Giving Thanks + a Picture

On the morning of Thanksgiving, we received news that our documents have been submitted to court. Woo Hoo! Although I have no idea what exactly that means in the workings of the adoption process in the Ethiopian court system, I am still super excited. Mainly because we were also told that we will likely have a court date in February. Okay, now I can do it. Woo Hoo!!!

The tree is up. Finally. With one lonely ornament hung by Avery. She sweetly tucked it in the very back as if she were hiding an Easter egg. This is the first tree she has ever seen put up in our home. Sad, I know. And, as there wasn’t time for the actual decorating before bed, she insisted that we at least put the star on. So, Keith hoisted her up as she attempted to attach it. Of course, I yelled at him to put her down while I grabbed the camera. This is a first that must be recorded.

Sorry. Were you expecting a picture of the Boys? It really is against the rules.

The stockings are hung with care. Just 3 for now. The only hold-up on hanging the other 2 is that I'll have to purchase 2 additional stocking hangers at the full BEFORE-Christmas price. That’s just not how I generally operate. However, Avery is already saving seats for the boys at her table, and I'm sure she will protest. I'll go to Target today.


3 to 6 Months

Is the typical wait time from referral until we bring the boys home, as we’ve been told by our agency. We actually have to make 2 trips to Ethiopia. The first will be for our court date, when we are declared their parents, and the second will be to take physical custody and bring them home. If our wait time is “typical,” we should bring them home between January and April. We SHOULD get about 4 weeks notice of our court date.

Lots to do.

Step #1: The Boys’ Room. In progress. They’ll share a room with bunk beds (yay!), which we already found for a smokin’ deal on craigslist. We gave away the guest bedroom furniture this week, so we are ready to begin the make-over.

Step #2: Transportation. The Mom-mobile…aka minivan. This one is also in progress. Yes, Keith finally tapped out on the Excursion...I WIN!!! I will bid the Accord farewell this weekend. However, we haven’t even begun to shop for something to haul my brood around, so it looks like I’ll be hoisting Avery into Keith’s big rig until then.

Step #3: Names. This is the way the name game works around here. I come up with new names each day. And, Keith vetoes all of them. We’ve miraculously agreed on one name, but the other one could very well drive us to an attorney or therapy.

Step #4: Stock the Room. The plan is to collect used clothes and toys from a few of my gracious friends who also have sons. My goal is to have these items in place by Thanksgiving.

Step #5: Relax. I’d like to do as much reading as I can and take advantage of what could possibly be the last moments of alone time I have for the next few years. In general, we’ll be enjoying the easy life of having just one child. Also in the works is a great getaway for our 10-year anniversary in December...just the two of use for SIX DAYS! This could be the last "alone time" for another ten.


Ultrasound Results...

It's a BOY!!!

2 of 'em.

We received an email from the case manager at CWA just before noon on Monday asking us to call her to discuss pair of male siblings available for adoption. After we FINALLY figured out how to make a 3-way call, we received an email with medical files and pictures of our boys. Yep, I just said "OUR BOYS"!!! We have officially accepted the referral and are now in line for a court date, which will be the first of two trips to Ethiopia.

At this point, we are limited on the information we can share. But we can tell you Avery will now be the middle child. Her older brother is 4 and a half, and her younger brother is 2 and a half. And, they are the most BEAUTIFUL boys. The men (Keith, his dad, my dad) keep saying we have to stop using words like "pretty" and "beautiful" to describe them...but they are!

Within moments of seeing the pictures, both of our families noticed that our oldest actually looks like Keith. His mom pointed out the similarities in his eyelashes, smile and even the shape of his teeth. Then, my dad made the same comment when we called him. And the youngest is making those awkward but very cute toddler faces in many of the pictures. The best: he has a tiny afro. I love it!!! Based on the pictures and files, both boys are happy and healthy. Praise God!


Boys…Will Probably Be Boys

I went into the used bookstore a few days ago looking for general parenting/discipline books. I need help. Friends, feel free to give me advice…and consider this my official solicitation for it. At the bookstore, I found 3 titles that had actually been recommended or referenced in other readings. The first on my list: Bringing Up Boys by Dobson.

Our only child is indeed a girl, and we haven’t received news that would tell us we’re getting a boy. That news would come by way of a document called a “referral.” Basically the announcement that says, “It’s a Boy!” Or whatever. Included in this document would be all available information related to our children…physical stats, their given name, family info if known, circumstances involved in their abandonment and their lives since then, orphanage or foster care, etc. Oh, yes…and a picture!!!

Why did I buy a book on raising the male gender when I have no assurance I will ever get one? A few months ago I would have made the purchase based on Wishful Thinking. My recent purchase was based on knowing that the best thing God could do for me would be to give me a son. “Best” in the previous sentence refers to the change that would likely begin as insanity and hopefully lead toward sanctification.

