Monday, August 27, 2012

Jump In Now

I woke up this morning with the phrase, "Jump in now, Cora Cow," running through my head.  Weird.

In case you aren't familiar with older Title I reading materials, Cora Cow is the heroine in several beginning reader books used to help struggling readers.  One of these little books managed to sneak into my library and became a fun favorite around here about 10 years ago.  So why in the world is that phrase in my head now?

If my memory serves me right, Cora was with a family at the beach.  She was relaxing on the beach while watching two children play on some large rocks along the shore.  They didn't notice the tide coming in and found themselves trapped on a big rock.  They called to Cora for help.  This is a beginning reader, so all the characters must  Cora advice. 


Jump in.

Jump in now.

Jump in now, Cora Cow!

This story made my tangled spaghetti brain start thinking about how we used to jump in our pool when we were kids.  Living in Michigan meant that the water was never quite as warm as one might like.  We certainly never needed to float jugs of ice in it to cool it off enough for comfortable swimming like we have in other places.  

As I remember, we would WANT to go swimming.
We would CHOOSE to get ready.
Then, we would stand on the deck and dip a toe in the cold water and squeal for a while.
Eventually we would start making statements like, "Okay, I'm doin' it."  "One, two, three…jump! 

Everyone would do a big arm circling wind up and fake little jumps, then look at each other still standing on the deck.

Finally, someone would get the courage to take the plunge.  I vividly remember leaping up and flying out over the water.  In those short moments between leaving the deck and touching the water, I would scream, "I want to go back!"

Splash!  Squeal!  Swim and say, "Hey it isn't too bad.  Come on in!"

So what do these random stories have to do with anything?

Obviously, I'm thinking about adoption right now.  We have heard God's call and made the decision to adopt.  We have spent months preparing.  We have everything ready.  But, now that the work is done, there is too much time to think.  We are standing on that deck anticipating the cold water.  Some moments have found me screaming, "I want to go back."

It is pretty comfortable around here with no children to look out for.  I can sleep in if I choose.  I can go run errands with ease.  My house doesn't get nearly as dirty as it did when there were people living in it.  I can eat when I feel like it, without worrying about whether it is "time."  If Kelly and I want to go out, we just go.  Life is pretty simple these days.  Why complicate it?

Enter brave Cora Cow.  She was relaxing on the warm sand.  Comfortable.
But the children were in danger.  They couldn't help themselves. 
And Cora couldn't help them if she stayed on the beach.

Cora didn't look at the splashing waves, or test the temperature of the water with one toe…ah, hoof.  She looked at the children.  She looked at the frightened people on the shore unable to respond for whatever reason.  Then she jumped in.

She put those children in an upside down umbrella and floated them safely to shore. 
Yeah, Cora Cow!

She was too busy happily drying off cold children and getting big hugs to even notice that she was cold and wet.

No more thinking.  No more waiting.  Look at the child.  


Friday, August 24, 2012


Kelly just wired  $10, 573 to our coordinator in China. 

My stomach is doing weird things over this.  I'm not sure why. 

Maybe it is just because this is the largest sum we have had to pay out all in one lump. 
The rest of the $30,000+ has been in payments of around $2000 or less at a time. 

I still don't get why this feels so disturbing. 

Maybe it is because I'm not really sure where it all came from or how we happen to have that much money in the bank to wire.  God has been taking care of so many things while I've been distracted with painting a room and finding clothes to fit a little girl.  This is good news, because it proves that He has got this adoption thing.  I don't need to panic over the cost of train and plane tickets in China, or the medicine that costs $700, or the upcoming bills to the Adoption Clinic for a complete medical and psychological evaluation of our new daughter.  God has it all.

This really should make me excited not uneasy.

Maybe I've bought into the cultural view of money.  Do I feel like I should be getting some thing for my money?  Or do I believe all those people that think we are crazy for doing this and should be going on a cruise instead of adopting?  Would I feel better if I was plunking down this cash for a car or a boat instead of a child?


