Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Waiting is Holy

Last night, during a worship service at our church, one of our pastors encouraged us during our closing prayer time to offer our burdens to the Lord.  And, I knew what burden I was willing to lay open-handed before the Lord.  I asked God to take the burden of this wait from us and bring our son home.  Immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart and say, "Waiting is holy."  I knew right then, that He had spoken a word of correction to my heart.  Waiting is not a burden. 

But, what did He mean when He said that it is holy?  I came home still thinking about the message from the Holy Spirit.  I looked up the word "holy" to read the definition.  I even searched that particular phrase on the internet. But, I had nothing.  Before I went to bed last night, I said a prayer that the Holy Spirit would help me understand what He meant because, as I have recently learned in the Bible Study I am currently doing with some ladies at my house, the Holy Spirit is Truth.  And, He is our Counselor.  He doesn't only want us to KNOW truth, but He will lead us to UNDERSTAND truth as well.  So, I prayed and then went to sleep.

This morning, as I was thinking about it again, the Holy Spirit helped me to unpack that little phrase.  When Neal is out of town, one of my children's favorite things to do is to take a turn "spending the night" with Mom.  It is a little tradition that we have, and they love it.  This morning, as I was watching one of them sleep in our bed, I realized that I am never in a hurry to wake up my children when they have time to get enough sleep.  I know they need a break from routines and life as much as I do.  And, honestly, watching them sleep and waiting for them to wake up is still a joy for me, even when it is my junior high kiddo.  

And, I think that is the moment when it hit me.  Waiting is Holy when it is a shared experience.  When you think about the times that you have spent holding a friend's hand as they waited for news with no idea of the outcome, or sitting beside someone in a waiting room as you both waited for word on a loved one's operation, or when you waited by your phone to hear that a friend's baby had arrived safely and mother and baby were both well...these are times in our lives that we would never consider to be a burden. We are never going to be sad or regret that we took the time out of our lives to sit expectantly with someone we love while they are waiting. 

But, I think it is the fact that it is a shared experience that makes it holy.  Just like you would never regret taking the time out of our busy life to sit with a loved one while they wait, that person will never, ever forget that you shared that moment with them. They will always remember that you were by their side. It does not mean that it was a GOOD time in their lives. Waiting is almost always hard.  But, those people who wait WITH us, who encourage us, who hold our hand, who cry with us, who lift us up and pray for us...they will be dear to us forever.  Because waiting is Holy when it is a shared experience.

We started this adoption process in 2011, in what was supposed to be a 12-month adoption process from Ethiopia. Almost 7 years later, I think Neal and I would both tell you that waiting hasn't gotten any easier.  In fact, I think if we were being honest, we would say that the last year of this wait has been the hardest.  But, what hit me last night is that even though the Holy Spirit doesn't enjoy our pain, or our frustration, or our suffering, He was telling me last night that these last 80 months He has never seen as a burden.  He has sat with us and held our hands when we started this process for Ethiopia.  He was with us when we pursued and lost a referral for twin baby boys from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He was with us, when we moved to Alabama and heard that Haiti was now an option for us and gave us the gently nudge to start almost completely over.  He was with us when we got the call last October to hear the name and see face of the boy (who I think I already knew in my heart) was going to be our son. And, he has been with us (three times now) as we have had to say goodbye to our son as we wait for the necessary paperwork to be done so he can come home.  He has been there for every second of this experience, and He KNOWS the pain and frustration it has caused us.  But, He doesn't see it as a burden.  He sees it as Holy. Just like that friend who holds your hand while you wait for news or an operation or as you pray alongside of a friend while their marriage struggles or they wait for God to provide a job.  We would NEVER view those times as a burden, and He doesn't either. 

So, today, I have a new attitude about these final days of the wait.  I know that my Guide, the Counselor, is teaching me something in these last weeks (or months) of waiting that He cannot teach me any other way.  His plans are always higher than mine, and so I must trust that He means them for my good.  He values this time with me, as much as I value sweet times with my children.  So, instead of asking God to take the burden of waiting from me, instead, I am going to ask Him to help me wait WELL.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Help Me

It's taken me almost eight months to write this post. 

Eight months ago tomorrow was the last day we spent with our son in Haiti for our socialization visit.  We were such a mix of emotions.  We had spent 14 days away from our kids, our home, and America.  And, while we had spent some amazing time with our son and made some precious memories, both with him, and with our new friends, we were READY to come home.  Except for the part where we had to leave our son behind. 

From the beginning of the process (before we even said "yes" to adopting from Haiti), when we were told that Haiti's process required adoptive parents to go on a "bonding" trip to meet their child and spent 14 days getting to know them, and then walk away for 1-2 years, I knew this part would be HARD for me.  But, I really had no idea.  We spent a lot of time with him that last day.  A LOT of time.  It was our longest day with him, and spending that much time with a 3 year old, in another country, while living on a compound is not easy.  By the end of the day, he was pretty worn out and truly ready to go back to the orphanage.  I remember wanting to tell him that we would be back, but not tomorrow.  I remember telling him that we loved him.  And, he kept telling us "I love ou.  See you to-mah-woah."  And, I knew he didn't understand.  And, then they drove off with him. 

I immediately went back in the guesthouse and began to pack.  I deal with emotions I don't want to deal with by staying busy.  And, I also think I knew if I sat down for a second, I would lose all control, and we wouldn't get our things packed.  So, I sorted and packed.  And, I held it together even as I began packing the toys, and his sippy cup, and a few things of his that we had decided to keep for our next trip. And, when I finished packing, I laid down on the bed and sobbed.  I cried until I couldn't cry any more, and then I just went to the bathroom and washed my face and went to bed.  I remember telling Neal that it was the hardest thing I have ever done and the most conflicted I have ever felt.  I missed the 3 kids we had at home and so desperately wanted to see them, but I knew that I truly would be leaving a part of my heart behind.  And, I just didn't know how to do that. 

The next morning, we had to be ready early because our driver was coming to take us to the airport.  I remember Neal getting out of the bed and leaving the room.  And, with just me and God in the room, I looked at our suitcases and just lost it all over again.  I remember not even having the words to pray in that moment.  I felt God there, but I couldn't even put a prayer together.  I just remember speaking the words, "Help me."  And, as soon as the words rolled off my lips, there was peace in my heart.  The pain was just as real as it had been a few moments earlier, but what felt like despair had been replaced with a peace that didn't make sense. And, the tears slowed down and eventually stopped.  And, I was able to get up out of bed, wipe my face, and get ready to leave. 

Our ride to the airport was mostly uneventful (except that the only space left for Neal and our friend, Shane) was to ride in the bed of the truck surrounded by our luggage.  :) And, we drove through the Saturday morning market, and our friends' kiddos got to see the meat market.  THAT was an experience.  But, we made it to the airport in plenty of time.  We said goodbye to our Canadian friends who now felt a lot more like family.  We ate a quick meal in what felt like the Haitian equivalent of a food court, and we got on a plane and flew away from the island where our son lives.

I remember another mom, whose son (now home!) lived with ours at the orphanage, told me that the first month was brutal.  And, it was.  It was several days or weeks before I made it a day without crying.  But, slowly, we have learned to live in this new normal.  It has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and it has felt like the longest eight months of my life.  I know because people tell me all the time that it seems to be going by very fast, but for me, it hasn't gone fast.  I have felt his absence every single day, and I have yet to understand how to really function completely with one of my children growing up every single day in an orphanage without me.  And, allowing that to happen goes against everything in my heart as a mother.   

But, as we have walked these last eight months, one of the things that people have said to me the most is "I just don't know how you do it."  And, I don't even know what to say in those moments.  I honestly don't really feel like *I* AM doing it.  I don't even feel completely like myself most days.  It has been harder than I even thought it would be.  But, we knew this was the process when we signed up for it.  And, we didn't sign up because we thought we could DO it.  We signed up for it because we KNEW it was what GOD wanted us to do.  I knew when we signed up that this part would be too hard for me to do by myself.  But, honestly, most of the things God has called me to do in this life ARE too hard for me.  So, as you watch us wait while people pour over paperwork, and it moves through step after step after step while we feel like we are just sitting on our hands, please know that there is no way in this world that we could do this alone.  We walk around every day, we work our jobs, we do all the normal things with 3 of our kids, because God answered my feeble prayer when all I had the words to say was, "Help me." He is the most faithful friend, and we haven't walked and cannot imagine walking a day of this process without Him.  May He alone get the glory for any and all of that. 

Thank you for following our journey these last 6 years.  We are so grateful for every ounce of encouragement and support we have ever been the recipients of.  We are currently waiting on one of the most exciting pieces of the entire process, and we are hoping it comes any day. It is a piece of legal paperwork called the "adoption decree," and it is that piece of paper that will officially make a 4 year old boy in Haiti with the biggest smile, the most beautiful eyes, and more personality than you can even stand, our SON.  We are so ready for that day to get here!

"I lift my eyes to the mountains -- where does my help come from? 
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1-2

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Adoption Timeline

Here is our timeline for those who are interested!  For the moment, it only includes (most of) our Haiti timeline, and not our timeline for our adoption process previous to these dates.  As I can, I will eventually go back and add in a more complete timeline of the entire 6+ year process. 

While it appears that we have just a few steps to go, these last few steps are very lengthy, and we aren't sure that they will even happen in the order that I have laid out here.  Our best guess is that our son will be home anywhere between 6-10 months from now, but even that is just a guess.  But, we will try to keep you updated as best we can.  Thank you for following along with us. 

Transitioned to AGCI's Haiti Program from the Ethiopia Program - 10/22/2013

Haiti Home Study completed - 1/14/2014

Haiti Dossier completed - 3/11/14

Dossier Translation complete - 3/31/2014

Dossier Received in Haiti - 4/24/2014

Dossier Enters IBESR - 5/23/2014

Referral date (Matched with our son!) - 10/13/2016

Met our son!!!! - 11/11/2016

Bonding Trip - 11/11-11/26/2016

Received Article 16 letter - 12/27/2016

Submitted I-800 paperwork to USCIS - 1/05/2017

RFE (Request for Evidence) received from USCIS - 2/3/2017

RFE mailed back to USCIS - 2/7/2017

Received I-800 Provisional Approval from USCIS - 2/21/2017

Complete DS 260 - 2/22/2017

Our son attends Visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti - 3/06/2017

Article 5 approval is received from U.S. Embassy - 3/13/2017

Case exits IBESR!!! - 6/09/2017 (Found out - 7/05/2017)

Authorization of Adoption Signed - 6/09/2017

Case enters Parquet Court - 6/09/2017

Receive the Adoption Decree -

Case transitions to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) -

Case transitions to USCIS for Visa and Passport -

Our son comes home!!!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"I could never do that."

In the Summer of 2013, we had just moved to Alabama, and we were in the middle of updating our home study for Ethiopia, when through an interesting series of events, we felt like God was leading us to move our adoption process to Haiti.  In a lot of ways, it made perfect sense.  Because of some changes in the Ethiopia process, our agency had been encouraging families to consider other countries and options for a while.  Our hearts had been with Haiti since the earthquake in 2010.  Neal had traveled to Haiti in 2012 on a mission trip, and we (and a group of friends) had partnered with Help One Now to build two houses in Haiti in 2012 and, again, in 2013.  So, when we found out that Haiti was now an option for us, it made sense that we at least consider it.

So, we prayed about it over the course of several days, and we scheduled a phone call with the person who oversees Haiti adoptions at our agency.  I still remember that phone call.  We had dropped our three children off at Awana, and we were sitting in the car outside one of our favorite restaurants.  As we talked with the Haiti coordinator, she explained that we would be a pilot family for our agency's Haiti program, if we were accepted, because Haiti's process had recently changed.  And, since we would be one of the first families to go through the "new" process, there was a lot of uncertainty about the timeline for adoptions from Haiti.  She laid out the timeline as best she could, which was hard for her, and for us, not having any real reference point at that time.  But, the piece of the timeline that stuck in my mind was when she told us that we would be matched with a child, and from that point, that it could be 1-2 years until we could bring him home.  My heart just sank.

I remember hanging up the phone with her, and we both just looked like, "Wow.  That was a lot to process."  And, as we began to talk through the call, I remember that we both felt that the Haiti part just felt RIGHT.  And, there came a point in our conversation when we talked about the long amount of time we would need to wait after a referral to bring our child home.  And, I remember finally looking at him and saying out loud, "I just don't think I can do that."  And, I will never forget when he said, "Well.  I think I can.  So, it's up to you."  And, it just sat right there.  It's up to you.

Several people have asked me along the way if Neal feels the same way about adoption as I do.  And, we will both tell you that the idea of adoption started with me.  God spoke very clearly to me about it first.  And, when I talked to Neal about it in the early stages, he did not feel the same.  And, honestly, I was really okay with that.  But, I asked him to pray about it and think about it.  And, he did.  And, every now and then, it would come up again.  And, I just always knew that if God was calling me, He would call Neal, too.  And, about 3-4 months later, that's exactly what happened.  Since then, every step we have made in this process has been one we made together.  I really don't think you can do it any other way.  If one of us was dragging the other along, it just wouldn't work.  It is much too hard of a process for that.

So, when he said that it was up to me, I knew there was no pressure.  He wasn't trying to manipulate me or impress his desires on me.  He was just telling me where he was at, and I was telling him where I was at.  But, we needed to make a decision one way or the other.  And, I needed to pray about it.  We will both tell you that God is the reason we decided to adopt.  So, I knew that He was the One whose opinion mattered the most.  I really felt like I knew that the answer was Haiti.  But, we had just had our hearts ripped out not even a year before when we lost a referral, and I was still grieving that loss.  I had learned the hard way that we were going to get attached to this child, once we had a referral.  And, I just couldn't fathom waiting so long to get him home.  It honestly sounded like a deal-breaker to me.

So, I went to God and told Him that I didn't think I could do it.  And, there have been very few times in my life where I felt like I prayed, and God IMMEDIATELY responded.  But, that day, He did.  Immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit say, "So, is this about you?  Or, is this about orphans?"  And, I knew that I had my answer.  It didn't matter that I didn't think I could do this.  All that mattered is that I was supposed to do this.

So, we switched our process to Haiti.  What I had no way of knowing then was that the sweet little boy who our family is now matched with was just a few months old and already living in an orphanage.  And, for the last few months, since I have seen his name matched with ours, and seen his face, and since we have held him in our arms, I have been replaying this conversation over and over again in my head. I cannot tell you the number of times that people have heard our story, listened to how long our wait has been, or heard that we have met him and had to leave him, and they have said, "I could never do that." And, honestly, I cannot describe to you the feeling that comes over me when I hear that.  Because that was almost MY answer, too. 

It is heartbreaking to me because I feel like somehow I feel like I have given people the impression that I am the one doing this.  And, I am not.  Or, that I have some superhuman strength to withstand hard things.  And, I do not.  Or, that somehow that walking away from a little boy who is meant to be my son was somehow easier for me than it would have been for them.  It was not.

One of the things that most frightens me about our adoption process is that people will see US and not God.  There is no way in the world that we would be IN the adoption process had it not been for God.  There is no way that we would have STAYED in the adoption process had it not been for God.  And, there is no way that we would be sitting in another country right now, separated from a preschool-aged boy we love, if it weren't for God.  I hope that we never send the message that this is US.

The other thing that frightens me is that someone else might believe the lie of "I could never do that."  It frightens me to think that if I had believed that lie that we would have missed out on this little boy who I now cannot imagine life without.  But, it also frightens me to think of what YOU might be missing out on if you choose to make decisions based on what you think you can and cannot do. It terrifies me to think that children may sit in orphanages all over the world because people think they cannot do this.  The bottom line is this: When we make decisions based on what WE can do, then WE get the glory.  When we choose to do the things that are beyond us, then HE gets the glory.  That's actually the plan.

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend who has heard our whole story, and is still (miraculously) pursuing adoption. And, she said, "I just have to ask you.  Knowing everything you know now, as hard as your journey has been, would you do it all over again?"  And, I told her what I am telling you now.  The answer is "Yes."  Are there parts that I wish I could have omitted?  Are there times I wish it hadn't taken 6+ years?  Do I sometimes wish ours had been the story of a crazy fast process?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  But, that's not our story.  That's not our path.  And, somehow, it all somehow has led us to the boy we think was always meant to be our son.

So, for WEEKS this post has been churning in my head.  And, this is what I hope you hear from me.  Don't settle for only doing the things in life that you are sure you can do.  If God is calling you to step out and do something that is beyond what you think you can do, trust Him and take that step.  Because that is what His callings look like.  They require faith.  They require trust.  They will require more of you than you have to give. Please don't say no because it looks like more than your heart can handle. And, please don't ever for a second think we have done any of this on our own.