Friday, April 29, 2011

A thousand wonders

Dear Levi

Today feels hard.  Each day is getting harder waiting to see your face.  I wonder every day where you are, what you are doing and who is loving you.  I wonder how old you actually are.  I wonder if your short or tall.  I wonder what your complexion looks like ... if your hair is tight curls or loose curls.  I wonder if you have the most radiant smile.  I wonder if your quiet natured or are you a go getter.  Do you love cars, trucks and balls or would you rather relish in a lap with a book.  I wonder if you are in an orphanage right now or have you been moved into the AWA transitional home.  I wonder wonder wonder.

Today feels hard and I can't stop dreaming of you today.  Today, I have dreamt a thousand times the moment I see your face for the first time.  I wonder what I'll be doing when "the call" comes.  I wonder if your brother and sisters will be in school ... will I really get to surprise them and show up with good news. Boy, how fun would it be to be hero for a day!  I wonder where your Daddy will be and will he be in meetings.  I'd have sooo much fun interrupting those meetings to tell him "It's a BOY"!

Levi, I thought I'd write you today because as the Lord has placed a big ache in me today, it makes me wonder if there is something going on your life ... some reason that I have a greater longing to hold you.

How in the world can you love and dream so much about a little boy you have never seen?  Only the "Wonder Working One" (Thank you Billy Foote) could plant such a love!

Make sure you scroll down and pause my music before playing the video.  I love this song ... today, this is my song.

Monday, April 25, 2011

God prints

I didn't know it would choke me up the way it did!  Opening a package I had been expecting ... the last package of our research project for Maliah's orphanage arrived in the mail I suppose on Saturday.  Too busy to check it, I was blessed with an Easter surprise.

Tearing into the package, a tiny little yellow outfit was wrapped in plastic paper.  Opening it carefully, an ache grew in my tummy.  All of a sudden, my little girl sitting next to me became an orphan in my mind again ... all of a sudden, I pictured her lying in a metal crib with a plywood bottom wearing these very tiny little clothes.  She was so tiny once ... so tiny and yet I missed it ... I didn't know her then!

Sunday was a blessing indeed.  An amazing Mommy on our yahoo group for children from our orphanage organized this research project a long time ago.  Not truly knowing what we'd find, she asked if anyone wanted to jump on board.  There was a financial commitment but really, it was penny's to what we would find over the next year or so.  I am SOO thankful we said YES!  Pictures of the orphanage, her medical file, the medical report and finding report, video, video of Maliah's finding spot, cultural pictures, a map translated of Xuwen today, traditional wedding hair pins, pictures of the city and of "day life" in Xuwen, festivals, and more (3,500 or so to be exact), a traditional baby carrier that the woman wear and 2 pearls from her city.  And yesterday that final package arrived with a sweet note about Maliah's "finding clothes" (to which is her story and I will refrain from sharing) and a precious little yellow outfit that "Xu Xiao Wen" wore often during her 10 months stay.

As we sat together on the couch, I explained to Maliah that these were "her treasures" and that Mommy was keeping them for her for when she was "big like me".  She smiled big not truly understanding what any of that meant.  Oh, she'll talk about her adoption, having a birth Mommy and being Chinese ... but at the end of the day, at 5, how could she truly comprehend the depth of these treasures and understand what they'll mean to her someday?  At 37, I'm still trying to take it in.  Some days I forget that the daughter I love, that the daughter that I forget is adopted, the daughter that I forget is Chinese ... because she's just MINE, has a story that began before I was a part of it.

As we perused through the papers and letters from Mrs. Linda, there was one last thing.  This one took me over the edge.  My eyes filled with tears and a lump in my throat replaced my words ....

Maliah's footprint.  Maliah's baby footprint from her medical report.  Now, I have all 3 of my baby's footprints.  Now, I can show Maliah just how big she was too when "she was a baby".  As we sized up her big girl foot next to her itty bitty foot, she giggled.  Mommy choked back the tears.  Look how big she was!  My girl was indeed getting "all growd up".

So this Easter, the Lord blessed me with a surprise.  As I celebrated his resurrection day ... the day he gave us LIFE ... he left me with a footprint reminder of the LIFE he had given us!  These our his God Prints ... wrapped up in a package complete with a footprint!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shhhhh, he might be sleeping

As I tuck my Maliah, Canyon and Dakota into bed each night, we have special little things that each one like to do before our final good bye and sweet dreams.  First though, we read as a family.  One story from the Missionary book we are reading and then a few passages from the bible.  Then, it's off to their own beds ... with a little "go on, it's time for bed" coersion from Mommy and Daddy.

