Today marks one month since my mom passed. As I have eased back into my different roles and routines over the last weeks, so many perspectives have flooded my mind. I am overwhelmed because there is so much grace.
Earlier this week, I saw a therapy client that I had not seen since mid January, when we first learned of my mom’s terminal condition and I drastically reduced my work load. This client, like so many of mine, is in foster care. We have worked together for almost 2 years, and she is quite attached to me. When we began our session, she had her best behavior I had ever seen. She was polite, not impulsive and even asked me questions about my day. Unheard of! I could tell she wanted to say something that was difficult for her to put into words, but she eventually got out the following, “I’m really sad for you about your mom. I know your dad isn’t alive anymore either. I’ve been thinking, now you’re just like me. No mom, no dad. Aren’t you glad we have God and heaven?” A 7 year old orphan, relating to a 30 year old orphan.
Oh my heart. It was one of the speechless moments, that I had about 0 composure, and stuttered through the next few moments of our time together. Her ability to relate to my crisis was the most mature thing that I have ever witnessed her do. It was like 2 years of therapy improvement in 10 seconds.
Many have remarked on the tremendous amount of loss experienced in the last several months. I guess experts would refer to it as “compounded trauma.” This is true, but I have also seen exponential grace. At times it comes in unlikely ways, such as my sweet client. Other times it is from a student who has emailed me a prayer. It’s been the wonderful memories that I get to share with my siblings, who I cannot even express my thankfulness for (mom and dad, even though you were not together, thank you times infinity no universal reversals for these people who all bear your images)! It’s the friends who paid for house cleaning. It’s the friends who’ve made meals, sent cards, and delivered groceries. It’s been blogs that read like a salve. My favorite quote from it is this, “Maybe I’m on a journey, and the journey is more beautiful than any of us can comprehend. And if we did understand, we would hold very loosely to one another because I’m going to be with Jesus. There is grace that will seep into all the cracks and pained places when we don’t understand. In the places we don’t understand we get to seek. And how lovely is one seeking truth. Stunning.” Check out the full blog post here.
Some have asked us where we are at with the adoption. We do not know exactly. We will continue to be on hold for the maximum amount of time. We will also prayerfully seek wisdom. I can tell you this much…while I am an independent, adult woman with a family of my own, there is something really serious about this reality of not having earthly parents, no matter your age. While painful, I am also thankful for the ability to understand this reality a little bit deeper with my clients and orphans around the world.
(The picture you see are my plant parents. These are plants either from my father’s funeral, or my mom’s house. I do my best to keep them alive. (The spider plant is older than me))! 🙂
In the last month, our blog has had over 1200 hits, yet we have not posted. Over 25% of all of our blog activity has occurred since the disrupted adoption process. Our situation is unique, surprising, and devastating; it is also apparently intriguing. Very little material is published on adoption processes that do not go well. In my own research on this, I could find little more than some inflammatory blogs and outdated social work textbooks circa 1985. While our situation did not involve an adoption dissolution (where the child is legally adopted, brought home, and then the adoption is broken), I am now no longer guilty of judging those parents who make that very difficult choice either. One blogger said, “Normal people do not disrupt adoptions.” I suppose that means that Kevin and I are abnormal for realizing that in an attempt to adopt one child, we would have been traumatizing 3. I don’t call that abnormal; I call that logistical. I am thankful that Kevin and I had eyes to see that bringing J home would have meant that she would have not been able to live at our house due to the severity of her needs and behaviors. There would have been no way to keep the boys safe in our own home. Having recently seen another situation somewhat similar to ours transpire in my professional life, I have a clear understanding of the trauma that would have ensued for J in a foreign (to her) country where ethically and legally she would not have been to stay in a home with our younger kids.
Everyone loves a happy ending, especially in the adoption world. It is easy to judge situations that we do not see with our own eyes. When we imagined and prepared for our situation with J, based on our referral, we envisioned a thousand different scenarios, but what we experienced was not one of them. This is of course primarily because of the deficits communication regarding her case. Readers, it is not ok, it is never ok, to not have full disclosure on safety issues, particularly when the adoptive family has younger children in the home. I cannot emphasize this enough. This experience has motivated me to shift my dissertation focus, into possibly examining the issues with deficient referrals. It has also motivated me to pursue a medical missions trip to China in August where I will be able to perform assessments on children in orphanages there, and know that families who desire to adopt these kids have an accurate picture of the special needs.
