Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our Adoption Story ... Part 4

Hello again!

Can you believe two updates in a week?! I'm trying to be intentional about sharing on the blog and this is me following through on my commitment to myself! Where better to start than to update you on our adoption story ... especially since the last update on our adoption was almost a year ago! So here goes!

There has actually been a pretty significant change in our adoption story. When I left you last, we had just submitted the paperwork for our first 15 month extension on the USCIS approval and were hoping to not have to do that again. We had met with the Mexican officials in Puebla the previous November and had been having some ongoing dialog with them via email. However, that excitement was short-lived as shortly into the new year they stopped responding to my emails.

As month after month went by without any responses we reached out to our adoption agency, only to find that they were hitting the same walls. Phone calls were not returned, emails did not receive responses ... it's as if the Puebla adoption office had dropped off the face of the earth! Now in their defense, last year was a presidential election for Mexico and that's always a time of great turmoil with lots of turnover in governmental jobs, so we tried to be patient.

Our adoption agency also seemed to sense everyone's increasing concern and in September they contacted all of us in the Mexico program to share that they understood our frustration and offered to allow us to switch programs. They had recently begun working with the South American country of Colombia and had a list of children on the "waiting child" list that were cleared for adoption, with pictures! Lori was immediately drawn to a brother and sister on the list, but I thought we needed to stick it out with the Mexico program. But those sure were some cute kids!!!

Another month rolled around with no contact from Mexico and Lori kept looking at the pictures of the cute brother and sister, feeling more drawn to them. I have to admit, they sure were cute! (Or did I already say that?! ) Late in October we decided to send an email to the Puebla office asking for an update and sharing that we had the opportunity to adopt two children from the "waiting child" list in Colombia. We explained that we were happy to wait on Mexico, as long as we knew the program was still ongoing. All we needed was to hear back from them just to give us some hope. We sent the email on October 25 and decided if we didn't hear back from them in 2 weeks, we would take that as a sign we should shift to the Colombia program.

Two weeks came and went without a peep from Puebla so we decided to that was the Lord's direction for us. (And as of February 12, 2013, we still have not received an answer to our email ... almost FOUR months later!!!) So we wrote a "letter of intent" for our agency to forward on to Colombia to express that we desired to adopt the brother and sister! And then our journey to adopt began to speed up to hyperdrive!

In order to make the change we had to update our homestudy (which would have had to have been updated for the next renewal anyhow) - and that included getting updated medical checkups, an updated psychological profile, updated financial status, updated background checks ... you get the picture! The big question was getting our homestudy to approve the change of countries, and, more importantly, the change of adopting TWO children instead of one. But the good news is that all the updates came through and the homestudy was approved, recommending us to adopt the two children!!!

Our next step is to send all this info to USCIS to request an extension, change of country and number of intended adoptees. Once we have that approval, we'll have the entire packet translated and submitted to Colombia as the official application. We're told that because the children are on the "waiting child" list and are already approved to be adopted, that our application will be "fast-tracked" and we'll have an answer in 15 working days (although we've also been warned that it could stretch out a little bit due to different holidays, etc). Once we have the official "referral" from Colombia, we then resubmit the packet to USCIS for approval for these specific children ... AND THEN WE TRAVEL TO COLOMBIA!!! 

We don't have a specific time-frame for this, but it looks like it will be sometime during the summer! Yes, THIS summer!!! So Lori's really ramping up the house preparation, getting the room ready for two instead of one. She's put her massage therapy license on hold for this year to prepare for the kids and be able to devote her time exclusively to the children when they finally do arrive. And I'm doing a lot of self-examination about time management to make sure I'm ready to be the dad these beautiful children deserve.

In looking back at our journey, it's been a long one. And it's not over yet. We first started seriously considering adoption after the Haiti earthquake back in January, 2010. Soon we realized that Haiti would not be adopting children out for a long time and we began looking at other countries, eventually settling on Mexico, and now finally adopting from Colombia. In looking back, we can see how the Lord directed us to this point. It's especially significant to us that the children we're adopting came into the program well after we began the process ... but became available to us just as we began to realize the Mexico program was not going to pan out. The Lord had positioned us and timed everything beautifully!

I wish I could share pictures of the children or share more about them, but until things are final you'll just have to take my word that THESE KIDS ARE CUTE!!! :) Thanks for your prayers and encouragement along the way. And I'll keep you posted ... I promise!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Beyond Ordinary - a must read

Hello again!

How many times can I say that it's been a long time since I posted anything? I think I've run out of excuses! So rather than offer an excuse, here's a new post ... in the form of a book recommendation for "Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn't Good Enough"!

It's weird how I found this book. Back on January 10 I was studying for my upcoming message on "Why Church" (video) and in googling the phrase "why church" I came across a series of articles on the Prodigal Magazine website called precisely that, "Why Church." In the series several writers explain why they love the church, even with all its flaws and shortcomings. I read each article with interest, and found great value in reading them. It's amazing how much hurt takes place in organizational churches, and as a pastor I know I've caused some hurt as well. I am flawed and I let people down. I try to  make it right, but I know I don't always do that and there are probably some stories that could be told about the people I've hurt. But it was beautiful to read people's stories of why they loved the church in spite of the miscues, stubbed toes, hurt feelings and other maladies that go with interacting with fallen humanity. So I encourage you to take some time to read some of those articles for your own benefit. (*Insert standard disclaimer here about how I don't necessarily agree with everything on the site, blah, blah, blah. Just read and decide for yourself! )

In the midst of all those articles there was one called "A Death in the Family" by a fellow named Matt Appling who I had never heard of before (which isn't saying much - you'd be surprised who I don't know!). I really enjoyed reading the article so I clicked on the author's name which took me to his blog (*insert standard disclaimer here about how I don't necessarily agree ... yadda, yadda, yadda... ;) and it just so happens that his most recent blog entry was entitled "Why I Don't Like Marriage Books (Except This One)" - well that instantly got my attention. As I read it I understood what he meant about how most marriage books are written from the idealistic point-of-view by people who have it all together and if you'll just follow their few steps, you'll have it all together too. I added a comment to his blog about liking Gary Chapman's "Five Love Languages" and Willard Harvey's "His Needs: Her Needs" and then I said I looked forward to reading the book.

Let me tell you, I didn't know what I was getting myself into! After purchasing and downloading the Kindle version of the book I found myself pulled into the story as Justin and Trish Davis (of RefineUs Ministries) take turns walking the reader through their story from each one's point of view. This is no ivory tower marriage! They bravely lay bare the mistakes and failures they each made as their marriage began drifting towards the shoals that eventually destroyed it, bringing them to the decision of rebuilding it from the bottom up. I was stunned as I read things that I completely identified with - attitudes, excuses, selfishnesses ... they were all plainly there for me to see in my own life as I read page after page and encouraged my wife to read along with me.

She, too, was caught up in the story and actually finished the book before me. We found ourselves talking about the parts of the story that we identified with, owning up to mistakes we had made, confessing areas that were revealed to us that we were still holding on to even after 25 years of marriage and ministry. It was so refreshing to have these conversations. And painful! But so healing!!! Even though we had not made all the same mistakes, there were many layers of issues that began to be peeled back in our conversations, and we're looking forward to even more great talks as we plan to re-read the book together and have recommended it to several friends.

Justin and Trisha, you'll probably never read this, but thank you for having the courage to open up your lives to others and share the hope and healing you've found. You've paved a way for many to follow. We're right behind you! We no longer settle for "good enough" ... we want EXTRAORDINARY! And if my friends want extraordinary too, they'll get this book! And now, back to your regularly scheduled scrolling. :)