Sunday, March 29, 2009

Post-referral Progress

While some find the waiting after a referral to be worse than the wait for a referral, I have not found this to be the case for me yet. I know our boys in Ethiopia are loved and cared for by the wonderful staff at our agency's transition home. They are provided with some age-appropriate education including some English and Bible lessons. Moreover, our agency has been doing a phenomenal job of late getting all the necessary documents and witnesses in place for families to pass through court. Knowing their names and having seen their terrific little faces, I can now hold them in my heart until we can hold them in our arms!

We have had some work to do on our end this week. First, we sent referral acceptance paperwork and our final payment to America World Adoption agency. On a side note, as I wrote the check and transferred money from our "adoption fund" into our checking account, I had to stop and thank God for his incredible provision in our lives. After withdrawing everything needed to cover our largest payment of the process, we still have a significant amount of money put away for our travel expenses. I cannot think of a better investment!

In addition to our acceptance paperwork, we had paper-chasing to do for a home study update. Our home study will soon expire, so we are required to refile certain forms and meet with our social worker again in order to renew this important piece of paperwork.

Finally--and on a much more fun note--we were able to connect online with a family that recently passed court and will be traveling in April to pick up their infant son. They have expressed a willingness, even eagerness, to deliver some "care packages" to our boys. We were able to fill two gallon-sized ziploc bags that this family will take with them to Ethiopia. In each bag, we were able to squeeze a T-shirt, a pair of pants, a photo cube, a punching balloon, a small package of jelly beans, a book, and a snuggly blanket. We also included a very special note. Ethan and Abby have been busy making pictures and projects for their brothers, and this one was too special not to include! Can you read Ethan's message?
(I love you 6 year old brother. Ethan. Ethan.)
In a few weeks, we'll get pictures of the boys opening these packages! That will be another exciting day. What a journey!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Referral Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes--especially on days that I work at the YMCA and have to get up at 4am--I hit a certain low energy point in the afternoon, and I have to make a very conscious effort to be patient and interactive rather than snappy and withdrawn. Today was definitely one of those days.

Around 2:15pm, the phone rang...and everything changed.

I saw our agency's name on caller ID, and, honestly, my first thought was, "Oh, no." I was actually afraid that there was another "situation" or problem. (We have had three calls in the last month or so that presented potential referrals that ended up being outside of the request range we felt like God had impressed on us for our family.) My mind raced. As I pressed the button to answer the call, I remember thinking that Terra must have been calling regarding our paperwork questions in relation to our relocation. Maybe that was it.

Instead, Terra greeted us cheerily and stated that she thought they had found a referral that would work perfectly for our family. She gave us some information over the phone (her description for the boys was "absolutely adorable!") and then sent us a huge email with additional information. So here's the great news:

We have been referred two brothers, aged approximately 2 and 6. Unfortunately, I cannot give much information about them on the blog now. Here's how it works: We will send some documents and our final payment to our adoption agency here in the states. In a few weeks, they will inform us of a court date (usually set for about 2 months after referral). On this day in Ethiopia, representatives working with our agency will appear in court on behalf of us and these children. If a judge approves the case, these two boys will officially be Tappers. (At that time, I can share their pictures and more information.) It is important to note that approximately 30% of court cases do not pass at their first court appearance and must be rescheduled. However, we are hoping that we might be able to call these boys ours sometime in May or June. A few short weeks after passing court, we can travel to Ethiopia to pick them up.

Ethan and Abby have been imagining all of the details that will have to be worked out regarding their two new brothers. Here's a sample: (Abby) "I think our little brother will wear diapers, and I will help change him." (Ethan) "I think I can carry our little brother, but he might be heavy." (Abby) "I think this one would like to play trucks." (Ethan) "I could teach this one to ride a horse. Would he be scared? I would hold him tight." (Abby) "I think this is where he lost a tooth." (Ethan) "I will show them how to do lots of things because I know how." Pictures are carefully hung in the kids' room. Abby wanted hers on the ceiling so she could look at it, but Ethan wanted his by his head so he could touch it.

We are thrilled to have precious names and faces to look at, pray for, and dream about. Thank you to all of you who have supported us during the wait. We continue to lean on God, assured that He knows all that our future holds and will be more than enough through it all. Tonight, our hearts our filled with joy! As Isaiah 60 says,

Get out of bed, Jerusalem!

Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.

God's bright glory has risen for you.

The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,

all people sunk in deep darkness,

But God rises on you, his sunrise glory breaks over you.

Nations will come to your light,

kings to your sunburst brightness.

Look up! Look around!

Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you:

Your sons coming from great distances,

your daughters carried by their nannies.

When you see them coming you'll smile—big smiles!

Your heart will swell and, yes, burst!

I am God. At the right time I'll make it happen.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Enjoying the Moments

In light of the last post (please read on if you don't know what I'm talking about), we are committed to enjoying the NOW that we currently have. Here's some of what I'm talking about:

Probably not March

Yesterday, we marked off nine months of waiting since we completed and sent all the necessary adoption paperwork to Ethiopia. Back in June of '08, the estimated wait time for a young sibling group was 3-7 months. Obviously, wait times have increased since then. As we enter into our tenth month of waiting, we are so eager for that day our caseworker from America World, Terra, will call and say, "We have your referral." How we long for her to tell us about two special children halfway around the world! Though their stories of loss will break our hearts, I'm sure, we believe that God is a wonderful Redeemer who can take the broken things of this world and make them new and whole and glorious. We long to see the big, brown eyes and curly hair, now unfamiliar; we will memorize every detail of those pictures in the weeks and months before court, making what we do not know now part of who we will be in times to come. We will dream and speculate about how all four of our children will interact. We will decide what we need to keep of what we have saved and try to figure out what we might need to still get. Our love, now focussed on a vague idea in our minds, will tightly focus and yet somehow expand when we have names and faces at which we can direct it.

Unfortunately, it looks like our wait for that special, long-anticipated day of first contact is still a little ways off. We did receive an email from Terra this week that sensitively clarified that our agency is not yet processing a referral specifically for our family. While this news was disheartening in one sense, it did keep our hearts from racing every time the phone rang, put our minds at rest from the constant pressure of high expectation, allows us to reframe our assumptions and rest for a time.

I found an old hymn that has provided helpful truth on which to let my mind dwell:
Not so in haste my heart!
Have faith in God, and wait;
Although He linger long,
He never comes too late.

He never comes too late;
He knoweth what is best;
Vex not thyself in vain;
Until He cometh, rest.

Until He cometh, rest,
Nor grudge the hours that roll;
The feet that wait for God
Are soonest at the goal.

Are soonest at the goal
That is not gained with speed;
Then hold thee still, my heart,
For I shall wait His lead.

Maybe April will be the month for us to receive that for which we continue to wait??!!??

Thursday, March 12, 2009

FINGER PAINTS! (and friends!!)

Ethan and Abby have friends sleeping over for a few days while their mom and dad are away. This, of course, gives us a chance to practice life with four kids in the house. Today -- just to really test the waters -- we tried fingerpainting! Fun!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Unblinkable Difference

As promised, I am serving up some information that I learned in
my research for my term paper. As I read study after study that sought to quantify the effects of transracial adoption, measuring adoptee's self-esteem levels and factors relating to the development of positive racial identities and the like, they all began to sound rather similar. Generally, those who have been transracially adopted have positive experiences. There are exceptions. There are unique challenges. But generally, studies consistently show transracial adoption serves as a positive means of providing essential care and a sense of belonging to children who might otherwise never be placed in a family.

One journal article that I read, however, presented a unique angle to the transracial adoption debate. The author discussed the reasoning behind the common practice of biological matching within the adoption world. She then compared and contrasted this approach with what occurs in transracial adoptions. She concluded that transracial adoption offers some distinct, though perhaps understated, benefits. Here is what I learned (based largely on J. Swize's article, "Transracial adoption and the unblinkable difference: Racial dissimilarity serving the interests of adopted children" in the 2002 Virginia Law Review):

The obvious racial dissimilarity inherent in families formed by transracial adoption has been termed the “unblinkable difference." It has been proposed that this unmistakable reality actually serves to directly benefit transracially adopted children by facilitating open communication about adoption within families, promoting positive associations with adoptive status and racial identity, explicitly confirming the desirability of a particular child for a particular family, relieving disappointment regarding dissimilarities between parent and child, encouraging acceptance of unique traits and interests, and developing insightfulness regarding family and humanity. Beyond these direct benefits to the child, there may be indirect benefits achieved because of unconventional parental expectations based on the unblinkable difference. Such benefits are linked to the discouragement of unrealistic assumptions of generational similarity, increased awareness of a child’s uniqueness, and greater recognition of the child’s own role in his or her accomplishments.

Reflecting on these proposed benefits gave me hope for our future adopted children; however it also gave me pause and made me analyze how my biological assumptions with my daughter, Abby, and easily assumed biological connections with my white adopted son, Ethan, could actually negatively impact their lives. That was a twist that I had never really considered before!

Finally, I just wanted to report that we received results from Ethan's psychological review. He did tremendously! For a child who did not have the advantages of consistent loving care in his early life and who exhibited obvious developmental delays when joining our family three years ago, how amazing is it that he tested completely average! (maybe even a little above average in some areas--wow!) We praise God for the redemption of lost time! "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!" --Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Planning (with care)

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that. --James 4:13-15

I figure some of you readers out there (whoever you are) might be interested to know some more details of our plans for the future. Admittedly, there is still a significant amount of "coming-together" that has yet to occur, but we continue to sort out what we can and to trust that our sovereign God is working all things together according to His will.

The church has begun the process of a pastoral search. Mike is committed to serving in his current role as pastor through June if that is what works best for the church. Depending on the needs or circumstances of an incoming pastor, the exact timing of the transition may be adjusted earlier or later as necessary.

Where will we go? We have been blessed to be able to move into Mike's grandmother's home near his family. They live close to Canada's capital city of Ottawa. This location will also be a bit closer to my family in Pennsylvania. Granny, a wonderful lady with whom I am so eager to spend time more regularly, has been living with Mike's aunt for several years but has maintained the family home as well. It is a three-bedroom, brick home with lots of character, and will serve our family just fine. It is in town, close to a small park and within walking distance of the local library. There are several grocery store options closeby and even an aquatics center! (Have I mentioned that Ethan has learned to swim with no flotation device?? --just within the last few weeks at the YMCA!)

What will we do? Mike is planning to enter a PhD program in Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa. He also has a few leads on job opportunities, including a position with the company he worked for while he was in seminary. During that time, he provided personalized care within a group home setting to clients with severe autism. Mike found real satisfaction in serving these individuals, and he is excited about the possibility of returning to that same company.

Ethan will be starting school in the fall. In Maine, you are not automatically required to send children when they turn five. Because of the reality of Ethan's developmental delays, we choose to take advantage of this policy. We feel Ethan has made tremendous progress in the last year and would now be ready to start school. However, he will turn six just before the schoolyear starts, and we learned that school policy in our new neighborhood demands that six-year-olds enter first grade. Because we are concerned that his may not be in his best interests, we have been advised to pursue an evaluation by a licensed child psychologist who will determine the best placement for our son. It's really a win-win, I think. If he fails, he gets to go to kindergarten as we think he should. If he passes, WOW!

I will also continue with my classes. Since my degree program is available entirely online, I can continue even across the border. I am really enjoying the program. Currently, I am writing a paper proposing unique ways that the Church can support families who adopt transracially. Maybe I'll share a bit on that topic in a few days.

What else? Fortunately, my permanent resident paperwork is still valid, though its format needs updating. I have sent the necessary documents to receive the new permanent resident card. This not only provides me with legal standing in Canada and the ability to cross the border freely, but it also allows me to work if I choose. Also, we have sent the paperwork to acquire official recognition of Canadian citizenship for both Ethan and Abby.

Another huge issue is the sale of our house. Obviously, we are hoping that the right family will come along to purchase this great home. We think it has so many outstanding features, but we also know that it is a tough time to try to sell a home. We are praying that God will provide just what we need in His time. (Interested in a great place in Maine??? Check out

How does all of this affect the adoption? Remember the part about the significant "coming-together" that only God knows. That applies strongly here. Home study updates will be required as our living/working conditions change. It is possible that our time to pick up our Ethiopian kiddos will fall at just about the same time as our move...or it is possible that it will be some time after. Canadian immigration has assured us that there will not be any problem for these children to enter the country based on their father-child relationship with a Canadian citizen. There is still some question as to the exact steps necessary to finalize all aspects of North American adoption recognition and citizenship documentation in our unique situation, but, again, I have been assured by our caseworker that there is no problem with our planned arrangement.

I am, of course, extremely eager to receive our referral! Beyond the obvious excitement of seeing our potential children's faces, it will allow us to address other issues of planning. I am sorting closets and other storage spaces in anticipation of a giant yard sale in the spring, but there are many items that I am unsure what to do with. Should I put the cloth diapers and the training potty in the yard sale pile or the keep pile? What about all Abby's old clothes? Will we need the crib, the toddler bed, or more bunkbeds?

Indeed, there is still many details to be worked out, but we continue to plan with care, relying on the assurance that we have a God who is with us all the way.