Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cherry Blossom Rain

It is a beautiful time in Korea right now - for a very short few weeks each spring it is "cherry blossom season" and the trees burst like popcorn, full of light pink and white cherry blossoms. They are everywhere and absolutely beautiful.  And then it rains.  One or two good rains and all the petals fall to the ground, replacing themselves with the bright new-green of spring.


Last night Steve surprised me with a big date to Seoul (without the little man)!  

Caleb spent the night with Nelson and Michelle (his aunt and uncle away from aunts and uncles).  He was totally spoiled and enjoyed every minute of it.  He had dinner, ice cream, played at the park, got to watch Lightening McQueen in Lightening McQueen pajamas, slept in "a big big boy bed" and had bacon for breakfast.  He cried when I picked him up and said he didn't want to go home. Not sure how I feel about that.

Steve and I had a great time connecting and spending focused time together (something we have been really bad about) and enjoyed some time in Seoul (sadly, we don't get up there too often).  It really is an incredible city with a lot to explore and do. Unfortunately, we accidentally deleted all our pictures though (total bummer).

All in all, I think we all three had a great time! Thanks Pastor Nelson and Shell for an evening away!


The 3 countries we qualify to adopt from through Small World Adoption are Madagascar, Ethiopia and Bulgaria.  This has been something we have been praying a lot about and would appreciate prayers on!  We just don't know how to make this decision and we need to decide in the next month.  We feel most excited about Ethiopia but the country is very unstable right now, their adoption laws are under review and changing and the wait time has increased dramatically which makes us hesitant.  Please keep this in your prayers for us!

As I was thinking over these countries today,  I was also reading over a list of websites our agency gave us and really enjoyed reading from a website called "SPOON - Nutrition and feeding resources for adoptive families."  I enjoy learning about nutrition in general, so this was interesting to me.  They have a section on their website where you can read more about various countries and what is likely served as meals in their orphanages.  They had Ethiopia listed and I enjoyed reading up on it.  The website also has an option for a free "Kid Friendly Global Recipes Cookbook." I thought I would include it here in case you or your family might also enjoy it.  You don't have to be adopting to incorporate and talk about other cultures and other foods as a family or with your kids!  It would make a good supplement to discussions around other countries and other nationalities, as well as missions and God's heart for all people.  Or it might just be a fun way to incorporate some new foods or recipes into your week. I hope you enjoy it.

As you eat your meals today, would you consider praying for us and our decision on which country to choose? Would you also consider praying for the children around the world eating their meals without a family or not eating a meal at all?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Korean Background checks - CHECK!

The past few weeks we have been busy working on various documents and completing forms for our home study.  There are a lot of components to our home study and we have been working towards compiling it all.

Over lunch today we went to downtown Pyeongtaek to do our Korean Criminal Background checks.

Apparently the department was called "Crime Scene Investigation"?

Thankfully, we have not been a part of any crime scenes so we left with the required documents, meaning we passed our Korean criminal background checks!

One more check box to check off and one step closer!

As a doula, I tell women all the time that every contraction brings you closer to your baby.  In the midst of it, it feels like every contraction is overwhelming and there are endless contractions to come with no end in sight but each one makes a difference and each one eventually brings forth a baby. I think it applies here just the same.  Every step brings us closer and although the steps seem to loom endlessly on with no end in sight, every single one really does bring us one step closer to meeting our baby.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Melody's Heart and Mine

One of the hardest things for me to "get over" when I was thinking about adoption (before committing to it) was the idea of having a child who I didn't carry for 9 months, who I didn't experience birth with or those first moments after birth, who I didn't nurse or experience every day of their lives.  Pregnancy and birth and bonding are things that bring me joy.  It was (and still is) hard to think about not having that.  But the more I thought and talked and prayed, the more I came to see how very me-centered that was.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being or enjoying pregnancy or birth or bonding or biological children.  Absolutely not. Please don't misread me on that.  I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it with Caleb. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I look forward to experiencing it again someday.  But what I came to realize and see is that it becomes selfish if that is what would stop me from enjoying a child through adoption. It would be me saying no to a wonderful blessing simply because "I" didn't get to experience pregnancy and "I" didn't get to experience birth and "I" missed out on those first years.  It would be passing up an opportunity for our home and hearts to expand with a child needing a home and a family, only because "I" might be losing an experience.  Something doesn't seem quite right with that picture in my opinion. It is a hard thing to think about, the "missing out," but not a good reason to miss out altogether!

