"... Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:18


.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gotcha Day Thoughts - An honest view on the first year of adoption

When I thought about adopting a little girl from Ghana, Africa some two years ago, I really had NO IDEA what I was signing up for.  I had NO IDEA how stressful it would be when my adoption agency shut down the Ghana program, I had NO IDEA how hard it would be when the country stopped processing adoptions for a time in the middle of our adoption and I had NO IDEA how hard it would be to meet a tiny little girl sleeping on the floor of a storage room and leave her for 5 months not knowing if she would ever come home. 

What I was the most clueless about, was how hard everything would be once she got here. 

Today we celebrate GOTCHA DAY.  In the adoption world, this is the day that your adopted child enters your family.  August 15, 2013 Anna was in my arms on US soil.  I had imagined that day for so long, prayed for it and dreamt about it.   When she finally got to those anxious arms I felt only one thing – OVERWHELMED!!!  For starters, she was sick when she arrived.  The poor baby slept the whole trip over which was a blessing to my kind friend Anita who escorted her sick herself.  I spent the first 5 days home holding a feverish clingy 17 pound 13 month old stranger while the boys stayed with mom.  I should have been well prepared for this type of beginning but I was scared.  Big time.  All the feelings I thought would rush over me the minute I held her in my arms just seemed stuck somewhere between my idealism and my ignorance. 

I was told she was walking in Ghana and when she arrived she wouldn’t even put pressure on her tiny legs and stand holding onto a chair or something.  I worried about a host of medical and developmental concerns almost constantly. 

I spent some time at counseling trying to sort through these concerns I was having.  Months into the adoption I felt like I was babysitting someone else’s child and it was DRIVING ME CRAZY.  Could I possibly do this for 17 years?  I pushed her too hard to conquer all of her ‘issues’ way to fast and pushed her away.  I began to resent the decision to adopt Anna and felt extremely guilty about it.  This has been the toughest year of my life.

Fast forward 12 months and Anna is a healthy, beautiful little girl with a spunky personality.  She loves to be loved and included.  She loves food, laughing and hangin with the boys.  She can run very fast and is learning to ride her tricycle quite well.  Her speech is coming along at a very fast pace and she seems to ‘fit right into our family’ from the words of so many.  Today she told me “Mommy nice, we buddies”.  It was the first time she’d ever said anything like that.  It was exactly what I needed to hear. 
 

The theme I’ve been thinking most about these last few months is just how backwards I had Anna’s whole adoption in my head.  I walked into this adoption thinking this would be a redemption story.  A story of a Christian, American family who felt they had “room in their hearts and family” for a little girl who had no one.  A life redeemed.  How ridiculous. 

The real redemption story in Anna’s adoption is how God is redeeming me through this process from the selfish, faithless, easily angered and lacking in compassion woman that I was into someone that is still  those things, but hopefully, each day, a little less of them.  Anna’s adoption brought out flaws and weakness within myself that I didn’t know needed fixing before.

When I look at her today in the morning I don’t have to force a smile when I walk in the room.  It took much longer than I wanted or expected, but I can honestly say I’m thankful she is in our family.  She is beginning to feel like my daughter.  I can make her happy without always trying and watching her grow and run and laugh makes me happy.  I’m thankful that she is in our family and I’m so thankful for God and my husband loving me through this first year as a new family.  It hasn’t been easy but nothing worthwhile in life ever is. 

Happy Gotcha Day Anna….

We buddies.

 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

His Mighty Hand

Just look at my blog and you'll notice its not nearly as full as most adoption blogs.  In fact, when I got home from Ghana I wrote a small journal I shared with family and close friends but didn't post publicly much about our experiences.  Partly I was afraid something I posted online would somehow harm our journey - but partly - I was so very afraid of everything.  Afraid to talk about what it was like to see so many children in need.  Afraid of having to move on if this whole thing fell apart.  Afraid I couldn't move on.  Sadly, afraid to trust completely the One who loves our daughter so much deeper than I could ever hope to.

Today is a big day for our family.  I am humbled beyond words to think about how the Lord has been so loving throughout this process.  A little background info:

Did you know, Ghana is now closed to international adoption:  http://adoption.state.gov/country_information/country_specific_alerts_notices.php?alert_notice_type=alerts&alert_notice_file=ghana_2

During our adoption our agency representative left our adoption agency.  Days later our agency closed their Ghana adoption program only to reopen it a week after that.  We were told families in process that wished to leave would NOT receive any sort of refund.  After several letters, phone calls and emails and months of waiting - we and other families received refunds.  That's pretty much unheard of.  We took a leap of faith and committed to an independent adoption with the representative who left our agency.  Something about this woman just made me want to trust her.  She assured me Ghana adoption was unstable and their was little chance of finding a girl under 3. 

