Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Isaiah!

To my dearest Isaiah,

Today is your 9th birthday!  As I sit here and type, my heart is burdened with sadness.  I want nothing more, than to wrap my arms around you and tell you, "Happy Birthday Son!  We LOVE You!"  You have spent 9 years without a father.  You have spent 9 years without a mother that knew how to care for you, but loved you.  Though you may not have seen that love or understand this, as a mother myself, I promise you, she does love you.  For is she didn't, she wouldn't be giving us, she wouldn't be giving YOU, my dear Isaiah, the opportunity to be loved and taken care of.  She loves you so much that she is trying to give you a better life.  One in which you will have food - every day.  One in which you will have a bed at night.  One in which you are allowed to be a boy and not a parent.  One in which you will have the opportunity to learn and become a part of a family with a mother and father. 

I wish I could be there when you open your present.  I know you told me that all you want, all you've ever wanted, is a birthday cake for you birthday.  You didn't request toys, a TV, a DSI, a bike (though I'm sure that will all come soon!) :), all you wanted was a cake, with candles.  How sad I am that I couldn't give you that one simple thing!  I even researched bakeries, but there wasn't one on the whole island!  But your foster mom promised to make you one - with candles!  I couldn't send a cake.  Well actually, I tried.  I told Mrs. Harris I would send her Betty Crocker, which is a wonderful box mix, with frosting, if she would make it.  Very politely, she told me, that she doesn't use box mixes, everything she makes is from scratch.  Please savour each bite son, for this mommy doesn't have the first clue how to make a cake from scratch!

I want to tell you the story of your present - Your brother and sister helped me pick out your birthday present.  (I think your brother had an ulterior motive in choosing it, knowing in a few short months it would be back here. :)  I went to mail it, along with some clothes and shoes for you and Ruth.  I was so excited at the Fed Ex store as they looked up your island and tried to find a postal code for it.  It was taking quite a while and a line had now formed to the door.  The young man behind the counter told me, "That will be $288."  My joy in sending you your first birthday present, went to immediate panic and I just burst into tears.  In complete helplessness, I told the guy, "I can't afford that.  Is there anything you can do?"  He finagled everything into a smaller box and with a huge smile, thinking he had accomplished some large feat, told me, "That will be $213."  Between sniffles, I still said, I can't afford that.  By this time, everyone in the store knew my plight and knew about you, my dear son.  And now 8 more people know exactly where your island is.  So I handed him my debit card and said a little prayer that it would clear. :)  As I was walking out of the store, the sweet woman at the very back of the line, grabbed my arm and said, "God Bless You!  That money will back to you.  Don't worry."
I got in my car and just cried.  I cried because I didn't really even want to send your present to you; I wanted you to be here so I could give it to in person.  I cried because financially, I just couldn't see how $40,000 was going to materialize.  I just cried for you.  I mourned your childhood and the I mourned the months in between our visit and the time we bring you home.
Well, the money did come back to us, in the form of a complete stranger, but I'll tell you that story later.
For now, I just want you to know that I don't have your all your plans and your future and your college (WHOOP :) all planned out for you.  My dream for you is simple - I want you to grow up to "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all you mind and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself."  I don't know where this dream of mine will take you.  It might take you back to St. Vincent.  Or to Africa.  Or just down the street.  But as long as you are following and loving Christ, I can lay my head down at night in complete peace. 
Because really my dear son, you belong to God, not me.  You have been his child before you were even conceived and you will be his child until you take your last breath.  He just chose me to find you and love you and "train you in the way you should go, so when you are old, you will not depart from it."  He chose me to be your earthly mom.  But I can't watch over you now and I won't be able to watch over you when you are grown.  But because I love and honor a good King, I have complete peace when you and I are apart.  I trust my King to watch over you and guide your little feet and keep you safe.  And because I am entrusting your safety to the LORD, it frees me up just to love you.  I am not filled with worry or anxiety...only hope for the future.

I Love You with all my heart sweet, sweet boy!  I can't wait to celebrate the next the next 50 birthdays together.

Happy 9th Birthday Isaiah!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Caribbean Thanksgiving

I'm detouring from our adoption timeline for this post because I want to tell this story...

A few weeks ago, our Fellowship Team decided that we should do a Thanksgiving dinner together, but we should do something different than the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, corn casserole meal.  Living where we live, we eat Mexican food a minimum of once a day and BBQ a minimum of once a week, so those were out too.  A suggestion of Caribbean food, in honor of where our children are coming from, was thrown on the table and we went with it!  It was decided that everyone would bring a dish, or two, of their choice, as long as it was Caribbean in nature, and even better if it was a native dish of St. Vincent, the kid's island.
So I spent the last couple of weeks (o.k., maybe more like the last few days before the feast) searching Caribbean recipes and ingredients, trying to figure out what to bring.  I finally settled on Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Soup.  I chose those because:
a.) they looked like something I could actually make,
b.) they looked like something I would actually eat, and
c.) they didn't contain goat. 

I was SO excited to see what everyone else what bringing.  Rumors had been started and rumors had been discredited only to be started again, that some form of goat meat would be there.  I would soon find out! :)

Here are some of the authentic dishes we had...

Crab Gumbo

 Pork Tenderloin 

Five Fingers!  This may seem so simple, but this was the most authentic b/c Brian and I ate them while we were there.  We call them Star Fruit, but in St. Vincent's they are called Five Fingers.  These were part of a fruit salad that also contained Papaya and Mangos.


My Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.  
I personally didn't like them only because it had to much meat in them for me, but..I am going to make this one again.  I actually think this could be quite good with just a tweak (or two) of the recipe. :)

We also had Fried Plantains, Rum Cake, Rice, Pumpkin Soup and the ever so yummy and most delicious chocolate chip cookies.  (Probably not Caribbean, but no one was complaining!) :)
Oh, and No Goat! :)

After lunch, the afternoon was filled with American pastimes that we will soon teach our children.  There was an ongoing baseball game (wiffle ball actually), washers, kayaking, paddle boating, swinging, sliding and playing. 

It was an amazing day of fellowship.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, it was way more than that.  We were having fun and playing with our church.

Yes, we go to church, but I don't believe that Church is a building.  I don't believe that Church is an event that takes place on Sunday mornings.  Though we have come to think of church as the denominational building that you walk into every Sunday and maybe one other night of the week, that is not what Scripture talks about when it talks about church.  Church means community.  I am going to borrow what John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead" says about church being community...
"The little fellowships of the heart that are outpost of the kingdom.  A shared life.  They worship together, eat together, pray for one another, go on quests together.  They hang out together, in each other's homes." 

We have been together for almost 2 years.  We laugh together, we cry with one another, we pray for another, we help each other move, we go on adventures together and do races together -- our lives are intertwined with one another.   Along the way, we've gained some families, but we've also lost some families.  It's those losses that leave me feeling like we, like I, somehow failed them.  Maybe if I had more to offer, they would still be there or if our discussions were more powerful, they would come back asking for more.  I know it's not true but it's how I feel. 

Our fellowship team is intimate and it's vulnerable.  Each of us have laid our hearts out there, trusting that the others will walk this precarious trail of life with us.  And that is scary!  God says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for from it flows the wellspring of life."  Guard your heart!  Sharing your story and opening your life to others goes against that initial desire to keep your heart under lock and key.  But God also says time and time again in Scripture how important it is to come together and pray and have fellowship with other believers.
I know our fellowship team is powerful for God and for his kingdom.  Together we seek God's will for our life.  We talk about what it means to pick up your cross and follow Christ.  We serve the homeless and the widowed and the poor in our community.  We bring the gospel of Christ to far reaches of the globe.  We love on children in orphanages in places so desolate that most of us wouldn't leave our animals.  Together, we are powerful for God.  I don't say this to bring us recognition or for a pat on the back, I say this because I know the enemy recognizes this and he attacks these relationships with a vengeance.
Going to church with hundreds of people isn't going to require much risk or ask much of you.  It will certainly never expose you.  But community - a fellowship - will. 
As a result, we've experienced disappointments and hurts.  Every last one of us have hurt one another.  BUT, and this is huge, though the enemy has won a few battles, he has not won the war and broken our "church."  We have walked long enough with one another to know that our hearts are good towards one another.  And this makes it so much easier to trust and forgive.  In the moment, our feelings may be hurt and we may disagree, but we can always come back to the truth that their heart is good towards you.
Fellowship, a true community, the "church" - this is something we have to fight for.  We had to fight to have one and we have to fight to keep it going.  But isn't anything worth having, worth fighting for? 
I don't know what the future holds for our fellowship team and who might come and who might go.  But I know that each person that makes up our team right now, is a unique and beautiful representation of Christ and I am made better by each person in there that challenges me to think and grow.  I can't imagine walking this road to adoption without their support and prayers.  Thank you isn't enough, but Thank you is all I have.
My prayer is that each believer can know what it's like to have a fellowship that is safe to share your stories in, one that will help you to discover the glory that have to offer, that walks with you as grow closer to Christ, that prays for you without your asking - one that fights for your heart!!

To the women in my "church" - I Love You.  I know it hasn't always been easy, but it's always been worth fighting for.

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Getting Matched

Two agencies and four weeks after my heart was captured, we finally recieved the phone call.  I was in the middle of ordering Changs Spicy Chicken and I heard my phone ringing in my purse.  I stopped mid-order, looked at the # and literally ran out of the restaurant.  The words, "they are still available" should have come as no surprise, as I knew in my heart God was knitting our family together, but it was as if I could breathe again.  The relief was overwhelming and I just started crying.  Tears of joy.  Tears of relief.  Tears of anticipation. 

Now the paperwork began.  Not international adoption paperwork, but matching paperwork.  We had to get matched to Isaiah & Ruth before we even found a social worker, began a home study or anything else a "normal" adoption process might include.  Getting "matched" just means on paper, we look like we would be a good fit for these children.  So in record time we produced 7 typed pages of answers to questions like "How we deal with stress," "Reasons why we want to adopt," "Our family and our childhoods," "The attitudes of our family regarding adoption," "Parenting styles and discipline," "Birth parents and their rights," and the list goes on and on. 

Those questions, as tedious as they seemed, helped us filter our feelings and emotions and we realized, this wasn't about doing a good deed.  This wasn't about just helping some kids out.  We were not on a path looking for the easiest child to raise or the one that would cause our family the least inconvenience.  We wanted to adopt Isaiah and Ruth.  Period.  We wanted to become their family - forever.  Whatever that meant and whatever that looked like.

So off we mailed (overnighted to be exact) our paperwork and a check (for what felt like the equivalent to what my husband makes in a week!  UGH!)  to a California adoption agency.  It took exactly 5 days for them to get back to us.  She began by saying, "ya'll seem like wonderful parents..."  My heart dropped.  That's what someone says when they are about to drop a bombshell on you.  It's the line -  "I think you're great, but I'm just not looking for a serious relationship right now."  She wasn't getting to the point, so I finally had to stop her and with all the grace that I posses, ask her, "are we matched?"  That's when I found out that the California agency was only a screening agency for the agency that is actually handling the adoption.  But that yes, we had passed their screening.  Immediate relief turned into that sick feeling you get in your stomach.  Now we had to wait for the actual adoption agency to interview us, and officially match us. 

It took about a week and two phone calls totaling almost 4 hours in length for them to find out everything they needed about us and for us to find out everything we needed to know about the children.  There were moments during the conversations that were difficult and my heart just broke.  But with each passing minute, I knew they were ours and I felt time was of the essence.  I wanted them home...yesterday! 
We signed an intent to adopt agreement and the official adoption procedures began...

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”  Luke 15:4-7

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

To be Fathered

I have so many stories I want to tell, but they won't make sense until I finish the who, what, where, when and why of this adoption.  So bear with me. :)

So late one night, as I'm clicking through "Bringing Hope to the Children", Isaiah and Ruth pop up on my screen.  I KNOW I was in the China section, which now, just makes me smile because I see God's handiwork written throughout this entire journey. 
Before I even read their profile, I know I want to bring them home.  After I read their profile, I knew we were bringing them home.  This was their profile...

