Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's looking like Christmas...

Seems like our family moves a lot. I think I counted once that in 8 years of marriage, Paul and I have lived in 11 different houses.  Somethings' not right about that.

But I never take pictures of how our Christmas decorations transform the house.  Who knows if we'll live here next year for Christmas, so I figured I'd like to remember what this house looks like all  spruced up for Christmas.  Paul and I think having the Christmas tree up makes us lazy.  We just want to sit around all day and look at it, drinking apple cider and eating caramel corn. : )  Love the season of Christmas, and all that it means!




 In this picture you can see our countdown to Christmas/Ethiopia chain.  Only one ring difference! :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Adoption is Teaching Me: God is BIG

For the past few weeks (since November 11th, when our file was submitted for a court date), I've been wondering all about what our court date will be, when it will be, how it will all happen, how long it will take to hear, all these things.  I knew it was possible that we would get a date in December, but I didn't expect it.  I knew it was possible that we'd hear by the end of this week, but I didn't expect it.

Then last week, I heard from a family that I lived with before I was married.  This family is very dear to me, and I haven't seen them in several years. They became like second parents, and little brothers and sisters to me.  They wrote to tell me that of all things, they would be in Ethiopia the end of December, any chance we'd be there too?  Well, I knew there was a chance, but also knew it wasn't a very big one.

I spent a few days talking over all of these little details with God, telling him the desires of my heart.  God, how bad do I want to see my little girl this year?  How amazing would it be if we were able to see the G family in Ethiopia?  That is totally crazy! God, I'm dreaming of getting that email on Thanksgiving and just having this huge celebration that we received our court date!  But I know you're good, all the time, no matter how you choose to write this story.

And it's like God wants to tell me this: "You think this is hard?  Difficult? Impossible?  This is NOTHING.  This is easy for me."  It's almost like He wants to show off a little. : )

We got our court date.  On Thanksgiving night.  It's December 30th.  I found out the G family's and our travel dates are identical.  Identical.  Exactly the same days we will be in Addis Ababa.  Our hotels are 2 km apart.

And on top of all that, there are three families with our agency I've gotten to interact with a lot through our Yahoo! Group that I was really hoping to meet.  Two of those families got a court date of the 30th as well, so they will be in Addis the same time we are too.

It's all just too much!  I don't deserve all this!  What are the odds of any one of these things happening, let alone all of them?  I just can't stand God's goodness to me, I can't understand it, but I am more thankful this year than I ever have been before.  So thankful I cannot put words to it.  The overflow of my heart and my tears will have to suffice for God. He clearly knows my heart...

He is BIG.  He is ABLE.  He didn't have to do any of this for me.  But He. Did. He's writing Baby M's story in a more dramatic way than I ever imagined.  He's writing our family's story in a more beautiful way than I ever imagined.

And I'll be holding my baby girl in 32 days. 

Court Date!

We had a great Thanksgiving yesterday!  Right as we put the kids to bed, we received an email telling us that we had been given a court date of December 30th!  I'll write in the next post about all the details of this that are amazing, but for now, just wanted to say, we're going to Ethiopia next month!! AAA! : )


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankfulness

I have so much to be thankful for this year.  This has been one incredible year in our family, and it's not quite over yet.  I think back to last Thanksgiving and how adoption was just something out there we'd do at some point in the near future.  That seems so long ago!  So much has happened since then.

I am thankful to be adopted by God into his eternal family. I am thankful that He offers an intimate relationship to his children, allows us to come to him with anything and everything, cares about all our heart aches. I'm thankful that I can trust him with things that are weighing my heart about life, my children, my husband, school, because really, we're all HIS children, and most of it is much bigger than anything I can fix. I'm thankful I can leave things in his mighty, holy, perfect hands and trust that he will take care of it when he sees fit.

I am thankful for my husband. I know I'm not easy to live with.  I'm stubborn, strong-willed, argumentative, and I like to have the last word.  I'm thankful that he loves me in spite of those things, and doesn't usually let me get away with it.  I'm thankful to have him as a best friend through the past 8 years. I'm thankful for fun memories, and a spirit of adventure in him that is lying dormant right now that we will resurrect when the kids are bigger. I'm thankful for his wisdom, and his gentleness.

I am thankful for my children.  I am thankful for Luke, because he is my little man.  He is strong, intelligent, and a strong leader. I'm thankful for his enthusiasm for life, and his playfulness. I'm thankful for Kiryn and her sweet innocence. I'm thankful that she's a girly girl who loves to dress up and fix her hair and have her nails done. I'm thankful for our "girl time" outings that she loves and asks for.  And I'm thankful for my little buddy Levi.  I'm thankful for his cuddly spirit, his sense of humor, and how he keeps us all on our toes. I'm thankful that he has demanded his own place in our family. : )

And this year, I am incredibly thankful for this girl and this smile.
 
I can't wait to make this smile appear by my tickle and snuggle.  I can't wait to hear her voice. I'm thankful for the wonderful care she's receiving right now until we can bring her home, and for her incredibly improved health.  And I'm so thankful for an extended family in the states who has been incredibly supportive of our decision to adopt her.  I am also incredibly thankful to say that our adoption is fully funded at this point. God has provided, almost down to the penny, of what we needed.  He is so good. 

Thank you, God for blessing our family.  Thank you, Jesus, for showing us a life more abundant!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tapestry: Week 14

This is week 2 in a study of Ancient Greece.  Paul was teacher last week, so I came in halfway through, not really having a clue what was going on. : )

This week, we spent a lot of time on math skills with Luke.  Kiryn is loving her handwriting book, and is really enjoying the Raceway book from Sing, Spell, Read and Write.  Here's some pictures of them doing their skill work this week.

Love that I told him to halve these shapes, and he felt compelled to write "I love you Mommy" at the top. : )

Learning to do vertical, double digit math. 

Kiryn enjoying her math work. 

Levi enjoying the white board. 

Luke doing some of his history reading and writing.

And I thought surely Kiryn would wait to start decorating her vowels until she was ten or eleven years old.  Nope.  She's 4.  And all those are pretty little eyes, she said.  It's innate in girls. I for sure didn't teach her this. : )

This week, we studied the Minoans of Crete, it's demise, and the rise of the Mycenaeans.  It was really interesting for me to realize when all this was happening in correlation with biblical patriarchal history. 

We also did do a brief study of Greek mythology.  I got the book out that Paul was uncomfortable with and looked through it.  It did have some crazy stories in there about gods eating their own babies and then vomiting them up.  Weird.  But I found it all really interesting.  Lots of stuff I didn't know about Greek mythology, how all the gods were related.  I also realized so many things that we have as traditions originate in ancient Greek mythology, such as the cornucopia, or the horn of plenty.  Yeah, that was something the Greek mythological gods started.  Who knew? And here I thought it had to do with Thanksgiving!  So glad I'm in first grade again...

Here is Luke's journal page for History this week, and his first "landscape" afer doing an art lesson on landscape portraits.  He's not quite finished with the landscape yet. He was looking at a great photo of giraffes in the African plain with a beautiful sky behind as he drew this.  


We also tried some Greek food, including one day for snack this week we had dried apricots, golden raisins, and figs.



We had a really fun and interesting week!  Still loving Tapestry! I'm getting better at it with each week, utilizing more than it has to offer, figuring out what to concentrate on, what to leave for the next go around.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tapestry: Week 13

Once again, Daddy was on this week.  Our business handicraft center needed a little attention last week, so I was out every day trying to train a new manager.  She's doing a great job, so I'm back at home this week for Week 14.

Last week, Paul began a 2-3 week study of Ancient Greece.  I have no pictures.  None.  But, he did say the book we had on Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece was strange and he wasn't comfortable reading it to them.  However, they LOVED the two literature selections, The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War, and Jason and the Golden Fleece.  He did a lot of science, music, and core subject work with them last week.  I'm so thankful for a husband who is truly a partner and we work as a team in life.

Hopefully, the next few weeks will be a little more interesting to read about. : )

Tapestry: Week 12

After a week break at a retreat with some friends, we made it back the night before Week 12 was supposed to start. I didn't have a lot of time to prepare...

Week 12 was all about Ancient Mexico and Central American cultures. Because this month has been so busy, I haven't had much time to put a lot of extra energy into school, and we've just been trying to get through the basics without any extra special projects.  But that's okay.  We've really enjoyed the reading and coloring pages we've done! : )
Luke did a great job shading and labeling a map of mound builders, cliff dwellers, Mayan cities, and more!

He also wrote his name in Mayan hieroglyphs.  He did this all by himself, copying it from the ones I provided.  Great job, buddy!


Kiryn enjoyed coloring a photo of a Mayan woman making tortillas. 

We made it through the week!

Tapestry: Week 11

So I'm really behind. I'm going to attempt to catch us up on homeschooling the last month or so.  October was an incredibly crazy month for us!

Week 11 we spent some time in Ancient China, learning about Confuscius, ancient Chinese cultures, life and games. This week, we had two girls visiting us to help us lead some breast cancer awareness programs in some poorer neighborhoods.  So, I was busy with them every day while Paul was home teaching the kids!  Therefore, we don't have too many photos, and I'm not quite as sure what exactly went on. ; )  But, I'll give you what I've got!



Kiryn enjoyed going through this tangram book.  Luke also did a great job doing a detailed map of China. 

I think the kids really enjoyed Daddy teaching them this week!  One more reason I love homeschooling! :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Adoption is Teaching Me: I'm a daughter of the King

Since we received our referral for Baby M, I've been thinking about her an awful lot.  How she was found somewhere and taken to an orphanage.  How long did she lay by herself?  Was she cold, hot, hungry?  Was she crying or content?  How many people walked by her before that one person picked her up and took her to safety?  I've thought about how anyone could have picked her up for any reason and done anything they wanted with her.  How thankful I am that God led that one person, a person with a heart to help and save, right to where she was that day.

I've thought about how she is now in a warm care center, wrapped up in blankets, being well-fed.  She's sharing a bed with two or three other babies.  She looks so happy in the photos we receive.  But this is all she knows.  She doesn't know the love of a mother and father.  The same eyes greeting her every morning and sending her off to sleep at night.  She doesn't know the joy (and pain) of brothers and sisters to share life with, who will make her laugh, read to her, tickle her.  Where she's at now certainly is better than being left alone somewhere, but it's still not as good as it could be.

And she has no idea. She doesn't know we exist, let alone that we are doing everything we can to get to her as fast as we can, and to bring her home.

 I find myself realizing how like her I am.  Her adoption is a physical one, but mine has been a spiritual one, and the parallels are strong.  Before, I did not have a true identity.  I only had myself to determine my life's course.  I had no heritage, and my purpose was dictated by me alone.  This may sound fine.  It may even sound good. But I was empty.  Full of wrong thoughts, actions, selfishness, vain attempts at seeking self-advancement and praise of other people.  Not realizing how different, how much better life could be.

Then I began to learn of God's love for me.  His relentless pursuit of me. Because of all my bad choices and mistakes, I was so far from who God wanted me to be.  He wanted me to be His daughter.  But I certainly was no daughter of a King.  But his love for me was so intense, that he made me his daughter.  And in order to do that, he had to give up his only son.  To take me into his family, a girl who didn't belong there, who came in wearing rags....

Recently, I found myself at a friend's house with a bunch of women gathered there.  I had Baby M's picture with me.  I realized I would be asked to share something from my heart in a few minutes.  God prompted me to share our story about Baby M, how he had led us to bring her into our family.  I shared with these women that we all are like Baby M.  We had no family, but now we are part of God's eternal family if we follow Jesus.  How God loved each of us so much, that he allowed his one son to die to make us all his daughters.  I asked them, "How many of us would give up a son to take a daughter that's not ours into our family?"  One lady spoke up and said, "If I had ten sons, I wouldn't give one of them for a girl."  Sad.  But reality.  And yet God did it for her.  And for me.  I was humbled to realize that sometimes, I find myself thinking we're doing such a huge thing in adopting Baby M.  But we're not.  I don't have to give up either of my sons to make her my daughter.

I am so thankful for a Father in heaven who has pursued me so relentlessly, and loved me so fully.  And continues to pursue my heart.  I am a daughter of the King!  He has made me His.  Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What Adoption is Teaching Me: I'm not in control...

The last eight months have been a total whirlwind.  Some days feel like nothing is happening with our adoption, but when I look back at how far we've come so quickly, I realize how fast it's all happening.  God is using these slow days, waiting hours, and quiet moments to teach my heart.  About who He is.  About who I am.  And of His relentless love for me and all people.

I've written about this before, but I want to flesh out more thoroughly how God has been teaching me and showing me that I'm not in control.  (I usually like to think that I am). : )  

Before we got married, Paul and I had talked about adoption and agreed God had put it on both of our hearts, and we would pray often about when the time was right for us to grow our family through adoption.  I randomly did bits of research on different countries and the process.  Four years into our marriage, when K was just six months old, Paul received an email from a fellow co-worker in Africa. This young man had just been given custody of a baby in his family due to two previous care giver both passing away (the mother and an aunt).  Now no one wanted the baby, feeling it was cursed. We read his emails and sensed his desperation.  How could a young single man struggling to get through college take care of an infant alone?  Our hearts were drawn to take this baby into our family.  But because of the country they were in, it was not legally possible.  But this event got us started talking... could now be the time?  

We had been feeling for awhile that we wanted to adopt from India.  It was natural.  We have lived here.  We know the culture.  We speak fairly good Hindi. I can cook decent Indian food.  If we adopted a child from here, she would grow up in her home culture, eating her culture's food, speaking her heart language, surrounded by people from her home culture.  We thought this couldn't be more ideal!  

I began to delve into the internet world of (non)-information regarding Indian adoptions for foreigners living in India.  It was incredibly difficult to get any straight, concrete answers on line.  Phone calls ended with hang ups.  Emails to government agencies went unanswered.  (Even to our own American Embassy!)  I kept hitting brick walls.  We decided to give up on adopting in India without the help of an American agency and wait till we returned to the states to meet with an agency and seek their advice. 

In the summer of 2010, we did meet with the agency we had narrowed it down to.  Such a sweet, wonderful, loving woman encouraged us so much.  The only problem was that their Hague accreditation was still in process.  So they couldn't start any paperwork until it was finished.  She assured us it should be done before the end of the year.  That was fine with us because we didn't want to start until January 2011. 

January came and went.  February came.  Their process was on hold for accreditation.  They had an appointment scheduled for the end of April for review.  We were beginning to see there was no end in sight for the accreditation.  In February, this spurred me to start to re-visit some of the already-accredited agencies we had looked at before.  In contacting two of them, we were told that adoptions in India had been getting stricter, and they were seeing a trend in families with three kids being consistently denied.  They felt our application was very risky and would likely not be approved. 

This was a blow!  It took me a week to wrap my head around this information.  We could not adopt from India.  For months I'd been envisioning this little three year old girl... what it would be like to pick her up at the orphanage and bring her home.  What it would be like to look down at the playground and not be able to look for just the white kids anymore.  What it would be like to watch her play with K.  It really was a grieving time for me to let go of those scenes I'd been imagining for so long.

We were left scratching our heads and wondering, "what do we do now?"  I was so weary from doing two years of research and then having a door shut in our face. I just didn't feel like I could go through all that research again.  So we decided to ask all the people we knew who lived abroad and had adopted how they had done it.  I think it was about five families.  The majority wrote back and said, "From Ethiopia with International Adoption Guides."  We looked into the agency, did our homework, and signed up.  This was all in March.

The home study and paperwork process was a whirlwind, it all happened so fast.  We got connected with a social worker in Bahrain through friends here in India.  She was scheduled to come and do their home study report just a few weeks from when we contacted her.  So we rushed to get all our stuff together so she could visit us both in one trip, saving us both money by splitting her travel costs.

So by the end of May, our dossier was completed.  By the end of June, it was in Ethiopia.  Waiting.  Around this same time, an acquaintance emailed me, saying they were adopting their second Indian child, a boy, and her husband was on his way over.  They had five kids at home already.  Also around this time, I heard of another family adopting from India.  Neither of these families were facing the same kind of roadblock we had run up against.  They were both using the same agency, an agency I'd never heard of.

This completely baffled me.  How could I have done two years of research, and NEVER ran across this agency before?  Never once saw the name.  I had investigated every agency listed on the Indian governments site as approved to work in India. I never saw this agency, though they are most certainly on the list.  I began talking to God, saying, how could this be? Did I not try hard enough to make India happen?  How could I have missed this, and be finding it NOW? Just weeks after we applied to Ethiopia?  Why was this happening???

And then God showed me.  See, I'd been feeling (and saying) that we were adopting from Ethiopia because we couldn't adopt from India.  It was Plan B.  Second choice.  By default.  But it was not.  It was by His design.  He showed me that for two years, I thought I knew the plan. I thought I knew where our daughter was.  But only He knew her story.  He was waiting for me to let go of my plan.  And when I didn't, He forced my hand by closing the door to India.  Even then, I held on to my plan as the first, best option, in my heart, and felt that Ethiopia would have to do, since India wasn't possible.  How foolish I was!  God had gone to great lengths to keep this from me, because He wanted this little girl with us.  She is our daughter, he had designed it from the very beginning, to place her in our family.  How humbling... I wish I'd been more cooperative...

He is in control.  I am not. His ways are higher than mine...