Really, I just don't like spending money.  I stress over $3 for a loaf of bread at the grocery store.  It bothers me to spend $100 on a pair of shoes.  I hate spending $50 to go with my family to see a movie. 
If I multiply the way I feel spending those amounts by about 10, 000, that would explain how I feel today.

The best way to make this crazy feeling go away, me thinks, is a big hug from my girl. 
Yup.  That will be worth feeling uncomfortable with all this money stuff.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Little Conversation (and a Snack)

I am so thankful for the opportunity to Skype  with Claire each week.   Watching  her in motion is so much different than seeing a still photo.  Hearing her voice and seeing how she responds to questions or how proud she is of her English ability helps our love grow a little more realistically than it can when I'm just loving a snapshot.

Our prayer is that these little visits help her as well.  We hope this will make her transition just a little less difficult.  We will still be strangers, but at least she is a tiny bit  familiar with the funny way we sound and how big our noses are.  :-) We trust that Skype makes us a little bit more real to Claire

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Truth About Adoption

We have been waiting for so long. It seems like forever. 
The waiting has become safe and familiar.  The longing to parent our little girl is real, but knowing her from this distance is quite simple, really.  A weekly Skype visit, a monthly package filled with small gifts.  It isn't complicated.

Many things are about to change.
We know from experience that adoption is HARD.
Not all adoptions are the same, but all of them present challenges that push us past our own abilities to cope.
We can't do it without God's grace, wisdom and strength.

Jen Hatmaker's blog does an amazing job at capturing the process of welcoming a new child into a family. 

Click here to read this wonderful, truthful blog about the first year home.

I think I'll come back and read through it often in the next year so that I can remember that hard doesn't mean hopeless. If I forget, dear friends, please feel free to remind me.

Live Like That

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I'm only just a memory
When I'm home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I'll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true

People pass
And even if they don't know my name
Is there evidence that I've been changed
When they see me, do they see You

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I'll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

I want to show the world the love You gave for me
I'm longing for the world to know the glory of the King

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I'll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

by Sidewalk Prophets
Dave Frey and Ben McDonald with Ben Glover

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sad Reality

During this adoption wait, I've spent my fair share of time on the adoption boards trying to glean any tidbit of information about how long it is taking between LID and LOA or whether TA's are following fast after the NVC is cabled and you get your Article 5.

Now that we are nearing the end of our process, I finally understand most of what is being said.  One recurring theme in the adoption community is the cost of adoption.  There are fees for all sorts of things:  fingerprinting, immigration, passports, background checks, homestudies, post-placement reports for 5 years, agency fees, translation fees, orphanage fees, document authentication fees, travel costs.  The list could continue, but I think I've made my point.

Lifeline currently places the estimate for the total cost of adopting a child from China at $30,000.  Of course, if you have children over 18 at home, there are extra costs for their background checks, fingerprinting, and other details.  If you have lived in lots of places, there are also all those additional fees to every state you have ever lived in to run background checks.  It gets complicated and expensive.

And, I suppose, I have whined about the costs almost as much as other folks on the adoption boards.  Coming up with all that money can be a big worry when you are trying to navigate adoption processes.  

But my perspective has changed a little since reading an article in the August 11, 2012 edition of World Magazine.  The article, entitled An underground railroad caught my eye because of the Chinese flag pictured on the page.  The article explained that more than 30 years of China's one-child policy has lead to the formation of something similar to the Underground Railroad to aid women who are trying to outrun one-child policy enforcers.

Here are a few heartbreaking facts from the article:

       China's one-child policy, "at first meant to last 20 – 30 years in order to curb China's population growth, has entered its fourth decade—having 'prevented,' according to the communist government's own statistics, the birth of over 400 million babies."

      "Many of the millions result from forced abortions, forced sterilizations, and infanticide."

        "Nearly one-third of Chinese women in their 20s have already had an abortion, and likely they will have more than one."

       "Feng Jinmei … forced to abort a baby she'd carried for seven months because her family was unable to pay the …$6, 300 fine the government imposed on her for an additional child."

