Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Both Ends Burning

Last weekend we were able to get away for a quick trip up to Kansas City.  We went to see the STUCK documentary created by Both Ends Burning.  Here is the trailer for the movie:

We were deeply moved and challenged by the film.  It was a pretty emotional experience for everyone who was there.  There were many scenes from orphanages in Ethiopia.  It's hard for most people see children struggling to survive in institutional settings.   But knowing your own children are there right now, at this very moment.  Well, it's almost unbearable.

The film sheds light on problems with the American government, particularly the State Department, for what it calls political apathy towards international adoption.  

The film is making it's way across the country, collecting signatures to present to Congress and the President at the Step Forward for Orphans March in Washington D.C. in May.  The petition simply asks our leaders to remove barriers to International Adoption, and support international adoption as an important option for those children worldwide living outside of parental care.  Your average American is not aware of the precarious position that international adoption finds itself in, or the sharp decline that we've seen in recent years.  We bought a copy of the film and would like to show it here in Wichita.  More details on that soon.  

And now for my two cents and a soapbox.  :)  Here's why I believe you should care about international adoption.  The number of orphans worldwide is sitting somewhere between 10 million and 147 million depending on how you're counting.  That's a wide range, but either way a very, very big number.  At the height of international adoption, which was around 2007, only about 19,000 children were adopted into the United States.  Drop.  in.  the. bucket.  (The number of children adopted into the United States has decreased by more than 50% in the past 5 years.)  This is barely a dent in the millions of children living outside of parental care.  Obviously, international adoption is not THE solution to our orphan crisis.  But here's why I believe it is a critical component.  It's because I believe that adopting these children into the United States will help to improve the lives of those orphans left behind.

Melissa Faye Greene in her book There's No Me Without You, says it like this:

Adoption rescues few. Adoption illuminates by example: these few once-loved children…have been offered a second chance…like young ambassadors, they instruct us. From them, we gain impressions about what their age-mates must be like, the ones living and dying by the millions, without parents… For every orphan turning up in a northern-hemisphere household—winning the spelling bee, winning the cross country race, joining the Boy Scouts, learning to rollerblade, playing the trumpet of the violin----ten thousand children remain behind alone.

These adopted children become little "ambassadors".  Caring for our children, knowing them, seeing the beauty of their lives, will help us to actively care about the ones still orphaned in Africa and elsewhere in the world.  

Now let me lay some scripture on you:

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27

Not everyone is called to adoption.  And that's ok.  But, as believers, every one of us is called to care for orphans.  (You can find a list of the many ways you can care for orphans here.)  

So there's my not-all-that-articulate two cents on why the preservation of international adoption matters so much.   :)  (**Steps down from soapbox.)

Also while in Kansas City we got the chance to eat at the Blue Nile Cafe.  This is an Ethiopian restaurant in City Market. We'd had Ethiopian food before, but we'd never been to the Blue Nile.

The food was delish!  We loved it.  We brought home some injera (the spongy Ethiopian bread that serves as your utensil) so that we can make our own Ethiopian feast soon.  Stay tuned...

Lastly, we got a sad update on our case yesterday.  We DO NOT have our MOWA letters for either boy.  (These are recommendation letters from a government agency in Ethiopia that are required to obtain a court date.)  We were previously told that we did have them, but that was apparently a misunderstanding in the long game of "telephone" that we play to get information relayed from Ethiopia.   We are pretty badly delayed at this point.  We've been told that there is no problem, but for whatever reason, things are moving very slowly.  It's disappointing and very discouraging, but we aren't giving up on our boys.  

We got these bracelets at the Stuck viewing.  

You'll be seeing a lot of these over the next few months since Wes and I decided we will continue to wear them as a reminder of the determination and tenacity of the families featured in the film.  And we will keep them on until our boys, our family, gets unstuck.  But for now we wait...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A letter from Jena

My sweet Jena was reading my blog over my shoulder this week and asked if she could contribute.  "I want to write something on your blog!" she told me.  So she decided that she'd like to write a letter to her brothers and place it on the blog.  This is Jena's letter, as dictated to me.

