Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Adoption is Teaching Me: The Already-Not Yet Child

When I was in college, I took a Christian Theology class.  One of the main ideas in the class was that of the tension of the Already/Not Yet status of followers of Christ.  I didn't fully understand the idea at the time, but as I'm walking through and experiencing adoption, it's becoming more clear to me.

Our Initial Orphan Status

"Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.  So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith." Gal. 3:23-24

Our first, original state is that of being under guardianship. We were orphans, being given to the care of the Law.  The Old Testament law acted as our guardian (the literal translation is "child-conductor"), gave us boundaries and direction when we had nothing else.  When a person is given guardianship of a child, they are responsible for that child.  But this doesn't always mean family will happen as a result.  It is a type of family, but not true family, because in guardianship, there is no promise of inheritance or permanency for the one being guarded.

The law was good because it met our basic needs as mankind for order, boundaries, and steps to reconciliation with God, at least in outward appearances.  Guardianship is good because it means a child's basic needs are being met.  But it's not as good as something greater...

"But when the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  Because you are Sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"  Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."Galatians 4:4-7

God, in His sovereignty, used the Law to bring us to a point of awareness of our need at just the right time.  I'm certain that children in foster care settings and orphanage settings have an inkling of what they're missing out on in not having a family...  this is what the Law has done for us in our spiritual state.  Jesus came, let mankind experience Him, get a living example of perfection, righteousness, holiness, who was worthy and able to redeem us all from our custody in the law.

Adopted, Not Yet United

"But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God, through faith." Gal. 3:25-26

When we are given faith in Christ, we are no longer bound to the Law.  We are given sonship, full rights of a child of God, an inheritance in His kingdom.  THAT is a miracle...  He takes us literally out of the dust, having no name, no future, no idea where our life will lead us tomorrow, and sets us in His home, with His clothing on our backs, provides everything we need, and gives us His name!  We cannot earn this kind of redemption and faith anymore than an orphan can earn a family.  It's just not possible.

Our spirits have been redeemed.  The work is accomplished.  We are sealed!  "In Him, you also... having believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory."  (Ephesians 1:13)  We belong to God when our faith is in Jesus.  We are his possession, we are redeemed. It's already done.

For the time that we are still here on this earth, we have the HOPE and assurance of this inheritance, but not the realization of it.  Not yet.

"For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." Romans 8:22-23

Just like Meryn.  If she was older, after having met our family and spent a week with us, she would be intensely longing to leave that care center and be with us.  Even as a tiny baby, she grew in just a few days time to look for me, to want me, to be comforted by me.  She has the first fruits, she's tasted a family.  But she has NO idea how good it's really going to be.  How many degrees better it will be than a group care setting.  How she will flourish in a family home.  If she did understand it all, how much more would she long for it?  Do I long for God's kingdom in this way?  I cannot begin to comprehend how much better it will be than this life....  A lot of times I find myself thinking that this life is pretty good.  Doesn't that sound foolish, though, from Meryn's perspective?  If she were to say, "I think I've got it pretty good at this care center, and I'd rather stay here, thanks."  No! Lord! Set my heart, right, please!

When we have faith in Christ, our spirits are redeemed already.  But our inheritance is not fully received yet.  The Spirit has sealed us with a spirit of adoption (Eph. 1:13), freeing us from the guardianship of the Law and setting us in God's family forever.  But our bodies are not yet redeemed, until we finish our life on earth.

Meryn is legally our daughter.  It is done.  It's already happened.  She has experienced us, tasted the life with family.  In reality, she is no longer an orphan.  But she is not yet able to physically be with us in body.  To enjoy all the benefits and goodness of life with a family.  But it is certainly coming.

Oh, how much better being a part of God's family will be than being a part of our family!  All of this is deepening my understanding of my Already/Not Yet state... what I have in store for me, that this season of life on earth is temporary, and that our true hope is in being adopted as God's children.  What riches and glory we have to look forward to as those whose faith is in Christ!!  Just as Meryn is already/not yet a Preedy, I am already/not yet a daughter of God...

"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Romans 8:24-25

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

About our Court Trip to Ethiopia

I haven't written, because I haven't known what to say or where to start.  But, I want to remember this trip, so I will try.

After a red-eye flight at 3:30 a.m., we arrived in Addis Ababa around 10:30 a.m. with all luggage and kids in tow.

2:30 a.m. in the Delhi airport...

Totally shot, we were so happy to see Binyam, our agency's driver, waiting for us right outside the airport.  He drove us to the guest house and we settled into our very spacious room to get cleaned up and rest.