     "Cao Ruyi…escaped officers who tried to force her to abort her baby and now faces a $25,000 fine—called 'a social compensation fee'"

    "In Shanghai a pastor and his wife face this month an outrageous fine—$30,000—to keep their second baby."

(You can read this article at to learn more about organizations working to help in this new version of the Underground Railroad.)

The average annual income in China is around 89,040 CNY (14,000 USD), according to 2011/2012 salary survey (

Think about that.  These aren't wealthy people.   Yet, they are being forced to pay large amounts of money to keep their own children.  And not just keep them, but to keep them alive.  Without being able to find this money, these families will be forced to have their children killed. 

It is a horrible reality.

It changes the way I look at the costs of adoption.  So what if our cars have more than 150,000 miles on them.  So what if my furniture is worn, or I don't have curtains.  Who cares if we have rice and beans for supper one more night this week.  These silly things don't even count as a sacrifice once I get my nose past the abundance that surrounds me every day of my life and look at the reality that is real in so much of the world.

$30,000 still seems like a lot of money to me.  But it seems like nothing when it is compared to the measureless value of the life of a child.  Nothing I could ever buy with that money will last.  But the soul of a child is eternal.

I am so thankful that God has protected Claire from a forced abortion. I'm so grateful to her birth mother for having the courage to leave her baby in a place where she knew care would be available.  God has protected and blessed this little girl in ways I will never know.  And now God is giving me the precious gift of getting to be Claire's mama.  I may have fewer coins in my purse, but the real treasure can't even be measured.
One of our treasures!

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…"  Matthew 6:20

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Miracle of Adequacy

After days of some pretty huge emotional lows, self-doubt was hitting hard.  What in the world am I doing adopting again when I'm 52 years old?  Why am I adopting an older child when I truly know how difficult that can be?  

Enter God's voice to override all my fears.

Wednesday night renewal was titled "The Miracle of Adequacy."

Based on the story of Elisha in II Kings 2, Chip explained that Elisha was feeling inadequate when faced with a new task. Elisha was wondering if he could do the thing God was asking him to do.  He was feeling intimidated and inferior.  Wow!  Did that ever sound familiar!

Chip went on to describe three miracles that validated Elisha.  The Miracle of the parted waters affirmed that God was indeed with him.  God had called, and God's presence would go with Elisha. 

I heard God remind me that He would be with me moment by moment.  I don't have to understand everything now, or even be able to make sense of it.  God is going with me.  His presence, not a better me, is what I need.

In the second miracle, God turned the unclean water pure.  He restored life to the region and people who were wasting away.  Elisha didn't make much of himself.  He waited on God, and God worked through him to do the impossible.  God brought joy where mourning had been.

I heard God remind me of our desire to make His heart visible and to glorify Him through this adoption.  It is about His glory.  So, it is His responsibility.  I just need to wait on God, and He will do the work that needs to get done.  Even the impossible things.  My feelings may be right.  I may be totally inadequate for this task.  But that doesn't matter.  God is sufficient.  I need to turn my full attention toward Him and watch to see what He is going to do!  I'll watch Him bring joy.

The third miracle demonstrated how God validated Elisha in front of his enemies.  The bears put a stop to the hecklers.  Elisha didn't need to defend himself in front of the people challenging God's call on his life.  He just turned it over to God and moved on.

I heard that I don't need to stop and listen to the ugly words coming from people who really don't know us.  Words that say things about our first adoption "failing" or that remind us that some of our kids are "prodigals" are not words I need to defend myself against.  God knows our hearts and actions.  He knows that many things are beyond our control and that kids make their own choices.  All I need to do is keep walking forward into this new calling and let God handle the people who speak painful words.

I'm so thankful for the affirmation this message brought.

God wants to use me— an ordinary, stay-at-home, aging woman with lots of feelings of inadequacy—because He does His work through ordinary people.

God's presence in me will be adequate for the task He has given me.  He will make me the mom I need to be to take care of this precious child He loves.  After all, He has been taking care of Claire for 8 years without my help.  He isn't about to let me mess things up!

