Monday, April 27, 2015

God is a much better writer than I am


These next few days mark big dates in our home. 

One year ago tomorrow we got the call that all adoptive families wait for and a few minutes within that call, we saw a picture of Felicity for the first time.

6 Months ago today, she was placed in our arms. Forever.




And today she is a thriving, happy little girl whom we all love.  In the book of our adoption, this is a perfect place to end the story.  To say “and they all lived happily ever after.”  After all, most fairy tales end before the nitty gritty of life begins.

But, God has a few more chapters He is writing in this story.  Chapters that began 6 months ago, on the day of the visit to Felicity’s orphanage.  A chapter that had a major plot twist today.  One He set in motion months ago.  Today we will send in our LOI (Letter of Intent).  Today we began the journey to bring home our son.  It is almost surreal typing that sentence, so soon after bringing home Felicity.  Only God could have brought this about. 

On a Thursday in China, 6 months ago.  Just days after Felicity was brought into the room and we were joined as a family, we went back to the orphanage to tour it.  It is a time for Felicity to say good bye, and for us to see where she spent the first 20 months of her life.  The children of the infant room were in a play area.  We were ushered in and asked to take off our shoes.  Children and staff were scattered throughout the room.  I walked up to a little boy, in light blue, playing with a little toy.  I began talking to him and smiling at him.  He smiled back, a big huge smile.  He was so cute, I thought.  I tickled him.  And shortly after that, the staff gathered all the infants in the room together for a picture and we moved on.  I thought little of that boy from that day.  I was busy with my own little girl that this boy remained in my memory, but not in my thoughts.

But, two months ago, he came back.  I was on our agency’s China page on Facebook There were several new posts of children newly listed for adoption.  As I was scrolling through, I stopped.  I saw the picture, and though it was a boy months older than I remembered, I knew it was him.  The little boy from Felicity’s orphanage that I played with.  I immediately contacted our social worker to look at his file.  I called Pete.  I was ready to put him on hold that day.  But, my more rational husband, said let’s pray and wait.  We read over his file.  He is a heart baby.  And truthfully, although he had surgery in China, his file seemed scary.  We decided there were too many unknowns and it was way too soon to start again, so we did not pursue him.

But God has a funny way of gently nudging us.  Over the following weeks, I could not get that little boy out of my mind.  I would pray that his family would step forward.  I would email our social worker to see if any family had chosen him yet.  He still waited.  He was not even on hold.  Why wasn’t his family stepping forward?


Two weeks ago, he was posted, once again, in an advocacy group I belong to.  It just tore at my heart, knowing that that cute little boy with the sweet, sweet smile was still waiting.  I emailed our social worker again.  He was still not chosen.  At this point, Pete and I talked.  We needed to have his file reviewed by a doctor.  Then, at least we would know, and at least, if he was not for us, I could advocate for him and help find his family.


I called the doctor who reviewed Felicity’s file.  She said she would review it and have one of the pediatric cardiologists also review.  The phone call was set for Divine Mercy hour, Friday at 3 PM.  I was anxious before the call, and as I lay Felicity down to nap, I prayed a Divine Mercy chaplet.  Make it clear Lord; close the door if it needs to be closed.  The call went much more favorably than I thought.  The doctor suggested that we request more information on him, including a video to have reviewed.  We put him on hold that afternoon, and our social worker requested the information. 

Over the last week, we have had him on hold, we have prayed, and just waited for the information from the orphanage.  And the more the week drew on, the more cemented in my heart this little boy became.  One morning, I simply started crying at the thought of NOT bringing him home, into our family.  We had a second pediatric cardiologist review his file . . . . once again we were told his heart looked great.  During the Divine Mercy hour this past Friday, we received the emails, containing all of the information we requested from the orphanage.  The doors, we prayed would close if this was not His will, were flung open wide.  The doctor reviewed the updated information. And we knew this was our son.