I know that many people wonder how we are doing these days. We are back to work and school and life in general. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our support systems. I do not know if I have ever personally known the power of an encouraging word so much as I do now. Our small group cleaned our house from top to bottom before we returned from Colombia and put together a lovely gift basket with foods, wine, Halloween candy for the boys, and gift cards! One of my friends sent me the cheeriest pair of sparkly shoes that make me smile when I wear them. Another friend handmade me a beautiful prayer shawl/cowl that feels like a hug when I wear it. Numerous friends have sent notes, messages, texts, and prayers. Close friends have sat and listened to the whole story with open hearts and soft words. One friend’s words resound in my heart every day, “How could you have made any other decision? ” Another said, “It took a lot of courage to do what was right for the boys.” It was so meaningful to see Jesus in our loved ones when we had difficulty understanding God’s will in the mess.
Many people have also asked if we have received an update on how J is doing. I can tell you that she was happy to leave us the day of the disruption. There were no tears, no clinging, nothing but smiles. She was convinced that her real mother was at the orphanage so, in her mind, she was going “home.” Since that day, we have not received more updates, but we anticipate that we may sometime soon. Because of what transpired in Colombia, our dossier is “frozen” there while the investigation occurs. Regardless, Kevin and I have made the decision to officially withdrawal our dossier from Colombia, meaning that we not longer wish to pursue an adoption in that country. What does this mean for our adoption process in the future? We have decided to put our materials with our adoption agency on hold for up to 2 years (this is the longest we can do so without losing our information, processes, and money). In the meantime, we will focus on learning more about other programs and refining our materials. It is not at all, and never has been, our intention to find a “perfect” child. We want to bring our family to a child that needs one! We want to provide a safe, loving home for our children, all of our children. We have made some definite decisions on what we will and will not do in the future.
-We will not pursue an adoption out of birth order ever again. We cannot put the boys in any kind of situation where their safety is compromised. We understand that many families have successfully adopted outside of birth order and have had wonderful experiences. We are not saying anything about anyone else’s situation.
-We will not pursue an adoption where we do not have video footage of the child prior to meeting them. We would also appreciate the ability to Skye with the child first.
-We will not pursue adoption until the boys have fully processed the situation in Colombia.
-We will ensure, prior to travel, that the child wants to be adopted and understands adoption (unless this is age inappropriate).
-We will ensure that we know of any aggressive behaviors (physical, sexual, etc) even if the referral states that there are none.
-We will continue to ask for God’s will in the process, even when we are not actively seeking an adoption.
In closing, I recently read an Oswald Chamber’s devotion that spoke directly to my soul. I invite you to do the same. Click here to read it. One excerpt, “Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ. Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”
PS-a pic of my handsome boys on Thanksgiving…..
I know that so many have asked us for more updates on how things are going. I wanted to take some time tonight to answer this, broadly, and with care.
The truth is that things have gone very poorly, and very unexpectedly. The adoption has been disrupted and we will be headed home soon. She was never legally adopted by us, so it’s not a dissolution. (For the first 7-10 days that you have a child in Colombia for the adoption process, you are considered like foster parents to them). After what is called, “integration” the adoption decree can be issued. We did not get past this point of integration.
I do not want to get into specific details, as they are incredibly sensitive and traumatizing to many involved. Those closest to us know what has happened and I would like to keep it this way to protect the children.
When we accepted J’s referral, we believed that we were getting the full report on her needs. However, there were 4 major, extremely significant differences that led to the adoption disruption. These matters were all very unpredictable and in some cases, unsafe for the boys. Additionally, we were not home study approved for these very specialized needs.
All of this to say, we are going to be taking some time off from posting on social media. We need to heal, rest, recover, and keep our world small.
For all of my days, I will think of her and pray for her. We still love her. She is so so so worthy of adoption! She needs a family without other small children. It has been an incredibly stressful last 2 weeks.
Regarding our adoption process in the future, we do not know what we will do; however, we will not do anything any time soon. However, many of our grants cannot be dispersed to us because this adoption was not completed. This is not great for us now of course, but the grants could be applied to a future adoption.
7 years ago, I was anxiously anticipating the arrival of my first born child. I remember feeling excited and nervous, but hopeful. We did not find out the sex before birth, but I was hoping for a girl. When Asher was born, I recall that I did not care for one minute what his sex was. I just wanted HIM! Little did I know that in a far away place, in a completely different culture, in a land that I could not even fathom, my daughter had also just arrived. What a wild trajectory to consider. While Asher was our biggest surprise, he was always wanted, was so very welcomed by our loved ones, and the perfect gift. We were blessed with him at just the right time. Asher never wanted for being held, loved, and cuddled. The thoughts creep in for me…was she held much? Who went to her when she cried? How was she soothed? Was she soothed? As a mental health professional and educator, I know first hand the importance of these early connections and attachments. As a daughter of Christ, I also know grace, mercy, and redemption. He makes all things new.
I cannot help but wonder what J’s birth mom felt about her pregnancy and birth. Was she scared? Excited? Hopeful? I will never know. What I do know is that she chose life for her baby in a world so radically different from my own, that I cannot even compare the two. While we were on the “5 year plan” prior to the Asher surprise, I never for one minute had to consider the implications that she did. We were fully committed to one another, living in a country with amazing medical care, we both held advanced degrees, and had excellent support systems. My choice was so easy, especially considering all that J’s birth mother had to consider. I am forever grateful for her choice….a choice that will make a difference for eternity.
After 9-10 months of preparation, another pregnancy of sorts (ha!), we received word today that we are meeting our daughter on October 28! On October 27, we will meet with ICBF to learn more about her care. We will arrive a few days prior to this to acclimate and adjust to the new culture. Tonight, we purchased 5 plane tickets, and I feel like we hold the whole world in our hands with them. You cannot imagine the joy in our hearts as we realize that this dream, this passion, this amazing gift, is coming to us so very soon. Our adoption has been part of our “plan” since the beginning…even while we were dating. Adoption was never a back up choice.
We are so excited to celebrate our sweet girl’s birthday with her on November 11…she turns 7! Can you imagine–your FIRST birthday with your FAMILY. We want to celebrate every birthday that we didn’t get a chance to at some point. And if you know me, you know I love to plan a party 😉 If you would like to send along a small gift for her, please let me know. We have a couple of items to give her already. 🙂
Please continue to pray for her sweet heart as she learns more about our family in the upcoming days. Also, for our boys who are so flipping excited that they cannot even. Ha! Also, pray for God’s provision as we gather our final finances.
THIS IS FOR REAL HAPPENING. I will so not be sleeping tonight. ❤
Kevin and I have mentioned the Both Hands Project briefly, but I want to clarify exactly what it is in its own post. (Also check out that hyperlink). Some of you might recall our matching grant opportunity from Lifesong for Orphans. Along with that $1500 matching grant, we were also allowed to do a Both Hands project. This type of project brings James 1:27 to life. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (NIV). What we will be doing is using both of our hands-one to serve a widow, and the other to bring J home. I cannot believe how close we are.
We met Mary a few weeks ago. She is a delightful woman! She is pictured below. Mary and her late husband, Bob, lived a lifetime of ministry related service, pastoring churches and parachurch organizations. Bob and Mary had 4 children, which have now produced 11 grandchildren. Interestingly, Bob and Mary also adopted one of their four! We thought that was incredibly special. Mary has a heart for adoption and I love how this story intertwines with our own. Unfortunately, Bob passed away in 2007, after a quick, rapidly accelerating cancer diagnosis (hey cancer, you’re awful). Mary has continued to be a pillar in her family. In her 70’s, Mary provides regular childcare to her grandchildren-she watches 3 of them, 3 days a week-including one that’s still in diapers! I’m impressed 🙂
Just before Bob’s diagnosis, he had several projects that he wanted to work on in their home. Unfortunately, due to the progression of Bob’s cancer and the haste in which he passed, these were never completed. Mary had Kevin, the boys, and I over for dinner and we were able to assess some of the projects that Mary needed to have done. God bless my husband and his eye for projects. He was quickly able to see the things that were necessary for Mary to continue to provide regular childcare for her grandkids and to live in her home safely for years to come. We have a list of projects that we would like to complete for Mary on Saturday, August 23rd. Kevin is working with local home supply stores (Menards, Lowes) to get all of our materials donated. We are also working to assemble our core team (we need 15, but could have more) for that day. We already have a few, solid people committed to serving with us. The project will last all day. All meals and drinks will be provided for the team.
