Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gotcha Day

Ty’s one year Gotcha day.

It has been a year filled with witnessing miracles and one of the hardest years of my life all at the same time. For the girls, we always celebrated their gotcha day with a yummy dinner and a small gift that we bought for them in China. But, we are treading on different ground this time around. Last week, when we told Ty that his special day was coming up, he started to get sad and had a lot of questions. Not the kind you would expect. He does not ever want to talk about his time in China. We bring it up often or try to ask him questions which he NEVER answers. We all love China and talk about one day going back with the entire family. He will quickly pipe up and remind everyone that he does NOT want to go to China. When the conversation does turn to China he usually starts to question me: “Mommy, what took you so long to get me in China?” “Why did it not take a long time for you to get Mina and Finn in China?” “Mommy, you should have gotten me first!” “Mommy, I want to be a baby when you get me in China.” I think he blames me for the fact that he waited so long.

And then, sometimes he just tells us that he WAS a baby when we came to China. I think he would love to just gloss over and pretend that is how it all went down. Denial. I totally understand that. I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell him the truth that I had seen his sweet face waiting on waiting lists for over 2 years before I even thought about the possibility of adding another child to our crew. I do know for sure that for the past year, this boy has loved like I have never seen. He has the biggest heart I have ever known, and I am blessed to be his Mama.

Needless to say, we didn’t celebrate too much. I don’t think he would have appreciated it. He wants so badly to just forget, to be just like his big brother and not have this past. So, we just went on like any other day. But, I went back to look at some pictures of my boy one year ago, and I broke into tears.


In this picture I see a pale skinny little kid. I remember how weak he was. How ridiculously uncoordinated he was. How he hoarded food. How he flinched when you tried to give him a high five. How he tested his limits to see if we could protect him. How he would carry 17 toys at the same time for fear he would lose one. How he was too nervous to leave my side for a second. How he would try to win our love by sweeping and cleaning like mad. How happy he was during the day and then we would go in to find him quietly sobbing at night. How he would wet the bed every night for fear of getting out of bed.

Now, if you put these pictures side to side, I wouldn’t pick my boy out of a line up. He is a totally different child. He looks and acts like he has aged 4 years in the past 12 months.

Last year in China, I will admit that I was scared. He couldn’t even tell his colors to the guides, he couldn’t hold a pencil and trace a straight line. His Mandarin, the few times he tried, was barely understandable to anyone in China or here. I was worried that he was very delayed. Now that he is a few weeks into Kindergarten, I spoke with his seasoned teacher, and she said he was doing fabulous, better than a lot of the kids who have been here their whole life. She said she would have him reading by the end of the year. I cried huge tears of joy! I am crazy proud of how far he has come. He is so brave and so determined and so loving. And, I am blessed!

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Amy Crawford

Amy and her husband Marc live in North Carolina and are the parents of 6 children, 3 biological and 3 blessings from the China Special Needs program in the last 3 years. Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine that their family would be bursting at the seams, but they have been enormously blessed by opening their hearts to adoption. Their lives are simple, chaotic, overwhelming, and overflowing–and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Visit us in the midst of our happenings here.

She Called Me Foreigner

Ferenge.

I will never forget the first time she referred to me as “foreigner.” I laughed it off. Afterall, this is all I was to her at that point.

Once home, she and her sister made ferenge references here and there. They never called us that directly. But, hearing that word stung.

I recently realized something, however. In our girls’ eyes, us initially being foreigners is not the negative thing that it seems. In fact, I honestly think that it has special meaning for them.

I should have seen it when they started playing ferenge with their babies, happily pretending that they were coming to take them away in a makeena [car].

I started to get clued in when I put on a pair of tennis shoes, and our youngest excitedly exclaimed, “Mommy, this ferenge shoes!” They were, indeed, the ones that I wore daily on both of our trips to Ethiopia.

And, I finally fully figured it out when they started affectionately referring to their family photobooks (the ones that we brought to them at the orphanage on our first trip) as their ferenge books.

Because to our daughters, this is simply a part of their story. Two ferenges came for them. Loved them. Brought them home. We weren’t just any ferenges. We were their ferenges. And now, we are parents and daughters. It’s just one of the beautiful ways that God brings families together.

By request today, we read one of the girls’ ferenge books at naptime. And, with a smile, I asked our oldest [as I sometimes do], “Who is ferenge?”

“You ferenge,” she said. “Now you Mommy.”

