Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Day of Prayer

The adoption process can be very discouraging.  It can drive one crazy.  Each path to adoption is individual, yet it is so much better when you can find someone (or lots of someones) who are walking the road of adoption, too.

We know several families locally who are adopting, and we strive to encourage one another.  But we have also been led down different paths to adoption, and we are the only local family adopting from Haiti.  I feel blessed that when we went to Haiti, we met several other families who are adopting from Haiti.  However, we have also been able to connect with a group of families through social media who are adopting not only from Haiti, but from our same orphanage.  We can compare progress reports, encourage each other, grumble a little at times (oops) and pray for one another.  The process to and through Haiti is unlike any other, and there have been rumors of lots of changes recently.  There have been significant stalls in steps in recent months.  It has always been unclear as to how long the process will take for these beautiful children who have families waiting for them but are stuck somewhere in the process.  Haiti is a country where a "match" between an orphan and an adoptive family is made early in the process, but then there is a long wait until the two can be united as one family.

A week or two ago, one of the families in our group suggested that we pray as a group for each other and for the children and the process.  While we have each been doing this as individuals and as families, the suggestion was that we have a designated time of prayer and those who live near each other gather together for corporate prayer.  Tonight is the night!!!  There are several families in Kansas who are all adopting from this same orphanage who will be meeting together for prayer.  But there are also families in Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, Tennessee and South Dakota (among others) who will be joining in from their homes.

We will be praying for the beautiful children who are waiting to join their families, and for the families who are waiting.  We all need God's strength to help us endure, to know when to push and to be patient when that is what is needed.  We will be praying that the process in Haiti will become smoother, while still ensuring that the children are protected and well cared for.  We are praying that the children will understand that the families who are adopting them have not abandoned them, and that we will come for them as soon as possible.  We are praying for the director and the staff at the orphanage where our children are living, for their ministry, their strength and encouragement.

I am so thankful that God designed this idea of adoption for those who are in need of a new family, but I am sad that it is needed, that so many families are broken, and so many children are in need.  And I am sad that the adoption process itself seems to be broken at times with delays, red tape and "good intentions" by organizations that intentionally impede the process in order to prevent a break in culture.

Will you join us today?  Will you join us every day?  We are told to "pray without ceasing" in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, and the adoption process has highlighted this need to me like nothing before in my life.  I used to wonder how it was possible to "pray without ceasing", but now I'm beginning to wonder how it is possible not to do so.  Our girls need our prayers.  They need someone in their corner, no matter what and no matter how long it is until we hug them again or until they are able to come live with us.

The girls at the orphanage

During our first bonding trip in January
Every Christian is called to help the orphan.  We may not all be called to open our homes, but we each can help the orphan through prayer.  So, as you read this, please take a moment to lift up the millions of orphans worldwide who are in need...and please say an extra prayer for the children of Haiti, and our girls in particular.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Little More About Our Trip

The first day or two, while good, were also awkward.  We were in a foreign country that we had never visited, with two girls who will be our daughters, speaking a different language from them and several of the hotel staff for four days.  To say I was out of my comfort zone would be an understatement.  And while in theory I'd known that going in, the reality of it all felt very different from what I'd expected.  I think I expected an immediate bond.  While that is not logical or wisdom based, it is what we dreamers like to envision.

The first day and a half we did activities with the girls, but the connection wasn't there.  I was missing our biological children terribly and having second thoughts by the minute.  Even though pictures would show we were having fun, the true bond was not yet developing.  I missed being able to communicate with ease, both to express my thoughts to them and to understand what they were experiencing.

On day 2, "G" had her first fit.  She and "J" both wanted a Big Wheel bike that was at the pool.  "G" had it first and had ridden it, so we wanted her to give "J" a turn.  "G" wanted nothing to do with that idea.  "J" probably also said something to further irritate her little sister.  While we don't know because we cannot speak Creole, body language indicated that she did that often when a sibling battle would break out, so I would imagine it may have happened this time as well.

Anyway, "G" became angry and shut down.  I took her to a chair and pulled her into my lap and held her through the fit.  In time she began to snuggle in, and that was the beginning of a real bond.  She and I had several bumps throughout the next day, but every time it seemed to help our bond.  Unfortunately, it made it harder for me to make the time for "J", who was more easy going with us and less likely to seek our attention.  However, as the days passed, she became more outgoing and through it all she enjoyed doing activities with Roger.  Finally, on day 3 she let us know that she does speak some English and she was now open to asking us how to say words in English.  Up to that point she was only interested in teaching us words in Creole.

There were times on the trip that I seriously doubted we were doing the right thing for them.  Why take them away from all they have known?  Why not just send money so they could stay in Haiti and have their needs met.  I missed our biological children so much I ached, and at the same time we had children with us who were crying themselves to sleep the second night because they so obviously missed they orphanage and their friends.  And they've had so much change in their short, little lives.

But then I began to ponder what hope they would have if they remained.  Yes, in the orphanage they have far greater opportunities, far greater safety and needs that are met which could not be met in the village.  But their true hope probably cannot come from the orphanage.  Of course, their true hope can only come from Christ, but their temporal, earthly hopes cannot be fully met in an orphanage.  They have stated they desire to have a mom and a dad, they want to be part of a family.  But change is scary. I am so thankful for every bump we faced while in Haiti, because every emotional struggle I faced, every doubt and conflicted feeling will help me to better relate to what they will face as they transition to their new home and new family.  My experiences will have been minor in comparison, but it will help me to be more aware.

Lord, help me to be the mom to all 5 of our children that they each need, the mom that only You can make me to be.

There was a switch with our girls the 3rd evening when I realized it truly would be just as hard to leave them as it had been to leave our biological children, when I realized that in my heart "J" and "G" are my daughters, not just  two girls we were caring for.   And our final day together was so much smoother and more enjoyable as a result.

Lord, thank You for a bonding trip that truly bonded.  Please watch over and guard these wonderful girls.  Help them believe we love them and we will come back or them.  And please help this process to speed up for everyone!

Our last evening together.

My favorite.  I LOVE the expression on "G's" face and "J" being more snuggled up to me.
"G" is excited about her new bag and getting to go back to see her friends.  I'm not sure she realized we were leaving though, because there are lots of tears at the airport before she gets to go back to her friends.

A final photo at our hotel

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Meeting our Beauties

Last month we were blessed with the opportunity to go to Haiti to meet the girls we are planning to adopt.  We were officially matched with them in early December only to find out a week later that the military had made plans to temporarily relocate Roger to a less desirable location...he was getting deployed.  We quickly contacted our agency to find out how this might impact our progress because there are papers that need to be filed in person in Haiti.

I cannot speak highly enough about our agency's response to this matter.  The director of the Haiti adoption program immediately offered us the opportunity to go to Haiti in order to meet the girls. We knew up front that we would not yet be able to file the paperwork because it wouldn't be ready.  But part of the paperwork is stating that we have met the girls and that we definitely desire to adopt them, so we needed to find a time that Roger could meet them before the deployment.

Plans were quickly made and summer clothing was located for the girls because we were asked to bring along anything the girls might need for the time we were visiting with them.  Finding summer clothes in January was no easy task.  In fact, next year instead of complaining that swimwear is in stores by January, I'm going to ask why they don't just keep it out year round.  We also brought along as many diapers and wipes as we could fit into our luggage in order to bless the orphanage.  Two amazing things happened as we prepared for our trip.  First, Roger's deployment was canceled just days before our trip (but our agency still said we were welcome to visit the girls) and we found out of a dire need for diapers.  So, God had made a way for us to be available to meet a concrete need in addition to the opportunity to begin bonding with our girls.

The experience in Haiti was, in some ways, beyond explanation.  It was exciting and unnerving; wonderful and terrible; happy and very, very sad.  The girls were brought to meet us at the airport.  We came out of a tiny yet chaotic international airport, across a bumpy, bustling parking area and suddenly the girls we had seen in pictures were right in front of us.  I honestly don't remember much of this moment.  I wish I could say it was etched in my memory, but even though I thought they might be there, it caught me off guard to have them standing in front of me.

Once we were in the car, we were offered the chance to go back to the orphanage or to go straight to our hotel with the girls.  We chose the orphanage, and I am so glad we did because it was our only opportunity on this trip to see first hand where our girls live.  Much of the drive to the orphanage was on bumpy but paved roads and the sites were not as dire as I had anticipated.  However, just before we arrived at the orphanage, we entered an area with more evidence of poverty and the road became one that was shockingly bumpy.  It may have been the roughest terrain I had ever experienced, and I grew up on a farm.  Thankfully we only had to travel about a quarter to half a mile through this rough terrain.

While at the orphanage we were able to see where our girls sleep, attend classes and live their day to day life.  They stuck with us like glue and seemed very happy to have us there.  We did later find out that the only question they had for us was whether we had brought them dolls.  Sadly we had not because we had sent them some at Christmas time, but I suspect those had already either been torn up from rough play or had become community property as we never saw them during our visit.

The orphanage was not the horror stories people hear.  It was on a large piece of land with a garden, a swing set, and a basketball court.  Each child appeared to have his/her own bed and there is running water for showers.  There is filtered water for drinking. This is vital in Haiti where much of the water is not safe for drinking.  There is a school which is not just for the children of the orphanage, but also for children in the community.  There is a brand new medical clinic which is almost finished.  The children are not being neglected and most were seen with smiles on their faces, and sadly, most probably don't even realize that their situations can get even better.  But as we found out during our time with our girls, before it gets really better, it will probably get very scary for them because they will have to leave what they know to find out what their future can hold.

Here are a few pictures from our first day...before things got unsettled and scary...and then beautiful again.

The girls insisted on sharing the pair of floaties, but they are so thin the floaties would not stay up on their arms.

 Enjoying the pool - it was freezing cold so they only lasted a little while, but they enjoyed it until they started to shiver.

One of my favorite pictures of her - she has such a beautiful smile.

Warming up after a chilly swim


Back in the room on our first day...everyone is happy with each other and all was going well.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Path to Haiti

We had an interesting question from a friend recently.  He was wondering just how a family who wants to adopt makes the decisions involved that leads up to a match.  He specifically asked about location - domestic or international, and if international, what country?  But I think the question also speaks to the many decisions an adoptive family must make as they embark upon this road.

In our case, we had always discussed adoption as something we thought was neat, interesting and maybe some far off possibility.  In looking back, I'm still not exactly certain how we got from "how cool" to "let's do it" other than the fact that every place we turned God was bringing adoptive families into our world.  Then we read "Adopted for Life".  Then I told God "yes" if this what what He wanted us to do, I wanted to do it, too...and then I told my husband.  He was caught a bit off guard and had to get up to speed before we could proceed.  But even then, we were cautious.

Because we have 3 biological children and I have become quite accustomed to having children who are a bit more self-sufficient, I did not desire to return to the infant stage of life.  Therefore, one of the first things we considered was whether we wanted to become foster/adopt parents to older preschoolers or early elementary aged children.  However, because we are a military family and therefore could be required to move, we did not think that would be a good match.  In addition, because we are a homeschool family, we want to be able to make educational decisions for all of our children and we would not have that freedom during the foster care stage.

So, we began considering international adoption, but as our friend asked, which country would be the right country for our family?  Where did God want us to go?  The first thing we did was obtain some recommendations for adoption agencies others had used for international adoptions.  Then we looked at the programs they offered.  Then I freaked out.

All the countries required more than I'd expected...more time until we could have our child(ren) home with us, more time in their country during the proceedings than I could ever envision spending, more trips back and forth and more money than I'd realized.  About a month into the process, China became a strong contender and we began researching that.  But I also felt strongly about adopting 2 children, preferably siblings.  At one point I felt strongly that we were to seek 2 Chinese girls and name them Hope and Faith, only to find out that China made adopting two very difficult.  I could not find possible ways to adopt 2 unless we were willing to take a chance on special needs that may be more significant, and finding known siblings would be almost impossible unless there was a set of twins.

But we pressed on and we contacted CCAI (the CC stands for "Chinese Children") at the recommendation of a friend who thought we could get our questions answered regarding our eligibility and available children.  During that process we discovered that this agency that is highly respected for Chinese adoptions also had an adoption program with Haiti, and Haiti was the other country that I had highly desired for our adoption.   Although we had never been to Haiti, we have ties in the Caribbean through our mission trips to Trinidad and we loved the area and the people we had met.  Plus, after the earthquake of 2010 who didn't have a stirring for Haitian child?   But Haiti has a law against parents with biological children in their home adopting Haitian children.  And you have to visit multiple times, therefore leaving the child(ren) you have met and bonded with behind in the orphanage.  I couldn't do that, or so I said.

First, we found out that while it involves an extra step and extra time, Haiti does allow parents with biological children to adopt with a Presidential Dispensation.  It requires no extra work on the part of the adoptive parent, but does require added patience as there is no rhyme or reason to the timeframe in a Haitian adoption.  Second, we found out that we could qualify to adopt 2 children with our current 3 biological children at home.  And, third, the Lord impressed upon my heart that someone needs to be willing to go, fall in love with a child, and leave him/her behind for a time or no one will do it and adoptions from Haiti will cease.  There were two children in Haiti who we had never met, but who we had prayed for, and who would be counting on our being willing to suffer great sadness in being separated from them in order to give them the forever family they needed.

There have been many times in these past 7 months when I have told myself that what we are doing is crazy, that I am ill-prepared, that this is a mistake.  But my heart tells me otherwise.  The message God gave me over and over again last summer was "Trust God", and every time I get fearful, discouraged or disheartened I consciously remind myself I am going to choose to trust God with this situation.  Trust is a CHOICE!  And I am choosing to trust that we are on the path God has set us upon and He will bring us through and use the trials to teach, stretch and grow us.

As for the names "Hope" and "Faith", our girls already have Haitian names and they don't seem to have any particular English meaning - no hidden "Hope" or "Faith" in there although that would have made a really cool ending to this story.  We don't know if we will change their names, or simply give them American middle names - the choice will be theirs about the first names because we don't desire to take their identity away from them, only add to it.  But I was drawn to a particular Bible verse recently. It's one I have been familiar with, but it took on new meaning for me..."Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).  It fits nicely to where we are as we hope for the future with all 5 of our children and we have faith that God will finish what He has started.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Beginning to Catch Up

This will probably be a multi-day process because it's been a long time since I've posted and lots has happened since then.  The last I posted, we were just starting the adoption process.  I could just jump to where we are now (matched and we've met our children - stick around and there will be pictures in future posts), but I don't want to jump over the hurdles we've faced and evidences of God's work too quickly.

Right after my last post we began a great flurry of activity.  There were legal documents to gather, physicals for each family member to obtain, bank statements to print out, forms of identification to copy, fingerprinting to do...the list goes on and on.  Each foreign country has its own list of criteria and paperwork.  The two things that Haiti required that added extra layers of appointments and paperwork were a letter from a psychiatrist (preferably, but none were willing to meet with us) or psychologist, stating that we were mentally stable to adopt, and my birth certificate had to match my other identifying documents.

Both of these added time to our process, time that we didn't want to be spending on paperwork, but that we now know were perfectly aligned with God's timing for our match.  The letter from a psychiatrist/psychologist was very disheartening for a while.  Because we have no prior relationship with either (except for the child psychologist who diagnosed our son with autism spectrum disorder), we had a very difficult time finding anyone who would even consider meeting with us.  I understand that they want to be cautious, because it is their credentials on the line if they miss something significant, but no one even wanted to discuss meeting with us and doing a letter.  We finally did find someone, and that meeting felt disastrous.  It may have simply been nerves on my part, but it felt as if this psychologist was tearing us apart, viewing us as cultish, and dare I say it, crazy.  I left that meeting feeling very disheartened.  It was eye-opening and made me realize my world has gotten a little too closed off because everyone I know wholeheartedly supports adoption, homeschooling and our faith.  I need some people in my life who are not totally like-minded so I don't get too complacent.  But, that said, I also felt we needed to find someone else to do our letter.

Fortunately, as soon as we shared our concern among church friends, we began to get recommendations for other professionals who are Christian and who support both adoption and homeschooling.  In the end, we met with someone who volunteered to meet with us, who had seen us in social settings and with our biological children, who has seen my husband in professional settings and who could give a well-informed opinion of our ability to parent adoptive children...and he even prayed for us before we left his office.  God totally blessed us in this step!

The name spelling issue may come as a surprise to anyone reading this who has met me since middle school.  That's about the time that I grew tired of the spelling of my name that was on my birth certificate and I began to use the "ie" form of my name.  It's hard to believe that 2 little letters could cause such a hold up, but Haiti requires that all documents be identical, or a legal name change form be provided.  While I had my driver's license, social security card, passport, all tax returns for many years, all property and legal documents in the "ie" spelling, I had never gone before a judge and paid the court costs to legally change the spelling.  When I began changing these documents, I was in college and someone at one of the above offices let me fill out a name change form without problem and I thought it was no big deal...and it hadn't been until we started the adoption process.  So, on October 3, I officially became "Stacie" rather than "Stacey"...much to my attorney neighbor's chagrin.  He thought I should have taken this opportunity to select a much more interesting (crazy) name.  I guess that's what I get for seeking free legal advise ;)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Final Reflections (I think)

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that this year's trip to Trinidad was very different for me than when we went 2 years ago.  Part of that was due to my responsibility shift.  Last time I was a counselor, in a cabin with a Trini counselor, 5 Trini campers and Joy.  I had many opportunities to spend time with these young ladies and begin to get to know them.  To my delight, all but one of the girls returned to camp this year so I was able to see them again and catch up a little...but they have a new counselor who was also with them last year.  So, they had been turned over to good hands.

This year I was in the kitchen in the morning (which I LOVED) and a co-leader of "Imagination Station" (a combination of science and crafts) in the afternoon.  That was probably my biggest stretch of the week, because I struggle with presenting a lesson to a larger group...I like the more intimate nature of a smaller group.

As a result, I was feeling a little sorry for myself one morning during my quiet time.  I felt disconnected from the children, yet I was loving the bonding that was occurring with team members during my kitchen time and side conversations.  That morning I brought my concerns to the Lord, asking Him for a connection with the children, and He was faithful to deliver.  Only an hour later, as we prepared for breakfast, some girls began showing up and chatting with us as they waited for their meals to be ready. And then, a few of the boys from Roger's cabin began giving me a hug whenever they passed by.

Another big difference this year was my attitude.  Last time we went (in 2010), I wanted to be there, but I was also fearful.  It was new, it was hot, and I was not in control.  It was odd having no say in the schedule, and the hours were hard on our children; therefore, they were hard on me.  I was not the best team member I could be.

Last year we prayed and prayed about going, but God never confirmed to us that we were to be part of that team.  It turned out there was a different need for us at the very same time as the trip, but that was not the only reason.  God showed me that I had not been the blessing I could have been on the previous trip - I had been blessed by it, and I had grown from it.  I had connected with some of the girls and been and encouragement to them, but I had not been a blessing to my team - I had not dealt well with what was asked and required of me.  So, I told God that I wanted to go back, but not until He had worked in my heart and I could go and be a blessing.

This year (just like in 2010), He confirmed to us that we were to be part of the team on the day of the deadline for the trip - LOL!  This time, He made it clear to me that He had been working in my heart, and I was becoming a different person.

Don't get me wrong - I wasn't perfect, and every good thing that poured out from me was because of Him.  One thing that was different was I got up every morning and spent time with Him before I spent time with others.  What a blessing that was to me.  I also found that I had time to really talk with the other team members.  Sometimes it was over a bowl of garlic that we were peeling, or green onions that needed prepping.  Other times it was because God brought two of us together in the same location, quite unexpectedly to each of us.  I found out that several of the team members were really struck by the "Trust God!" theme, just as I was.  I think many of us learned some "trust" lessons in Trinidad.  I also got the blessing of spending more time with the Singh family and getting to know them more...what a wonderful family they are!

Unfortunately, I did fall prey to fatigue and selfishness as the trip came near the end and had some apologizing to do.  But I was so thankful to the Lord because He showed me the need for an apology and made a way for me to go to those I had offended and make that apology.  He truly is the God of reconciliation!

Morning exercises - almost time for breakfast!

Preparing for mealtime!  This is just a small section of the room where we eat...there were a LOT of kids this year!!!  These are a few of Roger's campers who took me in throughout the week.

Getting breakfast - the most important meal of the day!  This was also the day that God brought me some girls to visit with - what beautiful smiles they had and what fun it was to chat with them :)

Roger and the boys as we waited for the maxi to take us to the airport.  Last morning at Ridgewalk Camp for 2012.

2012 Trinidad mission team in the airport
(photo courtesy of Amber Rohrer)

I am hoping that I can get Roger on here in the next few days to share some of his experiences from the trip...but I'm still trying to get him on Facebook, too.  He does not have the same "need" to share information through the internet ;)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rainy Nights and Mondays - Trinidad Style!

Monday has been the toughest camp day for me both times we have been to Trinidad.  The first few days go great because of the excitement over being in a new place and we are just with our team members and the wonderful Singh family.  But then the campers come on Sunday, and things change.  If we were not traveling with our own children, Monday might not hit me so hard.  But that's been the day both times when I worry about our children and how they are fitting in ... or not.

This time was a stretch for me because Joy and I were not together.  Last time I was a counselor, so we were together the whole time.  This provided its own challenges and struggles as I sought to balance meeting her needs (which seemed to be greater than normal) and wanting to have time to focus on the Trini-campers God had brought to my cabin.

I thought this year would be easier because I was not going to be a counselor.  But that also meant trusting Joy's well being to someone other than myself and being apart from her.  That was hard for me in general, and Monday was the hardest day of all.  She came and told me she wanted to be in a different cabin for reasons that were fairly trivial.  I'm not sure if I would have pursued this possibility harder if we had the room, but for the first time God had sent an abundance of girls and there were no available spots in any other cabin.  So she stayed.  And before long she was loving much she didn't want her new friends to leave on Friday and she didn't want to come back to the States the following Monday.

Our being in separate cabins was just another opportunity for me (and for Joy) to continue to learn to Trust God!  This year we experienced something new - huge thunderstorms in Trinidad.  We were used to tons and tons of rain from 2010, but I don't recall any thunder.  This year we had it two nights...just about all night long, and loud enough to shake the cabins.

At home, Joy comes running to our bed when the thunder wakes her.  But in Trinidad, we were 4 cabins apart.  I was awake much of the night praying for Joy during the storms.  The first night, she slept through all of it :)  The second night of thunder she was awake and was wishing she could be with me, yet she seemed to still be in very good spirits the following day.  God was faithful to ease our fears...literally in the midst of the storms!!

It's appropriate that the Monday theme was "No matter how you feel...Trust God!"   Here, the kids are waiting for the Fizzy Flyer to "pop" and shoot up into the air.  It was used to remind them that even when they feel like they might explode, they can still "Trust God!"

Volleyball quickly turned into mud volleyball...which ended in some slip 'n slide action through the mud bog!

Roger with some of the campers as they wait for food!!