Maliah loves for Mommy to sing (bless her heart ... she might be the only one who appreciates Mommy's voice).  Her request each night "I love you, Lord", "Lord you are" and "Jesus loves me".  I sing, she stares at me.  Eye to Eye we stare.  THIS is awesome!  For anyone in the adoption world, it took me a good year to feel that attachment with her.  Love it!  This is our moment.

Dakota is on the top bunk of my girls.  Each night she leans over and hugs me tight after I sing to Maliah.  Then, it's hand shake time.  That's right, our whimsical girl has a special handshake with Mommy and a totally different one with Daddy.  Not a night goes by without the handshake from both of us.  It's our "Thang".

Canyon ... my sweet Canyon.  Every night just as I am covering him up, he'll ask "Can you tickle my back"?   I know he's going to ask every night ... but every night for some reason, I just wait to hear him ask.   I tickle and we talk.  It's a super sweet time between he and I.  I hope he's still asking at 16!

So lately, as we wait to know our little boy, I have been wondering about how he'll like to be put to sleep.  Does he have a special blankie like Dakota and Maliah?  Does someone sing him a song or tickle his back? Who sleeps next to him?  If he awakes in the night with "Bad pictures in his head", who comforts him?
Oh how I wonder where our little boy is.  Oh how I wonder these little things about his life!

In all my wondering though, about the who's and where's, I am reminded of the scripture that I wrote on Dakota's nursery wall when she was a baby.   Indeed, He who created our little boy and loves him most is the one who watches over him.  If I don't know any other detail  ... I do KNOW that!

Psalm 121 3-4 "... he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep."

P.S.  A while ago, one of the Mommy's who is adopting a "toddler" with our agency took a picture of the beds that they sleep in.  Though we aren't certain just how old our little guy is, there is a good possibility that he's sleeping in a bed just like this ... in fact, he may be sleeping in one of THOSE beds in that very picture.  If he isn't already, he probably will be.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Launching Dreams and re-defining "the" church!

Since September 16, 2006, Doug and I have had a dream.  For four long years he has been writing something in our hearts that was beyond just the adoption of our little girl from China that hit American soil on that day.  For four long years, my precious husband would arrive home from work on random days with new visions of what h/we "thought" this dream would look like.  As a strategic planner at heart, he had some awesome flow charts, graphs and "plans" of an orphan ministry we hoped to present to "a" church that was being birthed in his heart.  I too felt rumblings of something more but we could never quite grasp what that entailed.   We did know one thing, now that we had seen, we were responsible ... responsible to act!  

The Lord continued to expand our horizons and our responsibilities once we got home.  Each time he brought opportunity to be used by him, we have said "YES"!  We have had the privilege of serving as Texas Associates for America World for 3.5 years now.  We love this role as it gives us the opportunity to not only advocate adoption and orphan care through their "Orphans Ticket Home" initiative, but also to advocate for an agency that serves HIM first.  What an honor!  It is so rewarding to visit with families about adoption and watch the Lord break down walls of fear and even sometimes disappointment in their lives to bring them to a place of knowing he is calling them.  In the process, some of those very families have become like family to us!  Isn't it true, he calls us and we think we will "Bless" others only to discover that we are the ones who are blown away by the blessings!!

Next, the Lord added the opportunity for us to serve on the Board of Visiting Orphans.  We LOVE this ministry!  As a missions sending agency devoted to orphan care, Visiting Orphans sends in teams to over 13 countries throughout the year.  This year, the goal of 50 trips blows my mind.  God is doing huge things through Visiting Orphans and getting to watch and be a part in any way is and has been incredible!
In February I was blessed to go on one of the trips into Ethiopia for 12 days.  I was blessed beyond belief by amazing team leaders and 29 other teammates who in all intensive purposes became family!  We we went into new territory, we loved big, and we were completely wrecked in the process.
Once again, the Lord broke me down further.  It's easy for one to say "163 million orphans", but when they each becomes a face, with a name and a story, something bigger happens.  Our longings, our flow charts and our "plans" took on identity's!  I came home a mess!  I also came home with a family that extends across our country that I love more than I could ever dream!  I watched 30 strangers from different churches and backgrounds be "THE" church.

It dawned on me, throughout these four years, the Lord has also done something bigger than giving us opportunities  ... he has given us a community!  Through each opportunity and each adoption, he has knit together a community that extends beyond "our" church walls.   During these four years he has shown me that caring for the orphan isn't about "a" church but instead "his" church.. and indeed, the community we have grown to love is "the" church.   Through my time with AWAA he has birthed an adoption community here that extends far beyond that "one" agency.  Through my time with VO, he has shown me that he can create a team of 30 .. who don't even know each other, don't attend the same "church" and join them together for his purpose.  30 people became the church over those 12 days and we were blown away!