What does it mean to be a member of the core team? It means that you are committed to serving with us that day! It also means that you will try to find sponsorship for your participation that day. Think of it as a Relay for Life model. People will sponsor you for your service that day; a fundraising letter will be sent out that you do not have to create. Kevin and I, along with Both Hands, have created that letter. Additionally, we will also cover the postage costs if needed. The money that is raised never goes directly to Kevin or I. It goes to Both Hands in the form of an adoption grant. All donations are tax deductible, as Both Hands is a 501 C 3 NPO. We are hopeful that this will be the last major fundraiser. 🙂
Both Hands has created a Facebook event page for our project. Click the link to like our page.
It is with great joy that I write this post! We received word today that Colombia has approved our dossier for J____ and we were given preliminary matching status! They have given verbal approval for her specific match to our family! All of our materials were in Bogota with ICBF-they are en route to her region in Cali, where it will get signed to make our status official. Our caseworker said that she hasn’t seen the preliminary matching status granted before, so she was really excited that she could tell us about that!
It appear that our travel will likely be mid-October-her birthday is in mid-November; we are so excited that it appears like she will turn seven years old, with her family!
We are coming for you, sweet girl! While we still are not able to share her full picture, I cropped her sweet smile below:
Thank you for everyone who has made John 14:18 possible for this very special girl!
We have great fundraising news. First, our kickball tournament was so much fun and we raised over $800 while doing it! This money will go directly to our matching grant opportunity through Lifesong for Orphans. Unfortunately, we had 2 injuries that day-Kevin’s friend Trevor injured his finger (“mallet finger”) and Kevin’s dad tore his ACL! We took kickball very, very seriously apparently! Well wishes to both of these men! I think we are all still a little sore from that day-ha!
And now, for the next piece….we applied for a Show Hope grant a couple of months ago-it was a really lengthy process! However, the average grant amount is $4,000, so I knew this was a grant we had to apply for. We also knew that we wouldn’t be able to find out about the status of this grant for a minimum of 90 days past the review date of June 30. You can imagine my surprise when I received a letter from Show Hope in the mail yesterday. I assumed it was a rejection letter since it had only been 14 days since our materials were reviewed. Friends, we were approved for a grant of $7,000! It was one of those jaw dropping, speechless moments. The boys were with me when I opened it, and Asher said, “What’s going on? Are we going to get J_____ today?” 🙂
We are so very thankful and that doesn’t even begin to describe our feelings on this generous grant that makes us feel that the adoption is now definitely within our fundraising capabilities. This adoption has been such an exercise in faith, and trust in God. It is very stressful to look at the large sum of needed funds and wonder where it is going to come from. However, agencies like Show Hope ease so much of the burden and give renewed hope to adoptive families.
Because of the amazing grants we have received, and the fundraising efforts that those who love us so much have contributed to, we are fairly certain that we will be able to be done fundraising after our next 2 scheduled fundraisers! The first is this Saturday at Cherry Berry in Springfield IL where we have the opportunity to earn up to 20% of the sales from 12-6pm. Our last fundraiser will be August 23 with our Both Hands Project in Springfield IL. I will be writing a blog post soon that outlines the details of the Both Hands project, which is seriously James 1:27 come to life.
I wish we had an update from Colombia to share. We have not heard anything new though. We know that Colombia has our responses to their questions and that ICBF is reviewing them. We are praying for response soon-we don’t want J_____ to spend one more birthday in an orphanage.