One section from "Field of the Fatherless" stuck out to me because I found another woman, Melody, who wrestled with these same thoughts.  How good it feels to know you aren't alone in a struggle!  She wrote:

"Since Matt and I have officially begun this adoption process, I have been processing the impact a third child will have on our family.  I carried my children, Caroline and Tobin, in my body. I was their protector, their provider, and their comfort for those nine (make it ten!) months. I was the first person to see them come take their first breath. I was there those first days of their lives and beyond.  In my limited experience, all that I mentioned above is what I defined as motherhood.

With our third child, our daughter from Ethiopia, my definition of motherhood has to be different.  I'm selfishly grieving that I won't be those things to her.  Someone else will have the privilege of carrying her throughout those first months of life. Someone else will give birth to her.  Someone else will care for her during those first few days.  My journey of motherhood with our third child, our daughter, will begin when she is handed to me, when I take her into my arms.

There is part of my heart that is empty right now.  I know that I have another child who is waiting for me.  Instead of caring for her by eating the right things and exercising, I must instead pray, dream and wait.  So I'm trying to use this time to dream about what this new type of motherhood will be. Instead of newborn moments, I will have other times with her.  I will laugh, love and care for her as my daughter brought to me by God, not of my flesh but of my heart (page 86)."

I think her words ring so true for me right now and clearly depict the feelings I am processing through.  So much of "motherhood" as I have come to know it seems wrapped up in these aspects of pregnancy, birth, bonding.  Good things, all of them and important. But is that the essence of the motherhood (or parenthood) we are called to?  Does God give us children so that we can experience pregnancy, birth and bonding? Are those things what makes us mommies and daddies?  And are those the things most important for babies and children? Is that what they need most from us? Or are we given children to raise, protect, train, instruct, and ultimately point to Christ?  Where do I put more of my value and emphasis? Where do you?  What defines us as parents and what makes us "mom" or "dad"?

"Fields of the Fatherless"

I started and finished reading "Fields of the Fatherless" by Tom Davis this week.  We had a busy week and I didn't feel like I had a lot of downtime but it was just that good.  I was up till past midnight several nights, wanting to eat it up.  Regardless of your ability (or desire) to adopt or not adopt, I would highly recommend this book.  It's for everyone, not just for those actively pursuing adoption.  It isn't a long book and it isn't a hard read but it contains some great truth and also encourages you to look beyond yourself.

I think what I liked best about it is that, although it does talk specifically about adoption, it brought a wider viewpoint:  it looked at the hurting world as a whole and shared the vast needs beyond the one solution of adopting.  Like I have said before, not everyone can or should adopt.  But I do believe it is everyone's responsibility to care for the fatherless.  Tom Davis points out a variety of ways we can care for the fatherless and he broadens it to more than only the physically orphaned child.  I love that because it broadened my view to be on the lookout for ways to bless and aid others on a daily basis and I think it would also be a good read for someone who can't adopt at the moment but wants to be a part of the call to care for the fatherless.  There are so many ways to be involved and help.  As he says, we all would consider ourselves to be compassionate but "compassion equals involvement."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Caleb and his little friends

Process & Timeline

I have had several people ask about our process and timeline.  It's still all new to us and we are learning as we go (I am certainly no adoption expert yet!).

Right now we are working hard on a checklist of things to do before our home study (which is scheduled for May 18-19).  We are doing things like writing our autobiographies, ordering our birth and marriage certificates, submitting our monthly expenses, ordering child abuse background checks, doing an online training, reading several books, typing up our parenting philosophy etc).

May 18-19 our social worker will fly here from China (two praises:  we were able to work with a social worker from China which means a much cheaper flight than flying someone from the States and we were able to get in on it with another couple, which means we were able to split the airfare!).  She will do a series of interviews with us together and us apart, as well as inspect our house (or so I would assume).

Once all of our task list is complete and our social worker visits us, it is my understanding that she will write up a report ("The Home Study") about us and portray and overall picture of the family and parents that we are and hopefully recommend us as adoptive parents.

