We’re In Court!

Good news!  Our lawyer submitted our case to court in Congo about a month ago.  What does this mean?  So happy you asked!  😉

Essentially, our lawyer is petitioning the court to make us her legal guardians.  This process generally takes about 4-8 weeks, and we are 6 weeks in.  Once the court grants us the right to be her parents, there is a 30 day period called “CONA” in which her birth parents or another family member could step forward and take her back.  While this would obviously be heartbreaking news for us, it would also be wonderful for her to be reunited with her parents whom I sure love her very much.  Another kind of difficult situation is that some friends recently went over to visit her orphanage and from the photos, she looks really ill.  She was battling Malaria a couple of months ago, and we’re a bit worried that she may not have fully gotten over that.  The wonderful ladies who own our agency are on it…they saw the photos as well and had already decided to bring a doctor to visit her this week and make sure she’s okay.  It’s SO hard knowing that our baby is sick, and there is nothing that I can do to make it better.  I would be on a plane right this minute if I didn’t believe that that would ultimately make it harder on her, to have me bring her back to the orphanage after loving on her for a few weeks.  She needs a mama who will prove to her that she’ll never leave her.  Ever.  I think that a visit from me at this point could hinder the attachment process and possibly hurt and confuse her, so I have to just sit back and wait.

So while we hold our breath this month, we still believe wholeheartedly that God is in control.  He has loved this little girl for much longer than we have, and He will continue to take care of her.  Please keep our little lady in your prayers.  As soon as we pass court and she is legally ours, we’ll be announcing her name.

xoxo

Jewels and Chris

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It’s a girl!

We have officially accepted a referral of a 2-3 year old girl.  Woohoo!  But before anyone starts buying dresses and searching Pinterest for “Modern Toddler Girl Bedroom” inspiration (oh wait, that’s just me?), you should know that she may not end up being ours, and we are fully prepared for that and want our family and friends to be too.

It’s so complicated with these Congo adoptions, but basically between the extreme poverty, child trafficking, and the corruption in many third world countries, it’s very common to not know the background of a child that turns up in an orphanage, which makes it tricky to ensure that they are truly orphans and needing homes.   We are working with a VERY ethical agency and their number one goal is to keep families together if at all possible, which we fully support.  We have retained a lawyer in the DRC who is actively investigating her background before we proceed, but we did just receive some paperwork that made it look very promising that this little girl is truly an orphan and needs a family.

If all else goes as planned, it’s looking like our attorney will be heading to court in the DRC with our case in the next month, to petition them to let us become her legal guardians.  Exciting stuff!  Please be praying for us as we near court, that we can have calm, patient hearts, and that we can come up with the funds needed for this next step.  We just wrote out checks for over $4,000 recently, and the next invoice (in a couple of weeks) will be another $8,500.  We’re doing a great job of saving money and our fundraisers are coming together nicely, but it’s still a lot of money.  Please pray with us that it will all come together when it needs to, so that we don’t have to make this precious little girl sit in an orphanage a single day longer than she needs to.

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Thanks again for all of your love and support.  We can’t wait to introduce our little girl to the incredible people that we’re so blessed to have in our lives.

xoxo

Julie and Chris

Lightbulb

I had an epiphany today.

Here’s the back story:  I have a friend who is very faith-filled.  She is always challenging me to live with more faith.- to know that God has good things planned for me, because He promises them in the bible.  When I told her, for example, that I was praying that God would somehow provide the funds for our (rather huge) upcoming adoption invoice, she said “You don’t need to ask Him for the funds, because He has already told you He will provide them.  Just say “Thank You.  I know you’ve promised that you’ll make this happen, and I trust you.  Thank you.””  I struggle with that type of big faith, but I’m working on it.

So today, my son and I were outside playing in the (springtime) snow, making a “Snow Mommy” and “Snow Spencie.”  We had brought out a little jar of goodies to make his face out of, like veggies, nuts, raisins, etc.  He was occasionally “sampling” the facial features (little stinker), but while we were putting on our snowmen’s eyes and smiles, he started stressing that we were using too much of the food on the snowman and there wouldn’t be enough left for him to make a snack out of.  I tried explaining to him that the entire purpose of us putting those items in the jar was to use on the snowman, and that we had plenty of food left in the house so if we did happen to use all of the contents of the jar, he would still get a snack.  He tried to be okay with that answer, but a few seconds later he would start freaking out again that I was using up his whole “snack” on the snowman’s face.  I got frustrated and told him to please stop stressing about his snack, in fact, stop mentioning the word “snack” altogether.  He tried…for about 26 seconds, then said “Mommy, I just want to make sure that we have more of THIS (meaning the nuts and raisins) snack inside, because this is what I reeeeeeally want.”  I swung around and very frustratingly said “Spencer!  If you mention snack one more time, you will not be getting a snack.  I have told you that I am planning to give you a good snack.  Trust me!  I’m not going to use up all of our food on a snowman and not have anything left for you!  Trust me!  You will get a snack, but ONLY if you STOP asking about it!”

Here’s the thing folks:  I was planning to make him hot chocolate and warm homemade chocolate chip cookies when we went inside.  I KNOW, RIGHT?  It was going to be his Snowday Surprise Part 2.  I had promised that I was going to give him a special snack when he came inside, and he was so stuck on eating those darn hard raisins and stale walnuts, that he wasn’t able to see that there might be something better if he just trusted me.  And for me, I was so frustrated by his lack of trust in me, and his pestering, that by the time we got inside, I had completely lost the desire to do something special for him by making cookies and hot chocolate, so I just ended up giving him some stale nuts.  And while I was standing in the doorway, it hit me…

I wonder if this is how God feels, after telling his children “I have this amazing plan for you.  I am planning to give you a child!  I will take care of all of the arrangements, all you have to do is sit and wait for your gift.”  And ten minutes after His sweet offer, we start saying “God, can you PLLLEEEEEEASE give me that gift now.  Please?”  Then another week later “God, please hurry up with that gift.  I’m really having a hard time waiting!”  Then the next week “God, are you sure you’re still giving me that gift?  You said you’d give it to me a while ago, and it hasn’t happened yet.  This is so frustrating!”  And then another month later “God, I’m not even sure I want this anymore.  It’s so hard having to wait for this and get excited and then not have it happen.  Ugh…”

And yet He’s probably up there going “Really?  This is how you act when I tell you that I have a precious, perfect gift for you?  Maybe I should let you stew a little longer, since you obviously need to grow a little patience.”

So as hard as it is to wait for each of these steps in our adoption process, and as often as I find myself wondering how on earth we’re going to save umpteen thousand dollars in the next few months, I’m going to try to not be the impatient, petulant child who keeps nagging her Father for the thing that He has already promised her.  I am just going to say “Thank you Daddy.  I know you’ve got this.  Thank you.”

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We Are Not ‘Good People’

Over the past few months, when telling people about our adoption plans, we tend to get one of two reactions.  The first is people thinking we’re nuts: “Oh my!  Are you aware that adoptions are really hard and expensive and there are attachment disorders and did you hear the story about the adopted kid who tried to kill his parents?”  <— This reaction isn’t common, but we have gotten it.  It kinda just makes us giggle.  The second reaction is far more common, and goes something like this:  “Wow, you’re adopting?  That’s so exciting!  Awwww, You guys are such good people to be doing this.”

Such good people.

I’d like to share a little secret with ya:  We are not good people.

We are flawed people.  We are selfish people.  We are flawed, selfish people who just happen to be blindly following a plan that was laid out for us by a very un-flawed, un-selfish God.  I know not all of our friends and family share our same beliefs or faith as we do, but I hope that you all can understand that we don’t deserve (nor do we want) any of the glory for this.  As kind and flattering as those statements are about our “good hearts,” and as much as we appreciate the intention behind them, I worry that by accepting these compliments we are in some way agreeing that it takes a certain kind of “good person” to be able to adopt a child.

It doesn’t.

We are adding to our family through adoption.  Plain and simple.  We want more kids to love on, and there happens to be 147million kids in the world who don’t have someone to love them, so we’re just making that number one less. We get a child, they get a family:  It’s a win/win.  We aren’t doing this selflessly…we are actually getting a precious gift out of it.  A child.  We get to become the parents of a beautiful little boy or girl who will add joy and laughter and love to our home and our lives forever.  How’s that for a big payoff!  If we didn’t feel like God himself was the one orchestrating this plan, we wouldn’t have the courage or tenacity to make this happen.  We’re flawed people…we just happen to follow a very amazing God.

