Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Waiting Out the Wait List at #....

Lately I've had several people ask me for an adoption update and I've been surprised that they somehow missed my last "update" I gave in September.  And then I realized, I never gave an update in September.  I asked my Facebook friends to pray for us as we were about to have a phone conference with our Social Worker, Beth, and our in-country representative, Raul.  I had full intentions of writing and sharing an update and, I guess.

You can ask a couple of my friends who I "attempted" to talk to after our phone conference and they'll be quick to tell you that I wasn't really making complete sentences.  Those types of meetings are mentally and emotionally draining to me.  Whether it's a just a tidbit of information or an entire seminar's worth - it takes me a little bit to process everything.

It's also gotten pretty hard for me to update this past year.  When I sit down to write, I want to share all that is on my heart.  I want you to try to be able to feel a little bit of what we're feeling on the inside while we're navigating this process.  In order to do that, I have to have the time to unpack all the emotional junk, sort out what to share and what to keep tucked in my heart, write it out (preferably in coherent sentences) and then pack it back up again...all during nap time.  So, it's a little bit harder now.

Now, for the update.  Our meeting in September went really well.  For months we've been trying to determine if the children available for international adoption, in our age range, had more severe medical/special needs or if they had mild/moderate/correctable special needs.  We know our limits as a family on the types of needs that we can choose to efficiently parent and if the children in our age range were on the more severe end - we knew it was time to research other countries or adoption options.

We finally got our answer...Raul told us that there were children available for international adoption who were on the mild/moderate end of the special needs spectrum.  This was good news for us (side note: it feels really weird saying, that's "good news" because, in reality, it's not.  It sucks.  There's a need for adoption.  There's kiddos who are sick and the very reason they can't stay with their forever family could be because they lack the finances and resources to properly care for their sweet kiddos.)

The second bit of "good news" we got was a bit of a surprise.  We've understood all along, as did our social worker, that Colombia didn't have a waiting list for families like many other countries.  However, in this meeting we were informed otherwise and Raul said he would work in the next several days to determine each families position on the list or their "number."

Here's where I want to give a quick stat we learned that day: Colombia is only processing 1/3 of the number of adoptions this year as opposed to 3 years ago.  Changes have occurred and things have slowed down substantially.

Our best guess at our number (based on some of the numbers that were thrown out in the conference call) was somewhere around #400.  I pictured one of my daughters being walked down the aisle in her wedding dress while I held my newly adopted toddler son in my lap on the front row.  But we were way off!!  I mean, big time, big time way off.  Who wants a math pop quiz?

400 - 386 = 14

We're #14!!!!!!!!!!

That means that there are 13 families waiting for an ICBF referral in front of us.  Only 13 - not 386!

We're still trying to determine exactly how this list will work...are there 13 approved families in front of us or 13 approved families for boys, 0-3, mild/moderate special needs.  This number doesn't tell us how much longer we have to wait, but it is SO MUCH BETTER than #400.

We've also been told that Colombia is still working diligently at updating all of the kiddos files for accuracy and "plan" to release them in the next month and start making referrals at the first of the year.  We're throwing in a couple of "grace" months and not really expecting anything to happen until February or March.  It's just good to know these kiddos are being advocated for and their files are being worked on so they can be presented with the most updated information.

December 9 will mark 1 year of "waiting".  Sometimes patiently and others times....not so much.  I just want my kiddo home.  I want to rock him to sleep, I want to play cars and trucks and build blocks with him, I want to read him a bedtime story and run into his room when he wakes up from a bad dream.  I want to doctor his cuts and bruises with magical kisses that only mommies have.  I want these things so badly - but not just for fill this longing and emptiness in my arms.  I want it more for him...because a family is the least of what he deserves.

We're ready to give him all of us, every single day for the rest of his sweet life.  We are, oh so ready...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hermanos de la Iglesia Colombia (Brothers in the Colombia Church)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the long awaited and prayed for opportunity to go to Colombia on a mission trip.  Our church has had a partnership with some missionaries there for several years and now, one of my most favorite families lives and serves there full time. So, it was a triple good-thing....a) serving the Lord in this way, b) being in my son's birth country while I desperately wait for him, and c) being with the Sumralls.

I have lots to say about that trip: my emotions and feelings when the plane landed - putting me on the same ground as my kiddo, the beauty of the Colombian people we were with, how my only hope was a 10 year old little girl when we hopped in the car with a ridiculous cabbie, and my short stint in a local Colombian hospital.  The LORD used all of these things for His good, His glory - and I can't wait to tell you about each of them.

I remember in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina (no, I haven't switched gears - hang with me, please).  I honestly didn't know what was going on - all I knew was that my husband was supposed to travel from Tennessee to NOLA on a Sunday for a Monday morning job interview, in anticipation of moving to NOLA a few months earlier than we had planned.  We were informed that there wouldn't be an interview that day because Katrina demanded a city-wide evacuation.

We waited in anticipation and fear and worry for the next several days/weeks...pulling up any and every bit of information from the internet of what was going on in the place we wanted to soon call home.  I remember working with some evacuees who were brought by Greyhound bus to the next country over from mine and feeling the emotional shock as one after one, broken people stepped off of a bus having lost everything - some having lost everyone in their family.  I clung to my computer and television in those days craving any bit of information.  I already had a love for the city I knew little about.

And now I find myself there, again.  I spent the weekend worshiping, teaching, serving, loving, and being loved by these people...

And I wait anxiously as I hear about waist-high flooding, 25,000+ people in this town and church being displaced - having lost everything.  As the rains keep pouring down in the mountains, causing the river to rise continuously.  

I remember after Katrina, that all I wanted to do was get to NOLA, help some how, do something...and now all I want to do is get on the first plane back to Colombia and go serve my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I want to hold them, love them, and cry with them.

I pray for the church and Pastor Manuel who have opened the doors as a shelter.  I pray for at least one family...a mom, her son, and grandchildren who lost everything.  I pray for a new Christian - "J" - who was to be baptized this weekend. at the church....and has now lost everything in the waist high water in his neighborhood.

I remember what it looked like when my husband and I came to Slidell on a rebuilding mission trip a few months following Katrina...and I have those same pictures in my mind of that same type of devastation and loss and heartbreak now for this beautiful town.

"Brothers of the Louisiana Church."

That picture was on the prayer wall of the church.  

And now, we pray for "Hermanos de la Iglesia Colombia."

Please join us in that prayer.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Colombia - Bound

No, I'm not Colombia-Bound for our son.  I wish.  Oh, how I wish that were the case.

But this is the next best thing.

For months I've prayed for an opportunity to go on an international mission trip.  I went to Rio de Janeiro once, about 8 years ago.  And it changed me.  Big time.  There's just something about being so far out of your comfort sights, people, completely different culture, words you can't understand and total dependence on a translator, eating food you've never eaten just did really good things for my heart.

And I've wanted to go back.  Not necessarily to Rio, but somewhere - overseas, way far out of my comfort zone.  I want to get my hands dirty in working for Jesus so that my heart can get cleaned up a bit.

Our church has an amazing partnership with some missionaries in Colombia - 2 (or 5) of which are super close to my heart.  And about a month or so ago, God answered my prayers.

I am Colombia-bound for a short, 4 day (plus 2 travel days) mission trip.  I cannot board the plane fast enough.  But it's still 2 weeks away.

Many people have asked me if I really thought this was a good idea.  My heart is hurting and longing for our son so badly and there's nothing I can do to speed things up.  (Which reminds me - I owe you guys a big's a good one - no kiddo - but good news.)

Yes, I am going to be in the same country, on the same soil, looking at the moon from the same general area as a sweet little boy who God is preparing for me to be his mommy.  And it's gonna shred my heart.  It's more out of my comfort zone than I had originally wanted.

But here's how I'm looking at it: from my home, I can hit my knees in prayer every single day for my son.  Prayer is a super huge and big thing.  It is so powerful and I am so thankful that I can go to my Heavenly Father through prayer.

And now's He's given me the opportunity to go and get as close to my son as I possibly could.  We will be training new Christians in discipleship and how to reach local unbelievers.  For all I know, the very people that we talk to and train to share Jesus...could leave the building we teach them in and walk straight into the home where my son is.

What more could I possibly do right now, than equip people who could take Jesus inside the walls that my son calls home.

Sound far fetched? I don't think so.  My God is pretty amazing.

So to help fund this trip, I'm bringing back the Apparent Project Bracelets.


If you don't remember the story behind them, you can check it out in this blog post.

It's not too early to start thinking about teacher gifts, stocking stuffers, gifts for friends, or to treat yourself to a sweet bracelet, made by sweet Haitian families.  Half of the money goes back to the family and half of the money helps fund my mission trip.

If you'd like a bracelet, they are $8 each and you can pay by cash, check, PayPal (click on the PayPal button on the right OR my PayPal address is jmalcoleman (at) gmail (dot) com. Please include $2 for shipping (any number of bracelets).

My goal is $500 and anything over that will go to the adoption fund.

The biggest thing you could do - is pray. Cover this trip in prayer...the church and people we will teach, the missionaries who serve there, the unbelievers who will hear the gospel, and our team members.

I leave in 14 days and 21 hours from the time of this post...but who's counting?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Engineers & Borders

"When the train you are on goes into a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw your ticket away and jump off the train. You trust the engineer." Corrie Ten Boone

I have to be honest...I'd never heard the above quote until Monday morning.  I stumbled upon it as I scrolled through my news feed on "the Facebook".  There's some stuff you can scroll quickly past with just a glance. But there's some people that when you see their name - you know 9 times out of 10 they've got something good to say and it will do you well to read it and take notes.

So that's what happened.  One of those people shared this quote in his status.  Boom. Perfect.  I loved it.

It's so simple - you'd be an idiot to jump off of a moving train in a dark tunnel...why not keep with the one you trusted to get you there in the first place?

And so it is with Jesus.  I hoped on the Jesus train many years ago.  I've been through dark tunnels.  Others have been through darker ones.  I've been stuck in those tunnels for what - at the time - seemed like forever.  I've also flown right through them as if the lights only flickered, quickly catapulted back into bright sunlight.

It also connects with a favorite song of mine -  Oceans by Hillsong United.  Hands down, here is the best line of that song...

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders..."

Trust that isn't held captive.  Trust that holds strong in a dark tunnel.

I saw my friends post this morning sometime between my first and second cup of coffee - which I drank as I waited to call the doctor for my little man.  Jacob and I had spent the middle hours of the night in the ER with him after he vomited up something I thought was a lot of blood. Praise Him that it wasn't blood, but something was up with my child and we needed to follow up with our pediatrician.

I went over everything with her...any and all symptoms he'd had in the past several days.  Extreme thirst during the day and throughout the night, loss of appetite, and - after seeing his weight on the her scale - a weight loss of almost two pounds.  That's when she asked me if the ER staff had ordered a blood sugar lab.  I told her no and the words she said next were:

"Those are symptoms of juvenile diabetes."

It took my breath away.  My grip around his little waist tightened in an attempt to protect him from a possible life-changing diagnosis.  My eyes stung with tears and I tried with everything in me to stay calm so Creek wouldn't be upset, too.

We went to the bathroom to try to catch a urine sample - which was great fun with a potty-training 2 year old.

My mind was flooded with fear and anxiety.  This would change a lot of things for our family.  I feared for how this could limit my son in the years to come.  How was I ever going to get a handle on all of the information I needed to know in order to keep my son alive and healthy?

And just as quickly as my mind was consumed with these thoughts...I was then flooded with peace.

Trust the Engineer.

Don't jump off the train.

Trust without borders.

And that was it.  If he had diabetes, he was still "fearfully and wonderfully made" by the Father of Creation.  God still "knew his every need".  He would let me "cast all of my fears on Him".  He still had a "plan with a future and a hope" for my son.  He gave me a "peace that surpassed all understanding."

And so the dark tunnel was flickering lights.

Ten minutes, one urine sample, and one finger prick later and our doctor smiled and said he was fine in regards to diabetes.

My heart was, too. My heart was fuller, stronger - my trust sturdier.

I had stayed on board with my Engineer.  He gave me His peace.  Because that's what He does.  That's what only He can do...give all of us the peace that we desire in the darkest of tunnels.

* I'm happy to update that my son is very constipated - and a little impacted....this caused the vomiting (ew gross!), the fever, the extreme thirst, the loss of appetite, and weight loss.  Thankful for something we can easily treat. Thanks for the prayers!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where We Are Now...

So this is the follow up to my last post. Sorry it took a few weeks to get it out here.  Life gets crazy when school let's out, you know?

So after we contacted our social worker and told her we could not move forward with the sweet boy we loved so much, we were confused.  We started asking ourselves if Colombia was still the best country for us to adopt through.  What were our other options within our adoption agency? They work in a total of 14 (I think) other countries, as well as a private, domestic program.  If we were to ever make a change into where we adopt from, we will not lose any money we have already invested by staying with Lifeline.  It would just be a matter of updating some paperwork and transferring some information over (I make it sound easy, it's probably not).

So we began our "country" research over from square one - looking at each program and crossing them off of our list one by one.  This research had two purposes: one was to (hopefully) assure us that Colombia is where we needed to say and the other purpose was to create a "backup plan" of sorts if we ever do have to leave the Colombia program.

We were actually able to mark all but 2 programs off of the list of countries Lifeline works with: one international country and their domestic program.  At one point over the last 2 months, we have seriously considered both. But we really don't feel led, at this point, to change countries.  We were told, however, by our in-country representative that we needed to be prepared for a 1 to 2 year wait before receiving a referral.  Okay - we can do that....maybe not with great enthusiasm, but we can do it.  He also told us we should be seeing some major improvements and upswing in referrals over the next few months, so we are praying HARD that these things will happen.

So we are back to waiting and praying.  This week, we are praying specifically that we would receive a grant from the JSC Foundation.  They are a wonderful ministry that awards generous grants to adoptive families.  Would you please, please, PLEASE join us in prayer that we would be a recipient of one of their grants? It would be a huge help.

We've recently decided to travel to Colombia as a family (can't remember if I told you that).  This is adding about $7,000 to our travel costs because of plane tickets for each kiddo, extra food, and having to rent an apartment while we are there instead of staying in a hotel.  This wasn't an easy decision, but having our family split for 6 - 8 weeks on two separate continents really didn't seem like a fun thing to do.  Our original plan had been for Jacob and I both to travel for the first 2 weeks, then I would return home and Jacob would stay in Colombia with our new son.  But I know my kids and I know how much they would miss their daddy....and I don't know how I could leave the son I'd been longing for and praying hard for after just a few days.

I'm planning on doing a post soon about the many grants that are available to adoptive families.  There are so many ministries out there who want to partner with these families - in the same way that so many of you have partnered with us through our fundraisers and donations.  It truly is incredible to see so many people come together for one family, one child.  Whenever this adoption journey gets to heavy for me to bear, I remember that we are not doing this alone.  I look back at my list of people who have offered us encouragement and prayer, donations, participated in fundraisers....and i think, "Wow...they are with us."  It is an incredible encouragement.

It makes that possible 2 year wait a little easier knowing that each of you are waiting with us.

So,, immediate prayer needs:
1) That we would see the improvements and upswing in referrals from Colombia soon
2) That we would receive this much-needed grant
3) That God would continue to direct our path on this treacherous journey

Thank you, friends, for hanging in there with us...

Monday, May 26, 2014

10 Weeks Later...

Okay, so I realize it's been 10 weeks since my last post and I'm really, really sorry about that.  Tons of things have happened in the past 10 weeks...we'll see how far I can make it in this post.

Let's just rip the band aid off, okay? The adoption fell through.  Again.  Here's a brief recap: Remember the sweet kiddo we moved adopt last October? Then we were told we were given his information by mistake and we couldn't adopt him? Well, he's the one we went after again in March.

The day our social worker called us to tell us about the Show Hope grant we'd received, she also called to tell us little "V" was available for adoption again.  The first family had backed out.  She didn't know why, but they did.  In October, we had told our sw that if anything - ANYTHING - happened and he became available again that she didn't have to call us...just get our information in ASAP.  She passed that message along to our in-country representative and he did just that.  When ICBF contacted him and asked him if we were still interested, he said yes and immediately (within a minute of hanging up the phone) sent our information and paperwork in.  He verified that they received it and that they were processing us as a match and family for this sweet boy.  Then he emailed our social worker, who got it as she was dialing our number to tell us about the grant.

Pretty cool, huh?

I dropped to my knees in tears when she told me.  I couldn't believe it.  I could, actually, because WHAT AN AWESOME AND COOL GOD WE SERVE! The story He was putting insanely incredibly and one that only He could do.

We went into fast mode and began updating our home study, physicals, signing papers and rapidly applying for grants (I filled out 12 applications in about 3 days and harassed asked friends to write us letters of recommendations).  Jacob was preparing to leave for 3 weeks of training (and here's my shout out to single mommies...YOU. ARE. AWESOME. 3 WEEKS...and I was done. I tip my hat, high five, virtual fist bump, giant hug you and all the things that say how amazing you are!).  Since he was getting ready to leave, we wanted to do everything we could so that his 3 weeks away didn't delay anything.

It looked like our travel time was going to be mid to late July.  Yep, if you know my family you know there's a pretty big event happening in July called "My Little Sister is Getting Married".  I prayed hard that I wouldn't miss it, knowing we would both be heartbroken - but also knowing that when the country calls and says "be here on this day and this time to meet your son" can't really negotiate.

About mid-way through his training, we got up some updated medical information on sweet "V".  The info was confusing because it was dated months prior to receiving his referral again in March and it contained information we had never seen.  It also contained medical conditions and diagnosis' that we had never heard of and were considered severe.

This is where we thought, "Okay, Lord, are you stretching us in a really, really big way?"

So we began research.  I took it straight to WebMD and the Mayo Clinic website.  Just kidding.  I took it to some friends who a) speak Spanish and b) are in the medical field and c) one who lives in Colombia and d) one who's adopted from Colombia.  How cool is it that God has placed such knowledgeable friends in our lives?

At first glance, these diagnosis didn't make sense and we chose to believe that they were wrong.  Nothing really added up and everything could be explained away by the hardships early in his life.  That was that, research was done...let's move on.  Only our hearts were unsettled and we felt very uneducated and uninformed in what was really going on.  Not by what our friends told us, but by what we chose to hear and believe.

But then God placed someone new in our life.  Someone who has lived with and parented the medical conditions that sweet "V" has.  She so graciously talked to me and gave me the reality of parenting children with this diagnosis.  She has a beautiful adult child that has changed her and her family's life in incredible ways and she wouldn't have it any other way.  But she was real about what life was like.  And what life would be like trying to meet his needs...while simultaneously trying to meet the needs of AB, Lynns, and Creek.  It wasn't fear that began to settle into my heart...but understanding and realization.  If this diagnosis was accurate...we to make a choice within the scope of our whole family.

We could move forward and either a) he could thrive, while our other children were neglected because of the care he would require his entire life or b) we could continue focusing on our other children and "do our best" to meet his needs. Or we could not move forward....trusting that the Lord has another family for him.  One that can meet his every single need, every single day of his precious life.  A family where he could thrive and grow and be fully nurtured into the precious kiddo that he is.

A few weeks after receiving his updated medical info (all in Spanish), we got the translations back.  As we read through the translations, the basis and symptoms of his diagnosis' made a lot more sense.  It painted a much clearer picture of his medical conditions.  Maybe it was all there in the beginning and we were just allowing ourselves to see it.

So we stepped back.  Took a lot of deep breaths.  And prayed and prayed and prayed.  And it became clear to us that we were not the best family for sweet "V".  We trusted that the Lord will continue to hold him and that He has great plans for "V"...but we are not a part of his physical life.  I will always love this little boy.  Always.  He will always have a place in our home.  His picture will always be tucked away.

So how does a mommy walk away from a little boy she wants so badly?  To be honest, I still don't know.  I think I've crawled a few feet.  And now, I just sitting here waiting for the strength to get up and keep going.  I keep looking behind saying, "God, are you sure?"  And He always answers, "Yes."  So, yeah, God was stretching us when we first found out about all of this...only I thought He might be stretching us to consider medical conditions that were originally way out of our parameters. But no...He was stretching us to the hardest (and honestly, the most confusing) act of obedience I've ever had to do in my life.

How do we feel? Heartbroken.  Although we had healed from losing him the first time, our hearts were a little shaken...okay, maybe a lot shaken.  But we still dove head first into continuing our love for him and doing all we could do to get him home and into our arms.  But it is not our arms that will comfort and rock him and sing him to sleep.  It's not our arms that will carry him or give him high fives or teach him to swim.  It's not our arms that will get him ready for church each week and teach him about the love that Jesus has for him. Those arms belong to someone else.

How are we coping? I keep telling myself over and over again, "He is the same God."  God is the same God today that He was yesterday and He will be the same tomorrow. He cannot and does not change (James 1:17).  The same God who was writing this really incredible story of bringing sweet "V" back to, is the same God who is still writing an incredible story for sweet "V" and for the little boy He will allow us to bring into our family.  He is the same God.

What about the kids?  We gave limited information to the kiddos about "V". We simply showed them his picture and said that we needed to pray for him because he needed a family.  AB immediately raised her hands and said, "Oh, he should pick us to be his family! I would be a great big sister for him."  They would bring him up and we would answer questions for them.  We wanted to proceed with caution with them in case something like this happened.

Can I tell you anything else? Well, I don't think there's really anything else to tell.  As always, you are welcome to ask us questions if I haven't answered them here. But please do respectfully.  And I will not answer questions related to "V"'s condition or history.  Not only am I bound by a privacy agreement, but just simple respect for him.  Those are intimate details of his life that he doesn't even understand...who am I to tell the world wide web about them before he can process it?

I actually wrote a lot more than I had planned on writing and a lot more than realized I was ready for.  More has happened and I'll write more about it in a few days...just where God has taken us and how He has assured us in these past few weeks.  We do have some updates straight out of Colombia after an incredible webinar we attended a couple of weeks ago.  All of that will come in a few days, so be sure and check back.

In the mean time...we covet your prayers, as always.  We are hurting.  God pieced our broken hearts together before and I am comforted in knowing that He will do it again and in knowing that we are not alone in this.  Thank you, friends.  Thank you so much.  We could not bear to go through this journey without you.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Ninth Day of the Month

I was going to write a post about a great idea my friend, Rebecca, gave me - to help me get through this wait.  Basically, we were officially added to the adoption waiting list on December 9 so each month on the 9th day of the month - I'm going to write my son a letter in this sweet journal she got me and just allow myself to feel the emotion of missing him and wanting him home as much as I need's basically a day that I'm dedicating to him.

And I was going to tell you all about we sang His Eye Is On The Sparrow in church and I could only think about how His eye is also on my son and that I know He's watching him.

And I was going to tell you a little update we received a couple of weeks ago saying that our new "wait time" from the time we were approved (Dec 9) was now approximately 1 - 2 years instead of 6ish months.

And I had even thought I might share about the sisterhood of the non-traveling pants just for a good laugh.

But then we got a phone call.

From our social worker.

And there was news.  Big news to share.  Bigger than the 9th day of the month and the sisterhood of the non-traveling pants (although I may throw that one in here later this week - stay tuned).

Beth - our social worker - called to tell us we received a $7,000 grant from Show Hope.  Seven thousand dollars!! Oh my goodness.  Y'all, we were so blown away.  This is such an answered prayer - especially since the latest info we had seen on these grants were that there on average $4k-$6k.  So incredible!  We still have a couple of more grants to apply for and really pray we get and we will be fully funded!

But, y'all, that wasn't even the really big news.  Nope, there's news bigger than $7,000.

I can't share all the details just yet, but please pray for our adoption and the little boy who just may be ours.  I absolutely cannot wait to share it all with you, hopefully in another few weeks - but please, please, please pray for us and for this sweet little boy during this time.  He's just perfect :)

We've shared the details with some close friends and of course, our parents - and we're just asking you to pray.  And be ready to celebrate with us soon! Oh, y'all - God is so incredible!!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

We Can Rebuild

When Jacob and I first moved to New Orleans 8 years ago (wow...didn't realize it had been that long), the key phrase we heard on a daily basis was "We will rebuild" or "We're rebuilding" or something along those lines.  We moved here almost a year to the day of Hurricane Katrina.  A time when this beautiful city was broken and still in the very early stages of piecing back the life that so many people loved here, after it had been ripped apart by fierce winds and flooding waters.  It was a blessing to move here during that time, to be part of something so beautiful as serving the people of New Orleans not only in a physical sense of helping them rebuild, but also just to be able to sit with them and let them pour their hearts out.  Over the years, I've heard that phrase (and those like it) less and less and the city has come back to life in so many ways.  I never imagined the next time I would hear the words "We will rebuild", that it would be in reference to the son that I have not yet met.

I attended an incredible conference in Birmingham, Alabama last weekend called Empowered to Connect.  It's a partnership between Show HopeDr. Karyn Purvis, and adoptive parents Michael and Amy Monroe.  The conference is meant to give hope, resources, encouragement, connection, and so many other things to adoptive families who have chosen and committed to loving and parenting children from hard places....children plagued by institutionalization, child abuse, neglect, prenatal and childhood trauma, and other things that effect adopted children.

I was amazed at the amount of information we were given and had to stuff somewhere into our brains in a 48 hour time frame.  My eyes were crossed and my mind was numb when it was over.

You see, up until a few weeks ago, I was naive.  I thought that since we had chosen to adopt a younger child, that we wouldn't really have to deal with a lot of attachment issues - and I pray that we don't, that our son will immediately know and love me and receive my love as his mother.  But the reality is, there is a chance that he will not...even being adopted at such a young age.  As I made this realization a few weeks ago, I decided I was NOT going to freak out.  Do you know how hard it is for me to NOT FREAK OUT!  For the love...

But I chose to trust in Jesus and remember that He is the one who is before us in every step of this process...not just the paperwork and now the dreadful wait that we are in, but He will be there when we meet our son, when he is finally placed in my arms to be my son forever, and when we get on that plane to come home, and as we all start to adjust to being a family of 6 (whoa....) and as we begin to help him heal from whatever wounds are left gaping open from his past.

One of the first things Dr. Purvis said was, "You can rebuild their little minds and their little hearts and you can lead them to attachment."  When she said that, my mind couldn't help but go back to New Orleans and the disaster that plagued this city and the mess it was still in when we moved here.  And I couldn't help but think of how, over the years, the people of New Orleans came together and rebuilt this city and now it is beautiful and full of life again. We were here for a mission trip only a few months after the disaster, so to see it from the beginning of the disaster to now...amazing. God was in that.  God will be in our rebuilding process as we teach our son how to attach to our family in healthy ways.

Will it take a while? It very well could.  It could seem like it's better and then hit us like a storm in 10 years.  But you know what - after going to Empowered to Connect, I feel equipped to handle whatever storms his past wounds throw at him and our family and I will fight with him and for him through every single one of them.  Here are just a few statements from the conference that really stood out to me and I jotted down in our handbook:

"These children need to know and see their birthright."

"Don't lose sight of how precious these children are, look through the "poop" they are covered in." (the "poop" being their past wounds)

"My child CAN recover what they should have had or been given in the first 3 years of their life." (y'all, there are actual changes to the brain of children who have been in an institution, abused, neglected, or experienced prenatal or childhood trauma)

Perhaps my favorite....

"The journey isn't about making him mine, but COMPLETELY BECOMING HIS."

This conference touched on sensory processing disorder, strategies for change, attachment, adoption stories with happy endings and a happy ending in waiting from adoptive parents, and understanding the impact of a child's history.  I just want to encourage you - if you are an adoptive or foster parent and you're like, "What the crap is going on with us right now - why can't we come together?" or you're thinking about adoption and you're like "How in the world would we handle the hard days" (because there will be hard days) or if you're in process....please find one of these conferences and attend.  Or look through Dr. Purvis' website at her resources and do the training at home.

And, now, sweet friends, please continue to pray for us as we wait.  There's nothing new right now.  We still crave the encouraging words and prayers you offer to us at just the right time.  We hope that we will be matched or receive a referral soon - but, as always, we remember that we are on God's timeline, He is writing our story.  And please pray in advance as we prepare to rebuild the tiny little heart and mind that will be broken with wounds we cannot understand or fathom.  Pray that attachment would come quickly, but if it doesn't that we would remember the skills we have been given to help our son.  Pray that we would keep in the front of our minds that God doesn't call us to something, without equipping us to complete it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Harsh Realities

I'm sitting here, looking at my girls watch our wedding video - or our "married movie" as they like to call it.  It's a sweet sight, really.  They've watched it before and I'm sure they will watch it many times again in the future.  We like to sit down and look at wedding pictures and videos as a family on our anniversary each year as a way to celebrate our "family's birthday".

But in the last few weeks, Anna Beth has faced a harsh reality in this world.

Like always, she made friends fast when she started kindergarten - my little social butterfly.  One friend just really attached to her and her teacher has even told me that AB helps this little friend throughout the day and is "good for him/her".  She comes home talking about this friend almost every day.

When I helped chaperon their first field trip (ps...bus rides are worse as an adult), I met this friends mom.  And I learned the story of all that their family is going through.  In 3 simple words...

An ugly divorce.  And AB's little friend is caught right in the middle.

You've probably seen  or heard of a similar situation hates dad so she talks horrible about dad; or dad despises mom and tells everyone he knows about how awful she is in every way.  And they forget the little people in their homes have ears, too.  And they forget that those little people love mom and/or dad - even though mom and dad don't love each other.

And so Anna Beth has stayed up to date on a lot of things going on in her sweet friend's home life.  And the harsh reality that two people broke the promise to love each other forever and to always be a family.

Please hear me - this is not a post about divorce itself. I'm not here to judge or make determinations about anyone's family and/or marriage. It's a post about the uncertainty that is now in my child's heart because she has discovered that divorce is real...because we've told her over and over and over again that we will always be a family and that we promised each other to always love each other the day we got married..

She looks at my wedding rings and asks, "Is this the one daddy gave you when he said 'Will you marry me?' and then he gave you this one when he promised to love you forever?"

Yes, sweet girl, that's exactly what these rings symbolize.

But that truth for her 5 year old little mind is shaken.  Not only is she realizing that sometimes people break promises in general, but the foundational promise that she trusts - that we are a family, forever - can be broken in some families.

She came home every single day from school last week with questions.

"Mommy, do you really promise to always love daddy?"

"Yes, sweet girl, I promise you and I promised daddy and I promised God."

"Daddy, do you promise I'll never have to have another mommy because you'll always live here with mommy?"

"Yes, I promise."

Every day, y'all.  Every single day.

My only guess is that something happened over Christmas break that is instilled in this friends heart and mind and they're still talking about it.  Still processing it.  Still grieving over it.  Still brokenhearted... That's a whole lot of "junk" for her 5 year old friend.

So in an effort to still her heart, we dug out the "married" movie.  Our wedding album will hopefully be back from Tennessee this weekend and we will sit down and look at the pictures over and over and over again.  I will get out the photo album of all the planning and showers and candid shots from that beautiful day.  If i had my dress here, I'd put it on for them and then give them a chance to wrap up in it.

Will it be easy to stay together forever? Nope - sure won't.  Marriage is hard.  Some days are harder than others.  Some days flow perfectly as if they're written by the best romance author in the universe.  But we've promised to be in it for the long haul.  We've promised to give it our best day in and day out.  We've promised to never quit.  We stood in front of friends and family to make these promises before God and we want them to ALWAYS  hold us accountable.

I see what this harsh reality is doing to my daughter.  I cannot fathom how her friend feels.

If you would, please pray for Anna Beth - that her trust in us and the promises we've made will be restored and strengthened; for her friend - that his parents, who fiercely love him, would contain their anger with each other and protect him; and for Jacob and I - that we would set an example for our kids and visibly display our promises to each other and our kids every day.