Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Sense of Urgency

It amazes me how much I can learn about my relationship with my Heavenly Father through my relationship with my children. Most of these lessons are convicting and humbling. All make me grateful that I serve a God of goodness and mercy.

For example, my children are off-the-charts delightful human beings yet they have certain behaviors that make my hair stand on end, cause that vein on my forehead to bulge, and make me grit my teeth like someone is trying to remove a bullet from my buttocks with a pocket knife. So, if you catch me looking like the Bride of Frankenstein, most likely one of the following has happened:

A) I have found a lunchbox under my child's bed that has been missing for several weeks . . . and the lunch is still in it.

B) I have found clothing, that I have just washed and folded with love, mixed in with stinky dirty clothes.

C) I have a child who is exhibiting no sense of urgency when we are in a hurry or is not obeying the first time asked.

Although A has happened once (that I know of), and B does on occasion, it is C that seems to be the most frequent thorn in my postpartum flesh.

Often these acts are not willful. An instruction to brush teeth and hop in the bed can be embellished by hugging the cat, smelling a new candle, fogging up a window with their breath then writing their name in it, and doing a few cartwheels on the way. Although I'm a major advocate for "stopping to smell the roses/candles" at the appropriate times, this kind of dawdling conveys a message that they view what they want to do as more important than what we have asked them to do.

Sometimes they move in slow motion simply because they don't want to obey. They can be quite creative in their attempts to delay. Often my second and third request is followed by the dreaded, "In a minute!" or "Okay, okay." Sometimes they admit they were tuning us out with, "I didn't hear you." But every incident shows a lack of respect for our authority. A disregard for others' time. The by-product of that disobedience is that others have to wait on them or they end up missing out something because of the wasted time.

The person in our home who is the guiltiest of not having a sense of urgency . . . is me. Many times my Heavenly Father has asked me to do something and I took my sweet time obeying. I've developed a "spiritual attention deficit" in regards to my relationships, with my finances, with my marriage and parenting, and with my witnessing opportunities. But the primary area that I've shown an utter lack of urgency and shameful disobedience was in regards to adoption.

I've known since I was a little girl that I was called to adopt. Brad and I knew before we were married that this was His plan for our life. Yet it took 15 years of marriage before we actually started the process to adopt. Fifteen years of saying, "Okay, okay" and "In a minute." Fifteen years of being busy with things that had no eternal value. Fifteen years using excuses that our home was too small, or we couldn't afford it, or we had too much going on. Perhaps it wasn't God's time in our early years of marriage for us to adopt, but there was still so much more we could have been doing to care for orphans by helping others pay for their adoptions, through child sponsorship, and through missions giving and trips.

In August of 2007 we found out that a little boy in Guatemala needed a family. We had our mental list of reasons to justify delaying our obedience to answer God's call. But the months prior, we had felt such conviction that we had been viewing James 1:27 as a suggestion, when it clearly is a command. That we were guilty of not obeying the first time and dishonoring God with our lack of urgency. God's instructions are so clear, but we didn't want to hear, didn't want to know, didn't want to be accountable. Had we not felt that conviction three years ago, we would probably still be waiting for "the perfect time" to adopt.

But I don't think we fully understood the depth of our sin in this area until we saw firsthand the crisis of 147 million orphans. Just like my kids like to compare their casual disobedience with other's blatant rebellion ("Mom, at least I'm not doing. . . ."), I had my own self-righteous denial at play--caring for others who were easy to care for, committed to service that required little sacrifice.

The by-product of that disobedience is exactly the same as it is with my children. That others have to wait on me and I miss out on the blessing that God has planned because of the time I wasted.

Once I saw who had been waiting, I was overcome with regret and repentence. I saw infants crying in their cribs with no one to hold them, toddlers and preschoolers calling me mama because I was the only "mom" there to love on them that day, elementary age children who just wanted someone to tell them they were special, and teens that showed me that you're never too old to need a mom and dad. I look at Daniel and think how close we were to missing out on the blessing that he is because adopting an older boy into our family just wasn't "practical."

The other day I read a post called "While We're Waiting" (click on the title to read) that I want to share. It's written by an adoptive mother of 9 named Amy Block and beautifully illustrates who must wait for us when we show no sense of urgency to answer God's call to care for orphans.

I haven't had a chance to post a Sunday Dinner in a while, but my verse for this week is certainly:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

James 1:27, NIV

This short to-do list from God may involve different things for different people. We may not all be called to adopt, but every single Christian is instructed to care for orphans and widows. And, folks, we need to obey with urgency.

And here's the funny thing. Once we started to obey God the first time, we saw a significant improvement in how our children obey us.

One of the questions we get a lot as we have started this new adoption is "Why would you want to adopt another child so soon after bringing the last one home?" (Many thought we were nuts with the first adoption, so we must really look crazy now.)

There are many answers. But perhaps the only one that matters is, "God has commanded us to care for orphans and we've finally learned to obey the first time He asks."