That awkward moment when your friend asks you for money

I’m not someone who asks for help. Like, ever. I like to think that it’s because I’m independent and hard-working, but in reality it probably has a whole lot more to do with pride. Yeah…the P word.  It’s ugly, but it runs deep.  I’ve had several friends and family members that immediately, upon us telling them we were adopting, have said to us “we’d love to contribute when the time comes that you’re fundraising.  Let us know how we can help!” and my gut reaction is “Oh, thanks, but I think we’re good,” or something equally stupid.  Pride: 1, African child sitting in an orphanage waiting for parents: 0   So while we would love to save up the $25,000-35,000 that this adoption will cost us ourselves, we realize that we can not (and more importantly, SHOULD not) attempt to do this on our own.  If we did that, we’d be removing “the village” from the equation.  Even worse, we’d be taking away the opportunity for God to be a part of it.  I was talking to my best friend the other day, and she said “You can’t try to do this on your own, because then you are taking away the opportunity for those of us who love you to be a part of this.  We want to bless you because you have blessed us.  Let us!”

So with a heavy sigh and a heavier dose of faith, I’d like to share with you our Puzzle Fundraiser.

A few months ago, I discovered this lovely Etsy artist, Jodi Queenan.  Jodi is a fellow adoptive mama and creates beautiful art based on her experiences with African adoption.  I fell in love with her work a few months ago, looking forward to purchasing some art to hang in our child’s bedroom (my personal favorites are THIS and THIS.)  So when I decided to do a puzzle fundraiser, I knew that I wanted to use one of her pieces to make the puzzle out of.  We decided to go with this D.R.Congo specific one…

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So here is how it works:  There are 1,000 pieces to the puzzle.  We will “sell” the pieces for $5 each.  People can buy multiple pieces, or just one…whatever they wish.  For each piece that someone purchases, we will write that person or family’s name on the back of that piece.  We will then put that piece into the puzzle, and be that much closer to having the funds we need to bring our little one home.  By the time the puzzle is fully assembled, we will have $5,000 to go towards the cost of the adoption, and then here’s the best part…we will frame the puzzle in a double sided frame to go in his or her bedroom, so that every time our sweet one looks up at that frame, they will see the names of all of the people that loved them enough to help bring them home.  It’s almost poetic in it’s symbolism and beauty.  I wish I could take credit for this idea, but many many brilliant adoptive parents before us have done this, and I’m always struck by how precious it will be for that sweet child to always have that reminder that it wasn’t just two people who crossed an ocean to give them a home and a family…it was hundreds of people who thought they were special enough to contribute to.

So to our family and friends who have already asked “how can we help support you?”  This is how.  (here’s that awkward moment I warned you about in the title…)  If you feel compelled to help give an orphan a home and loving family, we would love for you to be a part of this.  We’ll be carrying around a handfull of these pieces for the next few months, for those who are interested in becoming “the next piece in our adoption journey puzzle.”  If you aren’t local, we have a PayPal button below where you can contribute and we will write your name on the pieces ourselves.

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Lastly, please know that if you can’t afford it or don’t like the idea of financially helping,  your prayers and emotional support are gifts in themselves.  We will also be holding a massive yard sale (details on the Fundraising page) to benefit the adoption fund, so if you have items that you were planning on donating to Goodwill or similar, we would love to take them off your hands and sell them at the yardsale on April 6th.

Thank you, all of you reading this, for all of your support and love that you’ve poured into us.  We are so grateful that we can surround our children with such incredible people that we are blessed to know.

Here’s the button if you’d like to donate via PayPal:

xoxo

Jewels and Chris

Dear Baby: Today I shopped like a pauper…

Dear Baby,

We are so excited to meet you.  to bring you home.  to spend time learning your language and teaching you ours.  to snuggle you close and tell you how special you are.  to tell you that you are loved.  forever.  We are so excited to do all of these things with you, and yet the reality is that you won’t even meet us until a year after we’ve began our love story with you.  So in the mean time, until we can do all of those things with you…I will write to you.  Today I want to tell you about how much you’ve already changed us.  You’ve already made us better.