I sure am, honey. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

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Elya Starek

Elya and her husband, Rob, have been married for 6 years and reside in Cleveland, Ohio. They have recently been blessed with two incredible daughters, ages 3 and 5, who they brought home from Ethiopia this past April. They also have two crazy but lovable dogs. Stop by Elya’s blog to read more about their daughters, their adventures as new parents, and their passion for orphans and the poor.

Forgetful

We enjoyed many parks over this past summer…especially those with water.

No matter how many times Max has seen this fountain. {You know, the one that is going strong one minute and then stops the next.}

He always forgets that the fountain of water will return.

I am the same way when it comes to my faith in God. No matter how many times I have seen God’s faithfulness, I forget and start to think things through on my own. It never works and just leads to worry-filled thoughts that are only focused on me.

We would love to grow our family by adding more children to the mix. I get so worked up about it – poor Wes. Do we adopt again? Maybe I’ll get pregnant. Go through the same agency? Try a new one? What if I would get pregnant and I miscarry? When should we start the adoption process? What if we have a horrible experience with the birthmom? What if she changes her mind? Seriously, I could go on and on wasting your time and mine with these thoughts. Obviously, these aren’t evil questions, and it’s good to think things through, but when I find myself holding on so tightly to them, that’s where it begins to get messy. As soon as these thoughts enter my mind, I need to release them to God. He will carry all of my burdens.

One of these days, Max will remember that the water will return

The Incredible Story of Mr. Miles

When I was waiting all through 2010 to begin our adoption there was one friend in particular who always had time to mentor me.

Her name is Debbie. She is a Mama, too. She has 4 kids. 3 were born in China. And, Debbie always said the one thing that prospective adoptive parents all want to hear: my day would come.

Debbie would send me emails long before we knew Rissa existed that ended with: “Just think! You are one day closer to Rissa!”

Debbie is exceedingly special to me. Debbie made me believe in my own dream.

When Debbie and I would talk, I would be listening for hope and she would hand it over generously.
Once during a marathon-length-talk, Debbie said: “Esty, don’t despise the timing being ‘off.’ There’s a reason you are meant to go whenever you go.”

Now, I knew why Debbie had said this. When she brought home their #4 from China, they were denied travel and had to wait another 6 weeks to travel with an entirely different group of adoptive families to China. It had been over Christmas that year, and she had been sorely disappointed. But, during that trip to China in January, they met another adoptive family…and in time, Debbie was instrumental in a miracle for this family.

I knew Debbie was right. But, really, I believed that she was right about her situation. Maybe not so much about mine.

When things fell outside of my perfect timeline, I was frustrated and blinded by consuming desperation.

MY TIMELINE MUST WORK. Or so I behaved.

When all was said and done The. Timeline. worked beautifully,

When Attachment Takes Time

This is one of my favorite pictures of Evie and me. With each of our children, there are two or three pictures that Rachel has captured which so completely reflect my relationship with each of them and the love I feel for them.

Maybe the reason that seeing her wrapped in my arms means so much is because getting her here has been a journey, one that has taken time and tenacity. Evie has had to learn how to attach to her new parents like all adopted children. From stories we’ve heard from other adoptive parents, sometimes this transition is relatively seamless. Other times, children are fearfully clingy, some act out, still others push their parents away. Through no fault of her own, for Evie, this process of attachment was long and difficult.

Rachel was really the one who, through stubborn, determined love kept working with our precious daughter, patiently demonstrating to her that no matter how much Evie tried to keep her little heart at arm’s length, she would be a deeply loved child.

And slowly but surely, in fits and starts, Evie began reciprocating and trusting us with her own love. Looking back, it is interesting to realize that it happened in cycles. She would attach, then withdraw for awhile, then attach again; neither Evie nor us certain if she was attaching for good or if it was another trial run, where she was experimenting with trusting us just to see what it was like.

During one of those trial runs, we felt confident that she was nearly there. She had been home with us for almost a year; it felt like she had finally reached a secure place. So we opened ourselves to the possibility of growing our family once again, this time through pregnancy. Shortly after we saw those pink lines, we discovered that it had been another trial run on her part. This time, she pushed away harder, longer, and more intensely than she ever had before. Through morning sickness and all, Rachel spent her days loving the heck out of our little girl. Then slowly but surely–so slowly that I can’t even put my finger on when–she was there for good. She’d finally taken down the fierce protective shield she kept around her heart.

I don’t want to make it sound like it was easy–for Evie or for us. Too often, I’ve heard or read adoption stories where the parents are portrayed as patient heroes, making the rest of us mere mortals feel like incompetent failures. There were frustrating and heartbreaking days, with tears and sometimes a great deal of fear, where commitment over feeling is what ultimately carried the day.

Thank you Rachel for the unconditional, unbending, unyielding love you show to all of us… Jude, Indigo, Evangeline, our growing baby and me. And thank you, Evangeline, for finally opening your heart to us.

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Dan and Rachel live in San Antonio, TX and have grown their family through birth and adoption (Ethiopia) and are expecting their 4th child (biological) in October. Dan grew up in Liberia, West Africa where part of his heart still resides. Rachel is a doula and lactation consultant and is originally from Northern, WI. As transplants to South Central Texas, they appreciate the big skies and mild winters; the summers, however, are another story.

{Advocating} He’s Ready

I want to tell you about a little boy called Lei Xiao Feng (lay shou[t – without the t] fung). He is the most amazing boy that I have ever met, so joyful and energetic. I had the joy of spending 5 short but incredible days with him. Each day, I felt myself loving him more and more and, at the same time, realizing that I would have to say goodbye.

My translator and I met him on the Monday morning when we were introduced to a timid 8-year-old boy. He didn’t say much at first, but it must have been a scary experience – being taken out of his orphanage and meeting a Westerner! We can be pretty scary. But, he soon warmed up when we had lunch – his favorite, as he said – dumplings and noodles (they say food is the way to a man’s heart, right?). We played some games, like football and basketball, and watched him come alive. This boy’s got a real talent for sports. Throughout the week, he even took to some new sports like volleyball and badminton.

He loved to be picked up, especially to be put on our shoulders (where he must have spend half of the week!!) and on our backs. He quickly picked up on the fact that I couldn’t speak Chinese, so we played a lot of charades. When he wanted to go on my back or shoulders, he would point and pat at his back and say something like “ba” in an attempt to say back. And, of course, I had to oblige.

We asked him if he would like an English name since a lot of the older kids do. He eagerly said yes, and we started thinking of one that would suit him. I went through heaps of names but none of them seemed to work. We even thought of putting my name (Rob) with my translator’s name (Jeremy) to make a new name — Jerob. Someone gave the suggestion of Jacob, and I knew instantly that it was the one! He was a Jacob! By the end of the week, he responded so happily to Jacob — perhaps it made him feel more a part of us to have a new name with us.

When I think about Jacob, two special memories come to mind.

We were on the basketball court. He noticed the net, and other kids attempting to score. He made a few feeble attempts, but it was obvious to all of us that jump as he may, he was just too short to get it in. But, he kept trying…with no success. I scooped him up and put him on his favorite spot–my shoulders. After a few tries, he got it. He made his first basket. We were all laughing and smiling, enjoying his thrill of success. I know I will remember that moment for a long time — but I’m pretty certain that Lei Xiao will remember it longer.

During the camp, we took all the kids to a water fountain show. Picture a wide open space with water shooting up from the ground, synchronized to music. It looked amazing to us. And, the orphans who were with us were maybe even more amazed, having never seen anything like it. The image still playing in my head of Jacob spinning around in the water and simply dancing with his beaming smile is one I think about all the time.

Likely, because two of his fingers on his right hand are different, he became an orphan. But, what some may call a “handicap” has not handicapped him at all. He does everything an 8-year-old boy can do–except hold the hands of a mom and dad.

His name–Lei Xiao Feng–means something along the lines of “thunder of a small mountain peak.” We were told that it’s a very strong name, given in hope that he would be outstanding and find himself on top of the world. Yet, he waits. Alone.

I have no doubt that he would strive in a family, having people to love him, care for him. He is such a joyful, lovable, amazing kid. He really is a joy to be around. I miss him. I pray his family will find him soon. He’s ready to meet them.

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Please visit here to see a video Rob put together about Lei Xiao

And, please email Kelly@wearegraftedin.com if you are interested in learning more about him. Additional pictures and medical information are available.

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Rob Molloy is from Dublin in Ireland. He recently graduated from Secondary School and will be starting University shortly. This past summer, he spent 2 life-changing weeks in China with Bring Me Hope serving through summer camps for orphans. He fell in love with China and Chinese orphans and feels God has put these precious children on his heart for a lifetime.

I’m Not Done Yet

This adoption has been a long journey for us with lots of unexpected turns. To be sure, other families have endured much longer, much worse. Different countries have programs that run upwards of 10 years. Other parents have lost savings accounts, friends, years, referrals, children. We’ve read stories that absolutely drained the blood from our faces.

So ours is certainly not the worst story; but, it is ours. And, it’s the only one we have to tell.

As I look back over the last year and a half, I see a rhythm between God, our leader, and us, His clueless followers. The tune changed as the story unfolded, but the rhythm stayed the same.

It started after God made it *crystal clear* that we were to adopt two children. We applied for two kids. We got approved for two kids. We planned for two kids. We prepared our bio children for two kids. We told everyone we were adopting two kids.

And then we got our referral. For one girl.

Our referral call. This is not how parents’ faces are supposed to look on this happy day.

Yes, this girl was beautiful. Yes, she was the perfect age for our family. Yes, we died over her shy smile (that was a clear fake out). Yes, her story broke our hearts and reminded us why we decided to adopt older children in the first place.

But where was our second child?? We were positive about this one. We couldn’t have missed God’s leadership on the two-kid agenda; it was one of those ridiculously clear moments where you either respond obediently or prepare to be immediately struck with cholera.

So this rhythm emerged:

“God, we’re confused.”

And he answered, “I’m not done yet.”

As we begged for clarity and tried to decide if we should reject this referral out of sheer blind obedience, God nudged us toward the same darling boy we’d been eyeing on the Waiting Children’s List, the one with the 1000-watt smile, on a waiting list for his crime of being 7 years-old.

God reminded us, “Yes I said two, but I never said they’d be related. Go fight for that boy.” Fight? Oh, I’ll fight alright. And, we got our boy.

This was Ben’s picture. Please note the Run DMC shirt. Destiny brought us together.

So three cheers! God really had a plan; an unconventional plan that required a half-crazed Mama who would enter the ring and use words and persuasion to win a referral. We had not one but two kids after all! And they happened to be the two cutest kids in the whole country, which we considered our prize for actually completing the 700,000 page dossier.

Fast forward to March 10th, that blessed court date. Now understand that I had already informed God that I didn’t want to be “one of those families.” The sad, sorry folks who didn’t pass and had all the troubles and waded through messy bureaucratic drivel and watched as everyone else passed them like they were going in reverse. The ones that clogged up the Facebook feed with bad news and had to answer the same questions twenty times a day about any movement? and who seemed like they had lost the will to live.

I mean, I thought I had made that clear.

So when Remy passed that very day like she was just taking a leisurely stroll through Central Park on holiday – exactly how I told God to work it out – we were devastated when Ben didn’t pass. Devastated. And the rhythm repeated:

“God, we’re confused.”

“I’m not done yet.”

We’d seen other families who didn’t pass court get their clearance within a week or two, so we naturally assumed our happy phone call was coming any day now. Remy was submitted for Embassy. Any day now. One month. Any day now. The court asked for additional documents on Ben. Any day now. Remy was cleared for travel in April. Any day now. We turned in some other official decrees. Any day now. Two months. Any day now. Three months. Please, God. Please. Any day now. “It doesn’t look good for this case.” Any day now. Crying, begging, pleading, cursing. Any day now. Four months. No. No.

“God, we’re confused.”

“I’m not done yet.”

Let me be fair: When I recount our line as “God, we’re confused,” that sounds tame, almost like a little old grandma who got lost at the corner of 5th and Lamar until a kindly police officer asked if he could help her and she chuckled and shook her head and said, “Well I guess I got a little confused!” and they shared a knowing laugh about who can figure out all these confounded streets down here? and he pointed her west and she made it to her destination just in time for the quilting guild.

When we said “we’re confused”, it involved crying and wailing and days when I couldn’t get out of bed. It included a string of months where, I swear to you, time stood still. I sobbed over other people’s happy adoption news as I typed nice words on their Facebook pages. It included a phone call from my mother-in-law after my daughter told her, “I’m worried about my mom.” My hair started falling out in clumps and my fingernails peeled off in layers. I lashed out at Brandon and my kids and Jesus on bad days; on worse days, I wondered aloud if God had any control at all over this chaotic, broken world. I doubted his invervention and questioned his sovereignty.

So yeah, that’s what I mean by “confused.”

And then we got this: “We’re getting a rejection letter for Beniam’s adoption, and we think you should consider coming to get Remy.” No. No. How could this possibly be our situation? How? We were the compassionate mother who refused to split the baby in half even if it meant separation from us. How could we go back to Ethiopia and fly away with just one of them? How could we break our son’s heart like that? How could God possibly be in this? Is he just mean? Has he forgotten us? Has he forgotten Ben? This is not the story we signed on for. This chapter stinks. I’m starting to hate this book.

“God, we’re confused.”

“I’m not done yet.”

In the dead of night as I sobbed into my pillow, begging God to comfort our son as we prepared to travel for Remy, he delivered “Love Ben” fully developed into my mind. And if you’re the believing type who buys the “God works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” stuff, then you might not be surprised to hear that we witnessed hundreds of moments of glory through Love Ben.

Hundreds.

Like the 80-year-old outspoken racist who set his alarm for 1:00am to pray for Beniam at the start of the Ethiopian work day.

Like the multiple emails I got from adopted adults who were prompted to reconcile with birth parents, deal with decades-old wounds, and find peace.

Like the birth mother whose heart God healed after giving up her son 17 years ago.

Like the entire church who highlighted Ben’s story and set up a Love Ben Photo Booth after both services.

Like the college friend who told me she was praying again for the first time in 20 years.

Like the bundles of you who emailed to say you’ve decided to adopt.

Like the mamas and daddies who taught their children about orphans and God’s mercy and used Ben’s little face as a tangible tool.

Please believe me, these could go on and on. Rays of God’s light kept bursting through the dark. Just when I though my heart would expire, I’d get an email that said, “I told Ben’s story at the camp we’re running for foster kids, and they broke out in spontaneous prayer and singing for God to rescue him.”

Evidently God can wrestle glory out of the hard parts of the story.

Ben passed court the week before we traveled to get Remy, but our agency prepared us for egregious delays and possible litigation at the Embassy stage because of his rejection letter (I assure you, this had nothing to do with his orphan status). So, Brandon and I prepared for a fight.

Then we flew to Ethiopia. And held our son while he threw up and sobbed in our laps and clung to our necks, as we drove away with Remy, his only family on the same continent. And all the bravado disappeared into sorrow. I cried for 24 hours without stopping.

“We’re so confused, God.”

“I’m not done yet.”

Are you sure, God? Because I’m pretty convinced all our hearts are broken. Is there work left to be done? Is there something we can’t see? Would you please just assure us that you haven’t forgotten Ben and our family? Can we trust you to make this beautiful? Because it doesn’t feel beautiful. It feels aching and devastating and horribly unjust. We believe you but we can’t see.

But let it be said that God is still in the miracle business. As our agency prepared to submit Ben for Embassy, they were asked to try to secure his approval letter one last time, attempting to avoid the cluster ahead of us without it. Just as a courtesy, our agency went back to the government office, the same one who refused to write the letter for five months, in an effort I dubbed “the biggest waste of time on planet earth.” They’d made their position clear on Ben’s case, and had already died on this hill if you will.

They wrote it.

They wrote it on a Thursday, and Ben was submitted for Embassy the very next day. With all his paperwork intact. Every last piece of paper. They cleared him for travel 4 business days later on Thursday, and Brandon got on a plane 3 days later.

This is what God does.

When God said He wasn’t done yet, He just wasn’t done yet. He wasn’t speaking in code. It wasn’t a trick. The story was still in the middle, but I wanted to flip ahead to the end, past the conflict and struggle and straight to the happy ending. As Keeper of the Story, God knew the whole plot. He promised us way back that He planned on seeing these two children all they way from brokenness and abandonment to our home in Texas, an unlikely journey if ever there was one. And at the risk of whitewashing the difficult middle, we now have them here. He was faithful.

God doesn’t promise us a clean middle part of the story. He never said we wouldn’t encounter antagonists and drama and surprise twists and heartbreak. We weren’t assured a G-rated plot where good feelings are peddled and no one dies or leaves or fails or waits. God promised things like healing and restoration and redemption. Which implies there will be injuries and broken relationships and losses. When He speaks of beauty from ashes, He seems to know there will be actual ashes to resurrect beauty from.

If you are confused right now, if your story isn’t going the way you thought, or if you’re tangled up in the messy middle where hope is deferred, dear reader, it could just be that God isn’t done yet. Your story is not finished. Every hero and heroine must wade through the conflict to get to the end, and you can trust God because he is good. If you have nothing else to cling to, remember this: God is good. He loves goodness and justice. He heals and redeems. He is on the side of love and beauty. He is for you. He is never against you. You may be against you, other people may be against you, but God is not against you.

It is okay to be confused; I’m afraid that is our lot as finite creatures dealing with an infinite God. Some of God’s best heros were confused in their subplots. But I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on. Because God is good and he is for goodness.

And He just isn’t done yet.

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Jennifer Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker has partnered with her husband Brandon in full-time ministry for 15 years, and they pastor Austin New Church in Texas. After a nauseating stint as an entitled, bored Christian, Jen and her family joined the battle for those on the margins. They pioneered Restore Austin, connecting churches to local and global non-profits for the individual, collective, and social renewal of Austin. Jen is a popular speaker at retreats, conferences, and seminars all around the country. She is the author of nine books and Bible studies, including Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith