Saturday, July 16, 2011


Today as I’m working through some of the online course requirements for our adoption, the subject was Attachment.  Of all of the unknowns that come with adopting a child internationally, one of my biggest mommy questions is “Will our baby bond to us?  Will we bond to him?   What if he rejects us?”
Even though the course work is time consuming, I’m so thankful for it.  I have the freedom to process all sorts of thoughts, fears, and possible challenges that our family may face as we adopt.
I’m also amazed at how many wounds of the human heart carry over from one scenario to the next.  For instance, attachment issues are not limited to children who have been adopted.   Babies that are born prematurely and are hospitalized in the early months, with limited skin-to-skin contact sometimes struggle with attachment.  Infants that are abandoned and later, adopted, grieve a very real loss even though they may not remember the biological mother.  Sometimes that loss isn’t even processed until the child is grown.  What about the abandonment that happens every single day, perhaps indirectly, when parents divorce and a beloved parent suddenly no longer lives in the home?  Or a parent is diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease, and the child’s brain “prepares” him to be abandoned.  What about all the teenage girls who look for love and a sense of value and wind up giving themselves body, heart, and mind over to boys who out of the blue move on to someone new?  Do the girls remain soft to love or hardened and bitter, maybe using love and sex to control something so frightening as rejection, abandonment?  What about the child who was never loved, never put first?  Never abandoned, yet never cared for.  A child that moved from place to place like an afterthought as a young mom forges her own way through love and loss.  Will that child not also struggle to surrender to love, or will he instead attach to anyone and everyone or no one, ever.
Interestingly, children who struggle with attachment usually resist the people who are most interested in loving them.  The adoptive mom who quits her job to stay home with her child, to invest in him, to bond may face biting, spitting and hours of temper tantrums as that precious child fights to defend a frail heart.  Can you imagine the “Fight or Flight” nature of a broken heart, where rage is confronted with love and touch and the two cannot exist at once?
I remember the volatility of my own teen years.  I don’t know if I was a normal teen or a bit of a troubled one.  Maybe there is no difference.  I do remember pushing my parents away; the same parents who loved me and sacrificed for me.  Who came to every choral concert, every recital.  Parents who took me camping and rubbed my back and hugged me and told me I was beautiful.  And I raged at them.  Especially my mom.  One thing that stands out to me about those years was her steadfastness.  Yes, I made her cry and scream back.  But then she would gather herself together and make me roast beef and homemade mashed potatoes for dinner.  She brought me breakfast in bed EVERY morning during those years, when she probably would have preferred sometimes to dump the freshly-made coffee on my head.  She wrote me letters telling me I was loved.  My mom and dad read every single apology letter that I wrote and most importantly, they forgave me, time and time again.  I know that growing up with that kind of forgiving love, changed my life.  Even though my parents were human, and imperfect, because they knew Jesus, and walked humbly before Him, they were given this really amazing grace to love me, even as I rejected them.
God’s love for me has also been like that.  His forgiveness of me, and adoption of me through Jesus has changed my life.  I have become His daughter, I get to live in peace instead of fear.  I get to have purity and vulnerability in my life again, in place of hardness and bitterness.  I get to have sweet joy and thankfulness and Light that far outshines the darkness.  I get to have His love for the “least of these.”  I think that the “least of these” doesn’t just refer to an actual orphan or widow, but it speaks to the deeper spiritual state of those who have experienced loss, rejection, and abandonment.   His love is for all of us, we ARE the “least of these” in that we have all, in some way, experienced spiritually, the state of an actual orphan or widow, this state of soul-brokenness and a heart-wrenching need for healing love.
As we become attached to the great Lover of our souls, we become a vessel of His love in a hurting and broken world.

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Matthew 25:35-40

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


 In the last year or so, I have been decidedly restless.   We’re often pretty busy around here, so it wasn’t actually boredom.  But it felt like boredom.  It wasn't from a lack of activity or living.  Actually, this year has been a year of amazing joy.  There were days the kids would crack up because I was exploding with giddiness and goofy thankfulness for life.  But I was still restless.  The kind of restlessness that has you paging through Pottery Barn magazine for yet another something to fill something that won’t ever be filled with somethings.
We’ve only lived in our house for two years.  Since I love decorating, I’ve had a lot of fun looking for deals, sales, keeping my eye on things I want to ask for at Christmastime or my birthday (yes, that’s unromantic, but that’s how we do it.  He might want a new snowboard, but what I really really want is barstools for the kitchen)
However, it doesn’t take very long to realize, “There will always be something more I want.”  Did God really give me a beautiful home so I can make it look like something out of a catalog?  Or did he give me a home so I can fill it with love and laughter and messes and healing and hope?  Do we get children so we can quickly sign them up for as many activities, sports, classes to fill their days and wear them out or does God give us kids because he wants us to teach them how to truly be content, how to serve, how to fill their hearts with the only thing that fills…Jesus.  With every activity, I think, “Is this good thing good for our kid?”  Is this nurturing a gift, nurturing our relationship or it just another THING, for goodness sake, a good thing, but another thing I have to find a place for.
Our adoption is pushing us into a very sweet place of surrender.  I think God was preparing me for it all year.  Our thoughts of the normal day-to-day now share space with Ethiopia.  Even though in the past we’ve helped to support missionaries in other countries, or organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, or Compassion, this is the first time my heart is broken and pouring out for orphans.  (That came from God by the way, not me.  There were so many times I guiltily tossed out the magazines about orphans and poverty and disease.  The needs are so great that I felt so small and useless.  And I couldn’t even muster up emotion enough to care.  Any dollar we gave was simply obedience, but not really love.)
 I started saying to God, “Father, Break my heart for what breaks yours….show me how to love like you….”  That line from the Hillsong song would be on my lips, in my mind for days, weeks.  And God, in His mercy, took all the overwhelming hurt of a broken world and broke it down for me…140 million orphans worldwide….minus one.  If we follow Him, He shows us why we are here.  And who He will love through us.  It might seem small, but if we all ask Him what He wants to do, I think that is the heart of it.  If we determine to walk in the Spirit, led by the Spirit and transformed by the Spirit,  our love doesn't grow cold and our hearts don't grow complacent.
"For if we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."  Galatians 5:25
He is such a good shepherd.  I say, “Lord, here I am…Send me” and yet I secretly whisper “Just please, God, NOT THERE.”  But He knows. He knows what I can handle.  He knows what our marriage can handle.  He knows what our family can handle.  He knows where we are now.  He knows about our money.  He knows about grumpy days.  He knows…..  He doesn’t wait till we “grow up” to use us.  He doesn’t wait till we have it all together.  He just waits for little-kid arms reaching up to Daddy in complete trust and surrender.  We are here for a purpose.  I believe that purpose is full surrender.

And my God shall supply all of your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adoption is Intentional

If I had to think of one word to describe the adoption process in terms of the “Paper Pregnancy,” it would be “intentional”.  Every single step so far has taken much intent, determination, and focus on the purpose of bringing our baby boy home.  In fact, I have to admit, this child’s addition has been the most intentional of any of our kiddos.  Which is probably why we waited so long in the first place.  We knew this would be a big process.  Even though we didn’t plan the month or date that we would get this party started, to me, it couldn’t have been any more ideal.  I’m mostly off work this summer, so I have plenty of time to DO THIS!
 Today was another big step in our adoption process.  We met our Home Study social worker and had our first appointment.  Just when I thought I might be getting a handle on paperwork, surprise!  We got more!  Throughout this process, I am amazed by the intentional nature of every step. Nothing is straight-forward or easy.  Most documents need to be ordered and expedited authentic copies, signatures need to be notorized, online classes need to be taken.   Child Protective agencies have to search not only places we’ve resided in, but also every single state/country we have visited for 3 weeks or longer.  For my husband, who led wilderness trips in about 6 different places, we have to fill out a bunch of search requests .  Lengthy autobiographies need to be written (I thought we already did this, but apparently this is something else)  and fingerprints need to be made for FBI checks.    References, employment checks, financial statements, dmv records…the list goes on and on.  And that is just for the Home Study.  The rest of the Dossier has its own list to accomplish.
This morning,  I tried to get a jump on our education by completing two classes before we had to leave for our home study.  Then, in the car I worked on our “Eyes Wide Open” workbook with Chris, 2 ½ hours  of meeting with our social worker  and the 1 ½ hour drive home and I’m pretty sure my eyes are anything but wide open.  (yawn)
Even though my brain hurts and I’m super-tired, my heart is really excited and with every intentional step we take, I know God is leading us.  We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t know for sure He already had the path laid out.  We can plug along knowing our adoption is in His hands. 
With every intentional step, I think of God’s adoption of us, through Jesus.  The plan, the sacrifice, the  “not my will, but yours be done” intent of a Savior who laid down his life for us to get to be His, forever. 
With every paper we sign, every check we write, every appointment we make, every phone call, every webinar, every single book we read through, every prayer we pray for our baby boy…we know, love is worth the cost.  We are trusting God with all the details.
Elliot said the other day, “I just can’t believe it!  I can’t believe we GET to adopt!”
I  feel  exactly the same way.  I can’t think of a more exciting way to bring a new child into our family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Zayla Wengelawit's Gotcha Day

Bloom (written for my dear friends, Connie and Alan, as they begin their foster parenting journey)

A child is a garden,
Restless to grow
Set apart for beauty
Seeds of purpose and hope hiding deep,
His Heart for this garden, He whispers to two
Parents, He calls them by name
To bring forth, in His strength,
A place full of grace,
where the dark gives way to blooms.
So, rocks, stones and roots,
Grasped tightly, plucked out
Thick, choking vines,
finally yield;
Love pulls hard.
Hugs, smiles, hands heal
Soaks through to a thirsty soul.
The Light shines radiant, warm, and pure
From hands that tend the soil.
Tough seeds soften, bursting, bold
Tender life pushes and stirs.
Fragile green shoots,
Always threaten to break
He lends strength to the ones who bend, work and wait
For beauty to rise up from ashes,
For life called by Him
To bloom.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Adoption Time-Line

Many friends have asked about our process (and progress! :D), so I will keep updating this post as we go.
I am including spiritually significant dates of our process as well, because these are very meaningful to us.

2008-  God begins to put adoption on our hearts.  Especially Marlisa.  (requested lots of info, but felt discouraged at the amount of time, money, etc.)  
2010- Marlisa starts to again pray about adoption, "to discern God's perfect will for us, for us to be 100% unified"  At this point, Chris wasn't ready but felt that sometime, in the future, we would adopt.
2011-May-Chris says, "Let's do it!!"  From that point on, we are 100% certain, excited, and dreamy about the baby in Ethiopia God has for us!!!  
Hebrews 11:1  Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Here we go!
May 2011-begin researching agencies/praying for wisdom
May 27, 2011-view AGCI webinar and complete pre-application with All God's Children International-approved
May 29, 2011-complete formal application-first payment
June 8, 2011-We are accepted for Ethiopia!
June 9, 2011-call VA home study agency/request application paperwork
June 10, 2011-order birth certificate copies, marriage certificate copies
June 15, 2011-receive Orientation paperwork pack (overwhelming!)
June 21, 2011-Orientation conference call to go over paperwork
June 24, 2011-orientation paperwork notorized/mailed to AGCI
June 29, 2011-receive DOSSIER pack (overwhelming!)
July 4, 2011-complete "Eyes Wide Open" workbook
July 6, 2011-scheduled Dossier conference call
July 11, 2011-order Marlisa's passport  (doesn't expire until 2012, but we need to have it current for 2 full years)
July 12, 2011-meet with our VA social services case worker
for first Home Study meeting
July 13, 2011- fingerprints for FBI checks/set up physicals for Chris and Marlisa/collect kids' completed medical forms from the pediatrician
July 14, 2011-submit autobiographies for Home study
July 19, 2011-Marlisa's Home study appointment


Expectant.  Expecting.  Heavy.  Gone.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary includes all of these as synonyms for the word “pregnant.”  From the moment we decided to adopt, after literally years of thinking about adoption and praying about timing, I have felt definitively pregnant.  Expectant.  Expecting.  Heavy.  Gone.  (I have no idea why "gone" is a synonym, but for me it fits.  Piles of laundry testify to that feeling of being "gone" as I have to literally pull myself away from adoption blogs, other people’s “Gotcha” videos and anything remotely related to Ethiopia.) Everything within me is so heavy with this adoption that I can hardly stand it.  I feel so giddy to think of this new life (or possibly lives) that will become a part of our family.  That expectant joy reminds me so much of my physical pregnancies, as I did my best to memorize, “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” and felt drawn to every single pregnant mama mag under the sun.
But here’s an emotion I was not prepared for.  Grief.  Ever since we decided to adopt, the Lord has been leading me gently through a period of grief that rather surprised me.  It is intense and real.  And it literally brings me to my knees, which I suppose is the point.  I am grieving those precious early days, weeks, and months of my baby’s life that I will have no control over.  I remember the sweetness of my other children’s newness and those early days of nursing and bonding, the experience of meeting every need as quickly as I could and knowing that was so very important.  It breaks my mama heart to know that I will miss these things.  This brokenness though has led me to pray very specific prayers for our child and the precious biological mother whose grief mine cannot match.  I wish she knew that spiritually, her own heavy heart is felt by me, at least in part, half-way around the world.  I pray for her and ask the Holy Spirit to intercede when I don’t know how.
I am already praying for our baby, maybe not yet created.  I pray that God would fill our child with His perfect love from the moment of conception.  That our baby’s spirit would be protected from a spirit of rejection or abandonment—that our baby would know, even before he is born, that he is very much wanted and loved, by God and by his mommy and daddy, sisters and brother in Winchester, Virginia who are waiting eagerly to bring him home.
Expectant.  Our hands open wide to the journey and to a precious life in need of a family.  We are trusting Jehovah God to provide for all of our needs and the needs of our children and future child (ren).  We would love for you to walk along with us in our journey!  (This will be the Longest. Pregnancy. Ever.)  Your prayers are cherished by us!!!!!