory where soldiers were probably cheering him, lifting him up, and chanting his name, David found himself back with the menial task of tending the sheep.   He may have been asking God, 'Why?'  But God had a plan for David just as he does for you.  God has you in your school right now for a reason."

God had David, like Moses, shepherd sheep so that he would later know how to shepherd Israel.  In those fields, he knew the boredom and tediousness of the job, the thanklessness of the job, as well as the dangers that could lurk out there.  I'm sure that returning to those fields after that victory, he was filled with great disappointment and was discouraged. 

Of course, as I'm telling him this, I immediately realize how it applies in my own life. Sometimes God has us in a place where we don't understand why but we have to trust God because He's God and He has a bigger, grander plan.  If David hadn't have been out in those fields then we wouldn't have the 23rd Psalm and how many people have been comforted by that specific psalm during times of trials, hardship, discouragement, and confusion? 

So, wherever you are right now in your life, know that God is there with you and that He has a plan for you.  Trust Him, no matter what the circumstances because, while circumstances change, God doesn't.  As the 23rd Psalm tells us:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creating A Lifebook For The Adopted Child


Recently I finished reading Beth O'Malley's book Lifebooks: Creating A Treasure For The Adopted Child because I had heard about creating one but I didn't really know what was supposed to go in one.  When our son Benjamin was born, I started a baby book filled with photos, information, and stories all about him.  So I assumed that a Lifebook would be the same. One of the first things I did was take Benjamin with me to Hobby Lobby to find one that we could make for our adopted child.  I specifically took our son so that he could feel included in picking out what will be a very important part of our adopted child's life.

I must admit, since we don't know if we'll be adopting a boy or a girl, it was difficult to find a neutral looking book that could use for a Lifebook.  Here's the one Benjamin and I ended up choosing:


We picked this one because the cover was a map of the world and we thought this fit perfectly with our adoption journey.  The kit also included stickers of arrows that say "From Here" and "To Here" which we'll use by putting a map inside that shows North Carolina (we'll use the first arrow to point "From Here") and Ukraine (using the arrow "To Here").  There's also a sticker of a plane and a passport.  

I fully expected to use the Lifebook to write entries just as I have this blog to tell about our family's journey to adopt the child, but when I read Beth O'Malley's book, I learned that I should save that for a journal because the Lifebook should be about the child and his or her story.  She writes that the purpose of a Lifebook is to provide concrete information about the child's background  so that it can be used whenever the adopted child has questions about his or her past.  

Because of this, it's critical for the adoptive parents to find out as much information as they can from the orphanage the child comes from.  I learned that we need to try and find out not only as much information as we can about the child's birth family, but also who his or her favorite staff member at the orphanage is (take a photo of them).  Get quotes from the staff of the orphanage about your child.    Try to uncover as much as you can: parents' names, information about their childhoods, their interests, etcetera.  Although much of this information may or may not be available, ask.  Try to uncover as much as you can.  Since adoptive children often create their own fantasy worlds about their birth parents, the more concrete information you can give them the better.

Another thing this book taught me was that Lifebooks are not scrapbooks.  I'm partially relieved since I'm not a real "craftsy" sort of person anyway.  Instead, the Lifebook deals with the child's birth, their birth parents, and reasons why the child was adopted.

Of course, a Lifebook can be a very difficult and painful thing to assemble since it can often deal with hard topics such as abuse and neglect.  Many might shy away from dealing with sensitive subject matters, but it is best not to hide such information.  O'Malley writes that it's best to be open from the start because:
1. It never gets easier.  The longer you wait, the worse it feels.
2. You run the risk of someone else telling your child the "secret."
3. You child picks up on your guilt.
4. By sharing all the facts early on, it means that you  never jeopardize your child's trust in you. 

Her suggestions for writing the Lifebook are as follows:
- short, colorful pages
- child facts versus parent facts
- strong visual focus for each page
- use action words and dialogue
- be funny - forget about grammar
- brainstorm if stuck
- consult with peers and friends for input

She then goes on to break a Lifebook down page by page as to what you should have in the Lifebook and in  what should be addressed in what order.  O'Malley has sample pages from Lifebooks others have created for their adoptive children.

In the back, she has a list of resources and websites that can help the adoptive parents as they create their child's Lifebook.

This is definitely a book worth owning for any adoptive parent as they struggle to create a Lifebook for their adopted child.  I know I will be returning to it again and again as I work to create our child's Lifebook.

For more information about Lifebooks, you can go to Beth O'Malley's website at:

For those of you who've already created Lifebooks for your adopted children, please send any tips you would give as to what was successful with yours.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Few Thoughts On National Adoption Month


This month is National Adoption Month.  As I think about what that really means, I can't help but feel overwhelmed with love for a child I have never seen that will become our son or daughter.  That child doesn't even know we exist right now but he or she will become a part of our family.  That to me is the amazing thing about adoptions. 

By next November, our family will be celebrating National Adoption Month with the child we adopted and that will be a real celebration!


If you would like to learn more about National Adoption Month, here is a link to the official website:
http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/nam/

Monday, November 5, 2012

We Would Like To Thank . . .


Gratitude is more than merely expressing words, it is a way to live one's life.  One thing this adoption journey has taught our family is gratitude.  We are so grateful to so many people who are taking this journey with us through their love, their prayers, and their generosity.  Our family certainly didn't expect the kind outpouring from people that we have received but we thank God every night for each one of you.