I am nearly frightened enough by the thought of a son to pray: “Please, God, don’t send me a boy!” But, I’ve actually always wanted a son…and oh, how I hoped Avery would be him! I just couldn’t believe the technician when she assured me for the dozenth time that she was indeed a girl.

While I grew up with a sister, my childhood best friend had a younger brother. Jealous may be too strong a word for what I felt, but I was definitely envious. (Wait, I am pretty certain those are synonyms.) These siblings never seemed to fight over the petty things that drove us apart. The younger brother also thought the WORLD of his mother, and rightly so (she is AMAZING). I guess I’ve always assumed that if I had a son, he would think the same of me.

Why am I all of the sudden terrified of having a son? Besides the fact that I would have no clue what to do with him, I have recently had opportunities to spend “quality” time with some of my friends’ children. These boys didn’t do so much damage that they’re not welcome anytime. I have just seen some of what a boy is capable of.

I still LOVE these boys I know…and I still want one of my own. I just need to get prepared. Mentally prepared if nothing else. So, I’ve put Bringing Up Boys at the top of the continuously growing stack of books I will begin immediately upon receiving a referral. For now, I am just going to nervously glance at it, knowing what is likely in store for me. God knows what is “best” for me…and it just might be a boy, or TWO!!!


Age Matters…Not So Much

We were discussing a possible change to our dossier literally as we posted the last blog update. Keith had been nagging me over the issue, and I was just as unwilling to change. While our dossier technically states an infant of either gender and a toddler girl, we specified further with our agency that we wanted a child no older than 2. Keith wanted to change our status to two kids up to 4 years old. This thought is terrifying for me.

I will admit on a daily basis that I’m not good with babies. They’re just not my thing, and I even had one. That’s not saying I don’t love kids. I just want to play, pretend, color, read books, etc. Although I seriously never ASK to hold babies, I do politely admire their cuteness when they’re forced into my arms. However, like most other people, I know the first 3 years are not only the foundation for family bonding but also the most important years in development. If I miss those years, what’s the point? Right?

When I’d had enough of Keith’s relentless badgering, I began scanning our adoption books for ammunition to use in our next discussion. I confidently picked up a book recommended by my best friend from high school who is now a child psychologist…and with patients who were internationally adopted...had warned us about adopting above a certain age. As I read through the table of contents, finding words like “therapies,” “attachment,” “institutionalization,” these chapters gave me hope for my case. Yet, I found nothing!!! On the contrary, the issues that would prevent attachment had more to do with a parent’s actions (voice, discipline method) than a child’s age at adoption. I quickly deemed that book useless and picked up another with the subtitle: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting. Sounds like a warning to me. Nope. None there either. In all my digging I found research supporting the exact opposite of what I was after! Even interviews from parents said they preferred an older child to an infant because bonding and adapting was easier.

Later that day some friends were over for dinner. They have recently decided to adopt domestically, and we began discussing the issue of age. Obviously, the biggest need is with older children, as couples typically seek to adopt infants. In Ethiopia it is even greater because sibling groups can’t be separated. If a child isn’t adopted within a magical age window, he is stuck in the foster care system, along with any present or future siblings…unless couples are willing to adopt more than one child AND willing to accept older children.

For me, it comes down to a matter of selfishness. Why am I adopting in the first place? Who am I adopting for? We would just have more biological children if it were a matter of merely expanding our family. We (all of us) are called to care for orphans, live a life of suffering, model after Jesus, love others selflessly, and I could go on. If I refuse a child above an age because I think it would cause more work for me, this adoption is for and about only ME.

Today, Keith made a phone call to our agency to expand the criteria for our children. We are now waiting on a sibling pair birth to age 4, with no gender preference. I say this timidly, as I am petrified over this decision. It’s a good thing we have several months left to wait because God has a lot of work to do on me. I’ll be posting a list of specifics you can pray for.

I love how Russell Moore puts it in Adopted for Life: “What better opportunity for you to model the God who adopts from every tongue, tribe, nation, and language and sets all the children together at the same table with the same inheritance and the same love?” (p 107).



Many of you know we are adopting two children, yes two at the same time, but we’d like to share our journey to that decision. We were initially drawn to Ethiopia because it is one of the only countries from which you can adopt a sibling group, and we always knew we would adopt more than one. However, we just didn’t feel ready to parent an older child at this time, which is what we would get with a sibling group.

Although we had dismissed adopting siblings, we weren’t quite satisfied with just one child. We looked into adopting more than one “infant” from Ethiopia but were told that it wasn’t possible outside of siblings. All through our home study (the process of gathering documents and being visited by a social worker, Christina), we kept talking about the second child we wanted. Even in our conversations with Christina, we were trying to iron out details for the second adoption (how soon we could begin after finalizing the first).

Every time Christina read over our home study approval, stating that we were approved for one infant, I kept saying (silently to God): Why can’t we have two?

So, this is how God’s sovereignty and perfect timing work. We were supposed to receive our finalized home study near the end of July (one of the last steps), but because one document kept getting “lost” in Virginia, it was delayed by two months. When we tracked down this lost document, we were told it would arrive the first of October, which would put the dossier on its way to Ethiopia and us in line for “one infant.” However, another frustrating delay in God’s plan: no document, and Keith and I were headed to Tennessee for a conference on orphan care (Together for Adoption with speaker Russell Moore, author of Adopted for Life, a book recommend for ANYONE).

I’m not sure if it was the conference itself or the fact that Keith and I had over ten hours of conversation in the car, but we realized God had been telling both of us that we were to adopt two children.

Upon our return, I made two phone calls. The first was to our social worker to see if she would rewrite our home study to approve us for two children. The second was to our case worker at Christian World Adoption to check on that no-two-kids-unless-they’re-siblings rule. He reaffirmed what we had been told, but because of additional questions he called the woman who handles referrals (the placement of children). She informed me that couples CAN adopt a second child if the older child is at least two years old at the time of referral. Woo hoo!!! We got this news just in time to make necessary changes before sending everything to Ethiopia!

We are now waiting on two children, as our agency has worded it: an infant of either gender and a toddler girl. So, we might be crazy, but we know this is what God has for us. And, he will equip us for that which He has called us.


Biological vs. Adoption

When a dear friend congratulated me last week, I realized we've been waiting on a referral for exactly 6 months. Our paperwork was received by our agency on December 2, which marked the beginning of our official wait. Surprisingly, these last few months have not been filled with anxiety. Waiting on our children (first Avery and now through this adoption) is probably the only area of my life where God has given me patience. I can hear my dad laughing as he reads this. Anyway, I was reminded of a pivotal conversation Keith and I had about 17 months ago (February 2009).

“Hypothetically,” I said, “if we could only have one more child, would you rather have a biological child or adopt a child?” I started this conversation in the car on the way home from a meeting with one of the adoption agencies we were looking into. This was something I had been thinking about and didn’t know how to go about asking Keith.

We had decided in January that we would “expand” our family. We decided to stop preventing pregnancy and, at the same time, pursue adoption. Open the door to both paths and leave it up to God as to which we take.

When Keith said he would rather adopt a child, I repeated my question changing only the number of kids: two…three. His answer was the same each time. We both felt like adoption was something God placed in our hearts for a reason, and for that reason we wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, attempt more biological children.

Short of having surgery, we both feel we're finished having kids (biologically). As Christians, all of us are called to care for orphans in some way. For us, adoption is God's calling on our lives to meet that need, as well as one of the most tangible expressions of the Gospel.


Why Ethiopia?

Or, as Keith calls it: The Elephant in the Room.

We began the process of selecting a country very methodically, weighing many factors within adoption as we narrowed our list: age requirements, travel, cost, wait times. We researched countries for several weeks, pouring over comparison charts and other details like poverty level. After some time of reading, praying and discussing, we had narrowed our list down to four countries. We each listed the countries in order of preference, and our lists turned out in opposite order. After putting the idea away for a while, we FINALLY came to the conclusion that we would adopt from South Korea now and Ethiopia next (we knew we wanted to adopt more than one child). At first we had a great peace about the decision.

Over the next two weeks, in everything I read God kept pointing to Ethiopia. For instance, the author of one book I was reading said she knew her entire life she was called to be a missionary. She said she had always pictured herself in a luxurious country doing God's work. When she felt God was telling her to go somewhere uncomfortable, she thought she could dismiss it...thinking at least she was answering the first call: to be a missionary. She wondered if it really mattered where she went, as long as she did go. But, after a while, she knew if she were to say a complete "yes" to God, she had to go to this desolate country and give up her comfortable life.

Did I have this picture perfect adoption in mind, and was I just hoping that's where God would send us? I can't tell you if I had any prejudice in my heart at that time, but I felt that we were not only called to adopt, but called to adopt a child from a drastically different ethnicity, which might be uncomfortable, but it's what God wants us to do.

This was something I couldn't even articulate until I picked up the book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper. Chapter 44 struck a chord with me: "To Destroy the Hostility Between Races." That was it! I had tried to explain our country selection to a few close friends, but each time I tried I felt I came across sounding prejudiced, when that wasn't my heart at all.

The final paragraph of the chapter sums it up: "Jesus died to create a whole new way for races to be reconciled. Ritual and race are not the ground of joyful togetherness. Christ is. He fulfilled the law perfectly. All the aspects of it that separated people ended in him--except one: the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to build a lasting unity among races by saying that all religions can come together as equally valid. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. God sent him into the world as the one and only means of saving sinners and reconciling races forever. If we deny this, we undermine the very foundation of eternal hope and everlasting unity among peoples. By his death on the cross, something cosmic, not parochial, was accomplished. God and man were reconciled. Only as the races find and enjoy this will they love and enjoy each other forever. In overcoming our alienation from God, Christ overcomes it between races."

"He...has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." Ephesians 2:14-16

My prayer is that this adoption will remove any racial barrier in my life and in the lives of those I encounter.