Remembering

Every time I read through the Torah, I am struck by the emphasis on remembering. God admonishes Israel again and again to remember what God has done. This intentional remembering is meant to ground Israel both in times of prosperity and in times of trial. When you are prosperous, God says, “be careful that you don’t forget” that it was I that provided for you. And when you stand at the edge of what seem like impossible or just discouraging odds, be sure to remember that I’ve superseded the odds many times before.  The reminder to actively remember comes so many times that it’s clear God knows how unfailingly forgetful the Israelites—and we—can be. And so the Israelites are commanded to tell and retell the stories to their children and one another, making active memory a part of their daily lives. As a person of faith, facing discouraging odds, I’ve been particularly challenged by this lately. It’s easy to sit in the silence of waiting for news and forget. It’s hard to invest energy into active memory, but we need it. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you some stories (each has a lot more detail, but for the sake of your eyes, I’ll hit the main points). If this looks excessively long, feel free to skip to the end 🙂

 

There was the time many years ago (I was a sophomore in college) when unforeseen circumstances completely emptied my college account. As I walked down a hallway in Thurmond Hall, a moment I can still picture in my mind, I sensed clearly that I was not supposed to apply for loans, that there was something better in store. It might as well have been an audible voice at that moment. Shortly thereafter, a mentor from home contacted me to let me know that an anonymous donor wanted to cover whatever was missing in my funding. This person, who is still anonymous to me 20 years later, covered those gaps every semester until I graduated and allowed me to finish college debt free.

 

There was the time when I was entering my last few months of living in Hawaii and so badly needed some joy. Despite incredible students and some beautiful friends, my year there had knocked me to my knees and worn me thinner than I know how to describe. The summer weeks ahead (in a house emptied of those students) looked dismal and long, and I prayed desperately for encouragement. Totally unexpectedly (to me), some folks came over from the mainland to do ministry, just for those summer weeks. The connection was immediate, and those final weeks were among the best I had in Hawaii. By the time I left, I wished I could stay.

 

There was the time when I was working at a homeless shelter, and though I loved my clients, I was exhausted and unhappy, and I longed to return to the kids I had spent the previous couple years working with. I had committed to remain at the shelter for several years though, and didn’t feel free to leave after only a year. It also seemed unwise, since I didn’t exactly have a new job waiting for me if I did move and this one paid well. I talked to my boss about how we could at least make some changes to my role, and when he called me in to talk it over once more, he told me he had been praying about it as well. “Let me tell you what I feel like God has said to me,” he said. “I believe that we are robbing those kids of you, and that you need to feel the freedom to go. Also, you need to not worry about not having a job lined up.” I was back with those kids two months later. (I also met Tim before I had even unpacked my car.)

 

There was the time when Tim and I took a trip to Cairo, IL, carrying a literal jar of money, and crazy weather forced us out of our tent and into a motel room we couldn’t really afford. Feeling totally discouraged the next day and trying to decide if we could pull off another night, we sort of ambled through our day and ended up visiting a small church. As we drove away after the service, an older man ran toward our car (we were a tad confused by the scene), and out of the blue asked if we’d like to stay at the church for a couple of nights. Later that evening, when a man came to show us around the building, he handed us an envelope. The church had taken up an offering. It was almost exactly the amount we had paid for our motel the night before.

 

There was the time that my computer completely died totally unexpectedly, days before I was to start my qualifying exam (a two-week take home test). A new computer was not exactly in the budget, but wasn’t really optional for me as a PhD student. Through circumstances we could never have guessed at, both of us separately reminded of the same verse about refusing worry, God provided a new computer within days, completely free. The new computer was also much lighter, alleviating some of the back pain I was experiencing from carrying the previous digi-brick around.

 

There was the time that we had been trying for months to find a way to move from Lexington to Harrodsburg, hoping to break the stress and exhaustion the distance had caused for several months. We were fried. One morning I felt challenged to pray more specifically, and so with a touch of trepidation, I said, “God, we really need you to give us a place to live in Harrodsburg…today.” By 7:00 that evening, we had an apartment, ready for almost immediate move-in. The stress reduction that followed was beyond what we could have expected. We could breathe again.

 

And of course, there was that time we found out that there was a little boy in Ethiopia who could be our son, but we needed $20,000 in one week in order to make it happen. If you’ve been following this blog, you know how that one turned out 🙂

 

I could go on and on with these stories, but you get the idea. “Be careful that you don’t forget,” God tells his people. I have no idea what lies ahead for us in this season. I don’t know what lies ahead for Daniel, and that breaks my heart many days. But as I tell and retell these stories, I remember that we have been cared for again and again and again when the outlook seemed dismal or the odds overwhelming. In these days of holding our breath, of feeling exhausted and irritated by uncertainty, that’s enough to hold me up.

 

 

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Hanging in Midair

The phone call with the Department of State (DOS) today went about an hour long, and we did get a lot of helpful details filled in. In a time when it can be hard to feel positive about government, I have to give a shout-out to the DOS for holding such a conference call and graciously answering questions from families and stake-holders (as well as offering to answer more via email). Their concern for the situation in which families like ours find ourselves felt genuine.

Though the DOS is still awaiting confirmation, news sources in Ethiopia are reporting that the legislation to end inter country adoptions officially passed Parliament today. Our adoption agency seems more hesitant on that piece of information, stating that it hadn’t even officially been proposed as far as they know. Hopefully we can get that cleared up in the next couple of days. (The abundance of conflicting information only makes this time harder for us.) Anyway, if the legislation HAS passed, the issue becomes solely about which cases will be allowed to come to completion, and which ones simply missed the cut off. It sounds like the meeting where the I-604 line (which, again, we haven’t reached) was drawn was already incredibly tense, and that even that line was a hard-fought concession. In coming days, the DOS will be advocating for families like ours, who have been matched with a specific child (some for over a year), but haven’t had that particular document signed and sent to the embassy. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process our documents for now so that if there is any change on the Ethiopian side, they’ll be ready to go.

As Tim and I returned from finally getting ice cream tonight, I told him that it feels like we’re just holding our breath. There’s a crib down the hall. There are pictures on the mantle. And there have been a million incredible moments that point to Daniel being meant for our family. But for now, we hold our breath, and do life while hanging in midair. We’ll update you more as information comes in!

 

update-ish

Things are so clear with government. Such efficiency. Such organization!

Said no one, ever.

While we don’t have totally definitive answers, we wanted to offer what do we know for today. First, those on the ground in Ethiopia say that any changes in the process MUST go through parliament first, and to their knowledge, the legislation hasn’t even been officially proposed yet. The impression that they have gotten at recent meetings is that the powers-that-be don’t even support the proposed legislation. Second, the I-604 is a part of the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process. This process occurs in the U.S., and according to our agency, is not directly connected to the court process in Ethiopia (though as I said, they happen concurrently). In that case, Ethiopian officials can’t dictate whether a U.S. process comes to a halt.

So basically–and this has happened multiple times on this incredibly smooth journey–no one knows what’s going on. As in, not even in the government. The Department of State has called for a conference call on Monday, which will include leaders as well as adoptive families. Pray for clarity and resolve to come out of that meeting.

A few blog posts ago, I asked that you be “partners in hope” with us. You have done that in so many ways in the last 24 hours. We are so thankful 🙂

[insert expletive of choice]

We’ve been slack in our blog updates–sorry! The lack of activity here is mostly a reflection of what the process has looked like over the last few months. Lack of activity, aka waiting. We did get a bit of progress a few weeks ago when we found out that our paperwork had officially been filed with the courts in Ethiopia. We hoped that meant impending travel, but what it really meant was another round of paperwork for us so that a concurrent process could be started with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration folks. Oh boy, do we love paperwork at this point 🙂

Then, about two weeks ago, some news that we decided not to share until we had a better idea of what it meant. Officials in Ethiopia announced that they were officially proposing legislation to end international adoptions in Ethiopia. Exceptions would be made for cases already in progress, though no one was defining what stage counted as “in progress.” We figured we’d hold off for some more clarity. And I mean, how could we not be in progress?

Today, the U.S. Department of State issued an update. Any cases that haven’t received a certain status (a signed I-604…which doesn’t mean anything to most of you, but it’s a big milestone) by today, November 8th, will not be processed. The adoptions will not be completed. The announcement moves on to suggest that those who have been matched but aren’t going to make it should start talking to agencies about what sorts of fees could be refunded.

We do not have I-604 status. Our paperwork was, perhaps, days away from being delivered to the people who start that process.

Now, our agency has people on the ground in Ethiopia. Thankfully, they are saying that this can’t be right, and that they have been in government meetings as recently as this morning which don’t match the information given by the State Department. They are baffled by the announcement. And so, they are going to dig into it and get back to us with some more information tomorrow. Hopefully, with good news.

We could wait again to say something. It’s all up in the air. But this time, we need our cheerleaders, and we need prayers from those of you who pray. And I maybe need ice cream….

Journals

I’m not good at journaling.

I like the idea, but in practice, I’m not very good at it.

I’ve tried so many times – over the three decades I’ve known how to write – to keep a journal. Sometimes it’s a journal on daily or weekly reflections. Sometimes it’s a journal on what I’m reading… or on what I’m eating and how I’m feeling… or thoughts on community development.

The topic varies, but the outcome is generally the same. A few pages in, the entries begin with, “Well, it’s been a couple of months since I wrote anything here…”

Inevitably I give up. Tear the pages out. Set the journal back on the shelf, where it will sit until the next feeble attempt. Some journals have been through this process so many times they don’t have enough pages left to be worth anything. Sadly, they find themselves in the recycling bin.

Several years ago my brother and sister-in-law gave me this journal.IMG_20170912_190440

It’s special to me.

And because it’s special to me… and because I have a bad history with journaling… it stayed empty for years.

Because I didn’t want to waste it. I didn’t want to tear any pages out of this journal. I wanted this one to last.

So I waited. I waited for the right subject matter. For whatever it was that would add to this special journal.

Then, on February 24, 2015, I made my first entry.

This entry was titled, “The First Step.” It was the day we got an application for adoption. We had the first (of much) paperwork to fill out… and this seemed like an appropriate use for the journal. The first entry isn’t long. It’s only a page. But it ends with,

“This leg of the journey – the adoption process with forms, home studies, and fundraising – is likely to be a long and frustrating one. But it will be worth it when we finally bring our son(s) and/or daughter(s) home. When we finally bring you home.”

A few entries in, I began addressing them to “my dear children” or “my darlings.” At one point I had to correct myself: “We have discovered that you are not waiting for us in Brazil, but in Ethiopia! That’s ok – we don’t care where we have to go to find you.”

Then, at the end of June 2017, everything changed. My entries started having a name attached to them. And a face. Because they were addressed to an actual person now. Daniel.

That first entry addressed to Daniel begins…

Dear Daniel, Hello. We haven’t met yet, but I (I think) am your dad. Or at least I hope to be soon.

I haven’t gotten much better at journaling. I still go weeks at a time without writing anything. …but now I have a reason to write.

I get to write letters to my son. Someday he’ll read about the fears and frustrations of the adoption process. He’ll read stories about the beautiful ways our family and friends helped bring him home. He’ll see the first picture of himself that I ever saw.

Hopefully he will feel loved by the dad that loved him even before they’d met.

And that seems like a good use for this journal.

taking shifts

Pretty much from the beginning of our marriage, Tim and I have had a consistent pattern in facing stressful situations: we take shifts. It’s totally unintentional, but we are almost never majorly stressed out at the same time. When one of us is running around declaring that the sky is falling or lamenting the pewter grey clouds, the other is usually commenting on how blue that sky is, or how glad they are that the chill makes evening tea sound nice again. And then with no predictability, we switch roles.

It’s my grey cloud shift. Today is my day to feel sad. We recently got some updated pictures of Daniel (I so wish I could share them here!), who is sporting chubby cheeks and a huge grin. He’s about 6 months old now, and though he’s still underweight, he is catching up. This morning, when I opened my phone and was greeted with a picture of those wide eyes, I just felt the weight of the months that remain between now and when we will actually meet him in person. It seems eons away, and as per the usual, I’m also feeling a bit stressed about how to plan in the midst of it. So yes, today is my day, and thankfully, Tim is pointing out the blue sky that he was having trouble seeing a few weeks ago.

On a practical note, our paperwork has gone through all the hoops on our government’s side, and is en route (as I type) to Ethiopia. Things there will slow down a bit during the upcoming rainy season, but hopefully our case can creep forward. My dream would be to get him home before the new year. It’s a little unrealistic, but hey, a girl can dream!

now what?

Our last post was obviously tied to a pretty monumental moment. The money came in, the referral acceptance fee has been paid, the official acceptance documents have made it to their destination. As people of faith, we stand in awe and gratitude for the provision that came at the moment when it was most needed.

The question we hear from all corners now is, “Now what?”

There are a few details that remain in this phase. We had to get one more document notarized and then certified in order to send in our adoption dossier (hopefully by tomorrow). We pay off a few other expenses. We start thinking about all the details that  will need to be in place when the time comes to travel to Ethiopia.

But mostly…now we wait. Now is the time when our dossier has to make its way across the desks of bureaucrats in both the United States and in Ethiopia. Boxes need to be checked, approvals secured at multiple levels, protocols carried out, this time by people other than us. So we wait and pray and try not to think about the days we are missing with this little boy who is growing and changing all the time. This is a particularly tenuous time in light of the state of adoptions in Ethiopia. Accepting this referral is pretty huge of a leap of faith, and for a while we’ll just have to be content hanging in mid air.

And what do we need now? More than anything, we need cheerleaders. Any of you who have been through this process know it is exciting and beautiful, but also long and exhausting and full of discouraging moments. And we know full well the added risk moving forward with a country in diplomatic turmoil, but we’ve chosen to believe the risk is worth it. So in this time, be partners with us in hope, focused on the beautiful possibilities, finding the joy in the waiting. (We’re Team Founds, so that might be as simple as being on call for board games, mini golf, or an evening trip to Tasty Freeze.)

And, if you’re the praying type, we’d love it if you would pray for us… and for our son-to-be… and for the process to keep moving in Ethiopia.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for being such an amazing community!