18 December 2014

Adoption Update

A lot of you have been asking when we're going to Ethiopia. Our agency told us to expect travel in the December - January time frame, and here it is December, and we don't have any tickets or even a timetable for travel.

I've put off blogging until I had more concrete information. I knew there was some red tape our team in Ethiopia was trying to straighten out, but I hoped it woudn't take too long.

Today I talked to our agency and received some upsetting news. Despite their best efforts, the team in Ethiopia has not been able to get the necessary sign-offs, and it looks like obtaining them is going to take some time--if they are able at all.

You may have heard about a case in Seattle where an adopted Ethiopian child was made to sleep outdoors, forced to shower with the garden hose, and ultimately starved to death. Her adoptive parents have been charged with murder.

That case caused a lot of bad press for the Ethiopian government. They were made to look as though they had not done their due diligence, and now they are very hesitant to allow international adoptions at all. Their constitution guarantees that right, but the current government is making it nearly impossible for agencies to do their work.

A series of approvals have to be given at Ethiopian's city, county, and state level before a child can be approved by their federal government to be adopted internationally. Our children received those letters more than a year ago--but now the federal government is requiring additional information on those documents.

Unfortunately, our children's region--the Tigray region--is no longer allowing int'l adoptions from their region, and they are refusing to re-issue the approval with the necessary information. And so we are at a stalemate. Nobody wants to budge.

It seems like it would be easy enough to solve, but Ethiopian culture is completely different than ours, and getting things done requires a different set of cultural rules and etiquette. We are thankful that our agency has employed an amazing team in Ethiopia that consists of Ethiopian men and women who know better than anyone the rules of the game.

This team, led by a man named Sebilu, is working every angle they can to get our children cleared. Right now Sebilu is making the argument that the federal government needs to look at the best interest of the children rather than simply crossing items off of a checklist.

Friends, will you pray?

Pray that God gives Sebilu favor as he meets with these people in authority. That God would show him favor.

Pray for our children. The last report we received says our little girl, Lucia, asks continually when her family is coming.  David and Mary ask to look at the photo books we've sent almost every day.

These children have been without a family for nearly seven years--since Lucia was just an infant. David recently told a social worker that he'd seen a lot of other kids get adopted, but after all this time in orphanages, he never thought it would happen for them.

Pray for the leaders in Ethiopia. I understand their desire to give due diligence, but at this point, it seems are children are political pawns in an unfair game.

And pray for us. Our hearts are broken. We want our children home.

Finally, as I've written about before, I know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil.

Wouldn't it be just like Satan to make an innocent child question his worthiness to have a family? Doesn't Satan want us to feel lonely, isolated, unlovable, and forgotten by God?  That's what he's doing to our kids. He's hardening the hearts of those in authority so that our children will never know the love of a mother and father. They won't be told of the goodness of our God and see His provision in their lives.

But God is greater.

Will you stand with us in agreement, wherever you are right now?

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God.

For with God, nothing is impossible.





01 December 2014

Why I Got Angry Today

This is a re-post from September of last year. Still relevant, especially today.


Today, Ken and I attended a CPR and First Aid training class. The presenter was a firefighter/EMT from our community. And I liked her. She was funny. Really funny. Did I mention likeable? She made the training enjoyable...even at 8 am on a Saturday morning.

However, part way through the training, something was said that really upset me.The trainer was talking about CPR and the new recommendations for compressions and mouth-to-mouth. She said something to the effect of, "As a non-medical professional, you are considered a Good Samaritan, and you aren't legally bound to give mouth to mouth. And if I were you, I wouldn't. Why? Because people are gross. And you never know what gross diseases people have. They might have hepatitis, TB, or AIDS. And although the experts say you can't get AIDS from saliva, I don't believe it."

Whoa. Stop right there, lady.

I have several dear friends who are HIV-positive, and this stigma has got to stop. It's a lie. It's a fear-based lie. I was shocked and disappointed that this medical "authority" would disseminate false information. I was so stunned at the time that I didn't speak up. I wish I had. But now I will...for my friends with HIV, for children with HIV, for anyone touched by HIV. I have to speak up...as a Christian, as a promoter of the truth, as a human being.


First of all, people with Hepatitis, TB, and AIDS are not gross. Some of the symptoms of their disease may be gross, but they are not. They are human beings, dearly loved by God and created in His image.

Second, this woman appeared to have misspoke when she used the term AIDS. I believe she meant HIV. HIV is not AIDS. HIV is a virus, that if left untreated, can cause AIDS. Because of advancements in treatment and testing, it is uncommon for a person with HIV in the United States to progress to having AIDS. In fact, people who are being treated with antiretroviral drugs usually have an undetectable viral load, meaning the virus can not be detected in their blood. Therefore, transmission is very unlikely under any circumstances, and most of them live out normal life spans with minimal health issues. With regular treatment, they can marry, have babies, and do just about anything an HIV-negative person can do.

How is HIV transmitted? A person can contract HIV through mutual blood or semen contact. This most often occurs during unprotected sex or by sharing needles during injection drug use. There are also cases where a mother passes the virus on to her newborn or transmits the virus via breastfeeding. These instances usually occur with people who are not receiving ongoing antiretroviral medications.
If you aren't having sex with an HIV+ person, sharing needles, or being breastfed by a person with HIV, the risk of becoming infected is virtually non-existent.  
 
Can HIV be transmitted by saliva? No. In some persons living with HIV, the virus has been detected in saliva, but in extremely low quantities. Contact with saliva alone has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV, and there is no documented case of transmission from an HIV-infected person spitting on another person. 

Can a person get HIV from casual contact with an infected person?
No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, church, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.

Let me repeat: HIV does not survive well outside the human body. You cannot catch HIV through saliva. You cannot catch HIV by touching HIV+ blood unless you have a gaping wound or open sore and it enters your blood stream. If you do have open wounds, you should be using gloves when dealing with anyone's blood.


Friends, PLEASE end the stigma. If the Church is not proclaiming the truth, showing love, and giving compassion to those affected by HIV, who will?


I got this information from the CDC.gov, TheStigmaProject.org, and TheBody.com. Some of it I copied and pasted; some I paraphrased. For more information, visit any of their sites or gather your own research from reputable sources.

25 November 2014

Ferguson

I'm trying not to be judgmental about folks who respond to injustice with violence because I have never stood in their shoes. I've never been fearful of the police. I've always thought justice would prevail. I've rarely been a minority.

But I wish I could get inside their heads for just a minute so I could understand why they act the way they do. It doesn't make sense to me, but maybe it makes sense to them. Or maybe they are so overcome with grief and anger that even they don't know why they are doing it.

All I know is this: We're about to have three little brown-skinned people join our family in a few short months. And sometimes, especially on days like today, I feel scared for them. And I also feel scared for anyone who might judge them based on the color of their skin rather than on the content of their character. Because those folks will be dealing with this Mama Bear. And Mama Bears can be kind of scary when they're protecting the little ones they love.


16 November 2014

And the Winner Is...

Now that I have you attention, I want to write about something other than the winner of the free book. But I promise...I will tell you the results of our drawing in just a minute.

I was sitting in church this morning thinking about our Ethiopian kids and some of the recent snags we've hit in the process. They aren't anything major at this point, but they are annoying little things that delay bringing our children home.

I could be mad at the Ethiopian government for changing the rules mid-game. I could be upset with out agency for not foreseeing these issues. But they aren't the enemy.

There is an Enemy, and he is very real. He's called a Liar and a Thief, and for good reason.

He lies to me and to you and to my kids in Ethio all the time. He says we're not good enough. He says we don't belong. He says nobody will ever love us. He says we're unworthy. He says things will get worse.

And he steals. He steals our joy. He steals our hope. He steals parents from children. He steals our mental and physical health. He steals our sense of well-being.

I believe every snag we hit in this adoption is another attempt by the Liar and the Thief to keep our kids from having what every child deserves--a mom and a dad. A family. Grandmas and grandpas. Aunts and Uncles and cousins. Because if you don't have any of those things, it's hard to believe in a good God who loves you.

I can't think of anyone more vulnerable than a child without a family to love and protect him.

And I believe the Liar and the Thief would like to prevent our kids from belonging to a family and a church family who loves them and tells them the truth about God, about life, about death, and about themselves.

You can fully trust the Liar to do what he does best: lie. And usually about the things that are the most important.

...

If you are the praying sort, would you say a prayer this week for our kids? There are some important meetings where our Ethiopian team will meet with government officials to try to find out just what they need to provide to get things moving. Decisions will be made which we have no control of.

But God...

The authorities that exist in Ethiopia have been established by God. Their hearts are in God's hands. That's what the Bible says, and I choose to believe it.

God is able. More than able.

...

And now...on to the original purpose for this blog... our WINNER!

We printed every comment that was left on the blog and on Facebook, and we cut them into strips which we folded and put in a bag. At dinner Saturday night, we had Jackson pull out a piece of paper. And he pulled out... mine! For real. Forty some strips of paper, and he pulls out the one we accidentally included (I had commented on the FB post).  #ThatsMyBoy

Not to worry, we had Jack choose another one, and I'm super happy with his second random draw. 

The winner is a fellow adoptive mom and Wheatonite, a writer, and an advocate for modern-day slaves. She has authored 13 books (maybe more?) and is an avid reader. She's been a part of the same book club for more than 15 years. I first met her more than 15 years ago because her husband was my boss. Now that I freelance, I'm my own "boss," and I like to joke that he is *still* the best boss I've ever had.

*Drum roll, please...





Congratulations to Terri Kraus! Let me know which of the books you'd like, and I'll get it right out to you.

Thanks to everyone who left comments. It was encouraging and fun to see all the people who were reading.
...

OH, and just for fun, after we pulled Terri's name, I let Ken pull a name out of the bag. Guess who he pulled? His mom. Like father like son. :)


12 November 2014

Unwrapping the Gift

It's been a really strange couple of weeks, and I've hesitated to blog about it for two reasons. First, it's hard to put in words something you haven't fully processed. And second, there's the matter of privacy. How much is appropriate to share in a public forum? What is helpful, interesting, and/or informative so that readers can pray for our growing family?

As I told you in a previous blog, the boy we are adopting went to court to say whether or not he wanted to be adopted. The initial report was simply that he did very well and everything turned out as expected.

We didn't get any more details for several days because the email of our team in Ethiopia wasn't working. When we finally got pictures of the children unwrapping our gift books--and the full report on what happened--I couldn't quite process everything.










...

I remember the first time I left our son Jack with someone other than a family member. He was just a few months old, and the church we attended at the time offered a Mom's Day Out. For just a few dollars, you could leave your child in the capable hands of a nursery worker for several hours on a weekday.

Being a stay-at-home writer and editor, I thought this was a great idea. But as soon as I dropped off Jack, my heart sank. I missed him so much I could hardly stand it. All the cliques applied: I felt like I was missing my right arm. I felt like I'd left my heart in that nursery and was walking around without it.

I was miserable.

When they called me 45 minutes later to tell me Jack had been crying and they couldn't calm him down, I was secretly happy. I raced back to the church as fast as I could to get my child back in my arms.

That's a mother for you. At least with her firstborn, and at least for the first few months. Now Jack goes off to preschool twice a week, and neither of us sheds a tear. But I still miss him when we're apart for an extended period of time. I wonder what he's doing. I wonder if he's happy. I wonder if he's sharing all the family secrets. I wonder if he made it to the potty in time.

He is always on my mind.

...

Our three soon-to-be-adopted children in Ethiopia are always on my mind as well.  

Will they like it here? Are the decorations in this bedroom too baby-ish for an 11 year old? Is this coat going to fit her? Will it be warm enough? I wish I could find a coat in yellow since that is her favorite color, but all I can find is pink and purple! How will they do in school? Should I homeschool them? Will they be kind to Jackson? Will Jackson be normal jealous or crazy jealous? Will they be the only chocolate-skinned kids at their school? Will other kids like them? Will they be teased because of their foreign names and thick accents?

And after the report and photos we got two weeks ago, my thoughts have started including ones like these:

Is that a smile on her face as she looks at the photo book we sent? Do they feel scared at the size of their new school building? What does it feel like to go to court and say your circumstances are so bleak that you are willing to be adopted by an unknown family who live in a foreign country where you will know no one, save your two siblings? 

What does it feel like to tell your social worker, "I know what adoption is, but I never thought it would happen for us because we've waited all these years in the orphanage." And how did he feel when he asked, "How soon will my new parents come and get us?"

My mind is constantly processing these ideas. Now that our children know about us, I want them right now. I don't want them to wait one second longer, and yet...there is nothing I can do to speed the process along.

The Ministry of Women and Children in Ethiopia has suddenly changed the rules--they want originals on all the important paperwork. Previously they accepted copies. That means our team in Ethiopia has to scramble to get originals of who-knows-how-many documents.

...

When I was pregnant, everyone told me to enjoy the pregnancy--that the baby would be here soon enough and then I'd be enduring many sleepless nights. But still, I couldn't wait to meet my son.

Nobody is telling us to enjoy the adoption process because we all know that three children are going to bed tonight without a mother and father to tuck them in, to kiss them goodnight, to pray with them.

And that breaks my heart. I am going about my usual business--writing, editing, meeting with friends, going to church, babysitting, attending parties--like everything is normal. But nothing is normal. We have three children who are waiting for us, and I hate being away from them.

...

My husband tells me that for every comment I get on my blog, there's at least 10 other readers who don't comment.

He heard that statistic years ago, and I'm pretty sure it was before the advent of Facebook links and the ability to simply hit "Like."

That's why I'm doing a giveaway this week...to see who my readers actually are. Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog will be entered into a drawing to receive a free book. The winner can choose any of the following books and it will be mailed directly to them. The winner may choose from threse books:

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Called a simple, enchanting tale...warm and funny and thoroughly unpredictable.
Publishers Weekly calls this "one of the best Christmas books ever."


















Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
A beautifully illustrated book to celebrate the Advent season together as a family.













The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
A Moonbeam Award Gold Medal Winner and one of my favorite books!














The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

A New York Times Bestseller, this book is an Advent calender and a devotional all in one.















Any of these books will make your Christmas more meaningful...or the winner could use the prize as a stocking stuffer.

Leave your comment in the section below to be entered to win! We'll announce a winner this weekend.

31 October 2014

A Quick Update

Our social worker messaged me a little while ago and said she'd received an email from Ethiopia saying D. did great in court today and all went well! She didn't have any more details, but that is more than sufficient for now.

Also got a call from our realtor. Some of you may know that we've been trying to sell our condo in Florida. (We were renting it, but currently it's vacant and on the market.) After a long stretch with no interest, someone viewed the place today, and while he didn't make an offer yet, we are hopeful.

Thank you for your prayers.

And if you want to buy a beautiful condo in Florida, just 12 minutes drive from the beach, located on the gorgeous Lake Emerald, let me know! Apparently it's a hot property. :)


21 October 2014

Where Things Stand

If you saw my status update today on Facebook, you know that I took a bit of a tumble. I singlehandedly tried to move a desk from our basement to our main level.

The desk is not a heavy one, but it is somewhat large. I made it up several stairs, with my 3-year-old boy cheering me on from behind. Just as I neared the landing where the stairs turn, I lost my balance, my legs buckled, and everything started moving in slow motion.

I was falling. The desk was falling. We were both crashing toward my son. I had the presence of mind to tell Jack to move out of the way, and luckily he wasn't hurt. The desk and I did not fare as well.

I saw this pin on Pinterest RIGHT AFTER I fell. #Hilarious
Moral of the story is that some things in life cannot be done by yourself. You need help in order to be successful.


Adoption is the same way. So many of you have come alongside us and helped us and prayed for us. And we are so grateful. So I wanted to let you know where things stand, and how you can continue to pray for us.

Right now there are some crucial things going on here in the USA and in Ethiopia.

First, what's happening in the USA: Our children's papers are being reviewed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Before we can move forward with the adoption, we need their blessing. This process can take 8-12 weeks, and we've been in it for about 4 weeks. According to our agency, the USCIS has been requesting additional paperwork on most cases, and that slows things down considerably. Our agency did everything they could to cross all their t's and dot all their i's, but whether USCIS thinks it's enough to prove the legitimacy of the children's orphan status is debatable. A lot of it depends on the person reviewing the case.

If you are a praying person, we would really appreciate your prayers for a favorable review and no request for additional evidence.


This is also an intense time in Ethiopia. We've been informed that we've been assigned a Guardian Court Date for October 31. We are not required to be at this court appearance; it is for the children's current guardian (the orphanage manager) to state again that they truly are orphans and that they are OK with an international adoption.

But here's the interesting part. Any child being adopted who is 11 or older must also appear in court and state that they want to be adopted.

Our son is 11, so he will also appear.

He and his younger sisters are residing in northern Ethiopia, and federal court is in the capital city. It is not a terribly far distance, but road conditions would make going by car very difficult. So he and his guardian will get up early in the morning, fly to Addis Ababa, where they will be joined by our agency's social worker. They will go to court, and "D" will say whether he wants to be adopted.

I hope he says yes. I think he will, but it is his choice. His sisters have no say in the matter because of their age, and he is very close to them, so even if he has doubts, I think he will want to do it so he can stay with them.

That is pretty big.

But something else pretty big is going to happen on that day as well. Our agency's social worker is going to tell him about us. While he and his sisters know they will be adopted, we don't think they've been told anything about us. At this meeting he will be presented with three photo books we made--one for him, one for his sister L, and one for his sister M. The books contain pictures of our family, our home, and places they will frequent when they live here such as their school, church, downtown area, etc. We also included cards for each child with a personal message.

The social worker will talk through everything with him and explain the books. I don't know if this will occur before he makes his court appearance or after....I'm guessing maybe before so he can be more informed?

I have to be honest. I have that same nervous feeling you get when you're on a first date. I really hope he likes us. It seems silly when I type the words into the computer, but it's how I feel. I want him to like us and want to be a part of our family.

Later that evening, D will fly back to Northern Ethio to his orphanage. He will be given a big responsibility: to share the books with his sisters and explain everything to them.

Will you pray for D on Oct. 31? (No, they don't celebrate Halloween in Ethio, in case you're wondering.) It will be so much information for him to take in. I know as the older brother he feels a certain sense of responsibility for his sisters, and he wants the very best for them. Please pray that everything goes smoothly--from the flight to the meeting with the social worker and, of course, the court appearance. Pray that God will prepare D and his sisters to be a part of a family after a very long time without one. Pray that their young hearts will be flooded with peace and joy.

Someone recently said to me, "I'm sure they will be so happy and so grateful to find out about you!" I hope she is right, but in actuality, change is hard. Change is scary. And some people are resistant to change. It's hard to leave every.single.thing you know and hold dear and venture out to a new beginning. Or at least I imagine it's hard. Actually, I can't imagine it at all. I would be terrified.

But God...

He started this process, and we are confident He will complete it for His glory, for our joy, and for the well being of these three children whom He loves so dearly.


Hopefully we will get some news late in the day on the 31st and be able to share it with you. Until then, please keep praying.

Love to you and yours,
Luann