Over the weekend, I have thought and prayed a lot about this.  This is totally wild and crazy.  WE have only been home 6 months.  He is only 7 months younger than Felicity.  It will be like having twins.  Yet, it was those God ordained moments in the orphanage, 6 months ago,  that made this all possible, all probable.

If I hadn’t played with him, hadn’t seen his smile, I would have scrolled right by him when I saw him listed for adoption.


If I hadn’t seen his smile, I would have allowed the “soon-ness” of it all stop us.


If I had not seen his smile, I would have allowed myself to ignore this heart warrior’s file.

If I had not seen his smile, I would have not checked to see if any family had stepped forward or had doctors review his file.

If I had not seen his smile, he might still be waiting.


But, God knew.  God wrote that moment, months ago, into our story.  He writes such beautiful stories with our lives.  So, so much better than I could have written myself.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Wrecked

     Felicity has been with us for 5 months.  5 months as a family of 6. 5 months of having a daughter. In those 5 months we have travelled to the other side of the world, just my husband and I.  We experienced a different culture.  We saw one of the Wonders of the World.  We ate GREAT Chinese food.  We toured Little Flower Projects, where some of the most medically needy orphans are cared for and thriving.  We travelled to our daughter's Province.  She was placed in our arms.  We toured her orphanage.  We travelled to another city and spent time with some amazing adoptive families.  We journeyed home.

The trip was incredible.  Life changing.

But, not as life changing as what was to come after we came home.

I always thought I had a heart for orphans.  I have organized a small fundraiser for the last three years for Little Flower Projects.  My heart breaks when I see photos of orphans and when I hear stories of children being abandoned.   I have hung photos of orphans on our refrigerator to pray for them. Yet, my heart was not broken open and wrecked until now.

Not even visiting Felicity's orphanage was that life changing.

Seeing rows of cribs and beds, knowing that they are filled with orphans . . .




Not even being in a room with so many of the younger ones playing, knowing they are all orphans (except for two :-).


No, not even that.

The change did not come until we were home.  Until our daughter, an orphan no more, walked among us.  Smiled at us.  Until I cuddled her to sleep.  Until she woke up smiling at me each morning. Until she shared meals with us.

Until we called her daughter.

Then. Then I was wrecked for the orphan.

It started as a gentle whisper.  I would hold Felicity and rock her to sleep.

I want to do this again.

I laughed it off at first.  I have been in a sleep deprived state since we have gotten home.  Surely, some of this is just sleep-deprived delirium.

Yet, it has persisted.  This overwhelming feeling.  We need to do this again. 

Something changed, profoundly, when we accepted the call and invited an orphan into our family.  She is no longer an orphan. She is one of us.  The depth of the blessing that she is to our family is indescribable.  I often wonder if the amazement and awe I feel when I look at her of all that God has done will wear off.  I am sure it may some day, but until then, each day I look at Felicity and I am utterly blown away by God's goodness.  I often wonder why us?  Why did He bless us with asking us to adopt? 

And what if we said no?  What if we did not answer the call?

Oh, Felicity would have been adopted.  That I am sure.  But, why should she, why should any orphan have to wait even one day longer than necessary to be called by name; to be a daughter, son, sister or brother.  There are others.  Waiting. 

Why shouldn't we adopt again?

The night Pete and I saw the pre-screening of The Drop Box, we were walking to our car and talking. 

"We are going to adopt again," Pete said.  Half question, but more statement.

I laughed.

Oh, yes, I thought, we will . . .

Honestly, we do not know if we really will adopt again.  We talk about it often.  We pray about it.  Now, we wait on God and His leading and timing. 

But, what I do know is that this adoption has wrecked me.  Things, life, seem just a little different.  Maybe when the dust settles from all the change, life will go back to normal and the way I view the world will go back to the way it was.  But, I hope not.  I hope I stay wrecked.  For a long time . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How we did it (adopt without debt)

A few weeks after we came home from China, I was sitting down to finalize our adoption expenses spread sheet.  I added the last of the expenses from our time in China and I hit the sum button.  I was a little bit shocked, well, amazed at God's goodness is a better way to describe it . . .

