Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The hard one to write

I've sat down to write this blog at least four times in the past week.  Each time, I've closed it out and walked away.  Not for the reasons you might think.  This is a sad segment of our adoption journey, and we have a lot of complicated feelings about it.  But being overcome with emotion was not the reason.  Sometimes you just get worn out by your own drama.  Sometimes you get tired of telling the story of one more way things fell apart.  The truth is that among the many things I'm feeling right now, the one thing inside my head that's shouting at me the loudest is this:  I'm exhausted.  Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, even physically, just beat.  But since this is an effort to document the good, the bad, the exasperating, of our true story, here it is:  The story of how we lost our referral for our infant boy.

We were on our way last week to our first Wichita Ethiopia Families get-together when we stopped to grab some food.  I checked my email from my phone as we waited in the drive-through line.  (If you've been around me in the past 6 months, you know that I am obsessive about checking my email.  This is because updates can come at any time, day or night, and I'm always so anxious for updates.)  In my inbox I found an email that said "Updates".  When I opened it I was shocked to find an email from our local coordinator, and also the director of the agency letting us know that we had now lost the referral for the younger boy.  He was no longer adoptable.  (The reasons he is no longer adoptable are another sad story.  One we are praying will eventually have a happy ending.  I'm not sure if it's appropriate to share those details here.)  In my shock I blurted it out to Wes in the seat next to me, not even thinking about the 6 year old little girl behind me in the car, who heard the statement as well.   And as Wes and I sat there open-mouthed in a state of shock, it was Jena's heart that immediately began to grieve.  The tears came quickly.

And then we didn't know what to do.  Do we continue on to this adoption get-together?  Meet all these new people for the first time with red eyes and tear stains?  Do we bring Jena along in this, or go home and try to re-group?  In the end we decided that if there was anyone in the world that would understand our complicated feelings, it was this group of Ethiopia adoption families.  There were to be quite a few other kids there, and nothing cheers the heart of an only-child faster than a big group of children.  So we continued on, having learned this new information just 10 minutes before we arrived at a party to celebrate Ethiopian adoption.  And it was a good decision.  Women I barely knew, and some that I had just met, held me and hugged me when I broke down trying to relay the story.  There was an understanding that existed there that we wouldn't have gotten anywhere else.  And Jena did have a wonderful time.  She made many new friends, and was quickly cheered by all the company.

We revisited the subject, briefly, again at bedtime prayers.  The tears began to flow once again.  She asked us not to take down any of the pictures of him that we have around our house.  "I want to be able to remember him", she told us.  I'm thankful for her sensitive heart that can so furiously grieve the loss of a brother half a world away, who doesn't look like her, or know she exists, and who, in fact, she's never even met.   There will be a time for acceptance, and that time hasn't come yet for her.  But grief is a process, and I know it will take her some time.

For Wes and I, I can tell you that the emotion of the ordeal is a lot like the emotion of a miscarriage.  It's grieving that unrealized potential.  It's being so close to having something, dreaming about it, planning for it, and then watching it all slip right through your fingers.  Except that I don't have the closure of a change in my body.  With one email, that's it, he's gone.

Our agency plans to eventually provide us with a new infant referral.  I think we want that, but it is really hard to wrap our minds around right now.  We've spent the past 6 months falling in love with this little boy.  He feels irreplaceable.  He IS irreplaceable.

Further complicating our feelings is the fact that we don't feel great about the way in which we lost the referral.   We know that this child's future is uncertain, and he is a little boy that the three of us will wonder about for the rest of our lives.  I've made attempts through a couple of different avenues to see if there is any way that we can help to improve his situation as he remains in Ethiopia, so far with little success.  The increased scrutiny on International Adoptions makes any contact on our part with him or his family grey area at best.

So this is where the self-doubt could set in.  This entire process has been an uphill battle for us.  Nothing so far has fallen perfectly into place.  If we aren't careful, we start to wonder if we've misunderstood the calling.  Is this what you want from us, God?  Why is it so hard?  So painful?

In these times of questions, when answers seem scarce the thing that I'm learning will heal me, the thing that seems vital, is to give thanks.  Because "Eucharisteo always, always, precedes the miracle." (Thanks Ann.)  So in that spirit, here are some things we are thankful for:

First:  Because of our ultimately failed attempt to adopt him, this child has spent a good part of his early life in one of the best facilities for orphans in Ethiopia, our agency's foster care.  (Seriously, I keep hearing how quality it is, and how amazing the nannies are.)  Away from parents, he wouldn't have gotten that kind of care anywhere else.  

Next:  I'm thankful that this child now has a group of people in America who will be praying for him and thinking about him for years to come.  This is a child that Wes, Jena and I will wonder about, think about, and pray for the rest of our lives.  In fact, the Kirk/Randels/Eddleman families will continue to think about and pray for this child.

Next: I'm thankful that God can redeem the sad and uncertain parts of this child's future.  I'm believing for him that this will happen. 

Next: I'm thankful that my daughter has the capacity for a giant kind of love that stretches across continents, and cultures, and colors of skin.  I'm thankful that she was so capable of this big love, that she now grieves his loss, as we all do.

Next: I'm thankful for an amazing support system of family, old friends, and new friends.  I'm thankful for a well-timed visit from one of my closest friends, the one who understands failed adoptions, and the longing for motherhood...because she's lived it too.  I'm thankful for a new friend who is forging this messy uncharted territory of international adoption with me, and the ways that feeling like you aren't doing it alone seems to make such a difference.    

Lastly: I'm thankful for the peace that's washing over us.  That when friends ask us how we're coping, I can say: "We are processing, but (emphatically) we are ok."

And so giving thanks for these many blessings, we press on.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Watch your back, Spielberg

We had a great time hosting the showing of the documentary "Stuck" this weekend.  Some great friends and family came out and gave up their Friday night to watch it.  We are well aware that most who came were there as a sign of support and solidarity to us personally, and we just can't tell you how much that means to us.  Before the showing of the film, we played this little mini-movie about us which we made this week.  It tells a little of our story.  My public, (i.e. my grandma) has been asking to see it, so here it is.  :)

No new updates on the boys.  It's been about 10 weeks since we've seen anything on the baby.  We were supposed to have some movement last week on the older boy, but haven't heard yet if that happened or not. Since no news has generally meant bad news, I'm guessing not.  Praying for good news and updates for both this week...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

She Decided for Art

I am one of those weird people who will frame words.  And I mean this in the literal sense.  If you look closely, scattered around my house are framed bits of poetry, song lyrics, and prose.  I purchased a print of a painting I love for my husband at Valentines Day and, of course, couldn’t resist copying poetry up and down the back of it before it was placed lovingly into it’s frame.  Because I believe that if a picture is worth a thousand words, the right words, put together in a thoughtful way are worth at least a thousand pictures. 

I recently came across this piece by Ann Voskamp.  She is the author of One Thousand Gifts, and writes a wonderful blog,  Her work is poetry, really.  Poetry in the modern disguise of a 21 century blog.  If you aren’t following her already…you should be.  This piece so resonated with me that I placed it here, next to my bed. 

It's a reminder for me to decide for art.  To make my life art.  To seek out the beautiful.  Because when you're really looking for it, you'll find that He's placed little reminders all around you.  It felt right to repost it here in this week leading up to Mother’s Day.  It's a piece she titled "How to make a Home".  Enjoy.

How to Make a Home

Sometimes in the middle of the night, her hip would graze his and his arm would find her waist and she would lay awake in the middle of their life.
She didn’t know what would come next and how it all would unfold, but that new mercies always would.
He made it simple. Raising, teaching, the children, wasn’t.
And the meals she always had to keep figuring out, and the laundry that toppled over, and the floors that kept growing mess. The way her mind and heart would wander, crumble at the edges, and she would reach for steadying in her Maker. The way she’d get lost– and remember to breathe. But this, this making of a family, it was not a calling to dismiss but a calling to make disciples.
A calling, that which keeps calling you and you never stop listening for, that is what a calling is, the way He keeps speaking: “This is the way, walk in it.”
So she made soup and matched socks. She scrubbed out the tub. She awoke: One always gets to decide what is mindless work and what is soulful work.
She would decide.
She decided for art, to make her life artShe would make it all art — it all would be art, worship, a gift back. It all would preach Gospel.
And he, he too had these simple ways that steadied her, there in the dark, always in her dark. The way that he talked and moved his hands and worked and held her: he knew how to keep it simple.
Just keep the focus simply on Christ — Walk Forward. Keep company with Christ. Love always. Bend low.
In the midst of everything that went wrong, that was all. They would see everything as the ugly beautiful –  because Christ is redeeming everything.
She would light candles. She would murmur thanks.
She would touch him often and gently.
And there would be that:
The best place to make a home is in the state of amazing grace.