Once we pass the home study, we begin working on our dossier.  Our dossier is a huge file of documents and information that we compile and create and ultimately submit.  We've been told this is the biggest part that we can "control" as far as the time line goes.  You can work really hard to complete your dossier quickly or you can take your time.  We were told that a "fast track" would take us about 3-5 months to complete.

Once our dossier is complete and submitted we wait for a referral to a child.  Once we accept a referral, we begin plans to travel to the country. Depending on which country we choose, we may have to travel twice.  Once in country, we go through the court systems there to adopt.  Once that is finalized, it is recommended to return back to the States and complete a re-adoption within the U.S. and do the necessary paperwork Stateside.

I am sure there are more steps involved than what I've just typed but that is the general outline and can give you somewhat of an idea of what lies ahead.  We have been told the process can take between 12 months - 3 years.  We're hoping for the shorter end of that range but also realizing that ultimately we have very little control over it and need to hand it daily over to the Lord.  And as a friend suggested, buy a Dilbert calendar to make the days pass with a smile!

Cool Happenings

It is so cool to watch the Lord work.  When you go out on a limb of faith and fling yourself into His arms, He is always Faithful.  It feels exciting that we are at 15% and I can't wait to watch the numbers grow to 100%.  I'm excited to watch Him bring in every penny we need.

I have had several people write or comment that before reading any of our posts, they felt the Lord nudging them to give us $100.  Some didn't even know we were raising funds to adopt yet - they just felt the need to send us that exact amount (which "so happens" to be the amount we are asking 300 people to commit to).  They all said they couldn't believe it when they checked our blog and saw that we were asking for that same amount!  How cool is that?

We have had others tell us the Lord placed more than $100 on their hearts and minds, and we praise the Lord for that as well.  One couple wrote us saying that the Lord had been putting "adoption" on their hearts repeatedly (even though they were not in a place to adopt).  When they saw our posts, they knew the reason was because they had some money they could support us with.  How cool is that?

We have had a few people we don't even know willing to spread our news on their blogs or facebook accounts, asking their friends to consider donating.  We have had the "problem" of trying to figure out how people in other countries with other currency can donate. The Lord is raising up people literally around the world to bring His child into a forever family.  How cool is that?

I'm excited!  I hope you are too.  We look forward to sharing our journey with you and we can't wait to watch the Lord's plans unfold in our lives and yours.

Monday, April 16, 2012

So...why are we adopting?

We are a fairly happy little family of three. We aren't infertile. So why in the world are we adopting?

We've started getting this question a lot - in all it's varied forms.  Things like, "you already have a son" or "just watch as soon as you start this process, you'll get pregnant" or "isn't it just easier/cheaper to have your own kids?" or "so what's up with all this adoption stuff? Why? And why now?"

Questions don't bother us so always feel free to ask. But since we've been answering these the past week, I thought it deserved an explanation.  Maybe you are wondering the same thing.  Or maybe you are just curious as to why we have decided to do this....and especially why now?!?

It's a big question and deserves a big answer.  Here's an abbreviated response.  I hope to write more down the road but there just isn't time right now!  Have you heard that we have our homestudy scheduled for May 18, tickets booked and all!?!

~ We are at a place where we desire to add to our family.  We are saddened by a world of children desiring a family and we see adoption as a means of bringing these two desires together.

~ In November we attended a Hope for Orphans conference and it gave us a lot to think about!! If you ever have the chance to go to one, I would encourage you to (weather or not you plan to adopt!).

~ We value LIFE. 

~ In December Caleb started asking (and praying) for a brother or sister.....

~  We see examples all around us of how adoption has changed lives and been used by God in redemptive ways.  From my recent study of Esther, to Joseph in essence adopting Jesus as his son, to Paul explaining our own adoption by God, we see adoption written all over the Bible.  We also see God's plain command to care for the orphans and His heart for the fatherless.  Further, we have been blessed to watch (from a distance) some very Godly couples we respect adopt children and see the ways God used that to bless not only the children but also the families.

~ Ultimately, we see adoption as not only becoming a physical forever family but also a means of sharing God's love with a child in a very real, tangible way with the prayer that they would one day put their faith and hope in God alone as their Savior and join His eternal family.