So, now the Lord has opened another door and we are SO excited about this opportunity because we feel it allows this very community we love to do what we do best ... simply love (as my awesome team leader would say!)

On June 17th, we will be launching a "CarePoint" sponsorship in Awassa, Ethiopia.  Through Doug's coffee company, Ground to Cup Coffee, we are partnering with Children's HopeChest  to take on the awesome task of getting 250 plus children sponsored and pouring into a community by gathering and encouraging our community to BE the church!  This sponsorship of this community will not only provide an education, food and discipleship for each child that is sponsored but also we will build into the community at large.  We will get to send in teams 1-3 times a year.  We will get to love on the very children we are writing to and praying for.  We will get to watch and be a part of something the Lord is up to in this community!  We will get to be "the" church by loving community on community!

Our vision and our goal is to gather our community and be "the" church.  It makes no difference where you live, where you serve, and what body of believers you serve with on Sunday mornings.  This community is being knit together because of a few common things; we love the Lord, we love orphans, we know we have been called to care for the least of these, and we are ready to act.  

I am praying right now for every person and family that is to be a part of this awesome community!  Is it you?

We will be following up with details on how you from afar can sponsor a child and join us in this community from wherever you are!   In the meantime, write down June 17th on your calendar as we are throwing a huge launch event and we want you to join us this night!  Amazing worship by Billy and Cindy Foote, dinner and Children's HopeChest will cast the vision for how we will care for this community!

It is FREE!  One request, you have to reserve your seat so we can be sure we have yummy dinner for everyone that night.

Register here:  "No Double Yellow Line Event" - click "The Event"
Seating is limited, so don't wait!

Community Bible Church
6:00 - 8:30
Featuring Cindy Foote's new EP release "No Double Yellow Line", when adoption collides with music!

Monday, April 11, 2011

FOUR months DTE

We are officially FOUR months DTE as of yesterday, April 10th.  That would be "lingo" for, our paperwork has been in Ethiopia now for four months.  For four months we have been past the "paper chase" and waiting to know just who our Levi is.  It's funny, I'm starting to feel like the kid in the back of the car during a long road trip.  How many times will I say "Are we there yet"?  I don't have a clue how long the trip will take.  I don't have a clue how we'll get there.  I don't know the directions, haven't seen the map ... but I know my Daddy is driving and that means, I can trust that we'll get there someday.  I may get bored or frustrated along the way.  I may begin to loose heart and need a break.  Every once in a while, I will throw tantrums and we'll need to stop the car and readjust.  BUT ... in the end, I don't really need to know anything other than the final destination will be worth every moment.  I know my Daddy has prepared an awesome destination ... why else would he drive so far!  So, today we wait another day.  And yep, today,  I woke up thinking "Lord, are we there yet"?  

"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation"  Psalm 5:3 

Friday, April 8, 2011

4/7/11 - Conference Call on Ethiopian Adoptions with AWAA

First, I am so blessed by an agency who is not only an advocate for families, but an advocate for orphans at large!  
I loved hearing the opening of the call up by telling us that each and every morning the staff gathers to pray for the Ethiopian program and for the families on the journey!  There is such a peace knowing that they go to him FIRST!  

Notes on the call:

This week the USCIS held a conference call on the findings from a joint trip of USCIS and Department of State officials to Ethiopia in January 2011. A hand out from this meeting can be found through the following link here. Our adoption agency held a conference call yesterday to go over the status of adoptions in Ethiopia and the findings of the USCIS and DOS visit.  

It was a long call here are the highlights:

  • The Ethiopian government, judges and MOWCYA are all committed to international adoptions.
  • The infrastructure is not there for the number of international adoptions taking place. They are doing the best they can. They are committed to ethical adoptions and working to make the process more fluid.
  • MOWCYA is not stating the number of letters it is writing each day, but it appears to be processing a good number per day.  AWA has seen many families pass court in March and April which means their recommendation letters were present.
  • Our agency is hearing conflicting reports on whether or not the number of MOWCYA letters will be impacted for families whose court dates were issued after that date - March 8, 2011.  They should know more in the next few weeks.
  • The court is being more meticulous with the documentation needed to complete an adoption. In some cases judges have asked for additional documentation. While this can be frustrating to adoptive parents, AWAA supports this as the judges are trying to make sure all adoptions are ethical. 
  • USCIS and the Department of State has reviewed the process and adoption program. They did some baseline analysis based on 4000 cases. They were looking for abnormalities. Generally, they did not find fraud but some paperwork was not 100% complete. The process may need some refinement and they are working with the Ethiopian government to put those practices into place.
  • Currently, the embassy does it's investigation of a child's file AFTER the family has passed court and before Embassy clearance.  This seems upside down.  They are looking into a new process that could be done as a "voluntary" option that would have a child's case submitted for "pre-approval" prior to court date.  If put into practice, AWA would highly suggest this for all families.
  • The Department of State sees some weakness in the processes. They have proposed a voluntary option (this is not in place now and no dates were given) that was described above, which would allow the Embassy to do it's investigation after the referral but prior to the family's court date. This may slow the issuance of a court date but could make the court to Embassy visit faster as a child's case would already have been reviewed and a "pre-approval" given prior to passing court.
  • AWA stressed that they feel Ethiopia is still a strong program and option for families in International Adoption and looking into adoption.  AWA stressed that both the Ethiopian Gov't and our State Dept. are working together to put into place appropriate staffing and processes to ensure that all adoptions are in the best interest of the child/ren and families.
  • AWA stressed that their is a great need in Ethiopia and they have a government who desires for IA adoptions to continue as an option for children.  
  • AWA mentioned our strong relationship with the Ethiopian gov't with our Director, Duni (who is in country) and our founder, Brian Luwis (who just returned from meetings in country).  AWA strives to be a leader and is doing much work in Ethiopia, including a domestic adoption program in country for children that IA adoption is not an option.    
  • AWA stressed when asked, that Ethiopia has no intention on closing the doors to IA adoption.
Overall, the call was positive and AWA is optimistic of the future of Ethiopian adoptions.  

The call ended in a prayer time.  What a blessing to be a part of an agency who not only informs us of everything they know ... and do not yet know ... but gathers us to pray in his name.  I was listening to the call on my speaker phone as I picked up my kids from school.  As each person began to pray, my sweet children's eyes lit up.  I explained to them the heart of our agency and why we continue to work with America World both in our own adoptions but also in serving as Texas Associates for them.  What a testimony to be able for them to see that first hand.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's all about community!

There is so much to learn about adoption.  There are so many books to read on attachment.  There are so many conferences to go to.  There is "Lingo" to learn .. yep, tons of "Lingo" (DTE, court, embassy, Dossier, paper pregnancy, paper chase, I-171 ... you get the picture).   There is a new culture to learn.  There is a family to prepare.  You can do all of this on your own.  But there is one thing you can't do.

Get through the LOWEST LOWS!

Man, last week I took a nose dive.  My ability to "wait" gave in and I was sinking.  By Thursday, I had e-mailed our Family Coordinator to see if she could give us any "CLUE" on our process.  I vented my sadness.  My lack of patience.  My feeling blue.

I also posted on my "yahoo" group for my agency that I was just feeling blue as could be.  So many questions swirled in my head and I bombarded them with every one!

Let me just tell you ... Adoption isn't and shouldn't be a journey you walk alone.  One day I'm up and can encourage another and every once in a while there is a day that just feels like it will never end - like last week.  It is those days that I am ENCOURAGED!!  By strangers.  By ladies I have never met.  By "friends" on facebook that share two things "mutual" ... adoption and other "Mutual friends" who are ALLLL walking this journey.

How blessed I was to receive sweet responses both privately and through my yahoo group.  How blessed I was to know that my family coordinator not only took the time to respond to my questions but assured me, over the weekend, she'd be praying for my Momma's aching heart.   Jennifer, boy did I feel them!

I guess I say all this to say ... if you are on the outside looking in, I SO wish you could experience and know what I have ... THIS is community!  We celebrate each other's milestones.  We rejoice with good news.  We rally the troops when it's time to pray.  We answer concerns.  And better yet, we just listen.  We share a kindred spirit.  And yet ... some of us have never met!

I adore and love each and every friend that the Lord has blessed me with through my adoption journey(S).  My very closest friends are all ones he has given me along the way.  Is that not the sweet spot in this journey?

We can prepare for many things ... even the blessing of our child.  But what we don't expect are the blessings of sweet friendships!

On another note, on the "unofficial list" our yahoo keeps our family is #2 for an child over 3.  BUT ... the #1 spot was a family seeking an older girl and I have since seen that with the other 6 referrals given out on Thursday that they were referred a beautiful little girl.  SO ... does that mean I am moving up to NUMBER ONE??

Only the Lord knows ... and today is one of those days that I totally feel his peace with that.  Today, it's my day to encourage.  Who needs a lift??
© Lead us to Levi

Website Design by CoffeeShop Designs