~Ann Voskamp 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Front Row Seats

So this week...yowza...hard...just hard.  It was this week that we really sensed there were some major problems with our cases, and it was this week that we got all that confirmed.  At one point during this week we thought neither of our adoptions were going to happen.  Then we found out some of the things we thought were terrible might not be as bad as we thought.  And that some things we thought were probably fine, were more complicated than we had guessed.  But the short of it is that, sadly, both of our referrals have major complications.

So the gut reaction that springs from me immediately is "why?"  Why does it feel like we have to fight every step of the way?  Couldn't there be one thing in this process, just one thing, that goes easier than planned?  (Maybe God is saving those things for end of the process.  One can hope, right?)  And so we've had our moments of grief, and anger, and second guessing, and questions.

And then we remember to breathe.  And to pray.  To look out, and around at the "beautiful things".  (Thanks Erica)  To give thanks for what we have.  To give thanks for the hope that these sweet boys will eventually make their way home.  Then friends and family come out of the woodwork ready and willing to let us lean on them.  Strangers tell us beautiful stories of redemption.  Our adoption community embraces us, gives us much needed understanding, and reminds us we're not alone.  And we regain focus.  We regain our resolve.  

To speak to some of the specifics:  Our older boy is from a region in Ethiopia known as the SNNPR.  (Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Republic)  This is a Southern region in Ethiopia.  There have been some big issues with this region over the past 2 years, because of new local regulations.  I've seen the word "unadoptable" thrown around online as applied to children from this region.  The good news we learned is that a change in personnel of the local government has improved the outlook for prospective adopted children from this region.  Our agency is hopeful that movement on his case will take place soon.  ("Soon" is such a subjective word, isn't it?  But I digress.)  We're still dreadfully behind, and there are MANY hurdles yet to be jumped, but we'll take any forward movement at this point.

Our younger boy's case looks to be the more difficult one at this point.  Wes and I have discussed what parts of this we should make public, and it's tough.  The stories of the boys' birth families are their stories, not ours.  While we're ok sharing OUR story publicly, we feel like we should allow the boys to decide how what is known of their birth families should be shared.  We try not to say too much about them publicly.  So to that end, I'll say this:  Issues with his birth family have caused a change in the way his case is categorized.  It means re-doing most of his paperwork.  He's likely still adoptable, it hasn't changed the fact that he's currently sitting in an orphanage, but it will take many more steps to accomplish this.  I'll also say this:  his biological family, specifically his biological mother, could use your prayers.  She's often in my thoughts these days.  I've been painfully aware from the beginning of this process that her deep pain and my great joy will coexist in a single event.   I believe with all my heart that adoption is a beautiful example of God's redemption in difficult situations.  And my heart breaks for her.

Our agency has offered to put our cases through the courts separately so that if one boy moves through the legal system more quickly, we could get him home sooner.  We agreed to this.  It means four (at least) trips to Ethiopia instead of two, but we don't want to wait a day longer for either one than we have to.

They've also offered us new referrals which we, of course, declined.  We've seen their faces.  How could we go on knowing we didn't do everything in our power to see them into loving homes?  (Our adoption coordinator actually told us "I know you won't want to do this, but I am supposed to offer it."  :)  Can I just say we love her?  She's been publicly and privately praying for us over these past few weeks, doing everything she can to annoy people into giving us information.  So thankful we have her advocating for us.)

The boys' room is officially complete, ready and waiting for them to come home.   Wes and I often wander in there from time to time during the day.  It stays very neat right now.  I think of how much I wish there were little boys here to mess it up.  I find myself in there most nights before bed, praying over them.  Because their days are our nights, I'm likely catching them just as they start their day.  That's how I like to think of it, anyway.  I hope that when they look back on this blog later in life they will see the ways they were loved before we were officially in their lives to show them.

A friend, and fellow Ethiopia adoption mom recently told me this of her adoption journey:

"I almost miss the tension of that season of waiting.  It made us so aware of the beauty of God--It almost felt like we had a front row seat to what God was doing."  

It's a way of living we are working hard to embrace.  To see every challenge as an opportunity for God to work.  To live each day on the verge of a miracle.
And so we sit.  Here on the edge of our front row seats.  Desperate and excited to see what God is doing.