God's hand has been on Claire through everything!

"'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)

"But we have this treasure. in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  (II Corinthians 4: 7-9)

Is This Normal?

I've felt so overwhelmed with negativity when I was expecting lots of good feelings. It surprised me so much that I emailed our social worker and asked her if this was normal.
She didn't say it was.  Instead, she asked me how I normally react to changes or challenges.

Well, that is an amusing question to think about.  I normally panic and think there is no way I can handle whatever is coming.  During grad school, the release of each new syllabus brought a fresh terror that I was going to fail because there was no way I could possibly complete all those assignments. Of course, everything got done and I didn't fail anything along the way.  That is just one recent example, but I generally start everything new with a sense of the impossibility of me handling it.  In a way that is good.  It means I also start each new venture crying out to God for help.  Anytime I make it, it is because God lifts me out of my own strength and into His.

Karla also asked if I could pinpoint what was making me so fearful.  This was not so amusing to think about.  I kept running through all the worries that have popped into my head lately.  The thing is, I could quickly see why those things weren't really big enough obstacles to make me feel the way I've been feeling.

When I got really honest with myself about the stuff going on inside, I realized it isn't completely about this adoption at all.  Instead, it is leftover grief from the things that went wrong in the last one.  Getting ready to travel and adopt another child is bringing up memories I didn't know were still there.  Ivan Jerdev may be sitting in a Russian prison somewhere, but the damage he unleashed has left permanent scars. Here is one story about our previous adoption agency.

What to do?  That answer, at least, is simple.  I turn to God.  He is my strength but He is also my healer.  He can turn my brokenness into something that brings glory to His name.  He can redeem the wounded places and use them in ways I can't even imagine. 

 "And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. " (II Cor. 12: 9-10)

These Aren't the Feelings I Expected

The last few days have been really hard for me.  My emotions are all over the place with fear, anxiety, sadness, and at times even a stifling sense of panic.

It shouldn't be like this.  I'm supposed to be so happy and excited.  Everyone I meet tells me how happy I must be after waiting so long.  I have a room full of sweet gifts from a surprise baby shower. 

  We have our plane tickets carefully filed 'til the day we need them.  The Chinese money we purchased was delivered today.  Everything is coming together perfectly.  So why do I feel so awful?

I'm feeling profoundly inadequate to the new task.  I'm truly wondering if I can do the thing God is asking me to do.

Perhaps it has something to do with all my dealings with the doctors to try to get all of Claire's prescriptions before we travel.  Will I be able to keep them all straight?   Will I be able to read her condition well enough to know when she needs extra care?  Will we be able to afford all these meds?  (The one I had to pick up today cost $700!)

Perhaps all the hours I spent dealing with medical professionals myself in the last few days makes me uncertain.  Trying to navigate the hospital system always makes me feel stupid.  No one explains what they are doing, and I never know where anything is. I hate being vulnerable while professionals bustle about doing tests.  Am I going to be able to manage all the visits to specialists that Claire is going to need?  Is my own health going to do something surprising that will prevent me from keeping up with a little girl? 

Maybe it has something to do with the difficulty of communication.  Skyping with a child in a busy, noisy office isn't ideal.  Sometimes she seems so incredibly distractible.  Will I be able to teach her?  Will we find a way to communicate before she learns language?  Will she be able to learn English when she is already dealing with a delay in Chinese speech?  

Then again, it might have to do with horrible memories of our last adoption trip.  Things didn't go well.  And, the girls have done things lately to remind me that there is still so much brokenness in their lives.  Will another adoption just be a re-run of all the heartache and pain we have experienced with Ana and Jenny?

I feel so inadequate.  Perhaps someone else could do a better job of taking care of Claire.  Maybe I'm too old, tired, broken and afraid to do this.  The life of a child is at stake. 

 What if I fail?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

That Awkward Moment

Daniel and I had just come home from a long, hot shopping trip. I sat down to check email while he was searching the kitchen for food.

