While Waiting

So, here’s my list of stuff to accomplish while waiting for #3

1. Prepare Lulu’s big girl room.  I’m not ready for her to transition out of her crib, but it’s almost time.

2. Go to cool big city for fingerprints and do fun stuff.  Stop for Ethiopian food afterwards with the kids.

3. Take the kids to the zoo.

4. Go to a play.

5. Read books on adoption book list.

6. Read a book just because I want to read a book.

7. Clean the refrigerator.  Lament the fact that it will be filthy again within weeks.

8. Touch up paint in my boys’ room.

9. Take the kids to play in the fountains at JV park.

10. Find an attorney to complete our readoptions; find the money to pay for it.

11. Find a new home for the photo albums currently living in Lulu’s room.

12. Make a tomato basil tart and pistachio torte.

13. Have a long conversation with a friend on the back porch.

14. Remove clothes from the kids’ closets that no longer fit.

15. Sell all my extra stuff in a garage sale.  Convince friends to help.

16. Get Lulu’s hair cut for the first time.

17. Refinish the deck.

18. Take more videos of my kids.

19.  Have Lulu’s hair professionally braided.

20.  Buy clothes for my big boy.

21.  Spend a weekend in our hometown.

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Entering Waiting Phase I

So, our paperwork arrived promptly in Virginia yesterday.  Our family coordinator says all is in order, so it will be authenticated next week and we will be DTE on 6/29.  My sweet little boy is still not ready to be referred to us.  They are gathering up required documentation, completing medical exams, etc., so it will be awhile before we are submitted to court.  This does give us time to get our I-171H completed.  I’m planning for a fun day when we get fingerprinted in the fabulous city with a stop at an Ethiopian restaurant.  I might be able to convince Matt to let us stay overnight.  Lulu loved it the last time.  So, I hope to have a referral within 4 weeks, but it is looking less and less likely for us to have court before closures in August.  This is hard for me.  We need time, time to get Lulu’s new room ready, time to continue to bond with Teme (who has only been home 6 months), time to declutter the closets and make room for another little boy.  At the same time, court after closures will put us in Ethiopia in the fall again and leave me off work in the fall again.  I’ve been off two Decembers in a row (peak pediatric season), and I think it would be best if I could work through our busy season this year, at the very least to give my partners a break.  Never mind the fact that I want my little boy home now.  I’ve been waiting for him already almost 2 1/2 years.  It is time to wait. The only way I can bear waiting is to keep busy.  I’ll post a list of projects and activities I hope to accomplish before #3 is home soon.

Two years ago

Image

Two years ago today, I saw the face of my little M for the first time.  It was such a relief to me, to see his wide brown eyes and pudgy pink lips, to know that I would become his mother in just a few months.  He was only 3-months-old at that time.  Two years have passed, and I still wait for this boy.  I no longer have photos of him displayed in my house.  I don’t feel that it is right since he isn’t my son, at least, not yet.  We’ve come so close to adopting him.  We went to court over a year ago, and the judge said that everything was in order except the letter from MOWCYA.  The social worker from our agency even congratulated us on “passing court” even though we had not.  He continued to believe that letter would arrive.  We never received that letter.  A year ago, I believed there was no hope for us adopting this boy, and I had so much confusion because I felt as though God had promised him to me.  It challenged my faith, trying to reconcile promise and disappointment.  I still feel that God intends this boy for our family, but I will not presume to know how he will join us or when.  Maybe I am foolish to hope.  We have hope now because we have learned more details of this child’s relinquishment, and we understand now why he was not adoptable with the paperwork available a year ago.  We have hired a consultant to complete a formal investigation of his background.  She will also work to complete his file with the necessary information to ensure no hold up in court or at the Embassy.  She does not guarantee that we will complete this adoption, but she has hope.  I pray long for this little boy, pray that God will call me back to Ethiopia.  God is able.  He helps my unbelief.

Oppression

Oppress – abuse, afflict, burden, crush, depress, dispirit, harass, lie heavy on, mistreat, overwhelm, persecute, sadden, subdue, suppress, torment, trample, and weigh heavy

I am in the midst of an oppression of sorts.  I have been challenged personally and professionally more in the last few weeks than I have ever been in my life.  A series of different circumstances have arisen all in a very short time which have questioned my integrity, professional judgement, and personal safety.  Obviously, I cannot discuss details of any of these except to say that I feel attacked and helpless.  I examine myself over and over, searching my methods, my motives, wondering if I have been careless or misguided.  After some very thorough introspection, I do not think that I have.  I am innocent.  Even so, I consider how I could have communicated better, spoken more clearly, asked more questions, glimpsed the nuances of tone and body language.  I feel I have failed somehow.  This burdens me.

These professional struggles arrived as we wait for the final step in the adoption of our son, a child who is already legally my own but still lives in an orphanage in Africa.  I ache over him constantly.  I am the mother of a child whom I have never met, who grows older week by week, and I am helpless.  There is nothing that I can do to bring him home.  There are other challenges as well, relational problems among friends (that I somehow feel personally responsible for), family members with deteriorating health and crumbling marriages.

Daily, I feel a physical and tangible weight, a heaviness pressing down, as if the Earth’s pull has somehow strengthened and caused the atmosphere to thicken.  The physician in me checks lists of depressive symptoms, reaching for some self-diagnosis and clarity.  I am not depressed.  I am oppressed.  The Bible is clear that I have an enemy, and because my enemy has already lost my soul, he will settle for destroying everything else.  There is a great war that I cannot see, but I can feel it.  So I pray that my eyes will be opened, that I might be alert.  I pray for conviction when I have caused my own troubles.  I pray for clarity, for compassion, for forgiveness.  I ask God to make me better than I am.  I ask him to give me grace and peace.  I ask others to pray.

I feel silly talking about this oppression, which I know is only momentary, an inconvenience, a time to be brought low, when I know that so many others experience oppression that I know nothing about.  There are thousands of young women (children really) forced into prostitution, raped dozens of times every day, some sold by their own parents into brothels where they inherit disease and disgrace.  There are places where children not old enough to attend school are captured by radical armies and taught to murder their families and their neighbors.  They know nothing except brutality.  Billions of people spend hours each day just searching for enough food and water to survive.  I have never worried for water.  I have never ached for food.  I have never been enslaved or violated.

I am foolish, reeking of arrogance again, worried about all these momentary things when God is able.  His promise is redemption.  I am so blessed.  The weight and the wait remain with me, but I remember my husband who brings me water whenever I ask and massages my head when I have thought too hard.  I remember my daughter who loves my singing and pats my cheek and offers her puckered pink lips for kisses over and over.  I remember diagnoses-found, when lives have been saved and mothers have been comforted.  I remember friends who pray, who send me text-messages to encourage me on hard days.   I remember my mother, who prays long for her daughter, who inserts my name into the scriptures that she reads and speaks blessings over me.  I am bowed low before my Lord, unworthy of all this grace.

“The righteous cries out and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18

U2

Photo credit to Christina Pittman Bowles, who stood in line in the crazy heat much longer than I did and consequently has much better pictures.

Yes, friends, I spent my 7th wedding anniversary on a date with four boys from Dublin (and 56,000 other people).  My dear friend, Marlana, and I bought tickets to this concert months ago (after I’d asked my dear husband for permission to be away on our anniversary).  My sweet husband took care of Lulu for the weekend for me.  The entire event was a much-needed and very welcome respite from my paper pregnancy stress.  U2 has always been on my “must-see” concert list, and this turned out to be a fantastic show.  U2 has an enormous catalog, so I had no idea what to expect, but they played most of my favorites.  We arrived early (although not as early as some) with our GA admission tickets hoping to end up close to the stage.  We ended up in the third row of the mass of people, stage right with a life-sized view of the band.  One of the side bridges passed back and forth over us through the entire show, so we got a good view of all four gentlemen entertaining us (and their rather silly costumes (my favorite:  laser jacket with Target mic)).  They played for two-and-a-half hours on a very warm night.  Here’s one fan’s assessment:

“Do you know what the best thing about U2 is? Even if you don’t listen to them every day, even if you have never been to their show, even if you aren’t sure about Bono evangelizing about politics or amnesty or space stations or whatever it is he is fighting for—you still know every word to every song. You still listen in amazement to The Edge and his brilliance with a guitar, you recognize Bono’s lilt and cadence like it’s a family member’s voice, you feel something stir inside of you that is both emotional, yet insanely energizing, and you can’t believe it is happening right in front of you. From the get-go, you know that you are experiencing something frantic, beautiful and altering.”  –Johanna Roy

This band works hard.  The show was at once exhilarating, intimate, socially conscious, ridiculous, and cathartic.  Bono left me feeling as though he sang only to me, and at the same time, I left the show feeling the enormity of the world, feeling as though I am a part of something greater, and feeling personally responsible to declare the year of Jubilee.  I returned home refreshed, pleasantly exhausted, but ready to continue on towards my higher calling.

The Set List:

Even Better Than The Real Thing

The Fly

Mysterious Ways

Until The End Of The World

I Will Follow

Get On Your Boots

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / Many Rivers To Cross

Stay (Faraway, So Close!)

Beautiful Day / Space Oddity (snippet)

Elevation

Pride (In The Name Of Love)

Miss Sarajevo

Zooropa

City Of Blinding Lights

Vertigo

I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight /Discothèque (snippet) /Life DuringWartime (snippet) /Psycho Killer (snippet)

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Scarlet

Walk On
Encores:

One/Hallelujah (snippet)

Where The Streets Have No Name

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me

With Or Without You

Moment of Surrender

Weary

We find ourselves waiting, still waiting.  I’m not sure how long to say we’ve been waiting.  We’ve waited to conceive for 3 1/2 years, waited 20 months to adopt a son, waited 4 weeks to hear about baby T’s court date.  I am weary of waiting.  It makes me tired.  It is so much harder not having any way to count down.  When I was young, my mother usually had a countdown to Christmas calendar of some sort.  I remember gluing cotton balls to spaces circled on a Christmas tree to mark each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day.  Somehow, the counting helps pass the time, marks the days with a goal in sight.  I have no markers now to measure the distance to the finish line.  Guessing at it only leads to disappointment.  I can quantify and track each day that passes without news, each month of my son’s life that passes without knowing him.  It’s too defeating though.  Rather, I try very hard to focus on my girl, my sweet Lulu.  She has been with us for 8 months.  Next month we will have known her for as much time as we missed of her little life.  The following month she will have been with us for as long as she was without us.  My girl is 18-months-old and growing and changing every day.

 

Most days I can keep my Maybe Baby at a safe distance, but every little while this waiting comes bubbling over and suddenly I have oatmeal burned all over my ceramic cook top, and I cannot be consoled.  This week’s events have not helped.  I have had three complete strangers ask me this week if I can have kids “of my own.”  Usually I just smile and say, “not yet,” but what I want to say (quite rudely) is “SHE IS MY OWN!”  What does it matter if she came from my uterus or not?  One woman (who I’d met only moments before) offered to be my surrogate so I can have “my own child.”  Truly, I know that she was trying to be helpful, but really, THINK!  Just think a little bit before you say something ridiculous.  I am irritated by all of this questioning.  What these individuals don’t realize is that this line of questioning about biology invalidates my daughter, and it invalidates me as her mother.  It implies that I cannot possibly love her as much as I would love a child with my DNA and that my life is endlessly lacking because I am missing out on having matching cells.   I think these individuals assume that since we have no home-grown children we cannot possibly know whether we love our adopted children the same.  They are not certain.   I am absolutely certain that I love my Lulu just as I would love any other child raised in my home, from my womb or not.  I love two little boys in Ethiopia as my own even though they are not my own.  One of them will never be mine.  The other I have never met, but I love them anyway, just like I love my Lulu.

Holding My Hand

Tomorrow we have court for baby T.  It is 7:00 am in Ethiopia right now, and I am praying for our social worker, the representatives from MOWCYA responsible for our letter, and the beautiful, soft-spoken Ethiopian judge who presides over adoptions.  I visualize the street outside the court, the stairs, the hall, and the room of waiting adoptive families and relinquishing birth parents.  I have approached this court date as if it did not exist, keeping it only under a blanket in my mind.  I have casually referred to our sweet referral as “Maybe Baby,” not wanting to get too close if things didn’t work out.  I hesitate to even look at his picture.  I’m not sure I believed this day would come.  This morning, I started cataloging all the reasons this adoption is destined to fail.  The odds are against us.  Within minutes, before I even arrived at work, I allowed myself to become so distressed that I wasn’t sure how I would competently see my patients.  I know that our adoption agency has been suspended and that they are guilty of dishonest practices in the past.  They cannot be trusted.  I know that MOWCYA is processing only about 5 cases per day and that there is an enormous backlog of waiting cases yet to be processed.  We have failed court in the past.  All of this leads me to believe that we will not pass court this time, and then I wonder if we will ever pass court.  If we do not, what then?  Where is the baby that belongs in my empty crib?

This morning I knew that if I did not sit quietly before God that my anxiety would grow exponentially, and I would cease to function.  As I believe God would have it, I had an unusually slow morning in clinic which then gave me a completely free lunch hour.  I started my standard stress response, writing.  I haven’t allowed myself to write freely in months, but I needed to be honest, and paper is the easiest way for me to be truthful.  So, I wrote out all of my worries.  I told God that I felt I hadn’t heard from him about this adoption.  I’m not sure whether to interpret his silence as a call to trust him or a warning that things are not going well.  I have no reassurance.  I feel guilty for even desiring reassurance.  God has blessed my life over and over; I know the scriptures, and I know that he is faithful.  I have no justification for demanding even more proof.  Even so, God chose to meet me in my office.

While I asked questions and begged God to bring our baby home, I struggled with doubt, worried that we will be struck down and be out one trip to Ethiopia, several months of waiting, and several thousand dollars (these are compelling reasons, by the way, that we deserve to get our baby, as if we really deserve anything, but if I were in charge . . .).  I added up all the reasons that we should pass court, as if I could really earn the right to parent this child.  I asked God to give me peace.  I asked myself if I am really convinced that the Lord is good no matter what.  I know that if our son ever comes home it will only be because God ordained it.  Do not fear.  I wrote all of this down in a little Clairefontaine spiral notebook.  I flipped through an ESV Bible that I downloaded to my iPad as I wrote.  I settled in Isaiah, one of my favorite books, and randomly selected chapter 40.  First I came to Isaiah 40:5, “the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  I know that God’s will is his will.  No purpose of his can be thwarted.  If this is our baby, nothing will keep him from us.  I came to Isaiah 40:31, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”  I read on, and this passage grabbed me:

“For I, the Lord your God

hold your right hand.

It is I who say to you

‘Fear not

I am the one who helps you.’”

Isaiah 41:13

As I wrote, ballpoint pen in my right hand, I saw my Lord.  Why do I doubt?  He is here.  I confessed my doubt and praised my Lord for seeing me and meeting me in my little office just to hold my hand and reassure me that he is good.  Does this mean that we will pass court tomorrow?  Not necessarily, but it means that God will only allow what is necessary.  He only delays if his timing requires it.  He only says “no” if he has something better planned.  I don’t know his plans and purposes, but I know that they are good and that they will be accomplished.

This is my desire, that the adoption of my children brings glory to God.  Years ago, I thought that was a silly idea.  How can a minuscule, faulty human bring glory to the God of the universe.  Now I understand.  We glorify God any time that we reveal his character to others.  We glorify God when we make him known.  I pray that our adoption and the lives of our sweet children bring glory to God.

I began by writing questions.

“I the Lord will answer them.”

What now?

“I the God of Israel will not forsake them . . .  that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it” (Isaiah 41:17, 20).

I asked the Lord for peace, and God has granted me the thing that I asked of him.

Fundamentals

I’m having a crummy couple of weeks.  My adoption of my little boy is on hold.  We’ve been told that it is almost impossible.  I am sick with a nasty head cold, and I have been working much more than usual to make up for days off from our recent travel.  It’s illness season, so the clinic has been busy, and my throbbing head has left me inefficient and struggling to keep up.  I have been grieving since our court date.  Some days are better than others.  Sometimes I have hope that things will work out, but mostly I am angry and irritated to have another obstacle in the path to my little boy.  In moments like this one, I have to consider my faith.  I’ve been in this place before.  God is either everything he says that he is, or he isn’t worth my attention.  I have to go back to basics and remember that my faith is in God and no one else.

1.God is sovereign.
“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  Psalm 24:1
2.God is omnipotent.
“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”  Job 9:10

3.God is good.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”  Psalm 145:8-9
4.God loves me, and God loves M.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1
5.God has good plans for me and for M.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give             you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11
6.God has no limitations.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”  Isaiah 40:28-29
7.Jesus sacrificed himself to save me.
“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”  1 John 4:10
8.God wants to adopt me.
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  Ephesians 1:4-5
9.God’s grace is sufficient.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 2:9
10.I am called to worship and obey.
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8
There is so much more I could say.  This is enough for today.

Disappointment

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  –Proverbs 13:12

After two months of waiting fairly patiently for the phone call to announce our court date for our adoption, I called the agency to find out just what is taking so long.  A few hours later, Ann returned my call.  She said, “Are you sitting down?”  I was desperately hoping she had good news but pretty sure that she didn’t.  She proceeded to explain that my baby, M, is not “paper ready,” meaning that the courts don’t consider him eligible to be adopted at this time.  We don’t know why this is.  We don’t know why he was referred in the first place.  He may have had a family member show up who wants him.  The agency may not be able to locate any family to terminate parental rights and the courts are just waiting to be sure he truly was abandoned or orphaned.  We also don’t know when he will be “paper ready,” which could be in days, months, years, or never.  We don’t know.  We are disappointed.  We feel teased . . . in a way, betrayed.  We are already invested in this little boy, and to be told we might never have him is heartbreaking.  Our agency would like to offer us another referral in a few weeks, which we will accept, hoping that we will eventually be able to come home from Ethiopia with two children instead of one, but I hate the thought of replacing one child with another.  If M has a family who loves him, we want him to be with his family, but if this is just red tape, we want him, and we want him now.

So, we are disappointed and discouraged.  We have been waiting for parenthood for nearly three years now, and three years feels like long enough, especially when we’ve come so close to having our child.  We are frustrated and angry.  We both want to throw things and scream.  That won’t help though.  That won’t bring our little boy home.  We know that there aren’t any guarantees in this process, or really any method of growing families.  It is hard not to give up hope.

My husband tells me that it will be okay, and I believe him, but I only believe him because I know that my husband believes God.  I’ve spent the last day reviewing the promises that God has given me in the past few weeks.  Here they are:

May 16th:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  Hebrews 10:23

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while He who is coming will come and will not delay.”  Hebrews 10:35-37

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness.”  2 Peter 3:9

May 15th:

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”  2 Timothy 1:12

May 13th:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.”  Ephesians 3:20

May 12th:

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. “  Romans 4:18-21

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Romans 5:5

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Romans 8:25

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

May 9th:

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”  1 Thessalonians 5:24

May 6th:

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”  James 1:6

“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”  James 5:6

May 4th:

“Stop doubting and believe.”  John 20:27

I reminded myself of all of this, and I said again, “God, I believe you.”  I don’t know if I really, really do, but I’m choosing to tell myself over and over again so that I will.  I’ve got to know that I know that I know that God is telling the truth.  He will be glorified in this.  Matt and I have been reading the book of Job in the past few days, and I can say that I feel just a little bit like him (not that I’ve lost everything of value in this world or that I’m covered in open sores, but I do feel that this world is unfair).  Here’s what I read today in Job 42:2-3:  “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted . . . Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  Ok, God.  I hear you.  Now I’m ready for the plan.  Take the mustard seed and grow it.