With Urgency,

P.S. Thanks to all you precious bloggy friends for the comments of support and encouragement with my last post. I love the suggestions to deal with my fear of flying! There's lots going on that I can't share about just yet. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Update on Our Paper Pregnancy

The adoption process is often called a "paper pregnancy." So I'm guessing that my social worker is my OB/GYN, my local notaries are my lab techs, and our adoption agency is our healthcare provider. I sure hope someone will give me an epidural for the flight home.

You'd think that at this point I'd be able to pee in cup without getting it on my hand, but at my adoption physical . . . no such luck.

Our homestudy is now complete so I'm guessing we just finished our first trimester. Yes, I've been a bit tired, but no morning sickness thus far.

This is our early ultrasound photo.

China Sonogram Pictures, Images and Photos

We don't know yet if it's a boy or a girl, but we do know there's a little person waiting for us in China!

This adoption pregnancy has already been so different from Daniel's. His adoption was an emergency situation. We were shown one photo and given 24 hours to make a decision to adopt a child we had never met. The circumstances surrounding our commitment to adopt him made all the pieces fall into place. We never needed to pick a country or an age range or make a list of special needs. We never searched through photolistings or researched medical conditions. God had already filled in the blanks that our child was Daniel, waiting in Guatemala, ordained to be our son since the beginning of time.

So when Brad gave his blessing last June for us to adopt again (it was my 40th birthday present), the joy of starting another adoption soon turned into an overwhelming list of questions. What country? What age? What gender? What special need? I'd look at photolistings and just weep. There are just too many precious children who need families.

We were so torn regarding what country to adopt from that we ended up finding a local agency to do our homestudy who doesn't have an international program. That enabled us to get started allowing us flexibility to choose an international program later and select an agency that specialized in whatever country we decided on.

If you had asked us in July where we were adopting from, I probably would have answered, "An HIV positive child from the Ukraine." Although we feel a great burden for this special need and many particular children we saw through the amazing ministry called Reece's Rainbow, it became clear that this is not where God is leading us at this particular time. (But if you are feeling led to adopt a special needs child, please take the time to visit their site and see the precious children desperately needing a family!)

So in sharing about our first trimester, I'll just list our most frequently asked questions and give the answers. (Feel free to ask other questions in the comments and I'll answer in a future post.)

Why China?

If Guatemala was not currently closed for new adoptions, we would have gone back there. We love the people of Guatemala and grew very close to many children from Daniel's orphanage--two little girls in particular that we will always love as daughters. (I shared about them here.)

So we looked closely at the adoption programs and needs in the US, China, India, three African countries, the Ukraine and Russia. We kept coming back to China. We actually tried to adopt from China in 1995 before we had any children. We started the paperwork only to be told that we weren't old enough. (At the time, to adopt from China you could not have any other children and must be at least 30 years old.) We are well-qualified in the age criteria now (I don't think there's a minimum age anymore) and very grateful that they now allow those with children to adopt.

But perhaps the seed was planted in my heart for China when I was a little girl. I remember reading books about Hudson Taylor and Gladys Aylward. What a profound impact these missionaries to China had on my life. If you haven't already, I encourage you to read their biographies to your children.

Other factors that kept pointing us to China are that we knew we wanted to adopt child with special needs and there are currently close to 2000 special needs children waiting in China today. It's a list that unfortunately grows each month.

But perhaps the deciding factor was Daniel. Right now it doesn't bother him that he tans better than the rest of his family, but some day it might. We want him to have a sibling that looks a bit like him, with his silky black hair and beautiful dark eyes. When we asked our kids where they wanted us to adopt from, Daniel always leaned toward China. (Actually, they all did.) We could tell he was excited when we announced that's where we were going.

Thus far, the only drawback in adopting from China is its location on the world map. I hate air travel (I would honestly rather travel by unicycle than get on a plane) and China just isn't easy to get to by car. Mapquest wouldn't even give me directions so I knew I was in trouble. God was merciful to have our first adoption in a country that required only a three hour flight. I know He will help me overcome turbulence and the airplane bathroom (I can hold it 3 hours but not 15), but I must admit that God has a great sense of humor in calling this aviation-challenged gal to international adoption.

Have you been matched with a child?

Not yet. With the non-special needs program in China, the Chinese government matches you with a child (and the wait for a healthy infant is now 4 to 5 years). But since we are wanting a child with special needs, there's no wait. We can review files at any time and choose a child who has been waiting more than 3 months. Once our dossier is complete, we are eligible for any child on their shared listing--even those who were recently added.

We will most likely choose a child who has been waiting a while, but thus far haven't asked to look at any files and probably won't for a few more weeks. Primarily because we just don't wait very patiently. As soon as we know who our child is, I'm going to want to hop on my unicycle the very same day and go get him/her. After waiting two and a half years for Daniel to come home, we've taken the "horse before cart/paperwork before referral" approach and it has made this whole process stress and drama free. I haven't stalked a postman, badgered a notary, or cried on my social worker's shoulder . . . yet.

We don't care what gender and have been approved to adopt a child with special needs that range from mild to severe (we filled out a long list of needs we would consider). The only thing we do know about this next child is that he or she will be younger than our 5 year old son. All four of our children have requested a younger sibling and we are thrilled about having a little person in our home again. (Ava has made a special request for a child with chubby cheeks.)

When do you think you will have your child home?

(Insert laughing here.) This is not really a question I can answer with any accuracy considering Daniel's adoption (that was supposed to take nine months to one year to complete) ended up taking two and a half years. With that disclaimer noted, it looks like our second trimester will be pretty quick. We are about to submit our 1-800A. Then we will get our international fingerprinting appointment and wait for our approval. I have already finished our other dossier documents so once we get that "golden ticket" we just have to get all the documents authenticated at the county, state, and Chinese consulate levels and we're done with the paperwork. (I'm thinking this will all take about 6 to 8 weeks.)

Once we are matched with a child and the Chinese government approves us as adoptive parents, the estimated wait to travel is 3 to 6 months. (I guess this would be our third trimester.) So, it's possible that we will get our child this spring, but (with our track record) we'll be thrilled to bring Williams Baby #5 home by next summer.

Thanks for joining us on this journey again. I can't tell you what a blessing it was to be covered with prayer and given encouragement this time last year when we were trying to bring Daniel home. We are so grateful for your love and support as we welcome another gift from God.

Grateful to Be "Expecting" Again,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Under a Starry Sky

Oh how I've missed you guys! I haven't just missed writing posts, but reading so many of yours. I have so much catching up to do.

Where have I been? Well, I've been to the doctor, dentist, orthodontist, and veterinarian. I've had things notarized, over-nighted, dry cleaned, and pressure washed. I've been grocery shopping, apple picking, and field tripping, and homework checking. I've been attending soccer and baseball games; tubing on the lake and camping under the stars. I've been kissing boo-boos and correcting no-nos. I've attended school meetings and Bible studies . . . and done lots of laundry. My exhaustion is only matched by my gratitude in having the best job in the world.

I've had so much to share, but it's hard to write on my blog at red lights in my minivan. But life should start to slow a bit now that our adoption paperwork is almost done. (I'll give an adoption update soon.)

So here I sit at my computer knowing I have just enough mental fuel to say a short hello before my eyes flop shut and my head hits the keyboard. I've had three little words that seem to have been the theme of my last few weeks that I think I have the capability of sharing before calling it a day.

A couple weeks ago I was picking the boys up from their Christian school. (All four kids go to the same school, but the boys get out at noon and the girls at 3:00.) I'm often one of the first moms in carpool--primarily because I've often been doing adoption errands that morning and just go straight to the school after, but also because I just love seeing Daniel's face beaming with confidence as he exits the building with his buddies and beloved teacher. That particular day his teacher stuck her head into my car window to tell me something before the carpool parade started.

She said, "Daniel said something beautiful today and I want to tell you before I forget." She continued, "Our lesson was about Cain and Able. When I finished telling the story about how Cain killed Able, then God provided Seth, . . . I asked the children what we can learn from this story. Then Daniel spoke up and said, 'GOD LOVES MERCY.' "

His teacher's eyes were moist with tears as she shared. So were mine. That an eight year old boy had grasped this truth--a truth that took me 35 years to understand--what a blessing.

Since that day, my thoughts have been punctuated with those three words--GOD LOVES MERCY. Like the responsive readings that we would have at my childhood Baptist church--my imaginary congregation's answer to whatever happened in my day seemed to be--GOD LOVES MERCY.

We recently attended a neighborhood camp-out. It's an annual thing where many families pitch their tents on a grassy common area for a night of fun. I remember attending last year wishing Daniel was here. As we sat together this year under a starry sky--watching a movie with Daniel snuggled up next to me, laughing out loud at the funny parts with his mouth covered in the remnants of a s'more--I couldn't help but caption this memory with "GOD LOVES MERCY."

Last week I drove on a field trip for Daniel's class. We went to a local planetarium to study the stars. I loved watching him. It was a treat to see him looking at the telescope with amazement and listening intently to the lady doing our tour.

Then we walked into the planetarium, took our seats, and they began to dim the lights. He grabbed my hand and whispered "I'm scared." And I whispered back, "It's okay. It has to be completely dark for you to be able to really see the stars."

As the darkness revealed the spectacular display in the dome overhead, Daniel's gasp of "WOW!!!" was the loudest one of all. Although he was no longer afraid, he kept holding tightly to my hand. And I was grateful that I was able to experience this with him, drinking in another precious moment with my sweet son, in awe of God's goodness in bringing him into our lives. And all I could think of was, "GOD LOVES MERCY."

Tonight I stepped outside for a minute. I just needed to fill my being with the cool night air of fall and take a look at the stars. And as I marveled at the display of magnificence with the melody of crickets in the background, I couldn't help but quietly sing "How Great Thou Art."

"Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed."

And I rejoiced in my great God and His love for me. I remembered all those times I said to Him "I'm scared" and His answer was: "It's okay. It has to be completely dark for you to see the stars." And I remembered that His goodness and His power is most evident during times of profound darkness.

In my last minutes under the canopy of diamonds, I thanked Him for being a God who loves mercy.

How great Thou art. How great Thou art.

Humbly His,