~ As we have been feeling these gentle tugs on our heart towards adoption, we began to research and read about the orphans around the world, about the needs and the hurt  and the tragedy and began exposing ourselves to it (instead of remaining blind to it).  The more we learn, the harder it is to not do something and the stronger our hearts have felt tugged in this direction.  We do not believe every couple should adopt. But we do believe everyone should expose themselves to the needs and plight of children in the world and that no one should be indifferent about it.  There are a lot of ways to help the fatherless and be involved besides adopting!

~  We feel the Lord calling us to this - not "some day," not "maybe," not "when we make "x" amount of dollars or own our own home or are done having biological kids."  Now. We've come to realize when the Lord bids come and follow, it's in our best interest (and holds our greatest joy) to obey.  

~ For the same reason most people have kids at all (regardless of the means by which they come into the family)- we are excited about it!  We want another child, we want Caleb to have a sibling, we view kids as a blessing and we have room in our hearts for our family to grow.

Friday, April 13, 2012


We received a sweet little package from my Mom yesterday.  In it, she sent a magnet with a verse that was perfect for yesterday (and for our journey ahead).  It gave me precious and much needed encouragement, as my heart continues to struggle not to worry about the details of this huge undertaking of adoption.

1 John 5: 14-15

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God:  That if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him."

I trust the Lord has brought us to this point.  I trust this is the path He is leading us down.  So I can cling to this promise:  It is of Him, so we can trust Him to accomplish what He has in it.  If it is His will, it will happen.  If it is His will, we have what we ask.

Online giving option

We have been having computer and phone problems but now have a loaner computer and we are back on track!  We have our phone up and working again too so we were {finally} able to call our agency financial department and get some questions answered.  The good news is they do have an online giving option (directions below).

If you choose to give online at Small World Adoption (SWA), it will be tax deductible.  In order to make it tax deductible you will be giving to SWA in the name of the child to be adopted by us.  This will basically work to reduce our overall bill with SWA but will not be directly accessible by us (which is just fine by us!).  There are certain restrictions on these donations and they can go towards covering our agency fee with SWA ($6,000) and our country fee ($12,000).  Also, SWA will not be able to tell us the amount you donated (but they will be able to tell us your name).  So if online giving is the easiest option for you, please follow the directions below!  You can still give by check directly to us (to be used for the other expenses that are not able to be covered by the tax deductible donation).

To donate online:

1.  Click HERE. This will link you to Small World Adoption's website and it should say "Sophie's Fund."
2.  Enter the amount you wish to donate in the "Donation Amount" box.
3.  Click "Add to cart."
4.  Enter all the requested information
5.  IMPORTANT:  In the "Order Comments" box please write:  "For the Child to be Adopted by Steve and Sarah Houser."  This will allow your donation to be tax deductible and make sure it is routed to our adoption expenses.

If you want to learn more about where your donations are going, please click here. 

We really don't know how to thank you for you gifts and donations. There really aren't words to express that kind of gratitude. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It costs HOW much?!?

I know it sounds like a lot of money. Trust me, I share your sentiments exactly!  Adoption is not cheap. We have known this for a while and we knew this going into it.  But as you look at the break down of fees and expenses, it makes sense.  There really isn't a lot to be surprised about when you look at what it all goes towards.  It's just that there are a lot of factors that go into adoption and each step costs something.

You might be surprised to learn that not all the funds we raise are kept by our agency.  The funds we are raising are to pay a number of different organizations for their services.  There will be a lot of "hands" that go into preparing and finalizing this adoption and they all need to be paid for their services.

We thought we would take some time tonight to write out the breakdown of all the fees and expenses we are raising funds for, so you know where your money is going and how it is being used to bring our baby home.

On Average:

Family Assessment (Homestudy):  $2,000
Agency Fee:  $6,000 (they are giving us a 10% discount for being in full time ministry!)
Document Procurement:  $500
Dossier Translation and Registration:  $2400
CIS Background Check: $720
FBI Prints:  $170
Foreign Country Fee: $12,000 (this goes towards things like orphanage costs, government processing fees in the country we are adopting from, court fees in country etc. The country does significant work and processes our adoption on their end as well so we are paying for that service).
Exit Documents:  $800
Travel to country (required by country, 2 visits):  $5,000-$7,000
Post Adoption Reports ($1,200)
Total:  $30,790-$32,790

**There are some costs not reflected above. Things like fees for obtaining certain documents (certified marriage certificate, certified birth certificates etc), notary fees (in Korea we have to pay $50 PER PAGE being notarized and most of our dossier will need to be notarized), paying for hotel and transportation for our social worker etc.  

I hope this helps you to see the break down of the expenses, I know it helped me.  It helped me to realize that not all of it was a chunk of money going to our agency, there isn't a "profit" being made in our adoption and that many of the fees are for varying organizations, documents and procedures we need to do before our adoption can be finalized.  It makes sense that they would need to do extensive background checks on us to make sure the child they place with us is going to a safe environment.  It makes sense they need to verify the information we give them. It makes sense that there are travel costs involved and that they need to pay the social worker for her time.  And it makes sense that all these costs add up.

If you choose to donate by sending a check to our agency, it will go towards lowering our "bill" with them (primarily the agency fee, the dossier translation and registration, and the post adoption reports).

If you choose to donate by sending a check to us to be deposited in our adoption bank account, it will go towards the other fees listed that we pay (FBI prints, CIS, document procurement, social worker travel costs, our own travel costs, notary fees etc).

Again, the 3 ways to give:
- Write a check to Steve and Sarah Houser and send to the address below. This will be deposited into a checking account specifically for our adoption costs.
                                 26228 7th st W
                                 Zimmerman, MN

- Give online directly to Small World Adoption to a fund set up for our child. To donate online:

1.  Click HERE. This will link you to Small World Adoption's website and it should say "Sophie's Fund."
2.  Enter the amount you wish to donate in the "Donation Amount" box.
3.  Click "Add to cart."
4.  Enter all the requested information
5.  IMPORTANT:  In the "Order Comments" box please write:  "For the Child to be Adopted by Steve and Sarah Houser."  This will allow your donation to be tax deductible and make sure it is routed to our adoption expenses.

-Write a check written to "The Child to be adopted by Steve and Sarah Houser" and send to the address listed below.  This will go directly to a fund that Small World Adoption will set up on behalf of our child. In this way it is tax deductible (since it is not going directly to us). It will never be touched by us but will bring our "balance due" on our adoption down by the amount you give.

                                PO Box 1109
                                Mount Juliet, TN

Please pray and consider how you can help. Every donor bring us closer to bringing our next child home!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Who can put a price on...

(Guest Post by Steve)

300 to Change a Life is our Campaign to raise the funds to bring our second Child into our Family (through adoption).

Sarah and I have been praying and thinking about adoption for a long time, and we feel that adoption has been on our heart for years. Recently, God has moved us forward and we have been accepted by an adoption agency called Small World Adoption. Caleb is excited to have "a baby brother or sister" and Sarah and I are incredibly excited  to think that we are going to add to our family soon.

Our adoption journey began as we attended Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We were led to consider adoption by the incredible atmosphere Bethlehem has. It is a church full of parents who have adopted and who value adoption. Everywhere you looked there were families who had been brought together by adoption. We were surrounded by it. And we loved it. I was most moved by a young couple who believed  so much that God had purposed that His church would lead the charge in caring for the fatherless, that they did not begin their family by having kids biologically and instead sought adoption as a means of beginning their family.

Adoption became more and more important to us as we met couples who had adopted. We saw the joy of parents who had recently brought their child(ren) home, and we also heard stories of pain as parents talked about adopted children who had caused trouble in their family. We read stories of God's redeeming love through adoption and we read stories of heartache as children were taken away after a year with their  family because their birth parents wanted them back. Through all of this, adoption permanently linked itself to our hearts.

We thought about the idea of adopting initially but then within the first few years of our marriage we saw incredible change: Just a year and a half after we married, God saw fit to give us our first child, Caleb, biologically. When Caleb turned just 9 months old, God also saw fit to move our family to South Korea and begin a new life as missionaries living in a foreign country. This put some of "Our Plan" to adopt on hold. But once we landed in South Korea we found ourselves surrounded by adoption again.  Our Pastor and his wife were adopting, families in another church near us were adopting and a Hope for Orphans conference came to Seoul and we were able to attend and the idea of adoption felt like it was continually being brought before us by one means or another.  And now that we are pursuing adoption, we are finding many young families in our Church are also coming forward with the same desire and a heart for adoption.  Praise God!

So here we are facing adoption: A daunting journey that comes with immeasurable rewards. Who can put a price on receiving a child into your family? Who can put a price on giving a family to a child who doesn't have one? Who can put a price on giving your son a brother or a sister? Who can put a price on giving hope to the hopeless? And who can put a price on teaching a child about the saving Gospel that is pictured in the way they entered their family? Who can put a price on such immeasurably joyful things?

The adoption process does. 

And we don't have enough.

If we can find just 300 people to donate $100, then we will have enough. 

Will you be one of the 300 who can donate to help us bring this new child into our home?

"300 to Change a Life"

We paid our home-study fee this past weekend and our agency assigned us a social worker today!  We were told the social worker is already planning a trip to South Korea late April or May to do a post adoption report for another family so we will be able to split the travel costs, making it a little cheaper for us. We were told she will book her tickets this week and we are looking at either April 29-30 or May 19-20. In the meantime, we just received a whole list of things to begin working on, documents to fill out and background checks to order. I'm feeling more of the excited part and less of the terrified part!

As we begin this process, we have rolled out our "campaign" to raise the needed funds to bring this child into our family.  When we look at the cost of adoption, it is overwhelming.  We are a missionary family on a small budget and there is literally no way possible we could fund this adoption on our own or through our own strength.  So we will be looking to our friends, family and friend's of friends to help us bring our child home.  I know that if this child is meant to be a part of our family, the Lord will provide every penny we need.  I trust this and I ask if you will consider being a part of this story?  Will you consider what you or your family might be able to donate?

As we have been thinking and dreaming and planning and trying not to worry over this large number, Steve (ever the optimist in our relationship) reminded me that "all we need is 300 people willing to give a one time donation of $100 and we will have our adoption funded."  That's it. Only 300 people.  And only a one time donation of $100.  Now, I know $100 isn't pocket change and most of us don't have $100 dollar bills shoved in our jeans pocket with no where to be spent. I get that.  But many of us can find a way to make, earn or save an extra $100.  Would you consider if this is something you could do?  Would you consider sharing this need with your friends and family, on your blog or on your facebook or twitter? Can you help us find 300 people willing to be a part of this story and this life?  Feel free to share this blog or our facebook adoption page (click here) as well.

We recently watched a video from our agency about a couple who raised their $30,000 adoption costs in ONE MONTH.  It is possible.  We know the Lord will provide through you.

Now you may be asking, HOW DO I GIVE? There are currently 2 ways to give.

Write a check to Steve and Sarah Houser and send to the address below. This will be deposited into a checking account specifically for our adoption costs.
                                 26228 7th st W
                                 Zimmerman, MN

Or write a check made payable to Small World and "The Child to be adopted by Steve and Sarah Houser" and send to the address listed below.  This will go directly to a fund that Small World Adoption will set up on behalf of our child. In this way it is tax deductible (since it is not going directly to us). It will never be touched by us but will bring our "balance due" on our adoption down by the amount you give.

                                PO Box 1109
                                Mount Juliet, TN

Please pray and consider how you can help. Every donor bring us closer to bringing our next child home!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Open Hands

I feel like the Lord is doing SO MUCH in my heart right now.  Often throughout the day, I am moved to tears over a full heart - full of conviction, full of truth, full of trying to change, full of fighting my flesh.  I don't even know how to fully put into words all the many ways I feel my heart changing and being molded; transformed. It is a beautiful time and a painful time.  I know it is good.

I had a speaker in college who gave a talk on "living life with our hands wide open." It has stuck with me through the years and has never felt more applicable than right now. She talked about how so many of us go around with our fists clenched tightly, holding on to "our" plan for our lives, "our" dreams, "our" hopes, "our" goals.  She challenged us to give up trying to hold our lives tightly in our own grip and live lives with our palms open and lifted to the Lord.  Let go of those plans, that picture of how you view your "perfect" life and family, let go of those dreams and hopes and goals.  Don't give up on them (they aren't wrong) but give them to the Lord in open surrender and be ready for His picture of your life.  She encouraged us to live our lives with hands open to the Lord's plans and not closed tightly around our own.

When we went to the Hope for Orphan's conference in Seoul this fall, the speaker (semi) jokingly said that in most adoptions there is a "drag-er" and a "drag-ee."  I have to admit, I am the "drag-ee" in this family and Steve has been the classic (patient) "drag-er"!  When we were dating, we talked about adoption.  In pre-marital counseling, we talked about adoption.  We both felt it was part of our future.  But for some reason it seems easier to talk about adoption "sometime in our lives" and a little scarier to talk about adoption "now."

I had "my" picture of our family and considering adoption in the present (versus the future) brought to my heart a whole host of fears, question marks and uncertainty.  I have to admit, I felt a little like, "Lord, you called us to Korea.  We left all our friends and family. We gave up our dreams of a home and a yard. I gave up a job I enjoyed.  We took a huge pay cut, we left a great Church and small group, we moved around the world etc etc etc, can't we just do one little thing the "easy/normal" way and have another pregnancy and biological child?!? Is that too much to ask? It already feels like we have given up a lot and like we are living a life different than most our peers, why this too? Do we have to do everything the hard way?  And, Lord, do you know our income?  Why now, when we are living on less than we have ever lived on and money is the you know what adoption costs?!?"  Of course these are all rhetorical questions from a complaining 26-year-old.  Of course the Lord knows what He is calling us to....

Hands wide open?

I've struggled with other questions too.  Can I ever love another child the same way I love Caleb?  What about bonding?  Everything I've learned as a birth doula and childbirth educator talks about the importance of bonding, of those first moments after birth, of how important breastfeeding is to a bonding relationship.  Everything we have done in parenting Caleb (thus far) has been started at a very early age.  What would it look like to not go through the bonding of pregnancy (not feel those first little kicks and those big punches and rolls later on)?  What does it look like to not go through labor and those initial bonding moments?  How can I not nurse one of my children?  What does bonding look like when you  miss out on all of that?  Is it possible to be bonded in the same way, without all that?  I enjoy all those "little" aspects  - I can't imagine not having it. Is that selfish?

Hands wide open?

What about Caleb?  If we adopt an "older" child (we do plan to keep birth order so hopefully the child would be younger than Caleb but likely older than "infant") and we have a lot of emotional issues to wade through, will Caleb suffer because of it? Will he be negatively impacted by the wounds of a hurting child? How will he take to a sibling?  Are we really ready for two, can I handle it?!? Maybe we are more of a one-child family? Is there a "reason" the Lord hasn't given us another biological child? Maybe we aren't good enough parents?

Hands wide open?

Am I really okay with children who look different than us?  I love that Caleb looks exactly like his Daddy....I love that I see bits of us reflected in him.  I would love for him to have siblings that look like him, and us. Prideful much?  Then there is the whole "age thing." Not that I'm that old yet but "they say" it's better to have kids in your twenties than in your thirties, and certainly better to have kids in your early thirties than late thirties....If I ever want to have another pregnancy, isn't it best to do that first (while I'm still "young")?

Hands wide open?

Yet even with all these questions, I feel my heart being pulled deeper and deeper into the beautiful picture of adoption.  I see our longing to expand our family. I see the overwhelming need for children to have parents.  And I can't let it go.  Why not?  Am I so closed into my own little idea of what my picture of life looks like that I can't see outside of the tiny box I've created?  Am I living my life with my hands open or closed?

In our study of Esther at church we read recently from Esther 4:14, it says the following (Mordecai speaking to Esther as she is hesitating to take the steps the Lord would have for her, weighing all the possible negative outcomes and ramifications):

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish.  And who knows weather you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

I think this speaks volumes about our God.  Our God is all-powerful.  He doesn't need us.  He will accomplish His will and Purpose.  But it is us who will suffer.  If He calls us to something and we are disobedient to His calling, it is not Him who suffers but us.  Maybe it isn't physical death, but we may not feel the life-giving benefits and rewards of obedience. We may miss out on the joy He has for us.  Or the sanctification.

And who knows?

Who knows what He has in store?  Who knows what He has Purposed for us? Who knows what lies ahead? Who knows if we haven't been called to this place for just such a time as this?

Hands wide open.

And so I take one (terrified and excited) step in front of the other, towards adoption.  We really feel this is the road the Lord is taking us down right now.  We have no idea what will come of it.  We have no idea what ending will be written or what heartache and joy lies ahead.  But we know we are called to live life open handed (as hard as it is to pry them open sometimes!) and follow the Lord's calling.  His ways are always better than ours and He knows what He's doing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's a beautiful, rainy spring morning in Songtan today.  We slept with our windows open last night for the first time and it felt great! Our Church has been having 5am prayer services this past week and leading up to Easter - Steve's been going and (apart from the earliness and initially waking up) has been enjoying the time set apart. Caleb is still asleep, "snoring" in his big boy bed. And I'm wrapped in a blanket, catching up on a few emails and researching adoption questions. I thought I would stop by and post something by way of an update.

Yesterday was Steve's day off and we thoroughly enjoyed a day of staying home. It was much needed after an absolute crazy week last week.  We started on some much-needed spring cleaning jobs and we spent time catching up and rough housing Caleb.

This week we hope to finalize which country we will adopt from. There are three countries we "qualify" for:  Ethiopia, Madagascar and Bulgaria.  Although we feel open to any racial/ethnic background, I think the preference we are leaning towards is in that order:  Ethiopia being first pick followed by Madgascar and Bulgaria.  But there really isn't much of a reason behind it. But since we are open to whatever country, our biggest concern is which of those countries will work with us the easiest (being expats makes our adoption more complicated) and also which of those countries could we adopt the youngest child from.  Thus far in our research, it is looking like Bulgaria is the most stable program followed by Ethiopia.  We are hoping to skype with the program director in the next few days and finalize which country - will you pray over that decision for us?  We are also hoping to pay our $2,000 homestudy fee (if you are interested in helping us raise funds for that please contact us!).  We just found out that if we pay it by THIS FRIDAY there is a social worker flying over here from China this spring for a post-adoption homestudy and we could split the cost with the other family, making it cheaper for us.

One thing in adoption that has overwhlemed us for a while is all the many decisions there are to make:  country? gender? age? special needs? etc.  It's hard to know how to make decisions like that.  Will you pray for us in that?  As we have talked (and talked and talked and talked) we have come to realize that our top preference leans towards the age of the child.  I personally love the first 12 months of life and with Caleb still being young, our biggest hope is for a younger child (peferrably under 12 months).  The liklihood of that happening seems small so again, another prayer request!  Prayer either for a younger child (under 12 months) OR prayer for open hearts to embrace an older child and the grace to handle some of the added challenges that come with adopting an older child (and by "older" I mean over 12 months - at this time we are working hard to keep our birth order in tact, with Caleb being the oldest).

We have decided to leave the gender of the baby up to the Lord - you can't decide in pregnancy so we aren't going to decide here and that means one less decision to make on our behalf! It is my understanding that once we receive a referral for a child we will then receive the child's information (including girl/boy) and possibly a picture so we will know somewhat in advance but just not making the decision ourselves. 

We have done a lot of talking and praying about adopting a "special needs" baby.  The thing we have come to realize, as we've researched, is that "special needs" is a very broad term.  There are children placed in the special needs category for a wide range of reasons - anything from a withered hand to cleft palate to a facial birth mark to speech impedement to Downs.  We have come to realize that we are not in a place financially where we feel we are equipped to take on a huge medical condition. We are also not in a country with great medical care for extreme special needs.  Additionally, if we are in Korea for any length of time, there aren't great programs or support groups as there would be in the States and not everything here is handicapped accessible.  We are trying to remain open (even though that can be scary) but feel likely at this time we would not be very capable (or have the support) for any big special needs conditions.  However, we are going to remain open to less severe cases as they come up and depending on what they entail.

So this week will hold trying to narrow down a country, hopefully paying a $2,000 homestudy bill and making arragements for the homestudy this spring.  Also on the calendar:  preparing for Easter (we are doing resurrection eggs with Caleb, some special readings and some special activities, we also have an Easter Egg hunt being planned by a friend, a special foot washing service at church and we are hosting a Maundy Thursday gathering on Thursday), Caleb and I are goint to Seoul with some friends on Wednesday, we have a MOPS meeting on Wednesday and a MOMS meeting on Thursday, Steve speaks at ICS chapel Wednesday and who knows what all else he has planned for his work week.

We so value your prayers, encouragement and support during this time.  Thank you.

May you have a blessed week preparing for Easter and celebrating the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.