We waited...

November 28 I received 'the call'.  I saw the pictures.  Printed out a few for Chris when he got home late from work.  It was surreal. 

Right before we were ready to travel (bags packed in the bedroom ready) for our court date in March we received another call.  This was NOT what I was expecting.  Ghana was no longer processing adoptions and no more cases were going to court.  I remember feeling so burdened for her.  How could we just walk away?  We had to take care of her somehow from across the ocean.  She was our DAUGHTER.. not legally, but in our hearts.  I remember calling my aunt and crying.  It was hard. 

Days later I found myself trying to book last minute Easter week tickets to Ghana.  The judge would hear our case.  I remember going to the Christian bookstore and buying Anna a Bible, some children's stories about God's love for her and a Christian necklace.  I thought, if we never bring her home she's in a highly Muslim area and I want her to know how much her Jesus loves her. 

Being in Ghana was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time.  Seeing her was wonderful, but the stories of the hardships of the 40 girls she lived with were devastating... the abandoned babies, caning, tribal customs, mutilation, it was very, very tough stuff.  There is no way to unsee or unhear those things.  And I'm kind of glad I can't.  I'll never look at my life or my children's lives the same again.  I'm hoping to help Eban Project (the wonderful group that helped us with our adoption) bring healing and love to Upper West Ghana and am excited about the work this organization is planning there.  www.ebanproject.org

We were the first international adoption our judge had done we believe, and the first in many many years in the Upper West Region of Ghana.  We both felt like we barely passed court.  She slept on me the entire time and I kept looking at the judge pleading with my eyes - "See we could be a family.  She is happy.  I am happy" 

Returning home was so hard.  During the long wait after leaving her, Ghana closed to adoption officially.  It was so nerve wracking wondering where the cut off would be for cases in process.  In addition, many cases were being put under LONG investigations due to the closing of Ghana adoptions and child trafficking investigations.  Everything was unstable.  Nothing was a sure thing until a child set foot on US soil. 

I tried not to think about her after a while.  We prayed for her and talked to the children about her but it was SO hard not knowing if she would ever meet her brothers or if I'd ever kiss her goodnight. 

And now - here we are.  I finally allowed myself to believe this day could and would happen about a week ago.  I took tags off some clothes.  I allowed myself to wash a few things too.  I let my heart love fully knowing full well there was no going back either way.  I flipped ahead in one of my favorite 'go to' devotionals to see what wise words would be on Anna's interview day last week.  This is what the Lord blessed me with:

My Utmost for His Highest - August 12

Why are you fearful, O you of little faith? —Matthew 8:26

When we are afraid, the least we can do is pray to God. But our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name have an underlying confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the ones who are reliable. Yet our trust is only in God up to a certain point, then we turn back to the elementary panic-stricken prayers of those people who do not even know God. We come to our wits’ end, showing that we don’t have even the slightest amount of confidence in Him or in His sovereign control of the world. To us He seems to be asleep, and we can see nothing but giant, breaking waves on the sea ahead of us.

“. . . O you of little faith!” What a stinging pain must have shot through the disciples as they surely thought to themselves, “We missed the mark again!” And what a sharp pain will go through us when we suddenly realize that we could have produced complete and utter joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, in spite of what we were facing.

There are times when there is no storm or crisis in our lives, and we do all that is humanly possible. But it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to place our trust in Him, the crisis will reveal that we can go to the point of breaking, yet without breaking our confidence in Him.

We have been talking quite a lot about sanctification, but what will be the result in our lives? It will be expressed in our lives as a peaceful resting in God, which means a total oneness with Him. And this oneness will make us not only blameless in His sight, but also a profound joy to Him.
 
I confess - I have been FEARFUL the whole time God has been whispering... I've Got This.  I love her.  She is MINE. 
 
So today, I want to use this opportunity to say.  THIS IS OUR MIRACLE.  This child, coming into our home - all the way from Ghana with all of the odds stacked against us - this is my miracle and this is my God.  I don't want to miss the way He's orchestrated, helped and guided this process.  
 
Thank you Jesus for today and for this precious child.  May I love her a fraction of the ways you do to the best of my heart.

And thank you, dear friends and family, for your prayers. 