Isaiah and Ruth are siblings with an ability to remain strong and positive even when they don't have a lot to be happy about. Their mother is very young, unemployed, and lives in conditions described by authorities as "deplorable". Isaiah is currently in foster care, where he receives food and is sent to school. His teachers report he is doing well there and gets along with his peers. Ruth is still at "home" (calling it a home is a stretch) but their mother cannot care for her and understands that it is not a healthy environment for a child. Both children are healthy, with no known medical issues. They are both developmentally on target. Their country requires two trips (one week each), but is located in the Caribbean, so the distance is not too great. A two-parent family is required for this sibling pair since Isaiah has requested a father. These are two remarkable children...

"Isaiah has requested a father."  That is what got me.  A child who knows nothing of fathers but abandonment and abuse, had the courage to go before an adoption board and request a father.  A Father!  How did he even know to ask for one?!  Oh, that is the beauty of the story that God writes on our hearts!  It's the stuff fairy tales are made of.  But instead of a princess awaiting her prince, it's a little boy awaiting his father.  I'm totally getting ahead of myself here, but I have to share this picture with you. 

This is from the second day we spent with the children.  Isaiah has never been loved, accepted, or adored by a father.  And now he is being played with - by HIS FATHER!  This picture is what a dream looks like when it comes true.  I wish you could see his face.  I don't think he stopped smiling that entire day.  :)

So...a father.  Really, that's all he wants?  That is undeniably something we can offer.  It seems so simple really. 
And so with a captured heart, we proceeded...

Friday, November 5, 2010


As many of you know, we are embarking on a new chapter in our life, one that is unchartered for our family, but one that God wrote before time even began.  As our story is unfolding, we are realizing that it is a true love story.  And with every great romance, there is adventure and heartache, and ours is no exception. 
So here's our story...

I've had quite a few people in the last few months say to me, "Oh, you're adopting?  That's wonderful!  My husband and I have been praying about doing that."  To them, I say, "Oh, you're praying about it?  That's wonderful!"  And I truly mean that. 
You see, we haven't gone about this adoption the traditional way, if there is even such a thing.  Neither Brian or I had spent late nights discussing adoption.  We had never gone to the LORD asking his advice on how to proceed with adoption.  I had never dreamed of an almond eyed beauty that would one day be mine, or a little African boy to cuddle and teach to swim.
Let me be clear though- we support adoption 110% and I think it's amazing - but it wasn't for us, it was for other families...that is, until this August.

In July, I was on a wesbite for Asian children with special needs that desperately need loving homes.  I was on there trying to find out some info on a 13 year old Chinese girl that had less than 4 months to find a forever family or she would be turned out on the streets.  For in China, at 14 you age out of the system.  And that leaves a little girl very desperate and very vulnerable to being trafficked as a sex slave.  I had a vested interest in helping to find her a home - fast.  I never did locate that little girl.  But I did find Isaiah and Ruth, neither were they Asian or were they special needs.  But there they were anyway.  A brother and a sister.  A boy and a girl.  An 8 year old and a 5 year old.  My children - in another country.  I saw our 8 year old son in Isaiah and I saw our 5 year old daughter in Ruth.  And it that moment, I felt God's heart towards each and every 147 million orphans on this earth.   And in that moment, our family of 4 grew to a family of 6. 

I would be absolutely lying if I told you it has been a bed of roses since that first phone call in July when we found out they were still available.  There has been many tears and many heartaches.  But there has been joy.  Not instant gratification happiness, but true sustained joy.  I have seen ordinary people become angels and I have seen hearts transformed in a way that is not humanly possible.  I have seen the ugly and selfish side of humanity, but I have also seen tenderness and compassion in strangers that have left me weeping. 

I pray that over the next few weeks and months, I will be able to write all of the amazing stories - the good and the bad that have come as a result of this adoption.  I want to share our journey to meet them.  I want Isaiah and Ruth to be able to read this one day and understand what we went through to be able to love them and take care of them for the rest of their lives.

"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you."  John 14:17