Today we would like to express our gratefulness and thanks to Joe and Lisa Baverso.  Your donating to our adoption fund is truly a blessing and an answer to prayers.  We would also like to thank you for your sweet card and we do believe that, "All things are possible for the one who believes" (Mark 9:23) and reading this is only further encouragement.  Thank you again for your thinking of us as we seek to follow God's will in expanding our family.

Fish Tanks & Produce Aisles


Yesterday, our family went with my Dad, my sister and her family to Fintastic in Charlotte.  For those who've never been there, it's an amazing place to by fresh, pond, and salt water fish (including sharks) along with aquariums,  coral, plants, and anything one would need for a fish tank.  

As we walked along, looking in the different tanks, all of us were amazed by the variety of fish and how different and unique (as well as expensive) the fish were.  There were a variety of colors and designs on the fish.  

Of course, Benjamin wanted to buy a Clown Fish that he called "Nemo" and a blue tang fish that he called "Dory."  Being a parent, I love Finding Nemo and would literally go to the ends of the earth for my child.  Now that we are adopting, I see the film as a lovely representation of going to another country to bring a child home. It's funny, though, that a story about rescuing a fish from captivity has fueled people wanting to own that very type of fish.  

Still, as I walked through this store, I couldn't help but think of Genesis 1:20-23, when it talks of God creating the teeming fish of the sea and every living thing that teems the waters.  Some of this was right there in tanks around me for me to appreciate and, like God, think that it is good.

I have always loved fish tanks and can watch fish for an hour and not get bored.  Back in graduate school, I had my own fish tank that I loved and, whenever stressed from my classes, I would just sit there and watch the fish to calm me down.  It was no different walking around this store, which reminded me of walking around an art gallery.  There is definitely artistry in the creation of all of these magnificent aquatic fish and coral (some of the coral are more beautiful than the fish).  And, I must admit, I came out of that store wanting to have another aquarium.

Later in the day, just our family, went grocery shopping at Harris Teeter.  Being a Sunday night, it was crowded with people.  Each aisle was full of carts and shoppers.  Now I am someone who doesn't care for crowds and tend to get claustrophobic in stores, especially during the busy holidays.  But as I'm in this store and I begin to feel irritation and anxious, I stop and I look around.  Then it hits me that this is no different than Fintastic.  Once more God's amazing display of creation is right there before me.  Each of the people in this store are unique and different from each other.  No two are alike.  Once more, the Creator's handiwork was there before me.  Yet why do I so seldom see them that way?

When it came time to check out, as we stood there in one of the many long lines, I found myself not frustrated, but thankful.  I was thankful that I worshiped a God who created all of this, in all of its amazing beauty and diversity.  I couldn't help but think of Psalm 8:3-9:

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Amen!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Today Is Orphan Sunday


Orphan Sunday is finally here!

Pray that Jesus' message of taking care of the orphan is heard around the world today.

Pray that the church steps up to do what Christ has called us to do in taking care of the poor, the widows, and the orphans.

Pray for the vulnerable children who are in desperate need of loving families.

Pray for organizations like Show Hope, Amazima, Bibles for Orphans, and other adoption & foster care organizations.

Pray for families who are adopting or fostering children.

Pray that whoever is elected President on Tuesday will continue the Adoption Tax Credit.

As the organization behind today has on their site:

"Today, ask God that of the 2 billion Christians in the world, 7% would show hope to a single orphan, looking after the child in their distress.  Ask the Lord to convict the church around the world that if we did this, there would effectively be no more orphans.  Ask the Lord to show each of His followers that we can each do something.  Within your prayers, choose a country or countries to pray specifically over and pray for nations within that country to rise up and be willing to care for orphans."

Seek the Lord on how you are to care for orphans on a day that is meant to focus on what we, as believers, can do for the least of these.

Full of Appreciation


Our family never fails to be amazed by the kindness and generosity of others towards us throughout this adoption process.  Certainly as we draw ever closer to our going over to Ukraine, we have continued to pray that hearts would be opened as we continue to raise money to cover the costs of adopting a child internationally.  That is why we would like to sincerely thank the Lovettes for their thoughtfulness in donating to our adoption fund.  Just know that you are a part of bringing a child home to a loving family.

Friday, November 2, 2012

National Adoption Month


November is National Adoption Month.  In the United States alone, there are over 104,000 children in the foster care system awaiting permanent families.  Around the world, there are over 145 million orphans awaiting to be a part of a permanent family.

This is the month to focus attention on this need.  As Christians, we are called again and again throughout scripture to take care of the orphan.  But are we?

This is the time to step up and be a voice for the voiceless.  If you have a Facebook, Twitter or other social media account use it to promote something other than an advertisement for a product you like.  Pray about how you can be a defender of the fatherless just like our heavenly Father is.  Promote adoption within your church.  Support worthy organizations that help orphans worldwide.  Stand up in your community for families who foster children.  Pray for those who are adopting or fostering children.  Reach out to these families in support.

National Adoption Month celebrates its 17th year.  As President Obama wrote in his proclamation for this month:


"As a Nation, one of our highest responsibilities is to ensure the health and well-being of our children.  With generous hearts and open minds, we strive to make sure all children grow up knowing they have a family that shares with them the warmth, security, and unconditional love that will help them succeed.  And yet, more than 100,000 children in America await this most basic support, and still more children abroad live without families.  During National Adoption Month, we celebrate the acts of compassion and love that unite children with adoptive families, and we rededicate ourselves to the essential task of providing all children with the comfort and safety of a permanent home."

Many state governors are also issuing proclamations to promote this time when we can focus on the needs of children who desperately need a loving family.

These are children, not statistics.  Do what you can to promote their cause.  

For more information, you can go to the National Adoption Month website: