Tuesday, February 15
I've been reading a lot of good books lately, all of which I have walked away with something that has stuck with me. The last 3 I've read in particular have really stuck: Forever Lily, When You Rise Up, and Passionate Housewives Desperate for God.
Since each was about something different I plan on talking about each of them in a shorter post. Here's the first one:
Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell
This book just left me feeling even more strongly about adopting from China. The general plot is about a woman who goes with an acquaintance (I really can't refer to her as a friend) as she travels to China to bring her daughter home. Things don't go as planned and the woman who had intended to adopt decides she wants nothing to do with the baby.
The book did come out 4 years ago and the author was writing about her trip from 1999, but I can't imagine too much has changed in the orphanages in the past 12 years. The descriptions she wrote about the care of the baby, of how many little girls are there waiting for a home, and how many won't ever be taken to one, is heart breaking.
Adopting from China has been something I've thought about for as long as I can remember, something that we planned on doing before we ever dealt with infertility. I always see a little girl, in our family from China, our youngest.
To adopt from China you have to be 30: I turn 30 in a little less than a year and a half, Matt, a little closer to two years. God willing we'll be starting the process to adopt from China soon after. This book just confirmed the desire in my heart to adopt a daughter from China.
Tuesday, January 11
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28
I am feeling really strongly about adoption though. It's been on my mind since our last failed cycle and it's been growing stronger ever since. Matt, of course, doesn't want to discuss anything until after my BETA.
*Another thought as to our future. We kept toying with the idea of taking Matt's parents up on their offer....it's probably not going to happen and we're not making any commitments to buy it right now. We'll see what things are like in a few years.
I think what we have decided on is staying in our house indefinitely. I was talking to my parents the other day about expenses and our needing to repair the foundation, but not wanting to do that until we decide if we're going to make the house bigger. They told me what they pay in home owner's insurance and taxes, a month, and I almost had a heart-attack! They own half the amount of property that Matt's parents have. Put it this way....just their home owner's insurance is what our current mortgage is a month.
We hadn't even given those costs a thought when toying with the "buying the ILs'" idea: I can say with 96% certainty we will not be buying their house. Here's what we are thinking of...staying in our house, applying for a home improvement grant (covers structural and weatherization and other things) through the county, if we get it then we would put that money toward repairing the foundation, updating the heating system, and making the back of the house larger.
The other thing in our favor is in September our grant that we originally received to buy our house comes up...and I don't think we'll owe any of it back. If that's the case, we could get a great deal with a home equity loan on our house to help with the repair costs.
This is all just still in the fantasy stage, but you gotta start somewhere.
*My parents' church burned down. They started going there when I was 16 and (after a bunch of issues) started going somewhere else a few months ago. I heard the fire alarm go off at 3:30am and then my mom called me this morning.
From what information we've gathered some one broke in, opened up all of the gas lines (in the heating and stoves I assume) and lit a match. The whole church and the rectory are gone....it's so sad. Fortunately no one was hurt, as the pastor's family didn't live in the rectory (they live a few houses down).
If it had to happen to some church, it couldn't have happened to a better one: They're big, they have an active and powerful church family, and they've been planning on expanding. If any church can recover from this, they can. I know our church couldn't....if such a thing happened to us, that would be the end of us.
*I think that's everything. In just 60 hours I'll be finding out the BETA results.
Wednesday, February 3
Arno was inseparable from Mr. Penguin. The little Haitian boy was almost three years old, and the plush penguin with the word "love" inscribed upon it was his most treasured object. The orphan and his penguin were always seen together.
The boy had been given the penguin just after his birth. A Dutch couple was in the process of adopting him almost from the start of his life -- they had been matched to him when he was only two months old. The penguin represented a promise.
The process of adoption took two years -- the length of time considered adequate to determine that no living relatives might claim him. According to official estimates, there were over 50,000 parentless orphans in Haiti before the earthquake came and orphaned many thousands more.
Richard and Rowena Pet were the young Dutch couple who wanted so badly to be Arno's mother and father. They had struggled with infertility for years before deciding to adopt. As they awaited the adoption of Arno, Rowena became pregnant. Last August she gave birth to Jim, who was left in the care of relatives as Richard and Rowena flew to Haiti in January to claim Arno and complete the adoption process.
The story of Arno's adoption is movingly told by reporter David Charter of The Times [London]. As he reported, "Arno was shy at first but within 30 minutes of meeting his adoptive parents he reached for Rowena’s hand and took the Dutch couple on a tour of the orphanage in Port-au-Prince where he had spent most of his short life. He began to call them Mummy and Daddy."
Richard had shared their joy with a friend in an e-mail:
“We got to the orphanage feeling a bit strange. We went around a corner and immediately saw Arno walking towards us. He was OK until he was about half a meter away, but then he panicked. The woman from the orphanage helped out and half an hour later he took Rowena’s hand for the first time. I’m sorry but I can’t help crying at the moment as I type this. Arno has been showing us everything in the orphanage. He showed us an old car they have for the children to play on. He was holding a birthday card we sent for his second birthday.”
According to Charter, adoptive parents often stay at the Hotel Villa Therese in the Pétionville district of Port-au-Prince. That is where Richard and Rowena took Arno. That is where they were when the earthquake came. And that is where they died together.
David Charter tells the story, with comments by Chris Spaansen, the friend to whom Richard had sent the e-mail:
Dutch TV cameras were on hand during the frantic search by an international rescue team with members from the Netherlands, Britain and Canada. . . . Lying there amid the rubble was the unmistakable blue and yellow toy bird, Mr Penguin, marked with the word “Love”, that went everywhere with Arno. “That toy helped them to make their first contact with the little boy. It had a really special place in the family. It was a very emotional moment for all of us,” Spaansen says.
What the cameras did not show were the three bodies, found intertwined together, as if Rowena and Richard had tried to put protective arms around Arno as the masonry began to fall. The disaster cruelly destroyed the new family, creating its own orphan back in the Netherlands. Jim, just five months old, will be brought up by Rowena’s sister, who already has her own three-year-old boy.
The bodies of Richard and Rowena and Arno Pet were taken to the Netherlands together, just as they had been found together in the rubble of the Hotel Villa Therese. They had been a family for a few hours, but a family all the same. Arno had a tragically short life, but he ended that life in the arms of a mother and a father.
Who can read this account without heartbreak . . . and a heart warmed? Is there a heart so cold that it does not feel the pathos of this report, and sense the sentiment of this family's tragedy? At the same time, this is not a tragedy in the classic sense. The love of Richard and Rowena and Arno Pet transcends tragedy. That is why The Times published this report, and why it stays with you so long after you read it.
Of course, for the Christian there is far more to this story. In the story of Arno Pet we find a picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:
But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. [Galatians 4:4-7]
Adoption is perhaps the most powerful depiction of the Gospel found in the Bible. We are all orphans, born under the curse of sin. By the sheer grace and mercy of God, those who come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are adopted as sons. Redeemed sinners are adopted as sons "through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise and glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." [Ephesians 1:5-6]
Arno Pet began life as an orphan, but he ended life as a son. He was abandoned at his birth, but he died in the arms of his parents. He did not die as Arno, he died as Arno Pet.
In the rubble of the Hotel Villa Therese the film crew found the bodies of Richard and Rowena and Arno Pet. In that same rubble, we find a picture of the Gospel of Christ. He who has eyes to see, let him see.
Tuesday, February 10
While it does do some very good things, there are some really big concerns and issues that are associated with this. Children need protection, however, this document states that children are outside of the jurisdiction of their parents, and that parents have no rights over their children, that any decision about the welfare of your child(ren) rests in the hands of the UN and International Law.
You intend on raising your child a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist, as well as whatever cultural traditions or beliefs: If your child (regardless of their age) tells you they don't want to....they don't have to. They can get a lawyer and sue their parents. (That's a very simplistic breakdown of the policy). Every decision you make in regards to your child(ren) can be called into question in a court of law, if your child disagrees with it.
I'm not an expert on this convention. There is a website called ParentalRights, which has a lot of information about this and what it's implications are for us, as Americans. One of the big things, outside of the actual policy, is that this international law would trump US law, were we to ratify it.
While there are other treaties/policies which have already been ratified by the US government throughout the course of history, I believe (I'm not sure) that this is the first that would place the US legal system under control of the UN. Through that we lose our sovereignty and are then beholden to an international government (which is a very dangerous thing...basically boils down to the beginnings of a world dictatorship).
I, for one, already think that our government has too much control over our daily lives, ratifying a document such as this would not only give our government more control, but International Law as well. The idea that the government could tell me how I should raise my child and what is "right" by my child is very scary to me.
I still haven't managed to get the molding up in the nursery. I'm hoping tonight or tomorrow: We'll see. I probably could do it by myself, but I would rather Matt was there to help. I did find someone to send my quilt out to. One lady wanted $43+tax, the other wanted $26+tax: No brainer. The cheaper lady was the one who did Matt's quilt so I know I'll be happy with how it came out.
The adoption stuff is still in the forefront of my mind. Once we know the verdict of this cycle, we'll make our move. I'm thinking of different ways to raise money to help cover the costs. Everything from cookbooks to Pampered Chef parties (if they do that) to dinners at our church.
We've already decided that once we're well into the adoption process (at least homestudy) that we're going to decrease our tax withholdings for federal, to the minimum. We've looked into the $10,000 tax credit, and increasing our cash and owing taxes (the credit would negate any taxes we would owe), looks like the best way to take advantage of that. Of course we will talk to our tax-lady prior to doing that.
My sister is staying with us next week. My parents are going to visit my aunt and uncle for a few days, but Kate has her college classes and drama club, so she can't go. I guess I need to tidy up the spareroom this week. It's always so lonely after she's left though. We go from being "parents" and having "kids" to just us again.
6 days till beta.
Friday, January 30
One of the things that I really like with them is that they have a sliding fee scale. The less money you make the less you pay...which is awesome for us. Someone on the boards had mentioned that they require you be a stay at home parent or take an extended "maternity" leave: They do not. YIPPEE!!!!
The only fees they seek prior to placement are for the application, home study, and profile: The max out of pocket is around $5000. After placement occurs you then pay whatever the balance due is (anywhere from $9,500-$25,000). This really works for us, because it would certainly give us time to save the money.
One of the things I found interesting was that they require adoptive parents of Caucasians and Hispanics to have 1 or no children. I don't know why, but that just strikes me as a bit odd. They explain it's that there are more bi-racial and black child and they are more flexible because there are more of those children who need homes. I guess that's understandable.
Now we just have to decide when we want to start the process. Whether after this cycle (if it doesn't work) or until after we've run our gamut of treatments, which if all failed it would be June of this year. Now we wait...
Friday, February 15
Here it is:
The Adoption Option
My search for answers to our struggle with infertility led to some surprising revelations about God's plan—especially how infertility and adoption played key roles in Bible history.
By Elliott J. Anderson
I'm a guy who likes answers. I want them now, and I want them fast.
I don't know if some personalities are better suited to dealing with infertility than others, but I do know mine isn't one of them! I'm hyper. Driven. I'm impatient and I'm competitive. Infertility is a masterful opponent, however, and as our time spent trying to conceive a child approached a decade, it was beating me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Something had to change. I hate losing.
My wife, Angie, and I had discussed the idea of adoption for years, both prior to and right after our marriage. But now, when adoption seemed our only recourse, we made the subject off limits. It felt like an act of surrender rather than a choice. Like a consolation prize. Like second place.
As we balanced the delicate walk between grief and hope, I decided that I had to understand the Lord's heart regarding this subject. What did the Bible really teach us about infertility and adoption? How did God use it in the lives of His people? How was He using it in mine?
Sympathizing with AbrahamJacob has always been my favorite Bible hero, so I knew where to start this process. I did some intensive research on the first three generations of Abraham to see how God had knit together barren couples with His call of the chosen people. This study softened my heart. It helped me grieve at a deeper level and prepared me for an amazing journey that was soon to be unveiled.
I sympathized with Abram and the way his confusion grew each time the Lord told him that he would be the father of a multitude of nations. He was to be fruitful beyond comprehension, and yet Sarai just did not conceive. As each month passed without pregnancy, they must have assumed that God was displeased with them, or at best was waiting for them to be worthy of His call. I empathized; Angie and I had battled this same insecurity and conditional reasoning.
After 10 additional years of waiting, complete with a name change for each spouse and a turn-of-the-century birthday for Abraham, then and only then did the Lord fulfill His commitment to this now elderly couple. Isn't it typical of God to wait until He, and He alone, can bring the result? That's the overriding message I received from Abraham and Sarah. And, except for the age differences, a somewhat similar occurrence played out in my own marriage as the Lord brought us four children in the next two years.
Growing patience and trustThe second couple was Abraham's only son, Isaac, and his wife, Rebekah. We know that the covenant promise to Abraham was in jeopardy if Isaac and Rebekah remained barren.
Can you imagine how they felt? The pressure to carry on the covenant of God must have been overwhelming. They probably stayed away from relatives and community functions for years. I can just hear Isaac's friends telling him to leave the field for a couple of weeks and go hunt some game. Or suggesting he just needed to loosen the cloth around his loins for a while. And I can imagine Rebekah's friends telling her to stop worrying so much and to make sure that she tried all the latest conception strategies and positions.
The Bible doesn't give us much detail about their 20-year wait, but we do know that Isaac petitioned God (prayed with urgency) on behalf of Rebekah, and the prayer was eventually answered with the birth of twins, Esau and Jacob. From this story I saw an example of patience and trust that God's ways are the best ways, no matter what. Again, this patriarchal narrative played out in an eerily similar manner in our own story as Angie and I started our family by adopting twin boys, one of which (the younger, of course) we named Jacob.
Accepting the joyThe third couple I studied was Jacob and Rachel. Jacob was blessed with ten sons by his first wife, Leah, and two of the maids, but because Rachel was barren, the couple was neither content nor blessed. And the entire family system was in chaos because of their pain and obsession. Although Rachel did finally get her own sons, the second one cost her everything. She died during Benjamin's birth.
The Lord used the narrative of Jacob, my favorite hero, to challenge my perspective. Would I be so consumed with the desire for a biological child that anything short of our own conception would bring depression and despondency? Would my lack of contentment destroy the gifts of joy and encouragement that He had blessed me with, but which I was starting to withhold and deny?
Unbelievably, after the adoption of our twins, Angie became pregnant for the first time. But the celebration turned into fear and anxiety as Angie became very sick in the third trimester. Pre-eclampsia ravaged her body. Her kidneys started to shut down and her blood pressure soared. At her seven-month check-up she was admitted to the hospital so she could receive around-the-clock care. As we waited for the drugs to prepare both Angie and our baby for a premature birth, Angie's body gave out. One early morning she suffered three quick and progressive hemorrhages as her placenta ripped from the uterine wall.
An emergency C-section brought Alivia into the world with only four minutes to spare before a lack of blood flow would have resulted in long-term brain damage for our baby. Moreover, Angie fully recovered with no additional side effects other than extreme exhaustion. Though we had not planned the pregnancy, I too almost lost my "Rachel" for the child I'd so longed for.
In each of these stories, including our own, the couples eventually celebrated a natural childbirth. Still, I don't think it was the physical element of pregnancy that brought them the most joy. I know it wasn't for us.
When we decided to adopt the boys, Angie and I had already come to terms with our deepest desire. It wasn't biological heirs or blood and gene transference. It was the opportunity to parent, the privilege to raise up a boy or a girl in the ways of the Lord—to share life and dreams with the next generation.
Lessons on deliveranceSo, how does adoption fit into these revelations? With or without a natural childbirth, I was still a changed man. The journey through infertility to adoption had taught me some lessons about answers and deliverance that I think are significant for all families (with or without children, with or without infertility, and with or without adoption).
For one thing, the word choice is important. The Lord chose Israel as His people, His nation. The Lord chose Abraham and Sarah as the initial couple for this covenant; He chose a barren couple as a way to exemplify His power and grace. And then He chose infertility as a major factor in each succeeding generation's spiritual development as He built their dependence and trust in Him and Him alone.
If we believe in God's sovereignty and grace, then we must believe in His timing and His will. We must be able to rest and abide in it. And I think the next couple of generations in the nation of Israel—the chosen people—reveal that need even more intimately.
About 150 years after that original adoption of Abraham and his descendants, the Lord moved His chosen people into slavery. Wow, what a privilege to be chosen by God! Jacob and his family moved to Egypt during the great famine, and that eventually cost them their freedom. The Israelite slavery lasted 430 years.
Isn't that often what infertility feels like? Like a life of slavery to a goal or a land that we can't inhabit on our own? This is why I believe that every couple wrestling with infertility is also wrestling with adoption, even if they don't realize or recognize its influence.
Enter the era of great deliverance. Enter Moses, the chosen leader of the original freedom march. Moses—the adopted son of the enemy king. The Pharaoh of Egypt? What was God thinking? How could He choose to lead His chosen people out of slavery through the deliverance of an adopted Egyptian boy?
Even so, an adopted man led an adopted nation out of slavery and into freedom. Though we may not have recognized that connection before, think of its importance for non-Jewish believers. For the Gentiles. For most of the Christians in the world.
Doesn't, after all, the Davidic line come through another "adopted" figure? Ruth became a God-fearing, God-loving "adopted" Israelite by committing her life to Naomi and the Lord: "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay; Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried" (Ruth 1:16-17). How beautiful. How romantic. What a symbol for all families, regardless of make-up, origin, or heritage. The Messiah, Himself, Jesus Christ was a direct descendant of this Moabite woman. Do I mean that Jesus was not 100 percent pure Jewish blood? I sure do! And wait, there is something even more specific to our barren state.
When God chose Mary to carry and deliver His Son into this world, it put Joseph, her fiancé, in a challenging predicament. He would have to accept the public shame and humiliation of a pregnant fiancée. The "real" father of the baby was unknown by most, and believed by fewer. But Joseph believed Mary, he believed the angel, and he adopted Jesus into his family, teaching Him his carpenter's trade and raising Him as his own son without cowering to public disdain or indignation.
That's right—in a very real, God-ordained way, Jesus was an adopted son.
Adopted by GodTwo central figures of the two testaments of God's Word—of God's plan—are adopted. God used Moses to free the Israelites from Egyptian oppression and He used Jesus to free humankind from sin forever. And all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are also adopted sons and daughters.
Paul summarizes this brief adoption survey through Moses and Jesus: "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption, as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' … and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:14-15, 17, NASB).
There is no doubt that infertility is a difficult, painful issue and can often lead to a season of doubt or despair. But there is also no doubt that adoption is a God-honoring option to consider when the traditional road to parenting goes unanswered. We are not guaranteed the answers that we always want, but we are guaranteed answers that will glorify Christ and allow us to live in a spirit of adoption.
Thank you, Lord, for choosing to include us in your eternal family.