Dear E & J,

I love you.  I want you to come home soon.  Even though you haven't seen us yet, you know we are here.  You are the best little brothers.  I love you.  I will show you all the toys you have gotten while you are gone.  You will like to see your new home.  You will really like it.  You'll like your bedroom because you will get to sleep next door to me.  You will like it when you get here, I know you will because this is such a good home for us.  I will play with you a lot when you get home.  You will see everyone in your family and you will play with me.  And you will like to play with mommy and daddy and Carly and Taylor.  You will like Carly and Taylor.  They are cute doggies.  They will give you lots of kisses when you come home.  We are praying for you here at home.  You will be surprised when we come to you.  We've been praying everyday for a long time.  We wish you could get home sometime this month.  You will like having a new family.  You will get to watch movies with me when you come home.  You'll have lots of new things to do.  I am excited to come see you.  It will be really fun, and you will think it's fun too, I know you will.  Mommy and me will do bedtime stories with you and mommy will sing a song to you while I read a book to you.  You will like all the things you have when you come.  When you see our house you will be super surprised.  You don't know what it looks like yet.  I will teach you how to do the abc's and do our language.  I will also teach you how to read really good like me.  I will teach you how to play soccer with me.  And someday when you get my age, you might play soccer like me.
We can't wait to see you.  We love you.


Love that kid.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Frozen: An Update

We haven't gotten pictures or updates on our youngest boy in about six weeks.  Last week we learned that the reason for this was because he had been moved out of foster care and back to the orphanage.  This was so that some important local court documents and paperwork could be completed in the city where he came from.  (Both boys are actually from the same part of the country, Awassa.)  We found out those documents had been finally completed (MOWA letters), and we were ecstatic.  I had thought we'd have a court date any day now!  But I quickly found out that there had been a change in the Ethiopian court system (one of many along our way) that now requires the biological family's court date to be COMPLETED before scheduling the court date for the adoptive family.  Our boys also come from a part of the country whose local courts move notoriously slow.  This means at least another month, two months, or more, of waiting just for a court date.  With the two trips that we have to make and the time that must pass between the two trips, I began to realize that it is looking less and less likely that we'll be able to bring our babies home before the youngest's first birthday.  (This is a child who was three months old at the time of our referral.)  And you could say that I did not take this news well.  Just.  So.  Tired.  Of waiting.

We had an ice storm the day after I got this update on our case.  All around, our world was covered in a hard, frozen, but frankly, beautiful layer of ice.  It happened to be April 9, the five month anniversary of our referrals.  So through icy cold weather, I ventured out to see a friend of mine.  Not just any friend, but one of the wisest, most intuitive people I know.  Someone who has been a mentor to me through these rough waters of the past few years.  I poured my heart out to her.  Through my tears I shared how frustrated I was at this process.  How it feels like we get delays at every turn.  How I didn't understand why this keeps happening.  How heartbroken I was to be still waiting to see their faces.  How I want to get these kids to a home where they can be loved, where I know that they are safe.   She listened quietly as I sobbed my way through my own personal pity party.  

When I came to the end of it, she smiled.  "How appropriate that I see you today," she said as she began to gesture out the window.  "You are just like this weather, aren't you?  You're so ready to blossom, but you're frozen."  

She encouraged me put myself into motion.  "Don't wallow."  She said.  "You need to move, so that you can thaw out.  Be in motion."  

(Yes, she is my own personal Yoda.  ...with better syntax.)  :)

So I came home, grabbed my camera and headed outside to snap a few pictures so that I could remember this day when I was given the gift of my emotions perfectly mirrored in the weather, and of the poetry and wisdom that is my friend, Kali.  

Immediately, I set about the work of being in motion.  I became overwhelmed with the need to create.  So I started with art.  I made this simple little painting for the boys' room:

Then I finished up these small rag quilts to take and leave with the boys in Ethiopia on our first trip.  They are small and soft with lots of fun texture.  Very tactile.  The fun thing is that I've made dozens of these for baby showers over the years.  I finally got to make them for my own babies!

Then I made two of these little quilts for the boys' beds here at home.   Look mom, I can applique!

Then I found this old burlap Ethiopian coffee sack on ebay.  (Amazing what you'll find when you search for "Ethiopia".)  Here's what it looked like before.  

I cut it apart and turned it into this cute little pillow.  Appropriate, right?  