It was a little email.  All it said was, "Can you call me?"

My heart sank.  Normally our wonderful agency just gives us information in an email and is available for discussion if we have questions.  If this needed to be said in person,  it must be something was wrong.  My stomach sank as I dialed and waited for the receptionist to forward the call.  Was there a piece of paperwork that wasn't right?  Had some document expired?   Had they decided I was too old to be a mom?   So many negative thoughts in just a few short seconds.

Then Karla said, "We weren't really expecting this, but we just received your TA."

Oh my!  I don't know what I said.  I could hardly remain standing.  I didn't expect such a physical reaction to this news.  After all, it is what we have been working toward for over a year.  How come my heart was pounding and my knees suddenly felt like rubber.

Karla was asking questions about when we could travel. I think I said we could go anytime.  Then she suggested the 19th.  I made it to the calendar and saw that Kelly had something written there.  Somehow I managed to say something about needing to talk to him first, that I'd get back to her.  I hope she understood me.  I was a little giddy and not too sure I was making sense.

I sat down and started talking to myself and to Dan who was still in the kitchen.

We have TA.  We are going to China.  Oh my.  I didn't expect to hear anything for another week or two.  The paper says it takes 3-4 weeks for TA after your Article 5.  I wasn't even going to start hoping for it until  two weeks had passed.  But it has only been a week--ONE week!

Deep breath.  My voice was still shaking with  excitement as I continued.

I asked God if He would mind helping this happen sooner rather than later. I asked Him  this morning. I was worried about the October holidays in China. I was concerned about the more expensive hotel costs during the month of October. I was worried about how few vacation days Kelly has and how he wants to travel over Labor Day because those days won't count in his vacation time.  I was remembering Claire's parting shot as she left our Skype call last night, "Hurry up and come get me and take me to America!"  So I asked God to speed things along, and He did. I didn't expect Him to say yes! How am I going to get ready!  I have so much to do!  Oh, I'm not ready! Oh, I'm going to have a baby!

Dan, in typical teenager speak, simply says, "That awkward moment when you get what you asked for."

That made me laugh. Laughter is good medicine.  It calmed my racing mind and let me remember that during those early morning prayers I had also agreed that God's timing was always perfect and I would accept His plans for travel--whatever they were.  I was just expecting  to  accept another long delay instead of  being surprised with what I wanted.

I've apologized to God because I didn't really believe He was listening to my prayers. I've thanked Him for the awesome amount of grace and mercy He  pours out on me over and over--even when I'm being daft. I've praised Him for making so many impossible things happen and for reminding me once again, that His love has nothing to do with my performance or my ability to understand what is going on.  He is amazing!

So amazing that we get to go to China and meet a little girl He loves so very much. I get to be her mama.

She knows laughter is good medicine, too. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Article 5 Letter and Nesting

Received notification of Article 5 today.

The Adopted Children's Immigrant Visa Unit (ACIVU) of the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou explains the next step:

Next, your agency will deliver the Article 5 and Letter of Seeking Confirmation to the China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA), which will issue the Travel Approval (TA).  The TA allows you to come to China to finalize the adoption, so once the CCCWA issues the TA, your agency can email us to request an immigrant visa appointment at the Consulate.

Lifeline says it can take 3 to 4 weeks for TA to be issued.

I think I'm officially in the nesting stage now.

I've finished making the blankets.

 It took over a year for me to crochet the bedspread.   During all those hours, I prayed that God would match us to the little girl of His choosing. I'm trusting that His choice and His timing are perfect.
 The polar fleece only took a couple of days to crochet the side edging and sew the silky binding on the top and bottom.  The matching doll blanket probably came as a result of withdrawal from all those months of crocheting.

I finally found just the right lamp for her room.

And finished a sign for her door.  

The gifts for people who have cared for Claire and who help in our adoption process are all purchased, and most of them have arrived.

 Two dresses have been sewn and delivered.

A few more dresses and some nightgowns are in the works.

Now I just need some dates so we can buy those plane tickets and go meet our sweet girl!