The EMBASSY CALLED ME to talk about our daughters visa interview.  This seems unheard of.  They explained we passed but had to readopt her in the states w/ an IR4 visa.  We knew this.  I had the opportunity to personally plead to print the visa tomorrow instead of Friday so she could come home ASAP with our adoption coordinator who just HAPPENS to be leaving Ghana on Wednesday.  Coincidence.  No way.  That's Jesus.  Tomorrow her visa will be printed.  Thursday morning 1015 she'll be in my arms in Chicago.

             ................................................. One more thought........................................................

If you are reading this thinking... "that's cool they wanted to help a child.  I'd like to do that but it wouldn't work for my family or situation", you are probably correct.  Adoption is NOT for everyone and should be a last resort for vulnerable children.  However, there are SO MANY WAYS you CAN HELP these precious children.  Child sponsorship is a proven, excellent way to change a child's life.  Right now, Eban Project www.ebanproject.org is collecting information on additional children that need sponsors in Ghana.  Compassion International www.compassion.org has over 1 million children sponsored and is an excellent organization with operations all over the world. 

In impoverished countries often education is not free, and in Ghana poor families must make tough choices keeping children home, selling them or sending them away to work because they can't afford school.  Educational sponsorships can not only give a child a future but enable them to stay in their families as well. 

If you don't have a sponsor child I strongly encourage you to add one.  If you have one or two I encourage you to add one more.  Give up an American luxury - put a picture on your wall - and every time you or your family miss that thing, think of that person you are helping. 

 



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Wanna Live Like That...



As I get ready to leave tomorrow, this is the song that I find running through my head.  It perfectly depicts the way I feel.  It's why we are going to Ghana, why its worth leaving our precious boys behind, why it's worth risking the heartbreak that comes with loving a child we may never be allowed to bring home.  I pray that my faith and conviction is strong enough for the journey and that we can point to Jesus regardless of the outcome and bring him glory through our lives.

Putting the boys to bed tonight was so emotional.  I love them more than anything and it will be so difficult to be away for so long.

We will try to update the blog with pictures and stories of the trip.  Please join us in prayer as we leave tomorrow.  We arrive in Accra, Ghana Friday night.  We will spend the night in Accra Friday and Saturday and drive to Wa, Ghana on Sunday.  Court will be Tuesday or Wednesday.  Prayer warriors, please cover us in prayer those two days in particular.  There is a lot of instability in Ghana adoptions right now.  Court is step one in the long journey to bring what we hope to be our daughter home. 

We are blessed beyond measure with love and support from family and friends with our adoption and can't thank you enough for your prayers and encouragement.  We know that whether we are ever able to bring our daughter home our lives and our perspective will be forever changed for the better because of this trip.

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

Monday, March 11, 2013

Prayer Time...

Friends...

Looks like we won't be able to travel to Ghana quite yet. We hope and pray it will happen soon. I keep reminding myself the Lord loves her more than I ever will and can take care of her better than I ever could.

Moving the packed bags into storage for a while as we wait for an update.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LIFE GOES ON

If you can't tell from my blog name - patience doesn't come easily to me. I'm that person who is constantly looking for ways to do things more efficiently... I enjoy walking fast simply because I can... I pride myself in making good food at record speed (but haven't actually timed myself like my father)... I have little tolerance for people who can't make decisions quickly or take forever to get ready to go somewhere... you get the picture. 

Thus... this season of life in which I currently find myself is excruciatingly hard for me.  WAITING...

It's not like I've never waited for anything before.  We tried to get pregnant a few years before Lincoln.  Then tried to adopt from Kazakhstan for a year, that was hard and I didn't enjoy any of it.  Still, as we wait to meet our daughter for the first time, I can barely stand it.

A month ago tomorrow we received updated pictures... Pictures of her looking like the absolute cutest thing I've ever seen wearing the dress I bought her, holding the Bunnies By the Bay pink bunny we sent her.  At that moment, she became, just like that Velveteen Rabbit, REAL.

I thought we would have a court date by now but we haven't heard anything.  My bags are pretty much packed, lots of adorable pink and orange clothes hang in my closet waiting for her:)  I feel like I check my phone at least every 20 minutes to see if I have an email telling me when we can leave and have already had two real life dreams where I've woken up swearing I got a call with a court date.

I think waiting to meet a child that is living somewhere without you is SO difficult.  Its different than waiting to meet a baby growing inside you.  First, you aren't 'missing' anything.  As a mother you WILL be there for all of their firsts.  Second, every second your baby stays inside your belly they are growing and getting stronger.  I feel like every second our little girl stays away from us she's in 'danger'.  I am thankful for her foster home environment so much and she looks chubby and well loved in the photos but you worry about malaria, nutrition, lots of other infections, etc.  Third, every day she's forming bonds with someone other than me.  I hope she's forming healthy attachment somewhere at least.

The closer we get to meeting her the more desperately I want to kiss her.  I long to be the one to comfort her in the middle of the night, to feed her and dress her.  Just like a mother loves the baby inside her belly she's yet to hold, so desperately I love this little child we've yet to meet. 

It's hard to focus on much else these days.  Frankly, I don't know if I'm cut out for this part. It requires every quality where I have weakness.  Thankfully, He is strong.  I love how much I love her already but it makes it really, really tough.  I don't feel much differently about her than I would if Lincoln were living half way around the world.  I keep trying to remind myself not to get attached but I am not a 'half in' kind of girl.

I struggle to know how much to 'push' our facilitators and how much to sit back and wait.  This is our baby... I want to fight to bring her home ASAP but I know this is so much bigger than me and she will come home in His timing.  Still, is there anything I can do to speed this along? :)  that's my inner self arguing...

Chris is doing pretty well.  As usual my steadfast husband is taking it in stride, but even Chris has said how impossible he knows the 4 to 6 month wait will be after we meet her.   

So far, I'd have to say I underestimated how impossible it would be to wait for her after we were matched.  I didn't find it hard to wait for a referral.  This is tough. 

There's my honest assessment of the waiting game from a TYPE A standpoint. 

For now, I say a prayer, check my phone... and LIFE. GOES. ON.

Monday, January 21, 2013

We have a referral!

For anyone that doesn't know... we've been matched with a precious little girl.  She is probably 7 months old now and absolutely adorable.  There are alot of questions regarding when to make an adoption 'public', but as I'm learning... international adoption is never certain at any point and I'd rather people know why we are disappearing to Africa three times this year:)

Our little girl is in the very Northern part of Ghana and we will be one of if not the first International adoptions out of this region.  This makes me nervous for several reasons but one look at her and you'd know she's worth it.  We can't share her picture until we pass court which we hope to do sometime around the end of February.  Then she's officially a Carlberg!  After that there is a 4 to 6 month process of paperwork and Immigration approval and such and then she can (hopefully) get her approval from the US govt to come home to America with us. 

As I understand it in the past this last part of the process used to be fairly smooth and court was the big hurdle.  Now, it seems families are being given an extremely hard time getting their Visa, even potentially being denied. 

I thought alot about this worst case scenerio last night.  What if after all this - tens of thousands of dollars, months waiting, hearts broken... she ends up never being allowed to come home with us? 

Then, I was reminded that in the end, opening your heart up to loving someone more than yourself and doing everything you can to give them the best life possible is what parenting is all about.  Worst case scenerio is that we fall in love with this beautiful girl, are unable to bring her home and have to find some way to support her though partnerships in Ghana for the rest of her life.  Is this something I EVER would have signed up for?  No.  But if that is the plan the Lord has for this precious child and has called Chris and I to love and support her from afar, then perhaps we need to be prepared for that possibility. 

We hope and pray that we will be able to bring our beautiful daughter home with us sometime this year.  But in adoption, just as in carrying a child inside, you have little control of the outcome of the situation.  The Lord has a divine plan for our family.  Now, we feel called to open our hearts to adoption and to this little child.  And if in the end, our hearts are open to her, but our home is not - then we will love her from afar and one day in heaven, all live happily ever after.

I'm putting this in writing now because in two months after I've held her it will be even harder to believe.

In God We Trust.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I miss you

I think about you often, although we've never met.  I wonder where you are living, if you are hungry and happy and loved... I wonder if you are meant to be ours... and what our stories will be.  Mostly I just miss you. 

It's weird to go about our days, weeks and months preparing for you and thinking about you - not having any idea if or when you will come.  Sometimes I feel guilty like I should be doing more for you now - but all I can do is pray and trust that if you are my daughter you will find me and I will find you. 

Lincoln has been asking about you and often talks about things being as far away as AFRICA.  I think he very much wants to see the giant plane that will take mommy and daddy to meet you. 

Sometimes I wish I had not told the kids so soon about our hope to adopt.  How can they understand countries shut down, adoptions slow and just how unpredictable this process is. I have to remind myself this is like saying - lets try to have a baby - the rest is up to God.  It's not that we are adopting - we hope to adopt.  Ghana is undergoing changes and international adoption is unpredictable at best... So for anyone that wants an update... we are praying and hoping the Lord has a daughter in Ghana for us but I don't think I will know for sure until I kiss her goodnight and tuck her in across from her two crazy, excited brothers.  For the next year or so .. we wait - and pray.