Apr 28, 2009

God's Perfect Plan and Reinforced Dreaming

I thought this was quite funny and I just had to share. A few weekends ago, Le was at the station on a Saturday (His shifts are usually 24 hours on/48 hours off). I went to sleep late and I had a dream that I was pregnant (it had to be a dream because the stats given by our doctors were like one in a million!). In this scenario, I was devestated. I didn't want to tell Le because I didn't want our adoption to be held up in any way. I woke up laughing at myself. I got ready for church and Le came home. I didn't say anything about it to him. Before the service began, a little girl and her mom come racing past our seats (the girl was racing and the mom was trying to catch up). As her blond curls bounced and her very pregnant mother caught up with her. Le turned to me and smiled. He said"Linz, I couldn't be more excited about the journey we are on. And I even think that I would be really disappointed if you wound up pregnant." I about burst into tears and then I just started laughing. I told him about the dream and he laughed too. I sometimes become overwhelmed at how much we can't understand about our Heavenly Father. He has taken adoption from a choice to a plan and one day that plan will become a reality. And He reinforced it all...with a dream!

I am reading another amazing book right now. Tom Davis' Fields of the Fatherless. I have attached the link to his blog and if you want to see Jesus in action, read some of he and his team's latest entries from their April 2009 trip from Ethiopia. What a group of warriors they are for the inflicted, the sick, the orphan and the HIV/AIDS victims. Pray for them as they continue to help the "least of these".

Apr 26, 2009

Inspiring Words and Another Step Completed

Le and I had our home study on Wednesday. It was really relaxed and our worker was amazing. She asked a lot of questions and Le continued to surprise me by some of his answers. His passion for our children is so apparent that it brought me to tears several times during the interview. After our worker gets our information typed, she will send us a rough draft and will forward it to our agency. Once the rough draft is finalized, then we will receive copies of the home study to help finish our dossier (the packet of information that will be send to Ethiopia). We are still waiting on our information from the Immigration offices, but we are narrowing in our completing our dossier and sending it to Addis Ababa.

I have been reading a lot lately. For those of you who know me really well, this information will not come as a shock. I have read a majority of my life and can distinctly remember the first book I ever read (thank you Nannie for the gift of literacy. I still have "Tip" and re-read it from time to time when I feel like I can hold in the tears. I miss you!). I remember the way my Nannie smelled as we went over the words and I remember the proud swell in my chest as I completed the book on my own. However, during law school, I stopped reading for fun and even in the first few years of my career, I almost dreaded reading at night before I went to bed. Slowly, my appetite to read has returned and now it eats at my every day to read something. Lately, my nightstand is full of book regarding adoption issues, parenting, and books on loan from my sister. But in the past two weeks, I have read three books that have impacted my life and I have to share. Laura recommended The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. If you enjoy reading, it is a great read about a Nazi Germany and the effect reading has on a young German girl, inspiring her to change her world. A special note, read the last 50 pages alone, with Kleenex handy! From Ashes to Africa is written by a fellow blogger and Ethiopian adoptive mother, Amy and Josh Bottomly. Reading this book was like opening Le and I's journals of life over the last three years and exposing our innermost thoughts of sadness, loss and pain. If you want to understand our passion for Africa, our love for adoption and why we seem to be able to talk about nothing else, you must read this book. The last book is Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds by Tom Davis. I have to warn you, this book will change your outlook, your faith and the way that you live your life. I have cried, prayed and begged our Heavenly Father to be forgiven for my ignorance, impatience and laziness to the plight of others. If you are ready to have Jesus change your perspective and call you into action, this is a must. I have attached a pic of my mom and my little sister, who is partially responsible for renewing my love of reading. Thanks sis!

Apr 20, 2009

A Realization, An Apology and A Promise

I know that I've already told you all this, but I really have the best mother in the world. I recently told you about her ability to find a certified birth certificate of mine that we all believed was lost forever. Her latest feat of sainthood was this past Saturday night. My mom, whose really name is Jeanie, is a manager for a makeup counter in Dillards at Sooner Fashion Mall. She works about 60 hours a week and is AMAZING at her job (last summer, they choose her to go to NYC to be one of a handful of internationally chosen managers to be honored). She called me on her way home on Saturday and I told her that I was furiously cleaning my house in prep for our homestudy this Wednesday. She immediately turned her car around and headed to my house. We cleaned, laughed and talked until almost 11p.m.! She was cleaning stuff that I would have never thought possible. She ran circles around me! While we were cleaning, we started talking about Bono and U2. I have never been a big U2 fan. I guess I had just never paid attention to their music. I pride myself on being a music lover, but I had never put a lot of thought into a band that I had never really followed. The one thing that I did know was the buzz around his NAACP's acceptance speech, but I had never seen it. When I told Mom about how God had moved Le and I's hearts to Africa, I thought about Bono and his countless efforts to aid those in need, especially in Africa. I suddenly became curious and while mom was soaking the hood above our microwave, I played it on my laptop for us. I cried as he talked about where God was and how it was unacceptable for children in the 21st century to die from mosquito bites.

I understand that most people do not look at an issue until it is staring them in the face and that through this adoption process Le and I have become more aware of global situations and the specific issues surrounding Africa and orphans, but I knew that I owed Bono an apology; not for failing to listen to his music, but for failing to pay attention. However, if I was going to apologize to someone I had never met, then I owed my Heavenly Father an apology as well. For all of the times that I turned away or completely ignored the cries of others, I am sorry. I am sorry to my children for not tending to their planet a little sooner, for not giving of myself more and taking for myself a little less, and for failing to use opportunities to further the Kingdom, I apologize. And I make myself, Bono and the Good Lord this promise: never again will I blindly deliver an opinion on an issue without being knowledgeable, prayful and thoughtful. I still am unsure as of the writing of this entry whether or not I am hereafter considered a U2 fan. I still cannot name more than two songs, but only time will tell. I have attached a pic of my mom so that you will all know what perfection in motherhood looks like.

Apr 18, 2009

Worship, Mother's Day and Plastic

Last night Le and I went to Josh and Amy Bottomly's book signing for their book From Ashes to Africa, which is the story of their infertility and adoption of their son from Ethiopia. We met a few people from our agency who were up from Texas for the event. I even got to meet several people that I have fallen in love with their blogs. As Le and I left, it started on a new and open line of discussion about the world in which we live. And as we drove home, I couldn't help but thanking God for such an amazing experience. Of course, I started to cry. A year ago, Le and I would have been driving home from dinner, complaining about the lack of road construction on the south side of OKC (which is still bad), and caring nothing for the plight of people who went to bed last night with nothing to eat. As we talked~well, Le talked and I cried, I began to understand that this is what we want people to take away from our experience. We want their eyes to be open to the plight of others that share this world and the issues facing our society, locally and globally. To think more about what others need than ourselves. And I understand that you are more passionate about something the closer you are to it, but we pray that through our experience, our story will touch someone else and they will be enlightened to something; perhaps not adoption, maybe another issue that will cause them to become passionate .

Maybe it is this experience, perhaps it is just growing up, but I find myself recycling (Thanks Laura, this is because of you!), contemplating how to make this world a better place (I do believe that one person can change the world, because the "world" is defined as you wish~so changing YOUR world is easy...it's all about how you define it, even if it isn't past your front porch), and buying gifts that only come from the heart, attempting to buy from artists and craftsman. In this spirit of giving, as Mother's Day is approaching, I found a fantastic artist to buy my mother's day gifts from. I found her on Etsy.com (which is a new addiction). Her store name is Dos Besitos and she has amazing adoption gifts. For those of you who will be receiving a mother's day gift from me (Aunt J~this includes you), you are forbidden from looking at this site until after Mother's Day weekend, as it will ruin the surprise! But for those of you, who need a great gift, this is the spot for you.

I have been listening to a lot of really great Christian music, but I felt as though I needed a good praise album to sing by myself in my car. I found it Easter weekend in Michael W. Smith's new album "A New Hallelujah". I have been blown away. I bought it because on two of the tracks, he sings with the African Children's Choir and it hasn't left my Ipod since. So for those of you who need to spend some time worshipping and need a little help (or at least a trained voice to play over yours in the car), check it out. And for those of you who have fallen in love with Africa too, buy the DVD so you can watch the African Children's Choir perform!
This pic always puts me in a good mood. It is Walter's Halloween costume and he was NOT happy about wearing it~so he changed his world...2 seconds after I took this pic, he ripped off his outfit, but kept the beef jerky!

Apr 14, 2009

First Night at The Queen of Sheba

Tonight was Le and I's first time to experience Ethiopian food. There is a group of families in the Oklahoma City area that have adopted from Ethiopia and meet once a month for dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant. For those of you who were as surprised as Le and I were, yes, there is an Ethiopian restaurant in Oklahoma City. The Queen of Sheba is located off of 23rd and MacArthur Avenue. We were a little nervous because: 1.) We hadn't officially met anyone from the group in person and 2.) we had never eaten the food before. Both of our fears were soon laid to rest. Everyone was extremely helpful not only about the food but also about the entire adoption process. There were several families who had their children with them and the entire night seemed like a reunion play date for the kids. Le and I ordered a #32 (neither of us can remember the name), but it was a great sampler of stewed beef, lentils (which were great a spicy), veggie, stewed pork, salad, chicken and chick peas. Everything was served over a large piece of injera. Injera is a spongy, sour bread which is the staple of Ethiopian cuisine. Served alone, injera leaves a lot to be desired, but we soon discovered that the reason it is a staple is because it takes the place of silverware! Eating with our hands is not an experience we Americans are accustomed unless it is fried chicken and corn on the cob. We were a little confused about how to actually scoop food onto the injera, but one of the children present was a pro. She is about five and she has only been in the US for about two years. Le and I both found ourselves watching her and mimicking her movements. She would grab the injera, rip off a piece and in one fluid movement would slap the injera over the meat and veggie, pinch with her fingers and pop in her mouth. The spongy texture of the injera compliments all of the dishes well and cuts the sourness of the bread. Of course, Le liked it all and I even found myself enjoying even the lentils.

As we were leaving, our little food guide was saying her goodbyes to everyone and turned and hugged me goodbye! It was so cute. Having never met me she automatically knew that everyone in this circle was almost family, even newcomers like Le and I. It was really fun and Le and I will have to start introducing all of you to this wonderful new experience.

Apr 13, 2009

If Ignorance is Bliss, I'd Rather Be Miserable

This weekend, for the first time in this experience, Le and I were met with ignorance and indifference. I told someone very close to me, with my heart open and full of joy, only to be met with blind indifference and insincerity. It wasn't the words that were spoken, but the look of disgust and rejection in their face. I was devastated. Le, in his ever wonderful way, reminded me that God only hands us what we can handle and if through this entire process, if only one person in our lives had chosen a road away from us, then those were great odds. But I began to think that ignorance is just a lack of understanding and maybe I needed to explain ourselves a little better. Perhaps people were asking: Why Ethiopia? Why adoption? Why us?

In order to answer the first question, Ethiopia was put our hearts by our Heavenly Father. When Le and I first began praying about starting a family, adoption was always on the list. We knew that even if we had a child on our own, that adoption would be one way that we were going to grow our family. When the doctor called us into his office and said that we would be unable to have children naturally, of course, that hurt. It hurt very deeply. Those of you who are lucky enough to know my husband, know that he is gorgeous. I realize that I am partial, but those of you who don't know him, don't know that he has the deepest blue eyes and honey blond hair. He is tall and has a strength that only comes from the Lord. When I was young, my mom always said that I would know when I met the man I wanted to marry because I would want to have children who looked just like him. That was exactly how I felt about Le. Who wouldn't want to have a child that looked just like him?

When one of your options is closed, then you know that God is pointing you down a completely different path. Yes, we were sad, but we knew that there was another child that needed us and we needed them. As we sat in church one Sunday, I found John 14:18, which says, "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." That became Le and I's motto. Whatever we were called to do, we were going to do it and what an amazing, eye opening experience this has been. To know that we have been called to serve a higher purpose and change not only our lives, but the life/lives of other individuals is such a blessing. I don't know why God chose us, but I wouldn't have it any other way, because I know at the end of this road are lives being changed and I know that Le and I are two of those lives.

For those of you who doubt God's will, not only for our lives, but for your own, don't be afraid. When you return from the road out of ignorance, we will be here, with our wonderful child/children ready to love you all over again.

Apr 12, 2009

Home Study Stress

On Tuesday, I got a phone call from our agency saying that she had received our first round of documents and that we would be receiving an email from our home study evaluator to set the date. Our agency worker said that if we didn't hear from the home study worker within thirty days, to call the worker and make arrangements. I have to admit that I was a little surprised because when our agency first talked to us about our timeline in this process, our home study was about four months down the line. Of course, in this process, being upset about the LACK of time some process takes is ludicrous. The very next day, I received a call from the home study evaluator, stating that she was needing to set our home study date. In the back of my mind, I still believed that we would be setting the appointment for sometime in June or July. Imagine my shock when she told me that her first available appointment was the 22nd....of April! I was ecstatic. I called Le (who was at the station and couldn't answer his phone until the end of the day) and left him a frantic message about all of the things we were going to need to fix. For those of you who know Le well, he can fix anything and is such a clean freak, that our house is usually very clean. However, I have a type-A personality that would rival any Fortune 500 CEO. I was imagining greasing all the door hinges to contemplating how to coordinate ripping up all the carpet in the house and reinstalling prior to the home study. As he always does, by the time Le and I talked that afternoon, he had reassured me that our carpet is fine and that we would be fine by the time the 22nd came around. I always leave it to Le to calm me down and tweak my plans to become more down to earth. Thanks baby!

Apr 7, 2009

Mom, Doctor and Immigration

I have to hand it to my mother. She is the best. There has never been a time in my life that I have needed something that she has not completely followed through. It must be a mom thing. Again, this weekend, in my time of need, she came through with flying colors. I haven't needed a birth certificate since I can't remember when. However, one of the first things that has to be sent in with our agency application and with the I-600A Application to the U.S. Immigration Service is a birth certificate. I searched all weekend and tore our house from top to bottom and no birth certificate. I called the Department of Vital Records and was told that I had to make the request in person at their office or request a copy by mail, but either process took at least four weeks, sometimes six. I was devestated. This was going to set us back several weeks. I called my mom and by Sunday afternoon she had not only located a copy of my birth certificate, but she managed to find a CERTIFIED copy as well. That was the final piece of paperwork needed to finalize our I-600A application and yesterday afternoon, the packet of information, containing a copy of my birth certificate was sent to the United States Immigration Services. And I owe it all to mom. You are definitely amazing.

Today Le and I had our physical exams for an additional step in the applicaiton process. As we were talking about the adoption process, several people in the office began to talk to us about our story, asking questions and taking an active interest in the process. While she was taking our blood, the lab tech told us her adoption story. Her parents had adopted her and five other children over a span of nineteen years. What a story and a testament to the never ending boundaries of love.

Apr 1, 2009

Step Two:Agency Paperwork

Le and I had our phone interview with the adoption agency today. We were extremely discouraged to learn that due to other countries tightening their adoption policies, adoption times in Ethiopia have almost doubled in the last year. They are estimating that it will be at least 18 months before we travel. While this news is hard, we are still determined that this is path that God has set before us. After the interview, the agency sent us an application packet and requested A LOT of documentation which must be completed before our home study may be conducted. Also, we must complete a form for the United States Immigration Department in order to have background checks and fingerprinting cards completed. We have to take pictures of our house exterior, ourselves, the four-legged kiddos and detailed pics of the inside of the house. We also have to go get physicals and have a lot of people write referral letters for us. I am giving you all fair warning that you may be placed on the "we need a favor" list. I guess you all can guess how we will be spending our weekend.

It feels good to get the ball rolling, but knowing how long the road ahead will be is a little disheartening, but it is all a means to an end...a very wonderful end!

My precious mother-in-law gave us some pretty good advice today. She commented on how lucky we were to at least have an idea and time frame as to when our child would be here. She said that most people would love to be able to take one more trip, buy that motorcycle, or just sit a few more idle weekends on the couch, before they become parents. While Le and I are ready to be "mom" and "dad" right now, we know that for the next year and a half we can focus on us and enjoy one another for a little longer, which will only make this experience that much more deep and rewarding. Thanks Mom A.!