The grand total: $33,773.21

That number includes every check written to our home study and placement agencies, airline tickets, finger prints, visas, etc, etc: even every express envelope mailed with very important documents.

And that amount was paid if full, without any debt. While the total amount seems daunting, and it was to me, we did it.  We adopted without debt and here is how we did it.

 (A disclaimer before you read the list:  Pete and I work really hard to follow Dave Ramsey and live without debt.  Pete has worked for the Church for the last 11 years and we had to learn early on in our marriage to live within a tight budget, save, and, go without what the "Joneses" may have had down the street. )




- Savings for adoption.  Before we even started the process, we began putting away $100 a month for the (possible) adoption.  This was me being hopeful, but we did it with the knowledge that we *might* need the money for that very special purpose someday.  This did not amount to much. By the time we started the process we had about $1,600 in the account, which was gone when our first check was written to our home study agency.  But, it was a good start.

- We worked. A lot.  Dave Ramsey touts taking side jobs when you are working to get rid of debt, and we applied that principle to this situation.  I had personal training clients that I met with 2-3 times a week.  I got a job working a few race expos with a great running t-shirt company.  Pete got side jobs too.  It meant we were busy.  I often sacrificed sleep and my own workout to meet a client early in the morning. The boys' homeschooling days would get interrupted. We had less family time together.  But we knew it was a season and that the end result, less financial worries, was worth it.

- Fundraisers.  We held two different fundraisers.  We held an online auction and had a total of 4 days worth of yard sales over two summers.  All items were donated.  A location for the second (two day yard sale) was even "donated."  I went through all the items donated for the yard sales and sold the nicer items on eBay, Craigslist or an online yard sale site because I knew I could get more money for them that way than at the yard sale.

- Selling anything that wasn't nailed down. I write that in jest (somewhat).  I went through EVERYTHING we owned and sold LOTS of items.  Random items, homeschool curriculum, old cameras, furniture. It all got sold on eBay or Craigslist.  Anytime I got sentimental about an item, I would remind myself that there was a child in China that needed a family a lot more than I needed ______ and it got sold.

- Donations.  We did send out a fundraising letter to friends and family who did not live close by. 
We had set up an AdoptTogether site that people could give a tax-deductible donation and then we were able to get that money via a grant through AdoptTogether.  Some people just sent us checks, others gave money here and there.  A stranger even handed me a $100 bill when he found out what we were doing. 

- Grants.  We applied for one grant and got a grant through Show Hope.  We had researched a lot of grants and did want to apply for more, but many grants only allow you to apply for one grant every two years and since we had already thought about adopting again, and we figured we would need more grants for the second adoption, we decided to wait to apply to those foundations until adoption #2.

- Our savings account.  The majority of our in-country expenses (the final fees, etc that are paid in China and due before travel), came from our savings.

We had really wanted this trip to be a family trip, but once we got Travel Approval and began looking at the hard numbers in front of us, we knew we could not take the boys.  The stress on us, financially, would have been too great and I knew that I did not want to have a great time in China for two weeks with everyone, but stress for months (or years) about finances after we came home; especially knowing Felicity would have upcoming surgeries.  We had even discussed me going by myself, but thankfully, due to a donation we got the day after we received Travel Approval, we did not need to consider that as an option and Pete and I were able to go together.

While I did not give specific numbers in this post, I wrote this post more to show that adopting without debt is doable.  I was amazed at how God showed up through the generosity of so many people around us. Friends, family, and strangers gave items for yard sales, hours of working at the yard sales, items for our online auction.  I am forever grateful to those people who helped us adopt Felicity.

I want to encourage anyone reading this.  If God places adoption on your hearts, do not let the cost of the adoption stop you.  God will provide when you are following His will and trusting in Him.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 7th


I have debated about NOT writing this post.  In fact, I was not going to.  There are parts of Felicity’s story that are hers and should only be hers.  So, when this urge to write my thoughts and feelings about March 7th came, I dismissed the desire and call to write and was silent.  But, after watching The Drop Box for the second time last night, I knew I needed to write about the day Felicity was abandoned.  Maybe more for myself, so I can sort through the emotions that came up so someday I may share with her more clearly when the questions come . . . .



Felicity’s birthday was March 4th and we celebrated BIG, just as planned.  I hope she felt special, and loved and honored.  She opened presents, went to mass, had a fun journey downtown and ate cake.  It was a perfect day.  But, I must admit, as the day drew to a close, I began to get sad.  We had just celebrated her birth and in days, we would be upon the anniversary of her being abandoned.
It happened on March 7th.  The Feast of St Felicity and St Perpetua.  She is named for that day.  Named Felicity because it means joy and because I know God and His angels were watching over this special girl on that special Feast day.  Yet, the night of her birthday Pete and I were talking about that day.  And we wondered out loud: what were we thinking naming her Felicity?  Her feast day will always be marked by the sadness and the pain of the day she was abandoned.


There is no gentle way to say this, to make it easier to say, easier to hear.


On March 7th, 2 years ago, our daughter became an orphan.  She was left, just three days old.  Alone.  Abandoned.  On the sidewalk, next to the gate of the orphanage.  There is a baby hatch there, similar in concept to the one in the Drop Box, but it is only opened when someone is manning it.  It wasn’t that day.  She was left next to it.



Her life forever changed.  Her brain chemistry forever altered.



And I do not know how to feel about that day.  My heart aches when I think about it.  Think about her, alone, on a sidewalk.  How long was she alone before she was found?  She could have died.


Yet, she was . . .


FOUND



Through God’s grace, through His will. She was FOUND.  Saved.  And she sits happily playing in my lap right now.


I woke up March 7th and the first thing I did was open the weather app on my phone.  I still have her city listed on the weather app.


55 degrees.


Oh, good.  Not too cold.  She was found in the afternoon. The warmest part of the day.  I have searched for the temperature of the city she was found in for March 7, 2013 before, but could never find it.  Knowing this year’s temperature that day was the best I could do.  And it left me with some comfort.


Felicity woke up about a half hour later.  And as she jumped into my arms, I just held her for a long time and prayed for her.  As she went to bed that night, I prayed for her birth mom and father.  While we do not know the circumstances of her birth, I know that this day must be hard for them no matter what.


If this post seems disjointed, it is because my own thoughts are disjointed right now.  When I pray about March 7th the words; orphan, alone, abandoned swirl through my head.  But, the word FOUND drowns out those words.


I think we were meant to call her Felicity.  Meant to make March 7th holy for her.  Because she was FOUND.


What a perfect time to go through this journey; in the middle of Lent.  It, in a way, is a small reflection of Good Friday.  How hard that day.  Do I really want to look at or experience the emotions of that day when I truly reflect on the sufferings of Christ that day?  After all he was alone.  Abandoned by many of His followers.  I had seen The Passion of the Christ when it came out in the movie theaters.  I proclaimed that we should watch it every year during Lent.  Yet, I have only watched it once since that day in the theater.  My reason?  It is HARD to watch.  So often we clean up the suffering Christ went through.  Because it is really too hard to bear.  But, it was in that Good Friday that WE were FOUND.  Our redemption came through that hard day.


And so, I am learning to look at March 7th as a sort of Good Friday.  A day of much pain and suffering.  But a day of redemption.  A day of hope.
One day I hope to have this figured out a bit more, so that I can help Felicity journey through the good and the hard and the beautiful of March 7th when she herself is struggling with that day.  Until then, I entrust it all to God’s infinite wisdom and goodness and praise Him for redemption.  Felicity’s and mine.