Your daddy and I are not rich–we don’t live in a mansion or have chauffeurs or do the backstroke every morning through a giant pool of Benjamin Franklins.  But from the perspective of your world, we’re loaded.  Compared to the DRC, almost everyone in America is.  So while Daddy and I consider ourselves to be humble people, and we don’t feel the need to drive fancy new cars and wear designer labels, we have grown accustomed over the years to having nice, high quality things, and to being able to buy what we want (within reason), when we want.  You have changed us though.  In addition to the fact that your presence in our lives means that we need to come up with a quick $25,000 in the next 6 months (you know…no big deal…), we also have done a lot of research into the D.R.Congo, and the life that you are living in an orphanage there.  Depending on what kind of orphanage you are living in (whether it’s an agency-run orphanage, or state-run), you are likely living without running water or electricity.  You may or may not have a cot or mat to sleep on.  You don’t have a single toy (I’m not sure why, but apparently most orphanages don’t have or allow them.)  You are being fed either one meal per day (if you’re in an agency-run orphanage)  or one meal every 2-3 days (in a state-run facility.)   When I think about your lifestyle, it almost disgusts me to think of how much money we spend on silly meaningless things in this country.  So baby, we’ve been making some changes.

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In addition to getting rid of cable and keeping the heat lower (your silly mommy has been walking around the house like an eskimo in chunky sweaters and multiple layers of socks), we’ve drawn up a strict budget where we’re basically spending only a tiny fraction of what we used to in each category.  Clothing, haircuts, toiletries, eating out, etc…there is an envelope for each category where we put cash in every month.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone.  We aren’t touching our debit card except for gasoline.  It’s extreme and it’s tough, but baby, you’re worth it.  And I’ll be totally honest…it’s actually a little bit fun.  Kinda like a game.

Today I went grocery shopping.  It’s the end of the month and over the past few weeks, we were still learning how to work within a budget so we bought some unnecessary items (that $12 Apple Cinnamon Bacon from Whole Foods probably wasn’t necessary, nor was the $25/lb Chilean Sea Bass…), so today, with 5 days left in the month, I had $15 left.  I had the $5 that I keep for emergencies in my car as backup just in case, but my goal was to not use it.  I had already done a trip to Trader Joe’s (they don’t have those in DRC, but trust me, you’ll get to know it pretty well once you come to live with us) a few days ago, and got the meat, milk, and other staples needed to get us through the end of the month.  What I needed though, was items that would take those staples and make meals out of them.  I looked through the pantry and refrigerator to see what we already had, then came up with recipes requiring those items and not much else.  I made a shopping list, grabbed my $15, and confidently walked into the grocery store with plans to conquer this trip like the super-shopper that I am.  What I found…was that $15 does not go very far.  So after grabbing several items and realizing I could never make it work, I considered just puling out the debit card and calling it a wash.  This was ridiculous!  How was I supposed to feed our family for the next week with only $15!  It’s an impossible task and I’m embarrassed and angry and I just want to buy my groceries (and some wine and ice cream) and go home and sulk.

But then I thought about you.  Your life.  How much $15 could do for you…

So I took a deep breath, pulled on my big girl panties, and commenced to shopping.  I put back a few items, and with one or two I replaced them with a generic brand.  I then nixed one of the meals I had planned, and instead bought a huge bag of dry organic northern beans and a few stalks of celery.  I knew we had onions, brown rice, chicken stock, and quinoa at home already.  I decided that for one or two nights, if we had to, we would survive on white beans and rice (or quinoa).  I waltzed up to the register and when the checkout guy told me that the total was $15.12, I confidently handed him my $15, fished 12 cents from my change purse, and resisted the urge to do some sort of victory jig right there at the register.  I walked cooly out to my car, placed my single bag of groceries next to me, shut the door, and then proceeded to squeal and high-five myself like an idiot for the next several minutes.  I did it!  I did it for you!

Baby love, I want to make something clear to you.  I am not telling you this story so that you ever feel guilty or bad about being the reason that daddy and I have had to live on a tighter budget.  It’s the opposite, actually.  I want to THANK YOU for introducing us to the fact that we were living a life of “want,” not “need.”  If you are able to survive on only one meal every 2 days, we can certainly avoid the Apple Cinnamon Bacon from Whole Foods.  If  you can live in the sweltering heat without electricity, we can certainly keep our heat turned down to 69, rather than 73.  If you can find joy and smiles in a life where you don’t own a single toy, and don’t even have running water, we can rediscover the joy of spending our evenings as a family playing a board game together, or making pillow forts, instead of watching television.

You have changed us for the better, and you haven’t even met us yet.  I can’t wait to see how you continue to make our lives richer, just by being a part of it.

I love you so, so, so much.

Mommy

Cannonball


Friends and family, we are pleased to announce that this crazy family…

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is about to get a little bit crazier. That’s right, our family has decided to respond to that tugging in our hearts by adding to our family through adoption. You can read the back-story on all of this HERE.

We both feel strongly that God has called us to adopt from the Democratic Republic of Congo. And while we have no idea of what we’re doing (What’s a Dossier? Why have I had to replace my printer ink twice in the last week? What the heck is an i600a?), we are cannonballing head-first into the pool of international adoption. We are not necessarily people who like unpredictable, grey-areas, or the moving-of-our-cheeses; but we truly could not be more excited.

So we’ve created this blog for a few reasons. One: So that our families and friends will know where we’re at in the process. International adoption is a much longer “gestation period” than a pregnancy. The average adoption from the D.R.Congo takes close to 2 years. We know that throughout this process there will be moments of extreme excitement, but also likely many moments of frustration, hardship, and sadness. Hopefully this blog will help our loved ones understand our process a bit. My second reason for starting the blog is this: As someone who is beginning the somewhat daunting journey into an international adoption through a country like Congo, I am like a dry sponge…desperately seeking any droplets of information or encouragement that I can get. Hopefully by watching our journey (and most likely the few mistakes we make along the road), others can have a smoother ride themselves when they answer the call. My final reason: So that our child can read it one day, and see just how wanted and loved they were during every step of this process. We are choosing to turn our lives upside-down, spend tens of thousands of dollars, and travel halfway around the world because he or she is Just. That. Special.

So while we are fully prepared to undertake this endeavor by ourselves, as a team of three; a few of our friends and family members that we have already told have asked “How can we help?” Here is our answer…

1. We would love your emotional support. This journey is going to be hard. It will be so much easier knowing that we have the love and support of our friends and family. We need prayers. Not just one, but lots of them. Please pray for us to have wisdom in making decisions throughout this process. Pray for our lawyer to be trustworthy and ethical. Pray for our paperwork to go through the necessary channels relatively quickly. Pray for God to provide just the right amount of money needed to make this happen. And most of all; please, please, please pray for our little boy or girl. Pray for their health, and pray that our heavenly Father wraps his big loving arms around that wee one and lets them know how loved they are, and that they have a mommy and daddy coming for them. That very soon, they will have a family and never, ever again have to worry about whether they will starve to death, die of an easily treatable disease, or have to spend one single night without someone to hug them and tell them how beloved they are. Please pray for our little one, friends. That is the biggest help you can give us.

2. If you feel like you’d like to help further (although we absolutely don’t expect or feel entitled to it at all), we do have a few fundraisers that we will be working on in the near future. This adoption will likely cost between $25-30,000. (I know…BIG, scary numbers…) And while we cannot even fathom how we will save up that much money in only one year, we believe that God is bigger than that. We believe that if we are meant to do this, that the money will come. We are making serious cuts in our budget to make this happen, but if our loved ones are interested in helping bring this child home, we will be extremely grateful.

We are so, so grateful to have so many amazing people in our lives to be holding our hands throughout this uncharted path. We love you guys.

Chris and Jewels

Why Adoption? How we got here Part 2

If you haven’t read “Part 1” of this story yet, begin HERE.

Now, in September of that same year, about 8 months after “the dream,” I went to a photography conference in Palm Springs.  The conference was centered around pursuing our dreams, no matter how impractical or crazy them seem.  We were challenged daily to just dive in to following our hearts and doing those crazy things that seem impossible.  “Cannonball,” was what they called it.  One day, we were asked to write down one thing that we would do if money didn’t matter, and we could pursue any dream and just “cannonball” into life in 2013.  What would we do?  So I wrote down “If I were to Cannonball into life in the next year, I would adopt a child.  I would give an orphan a home, and love.”  I couldn’t believe I was actually writing this down.  Like this “dirty secret” that I’d kept (aside from telling a couple of friends and my mom), was suddenly “out there.”  Chris wasn’t at the conference, so there was no way for him to know about it, but it still felt so strange sharing my secret with my breakout group of 5 lovely strangers.  That night, I shared wit the girl I was rooming with (a photographer friend from Minnesota named Ginger) how hard it had been to wait for Chris to come around with this.  To keep the faith that this would happen someday.  She asked what I thought would be Chris’ major opposition to adoption, and I shared that I was almost certain it would be the money.  Chris is extremely financially conservative, and anything that would derail our plans of saving “x” amount for a new house and “y” amount for retirement and “z” amount to pay off his student loan debt…anything to derail those plans would not be welcome.  And while I didn’t know exact amounts, I was pretty certain that International Adoption cost around $30,000 (I was right) and that he would basically end up breathing into a paper bag at the thought.  So Ginger and I prayed about it, and I went to sleep feeling a tiny bit hopeful.  Two days later, on the last day of the conference, something amazing happend.  The guy who runs the conference, Jesh deRox, was on stage giving parting words, and said that he had a gift to give someone in the group.  A “Golden Ticket,” as he called it, to pursue their dreams.  He pulled out a piece of paper.  He began reading the words “If  I were to Cannonball into life in the next year, I would adopt a child.  I would give an orphan a home, and love.”  I started shaking uncontrollably.  My “dirty secret” was being read to a room of 150 people.  My friend Ginger turned around and looked at me with wide, teary eyes.  The tears began streaming down my own face as I heard him say “Julie Massie, I would like to give you $5,000 to help you pursue your dream of adopting a child.  Can you please come up here?”  Everyone looked at me and started clapping.  I tried to stand but my legs felt like spaghetti.  At that moment, that $5,000 felt the same as five million.  His gift was not merely a large check.  It was like a promise from God.  I know some people will read this who don’t have a relationship with the Lord, and will think that mine are just words of a bible thumper who is grasping at straws to turn any good thing in her life into a “blessing from God.”  I’m sure some will think that, but I don’t really care.   In that moment, I heard God tell me “You think that $30,000 is going to keep you from saving a child?  Ha!  I just made this random guy who doesn’t even know you, give you $5,000!  I’ve got this Jewels.  Trust me.  I’ve got this.”  I hugged Jesh and babbled something incoherent into the microphone and then trembled my way back to my chair as friends and strangers put their arms around me and congratulated me.  Once back at the room, I called my best friend and she and Ginger and I prayed together that God would continue with is perfect plan, and that I would have patience to not tell Chris about the money.  That I would have faith that it would happen when it was supposed to.  So basically…more waiting.  <groan>

The waiting only took another month.  Then, “it” happened.  I had heard that our church had an Adoptive Families ministry, and that they were planning to do a panel discussion one Sunday after church.  They would be interviewing adoptive families, and discussing the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the very ugly truths about adoption for anyone who may be interested.  I had a feeling like this was going to be the day he would lay it all on Chris’ heart, but I didn’t actually believe it since at this point, I had been waiting for 10 months with NOTHING.  But still, there was a whisper in my heart that maybe this could be it.  So about a week before, I casually mentioned to Chris in passing “I heard that on Sunday they are doing this pot-luck thing to give information about adoption to people who have considered it.  I know we haven’t talked about adoption in years, but since we used to talk about maybe possibly adopting one day, I was wondering if you’d be interested in going. It’s right after church and free food.”   (“Free food” is usually something that gets the old boy’s interest piqued)  😉  He looked hesitant, and said “Well, I mean, I guess that would be okay.  But I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I am still on board with adopting one day.  After having Spencer, I think I want to have another one of my own.  And I just don’t think now is a great time to have another child.”  I replied very calmly “Well sweetie, I’m pretty sure they won’t be sending us home with a child as a door prize or anything.  It’s just an information thing.  I’m honestly fine with not going if you don’t want to.”  And then I sat silently folding laundry while everything in my head screamed “PLEASE!  PLEASE SAY YES!!!”  He said “okay, I guess that’s fine.”  And that was it.  I spent more time on my knees that week that I have probably in the last 5 years combined.

Then, Sunday came.  When we arrived in church, they played this video below.

Apparently they were devoting the entire day to “Orphan Sunday” and the pastor talked about how God has called us to take care of the orphans.  After church, at the panel discussion, my stomach felt like it was taking a ride on a roller coaster, only the rest of me wasn’t invited.  We spent the next hour or so hearing people talk about their adoption experiences, and meeting some very nice people and their adorable children.  We walked out to the car, got in, and sat in silence.    Was he going to feel like I had Shanghai’d him into an entire morning of adoption talk?  Would he be mad?  I broke the silence and said “So, I suppose it’s kind of obvious that this is something that’s been on my heart.”  He nodded, and said “I suppose.  And I have to be honest, this whole last week, I kind of feel like I’m being hit over the head with a two-by-four about the subject of adoption.  Between you mentioning this panel discussion and then some guy at work telling me about his adoption and then I turn on the radio and they are talking about adoption and then I see TV ads about the orphan epidemic…I think God knows that sometimes I need to be hit over the head with a 2×4 in order to get a message across.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  He felt like God was talking to him about this???  I didn’t want to push, but I asked “How do you feel about all of it?”  He responded “Well, it’s something that scares me.  But if God is putting this on my heart, I’m inclined to at least pray about it and give it some thought.  What do you think about it all?”  I then told him a very watered down, Reader’s Digest version of the past 10 months.  I didn’t want to overwhelm or pressure him into anything by sharing how passionately I felt about it.  I told him that it was something on my heart, but that I didn’t care if it took him 5 years to be okay with it…as long as he was willing to consider it, I would leave it up to him and God.  Meanwhile, my inner control-freak sulked in the corner, because she and I both knew it would take years for Chris to be okay with this.

3 days later, Chris walked into the room and casually said “So, what’s the next step?”  I looked up from my work and said “What’s the next step in what?”  He said “In our adoption.”  I literally did a double-take.  Cartoon style.  “Uumm…I suppose the next step is for you to feel 100% on board.”  He looked at me and said “Oh.  I thought we’d already decided that.  I’m in.  So what’s the next step?”

He’s in???

He’s in!!!

I almost knocked him over when I lept across the room at him and squeezed him with every ounce of my strength.  “Are you sure?  Like, 100% absolutely sure??”  He just laughed and said “Yeah!  Totally!”  I still didn’t believe him.  I said “Sweetie, I really am okay with you taking your time to think this through.  It is a HUGE decision and it’s going to be a really long, expensive, HARD process.  It’s not something you can just be ‘okay with.’  I want to make sure you’re prepared for this.”  He looked a little insulted as he grabbed my shoulders and said “Look.  I don’t know how to make you believe me, but I am 100% certain that this is what God wants for us, and I am 100% on board with all of it.  I know it will be hard and expensive and scary, but I know that God has put this desire in my heart, and I’m not only “on board” with it…I’m excited about it!”

Aaaaaaand then the tears came.  Big crazy ones.  Well…I had tears.  He just grinned a lot like a guy who had just been told that he was about to become a daddy.  Which, he had.

And then, after 10 months of prayers and tears and faith and feeling closer than ever to this huge God that created the entire universe…we grabbed each other’s hands, and we cannonballed.

Why Adoption? How We Got Here Part 1

The following is a bit lengthy, but it’s for everyone who has wondered what made us decide to adopt.  It’s a pretty amazing story.  So grab a cup of tea and a warm blankie.  It’s story time.

January 2012:  I had a dream.  I should probably tell you that I do NOT have “normal” dreams.  I have very strange dreams.  Esoteric dreams.  Dreams that look like they came from the mind of Salvador Dali.  They frequently involve a Supreme Court Justice, a house made of ice cream, and a cross-dressing fish named Cornelius who likes Russian Literature.  My dreams are very, very strange.  But that particular morning, I had a very normal dream.  Probably the first I’ve had in years.  It went something like this… Chris, Spencer, and I were walking through the outdoor mall.  It’s a gorgeous day, and we’re holding hands and laughing.   I feel so happy.  Joyful.   It sounds strange, but I just felt…whole.  I look down and see a young boy holding hands with us.  He is 3ish and very dark-skinned, likely African.   I knew instantly that this little boy is my son.  And that HE is the piece to the puzzle that makes us whole.   I look back up, and cannot stop smiling because I am so full of joy.  My family feels whole.   My family feels whole.   

WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?  Knowing that my dreams are never that normal, I immediately shot up and said aloud “God, was that you?”  Of course I was mostly joking…I have never felt like a dream was a “sign” before, and was pretty sure it was just a fluke.  Over the next week however, I couldn’t stop thinking about that dream.  It was fairly obvious that the kid in the dream was adopted.  And while Chris and I had talked about possibly adopting “one day” (we had this discussion 10 years ago), any recent discussions about children were always about having another biological child, and usually the conversations were incredibly short because we both felt that between raising a preschooler, our careers, and the fact that we’re working hard to save up the money to buy a new house…now is just not a good time to add to our family.

But that dream.  That dream that felt so real and filled me with so much joy.  That dream that made me feel like our family was missing a vital piece to it’s puzzle.  That dream…

Over the next month or so, I randomly heard of at least a dozen friends who were or had recently adopted from Africa.  It was a constant reminder of my dream, and the thing that I was now fairly certain God was putting on my heart.  I had gone from having zero desire to have more children anytime soon, to feeling a burning desire to have another.  I hadn’t told Chris yet though, because I know that with him being the practical, financially-minded one, I didn’t want to bring something huge like this up until I knew it was certain.  So I waited. One day in March, I was ranting talking on the phone with my best friend about all of it, whining about how frustrating it was to be feeling these desires and not know if it’s something we’re “meant to do” or just something that I was blowing out of proportion.  In the middle of my rant, she cut me off (something Catherine NEVER does), and said “I have to stop you Julie.  I’m listening to you talk about how you don’t know where these feelings are coming from, and yet the whole time you’re talking, I hear God SCREAMING at me that this is all coming from Him.  That He is the one putting all of this on your heart.  That you need to trust that this is His plan for your life.  Think about it Julie, you are the crazy one who chases stray dogs up and down the side of the road for hours in order to make them safe.  You don’t want purebred dogs, you want to rescue mutts.  You aren’t naturally someone who wants a huge family, but yet you hear the word “orphan” and you want to take them all home.  I’m not like that.  I have no desire to chase around mutts, and I want to have my own babies.  That doesn’t make me a bad person…it just means that God created you like this FOR A REASON.  You were born like this because this is what you are meant to do with your life.  To give a home and love to children that don’t have anyone.”  

Wow.  Big, soggy, salty tears stormed my face.  Because I knew she was right.  At that moment, I was certain and it was official.  This is the thing I am meant to do with my life.  To adopt a child.

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So after sobbing like an Oprah audience-member for the next 15 minutes, I decided that when I got home that evening, I would talk to Chris about all of this, and ask him to think and pray about adopting a child.  I knew this wasn’t going to be his first choice, but once he heard that this was God’s plan for our family and how passionately I felt about it, he would come around.

About an hour later, I was rehearsing what I was going to say to my hubby about this whole adoption thing (yes, I talk to myself while driving.  It’s a bit weird…)  And I very, VERY clearly saw the scene play out before my eyes.  That he would likely be reluctant at first, but would eventually see my points and come around.  Then, at some point later, when things got hard, he would become extremely resentful toward me and feel like I am the one who “did this” to our family.  That he never wanted this…he just did it to make me happy.  Seriously people…I watched this scene play out in my head like a bad Hallmark Channel movie.  Then I felt very strongly like God said  “DO NOT TELL CHRIS ABOUT THESE ADOPTION PLANS.  FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR LIFE JEWELS, LET ME BE GOD AND LET ME AND YOUR HUSBAND BE THE LEADERS OF YOUR FAMILY.”  That awkward moment when God himself calls you a control freak?  Yeah, that just happened.  In that moment, this “control freak” suddenly had to realize that she was not in control.  That this major, life-changing thing was happening…outside of my control.  And it was true — if God really was the one orchestrating this entire plan, I suppose he’s capable of changing Chris’ mind (without my help), right?  I would have to grow a heap-load of patience.  And a LOT of faith.  But I promised God that I wouldn’t talk to Chris about it.  Which also meant that I wouldn’t hint at it.  I wouldn’t leave my web browser open to a video about adoption.  I wouldn’t leave articles around that talked about the orphan crisis.  I wouldn’t intentionally plan a dinner date with our friends who have adopted a child from Africa.  Funny thing about promising God something…He KNOWS when you are trying to pull a scam and weasel around on the promise.

So I waited.  And I prayed.  And I cried.  And I prayed some more.  And I waited some more.  And then I cried while praying some more.  I did all of this for 10 months.  10 months of hiding my web browsing history every time I had watched a youtube video about adoption homecomings (a guilty pleasure.)  10 months of resisting the urge to start researching agencies.  10 months of praying “God, PLEASE open Chris’ eyes to this soon!,” quickly followed by “I’m sorry about my impatience, God.  Scratch that last prayer.  Just do it when you’re ready.  I trust you.”  Lather, rinse, repeat…

To read PART 2 of this story, click HERE.  😉  Goodnight, all!