I promise Paul didn't sleep the whole time. :)
Addis was a lot more modern than I was expecting it to be.  Lots of tall buildings, malls, well-planned streets (remember, I'm comparing it to India, not the US), and seemingly a burger joint on every corner, which made us very happy.  It's at a high elevation and has beautiful mountains surrounding it.  The countryside is truly beautiful!

CHICKEN HUT! And Kiryn's excitement about being a big sister!
We were all so anxious to meet Meryn, so we ate at a fast food place just down from the hotel.  While we were eating lunch, Paul and I confessed to each other that we were looking at all the girls and women in the restaurant, wondering what Meryn would look like as she grows up, and decided we were hard pressed to find a lady who was not stunningly beautiful.  Ethiopian people are truly breathtaking. They have a very unique, distinct appearance.

As we were driving out to the care center, I decided that Addis might have more mannequins that people. It seemed like the entire route the roads were lined with little clothing stalls, one after another, and each one, only a little wider than it's door, had about 8-10 mannequins all clustered out front, displaying their fashions, and each mannequins was attached by a rope around the neck to the shop, apparently to deter anyone from running off with it.  Strange. :)

It seemed a long drive to the care center.  Each turn, I kept looking around for something familiar that I'd seen in dozens of pictures the last few months, and each turn that took us away from the main road told me we were getting closer.  When we finally turned down a tiny dirt alley lined with houses, I was frantically searching for "the gate" that I've seen so many times.  We stopped before I found it. : ) But, I knew it when I saw it.  We walked in, ducked under the lines of tiny drying clothes, and made our way into the room that held our daughter.

I saw the nannies bustling when they saw us coming, and her nanny bending over her crib, trying to get her ready for us.  As I approached, she moved out of the way graciously, and gave us room to walk up and see our little girl for the first time.  As I bent over her bed and made eye contact, she smiled up at me and kicked her feet!  What joy!  Oh, she was gorgeous!  The kids were overwhelmed and just huddled around, looked at her, touched her, kissed her, took turns holding her.  We all were just in our own little world of finally being together as a family.  Luke and Kiryn gradually noticed the many other babies in the room and began to play with some of them.  One little baby in particular was very smiley and they took a quick liking to her, and decided that we actually needed TWO baby sisters, Meryn and this little girl.  : )

We didn't stay long that first day, we were so tired.  We decided to take Meryn with us back to the hotel and spend some time alone with her.  It was a wonderful rest of the day playing, studying her face, watching her sleep, getting to know each other.  We experienced our first taste of Ethiopian food for dinner that night!  Injera, I can live without you.  (Injera is a fermented bread made from a grain that only grows in Ethiopia called teff.  It's gray in color, spongey in texture, and served cold.) However, a lot of their meats and gravies were really yummy.

The next morning, we got up and went out to a famous local coffee shop named Kaldi's.  There was one right near our hotel, so we walked over.  Our first outing with four kids went pretty well. : ) I wrapped Meryn up in my wrap carrier, Levi was on Paul's shoulders, and the big ones were holding hands.  The coffee shop had amazing pancakes the kids loved, and fantastic coffee that we loved.  Good start to the day...

I ended up taking Meryn to see a doctor first thing that morning.  She had a bad cough and shallow, short breathing.  Paul and I woke up several times in the night worried about her.  I let the agency staff in-country know, and the nurse came first thing to our hotel and accompanied me to a doctor.  It was quick and easy, and we got some medicine for her that really helped almost immediately.

Over the next few days, we spent most of our time at the hotel and care center, back and forth.  The older kids did really great at the care center and could play and interact with the babies and big kids there for hours.  Levi, if we went right after lunch, would fall asleep in the car and stay asleep as we laid him down on the bed, and just sleep right along with the other babies!

I knew Meryn was in an orphanage setting. Duh.  And I've been to orphanages.  But it's different when it's your child in that orphanage.  And this care center is SO much better than any of the orphanages I've been to before. It's cleaner, it's supply and medicine cabinet was stocked, plenty of clothes, plenty of bottles, plenty of formula and diapers.  Lots of loving nannies.  But things just function differently in a group setting than they do in a family.  Nannies are always walking here and there, so toys can't be cluttering the floor.  Toys are rarely allowed out, because it would be chaos if they were.  Sometimes diapers can't get changed promptly, and rashes start.  Sometimes babies cry and no one hears them.  Sometimes babies spend the majority of the day laying in a bed looking at the ceiling.  Cribs are used, worn out, breaking.  Toddlers leave food in places and critters invade.  There's not enough money to buy fruit, so meals are pasta, rice, bread, tea.

I knew Meryn was in an orphanage.  But I was not quite prepared for how hard it would be to imagine taking her back there and leaving her.  It's just not a family.  There's no mama to stare into her eyes every night as she drifts off to sleep, and greet her every morning as she's waking up.  There's no Big Bubba to fall down in front of her, or make silly faces, to make her laugh, and bring her toys, try to help her when she's crying.  There's no Big Sis to hold her, sing to her, and feed her bottles.  There's no Little Levi to share bottle time with and get wet slobbery kisses from.  There's no daddy to hold her, sing to her, love her, to wrap around her little giner.

There are so many kids at the care center.  And they (almost) all have families coming to get them.  They NEED those families.  They need more than basic needs being met. They need constancy, love, security, routine, discipline, instruction, truth.  They need families.

The day we left Meryn was one of the most difficult days I've had.  I was holding it together.  But just as I got her to sleep and laid her down, I started to loose control.  I turned to see Luke, running to Paul, burying his face, and his body shaking with sobs.  I asked him to tell me. As he struggled to wipe the tears off his face like a strong boy, he said,

"Meryn shouldn't stay here.  She should be with us.  She should come with us forever."  

Right-o, little buddy.  I agree.  We tearfully walked back to her bed, hand in hand, to see her one more time.  She was asleep, but stirred, saw us both, and grinned wide.  We blew her kisses and walked away.  As I did, Meryn's nanny grabbed me, and held on tight.  As I looked up from our embrace, I realized all the nannies were crying.  My strong little man, Luke, weeping for leaving his sister behind, had brought them all to tears.  I love his heart. I love how he sees the need of the children.  How he understands, and is concerned for them. How he loves them.  

He and I sat together and cried all the way back to the hotel.

It was a hard day.  Not goodbye though, just "until later."  Lord, please hasten the day our Meryn can join us...

To bring some clarity as to why things are this way, I will attempt to explain. : )

Ethiopia requires at least one parent to physically see the child and appear at the adoption court hearing.  But the birth certificate, passport, and visa cannot be applied for until the court decree has been written and finalized.

So once the court decree is written, about 4-? days after the court hearing, it takes 1-2 weeks to get the birth certificate, 1-2 weeks to get the passport, 2-3 weeks to be seen by the Embassy doctors.  Then the paperwork is submitted to the Embassy.  It's usually a month before the Embassy contacts families after their paperwork is submitted.  Sometimes families can travel within 6 weeks of the Embassy receiving their paperwork.  But usually it takes longer for the Embassy to review everything, get whatever other information they feel like they need to decide whether to give these children immigrant visas (even though they are already legally adopted, for crying out loud), and then issue the visa.

From court to visa interview with the Embassy its an average of 3 months.

Think it's wrong? Me too.  But, it is what it is.

We've written our Senators and asked them to encourage the Embassy to install a system to do all this document checking before the court hearing so things can move much faster after court. Or at least to try to move cases through faster.  Seems like it shouldn't take them a month to get to something.  But I don't know anything.

We're just trusting and praying that God knows all this, and His timing is perfect, and she'll come home on the day He has appointed...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Luke's Loosing Teeth...

Last month, Luke's bottom from teeth started getting a little wobbly.  But before we noticed that, we noticed his adult teeth were coming in.  I'd never seen anything like this before, but we did a little research and found it totally normal. Here's some photo progression of Luke loosing his first tooth, which came out while we were in Ethiopia! : )
One down, one to go...

Once they both fell out, his adult teeth moved right in, and he never had a gap-toothed grin! : ) 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Yusuf Update

We heard great news as we touched down back in India this morning.  Our friend, whose baby Yusuf has been so sick with liver problems, has been granted favor and given a free bed in the best hospital in the capital to be treated for infections in preparation for a liver transplant.

Last time I wrote, the doctors had said the transplant would cost $50,000.  After doing some digging and research, we gave them some information and direction, and were able to bring them to Delhi with us when we came up to go to Ethiopia a week ago.  The family has spent the last 8 days visiting doctors we'd been in contact with, and the best hospital has offered to do the transplant for only $12,000-14,000. This is simply a miracle!  We are so excited for this family.

Please pray for this baby Yusuf. Pray the surgery is a success.  The father will be donating a portion of his liver to save his son's life.  We are trusting God has brought them down this path and the transplant will be a success.  We are also trusting God to show himself BIG as the finances for this are miraculously provided.  $12,000 is so much easier than $50,000! Though neither is difficult for our great God!

Thank you so much for your prayers for this family!


I'm so pleased and honored to introduce our daughter, Meryn Helena Preedy!

She was adopted and became a part of our family on December 30th, 2011, after a court hearing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

We are praying for a quick processing of paperwork in the coming days and weeks and for visa clearance from the US Embassy at the earliest possible moment, so she can leave Ethiopia and join us in our home.  

More about our trip in the coming days, but for now, I wanted to share these few pictures!  We are ALL so excited and love her to pieces!