And as I put myself furiously into motion, Kali was right.  I began to thaw.  Peace and healing began to settle over me once again.  We will wait.  We will wait longer.  As long as it takes for our beautiful boys to make their way home, we'll be here waiting.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Living in beautiful places

Last year my husband, Wes, and I were able to spend a few days on the coast of Maine celebrating our anniversary.  I mean, just wow.  It was just ridiculously breathtaking.  The ocean is always a wonder to these two life-long Kansans, but this place was particularly special.  There is something about the brutal rocky cliffs and the wild crashing waves, that power and fury, that is absolutely awe inspiring.

We were out on a boat one day doing a coastal tour of lighthouses.  Our guide drew our attention to some amazing private houses built into the cliffs.  As you can imagine, the houses themselves were magnificent, but when you include the amazing ocean views from these private homes, describing them as "idyllic" would be an understatement.  The guide also pointed out some empty concrete slabs among the houses along the coast.  He explained that these were foundations of houses that had been completely destroyed by hurricanes through the years.  They had simply slipped off the cliff into the depths of the ocean below when met with the mighty waves and punishing winds of a hurricane.   Many of the houses had been rebuilt on the same site, but a few of the homeowners had rebuilt farther back from the cliff, diminishing their views, but increasing their home's chance for survival in the occasional hurricane.   And in that boat Wes and I had a conversation about the fact that the most beautiful places to live were so often the most dangerous places to live.

My dreams over the past several weeks have been filled with these beautiful dangerous places.  I dream of open air houses built on stilts hundreds of feet in the air.  I dream of houses built into rocky mountain cliffs with sharp drop offs.  I dream of glass bottomed houses built into the middle of a raging ocean.  And in my dreams I'm in love with these places, and terrified to be there all at the same time.  Yesterday I was alone with Wes in the car, both of us deeply lost in thought.  I suddenly burst out, "It's a metaphor."  Wes is, by now, used to the fact that I often start him in the middle of a conversation that I've been having in my head for some time.  So he patiently asked me, "what's a metaphor?"
"For life.  For living." I said.  "The most beautiful places to live are often some of the most risky."

It's how I've come to think of this adoption process.  We are adopting two beautiful children who I've never met.  I don't know what their strengths and weaknesses are, or what challenges we will face as we work to become a family.  It's risky.  But it's oh so beautiful.  And I believe the beauty is worth the risk.

This week I came across the story of an adoptive family whose house slid off the proverbial cliff.  (Actually I heard about several, because in the same way that people love to tell pregnant women horror birth stories, people love to tell prospective adoptive moms horror adoption stories.)  But this particular story was earth-shattering to me because this was a family I had followed closely.  I don't know them personally, but I had read many of the things they had written a few years ago and they had been influential in our decision to adopt from Ethiopia.  I don't know any of the details of what they went through, but it's safe to say that somewhere along the way, something went horribly wrong.   And for a time, it was terrifying for me.

In the late stages of pregnancy, every woman is filled with questions, and self doubt.  There is worry about the child and what they will be like, about your new life and what it will be like.  Worries that you won't be up to the challenges.  I can tell you that the final stages of adoption are no different.  Worries and self-doubt are constantly sneaking into my thoughts.  And I wrestle these thoughts around, and up, and down, and inside, and out.
And I come back to this one. simple. conclusion.  God has called us to this beautiful place.  Is there risk?  Yes.  There are no guarantees in life.  But in the end I'd rather live in this beautiful place that God has called us to, than to sit back afraid and stagnant in the ordinary.   And like my recent dreams, I'm so excited to be here, but not completely without fear.  I'm well aware of all the things that could go wrong.  But rejoicing in the fact that there's so much more that could go beautifully right!

And that family I was writing of earlier?  The one whose house fell off the cliff?  They are rebuilding their house.  Finding the peace, and healing, and redemption, and grace that only the reckless raging fury of God's love can provide.

Again, I'll close with a wonderful passage from Jesus Calling:

If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing ME work through you. When I gave you MY spirit, I empowered you to live beyond your own natural ability and strength. That’s why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you. The issue is not your strength but MINE, which is limitless. By walking close to ME, you can accomplish MY purpose in MY strength.