My mother has been bothering me for years to write a blog. Every year I have the same answer… “What would I have to say that people would want to read?” I tell her when I have an answer for that question, I will write a blog. I seriously don’t know how people have time to write them. I don’t even have time to take a shower. Literally. It’s a problem. I don’t know how all these women out there write blogs. Not only are they writing blogs, they are writing blogs about all the crafts and food they make. How are they finding time for that? And most of them have more than one child. I only have one, and I need a shower, badly.
Now, I have something to write about. It’s been a long time coming and I stay up at nights thinking about it. I have been waiting for the perfect time, and I realized, there is no perfect time. I have to stop wasting time and do it …now. Four years ago, I went to Africa. Four years ago I made promises to people there that I would not forget them, that I would tell their stories. Four years ago. What have I done in four years?
My mom thought of the title “Before and Africa” and I actually love it. There are a lot of things my mom and I agree on, but usually when she has an idea “for” me, I politely turn her down. But this title struck a chord in me. I thought about all the blogs out there about style and fashion and craftiness and I thought about how my blog would probably be the antithesis of that. Maybe I do always buy the same long sleeved shirts at the GAP every three years when the old ones get holes in them. Maybe I do still have the same tennis shoes I bought for 30 bucks 6 years ago. Maybe I do only get my hair cut once a year. Maybe I am in desperate need of a style makeover, but I think this blog is more of a before and after of my soul. My soul before and now my soul (after) Africa…
So thanks mom, for the title and for recognizing there has been a change in me and that even though I have a hard time finding the words, it’s time to start trying.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Timeline

There's been so much time since we held our boy...at times I feel numb to it. Like will I even be excited when he comes home? I know it sounds awful but he doesn't know us, and we don't know him...and it's been this way for three years. There's a four year old little boy across the world that I identify as my son, but in reality...he doesn't speak our language, he doesn't love us yet like we love him, he might even be scared of us when/if he comes home. He might be scared of a lot of things. The day we have been waiting three years for, will be a traumatic day for him...when he leaves all his little four year old body has ever known. 

So instead of letting myself feel all of that I shut it down...and I try not to think about the implications of that day actually becoming a reality. But some days I still close my eyes and feel his little body asleep on mine. I can smell him and feel his shallow breaths...and in those moments, I know the hard days (if we are blessed enough to have them) will be worth it because I will get to hold my little boy again and breath him in.

I realize now I can't protect any of my children from the what the world throws at them...but I will love them
fiercely and hold them when they can't take it. When it hurts too bad. When the grief is overwhelming. I'm no expert, but I've certainly learned a lot about pain. And maybe that is the most important thing to come out of this waiting, maybe that is something I will share with him. Yes our grief will be different...I longed for him and he may be longing for a life he leaves behind. But we will both know longing. Deep guttural longing that makes you feel so alone.

For him, as it has been for me, life will be busy and he won't have time to feel it always, but when the world gets quiet, that's when he will feel the isolation, the loneliness. I know this because that's when I feel
it; in the night when I wake from a dream of him or when I lay under the stars of Max's bunkbed feeling the emptiness of an incomplete family, and the glitter in the stars magnifies in my tears and spills out melting down the sides of my face. I feel it when the world gets quiet, and maybe that's why I don't like to be alone like I used to...I don't want to feel it. And although I can't keep the grief from creeping into his little body, I will be there so he doesn't have to feel alone. And I will tell him how while his mommy waited for him to come home sometimes she felt so alone that her whole body ached. That she cried for him and prayed for him every night. And maybe that will make him feel less alone. And I will tell him that when I felt the most alone, and when it hurt the most, I still had Jesus by my side and that he can too. That He was mommy's hope. Even though I will always grieve my time lost with my sweet boy, I never walked alone.
When the world felt so lonely, I didn't have to hope in the world.  I could hope in what was bigger than the world.

“He shot his arrows deep into my heart.  
The thought of my suffering and hopelessness is bitter beyond words. 
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The unfailing love of the Lord never ends!  
By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.” 
Lamentations 3:13, 19-22

The other day I sat down and decided to write down every significant moment in our adoption journey.  Frankly when people ask questions now, I am starting to lose track.  We have been on our adoption journey for 7 years.  We have known our son for three of the seven years.  When I actually wrote it all out, it sure did look like a big chunk of my life I have been fighting for something that, at this point, I am not sure will ever happen.  This has hit me hard this week. It's actually pretty hard to be hopeful for the next steps when I look back at how many we had to take to get here. But I also look back at those steps and see the lessons God has given me along the way.  I am not the person I was 7 years ago when we started this.  His mercies have kept me from complete destruction...

So here it is if you are interested. The significant events for the last seven years of our pursuit to follow God's calling to adopt. 

THE TIMELINE

March 2010- Start adoption paperwork with first agency for Ethiopia
June 2010- Almost complete homestudy
July 2010 - Find out we are pregnant put homestudy on hold
March 2011- Max is born
May 2011- Move to Indiana -Find out our agency closed Ethiopia program
May 2013- Find new agency and start homestudy process over because we moved states and had a baby- originally decided to adopt from Uganda then changed to Democratic Republic of Congo
September 12 2013 approved for i600a
September 25 2013 DGM announced suspension on the issuance of exit permits for adopted children (basically withholding the one piece of paper legally adopted children needed to leave the country)
October 2013 Sent our Dossier to Democratic Republic of Congo
December 31 2013 Receive our referral (first pictures of Moses at 9 months old)
January 29 2014- receive updated photos of Moses
July 25 2014 Moses moved to foster care in Kinshasa receive picture of him. He is moved to sunshine house
August 10-22 2014 Travel to Kinshasa to meet Moses
August 15 2014 Receive final adoption judgement from DRC courts
August 25 2014- received photos of Moses at sunshine house with our pics and toys we left him
September 2014 – receive a call that Aunt has taken him back to Bandundu (kikwit) That our adoption is probably over
April 15 2014- 171 Members of Congress sent a letter to the Prime Minister and President of DRC calling for a resolution of the adoption crisis
July 3-5 2014 - Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Biden, traveled to DRC and requested exit permits be issued.
July 8 2014 House of Representatives passes Resolution calling on DRC to end the suspension of exit permits
July 16 2014 Kelly Dempsey testifies to House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa regarding the Department of State’s bias against DRC adoptions and its poor performance in responding to the DRC crisis.
July 16 2014 167 Members of Congress send a letter urging President Obama to engage President Kabila to resolve the crisis
January 2015- Receive photos of Moses who we had not seen since September 2014
January 5 2015- Update our homestudy in Indiana AGAIN
February 9 2015- Approved by governor to move Moses back to Kinshasa but he insists we get approval from DGM (who does not approve)
April 21 2015- Family agrees Moses can move back to Kinshasa in foster care (still waiting on DGM)
May 4 2015- receive one photo of Moses (whom we hadn’t seen a photo of since January 2015)
May 17 2015- Moses has umbilical hernia surgery without our knowledge
May 30 2015- Move to Michigan start homestudy process over AGAIN
February 21 2016 Lucy is born
March 30 2016 – Moses 3rd birthday
March 31 2016 – sent notice that we were on the list approved for an exit permit
June 29 2016- Hired a private investigator (didn’t trust everything our agency was telling us)
July 26 2016- received pics and video of Moses from Private Investigator (whom we hadn’t seen since May 4th 2015 a year and two months earlier)
October 2016- File our i600
November 2016- Update our Michigan homestudy AGAIN
November 2016- Sent a request for more evidence (RFE) from state department (they want a corrected birth certifitcate for Moses and death certificate for his bio mother)
December 16 2016 Our agency is debarred for three years.  Endless phonecalls/emails about what this means for the finalization of our adoption
January 7 2017 Sign on with our third agency
January 9 2017 Receive final documents for i600 request for evidence and send them out to be translated
January 11 2017- Send final documents to USCIS and await final decision of approval or denial of our i600 petition for orphan status
January 18 2017- Start Passport paperwork
February 1 2017- Sent out last RFE paperwork and contract with new agency to state department
February 13 2017- State Department confirms receipt of RFE paperwork and start of i600 processing
February 21 2017- Received approval for i600a (again) Lucy's first birthday
Currently - awaiting approval or denial of our i600 which will determine if we move forward with the adoption or if it is officially over

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Light

I have been thinking a lot lately about the word light.  About lights in general.  About light in general.  What it means to be a light, to live by the light, to know the Light of the World in an intimate way.  In a way that pushes all darkness from your life.  I feel like the last three years have been this journey for me in the dark…with tiny lights guiding my path. Little flickers of hope.  Some bigger than others, some blown out completely.  

There is something about lights.  Especially right now, in this season.  I love Christmas lights.  I love sitting by the Christmas tree and driving around looking at houses with lights.  It makes me feel warm and safe.  It makes me feel like the darkness can’t hide the light.  The light of the world, who came as a baby.  That’s why we celebrate, it’s why we gather. 


We have been waiting so long for Moses that we never expected to have another child before we brought him home.  I can’t say I know the sorrow of losing a baby, I don’t pretend to understand the grief of having a miscarriage.  But I can tell you, I have felt the longing to have another baby.  Desperately.  For a long time we didn’t try to have any because all our time and energy went into our adoption…then there was the two year wait for the exit permit and we decided to keep our lives moving .  I thought well, could be another two years so let’s have a baby while we wait! HA! Not that easy.  I have felt the pain of thinking “This is the month!” for almost a year…waiting waiting waiting .  I thought “Lord really? You are gonna make me wait for this one too?”  Waiting seems to be a theme for our family.  Our plan was never to have 5 years go by before having more children, but that is what happened.  And in my sadness of missing one baby and longing for another…she came.  The light in the dark.  Lucy, her name actually means light.  And that is what she has been the last 10 months…a light and a gift.  She came just when she was supposed to come…just when the pain was the greatest…she brought new hope into our family, new joy, new life.   Little Lucy Lou. 

 What I pray for my little girl (and for myself at the moment) is that she will be a light to others.  She won’t speak ill of people, she will focus on the good in people rather than what they need to change.  She will make people laugh, she will shine bright in the darkness.  She will reflect the light of the One who created her so brightly that it’s all they will see.  They will see Him through her. 

I haven’t taken her for granted one single day.  Every single day I think about how I am blessed to spend it with her… I think about how I have missed so many days with Moses and how we aren’t promised everyday.  I breathe her in, watch her determined little body discover, and take steps, and turn into who she is supposed to be. 


It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness- Eleanor Roosevelt

SO whatever darkness you may be in or feeling at the moment…don’t curse it.  Embrace it, for it is making you so much stronger…and while you are in there…freaking light a candle and let it freaking shine.  I don't know about you but I'm kinda tired of letting the darkness win.  We have the light. Love does win.  This morning the sun was coming up through the haze of the blustery snow and it made this magical beam up to heaven.  It was like God was reminding me that we can reflect His glory…shine it right back to Him. Up and out…shine it up and out.










Tuesday, October 11, 2016

School days are here...

I am killing it at this school thing.  Just killing it.  Max’s first day of school we wake up at 7:30 (maybe the first time in our lives our kids have slept in that late) and he has to be there at 7:55.  I had these visions of his first day…we would get up early, we would have a big breakfast and talk about what he was most excited about, I would take pictures on the doorstep and then again once we got to his school, we would pray with him and walk him into his class.  Not exactly how our morning went.  We tear out of bed, I race downstairs to let the dogs out, change and feed Lucy, throw whatever I can find in a lunch box, and I go upstairs to check on Max’s progress.  He has his socks on…that’s it.  I throw his stuff in his backback, take a quick blurry picture of him and we haul butt out of the driveway.  Traffic, of course.  We speedwalk into the building and get to his door just as the tardy bell rings.  I hear one mom whisper to her daughter “Make a difference!” and I just think “Please don’t make farting noises.”  #goals   I give him a hug and start to walk away…when I shut myself in the car the realization hits and I sob like baby.


My firstborn is in school EVERY day now.  It’s been an ocean of books and trains and forts and playdates and zoo trips and morning snuggles for the last 5 years…an ocean.  We have made it to the mainland and I am supposed to just let go of his hand and let him find his way.  What?! I don’t think he can open his yogurt on his own…Will he know how to sit and listen?  Who will hold him if someone is being mean?  So I sit and cry for a bit then drive away.  I’m driving away from my lil buddy, my best little friend for the last 5 years.  Now I get the kid I don’t really like from 3:00-5:00 (in my opinion the most terrible hours of the day). He now spends most of his days with his peers…and I pray we have equipped him to be a leader and to be kind.

One thing that gave me a window into Max's little heart this week; He decided he wanted to make a package for Moses (Tony and I don’t have the heart to tell him he has no way to receive it right now) He picked out 3 of his transformers (if you know Max you know these are like gold to him) Some crackers and granola bars (because “he needs more food mommy”) His one and only dollar in his wallet (because he needs some money mommy) And one of his books called “What God is like.” When I asked him why he picked that book he said “Because I don’t know if he knows God and I want him to meet Him.” Cue me running into the other room to sob for a hot second.  Then I came back in as him and Tony are taping the box shut.  This boy.  He’s gonna be just fine, I think.  He has a sweet heart.  Now whether or not I will be ok is another story.. as I sit and listen to the birds sing and watch some of the leaves fall… it is so strangly quiet in the house today.  I miss the noise, but the silence is nice too.  One tiny chapter has ended and I can’t wait to see what God does with this little man that I have come to love so much.  As I watch Lucy (more on her later) I am amazed that Max was once that tiny.  When we got our most recent update on Moses (more on him later) I am amazed that God has taken care of him in the way that He has…without my help…just my prayers.  God is going to watch over these kids….because they are HIS and most certainly not MINE…although I am finding  so much joy in the time God has been lending them to me. 

Afterschool we made up for it!


First ride on the bus!


Our sweetie guy with Lu

 
Labor day fun with dad...first time on the big zipline at camp...absolutely NO FEAR...he can be shy, at times, but definitely a risk taker.
Canoeing with dad!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year

We find ourselves not counting the milestones of our little one's life, but counting the anniversaries of special days that we wished we had shared with him.  The number of these days continues to climb.  We got this picture New Year's Eve 2013.



We were instantly in love. We had no idea two years later we would be sitting in our home on New Year's Eve without him.  But here we are.  Last year I said 2015 was going to be a good year and I that I had faith he would be home with us.  I will not make the same proclamation for 2016. It will be a good year (We have lots of things to be grateful for) but I won't say that I have faith Moses will be home this year... I have learned the hard way that God doesn't always give us what we want when we want it.  Sometimes there is so much to learn in the waiting.  I'm learning a lot about lament lately, knowing that I can still cry out to God in the waiting.  Listened to a sermon on Sunday, the pastor spoke on "living in lament",  I realized I had gone silent...feeling like my prayers didn't matter to Him anymore.  Apparently it takes faith to pray in the midst of pain.  "Lament is better than silent despair." He said.  This is what I felt...silent despair.  God may not answer me in the way I want this year, but I won't be silent.  I will continue to cry out "How long oh Lord? How long, how long, how long..."



Journal Entry November 2015
I went up to the roof to see the sun rise over San Francisco...I went to listen for God. I heard the caw of the seagull and the slow drumming of tires on pavement. I heard one lonely basketball bouncing on a court below. I watched the clouds move over the city like a remnant of a smoldering fire... And slowly the world was light. And I was small on this rooftop and God was big and majestic. The lights dimmed in the windows and on the big steel red bridge and I was quiet...waiting. But the world grew louder and busier still as the sun made her grand entrance. The birds gathered in frenzy on the wire and the street cars whirred on their wires and everyone came to life and started in with the busy.  But I see the pink settle into the clouds and I want it all to stop. So I can sit here with Him forever. Listening to His voice. The clouds roll away and the sky is clean and new and fresh and ready. But I am not. Not ready to start another day, because each day brings with it the waiting. Waiting for answers, waiting for His voice, waiting for my son. And I ask God to stop the world from turning so I won't miss my days with him, but I know I ask too much.  So I wait, and ask again for what I know He will give me right now; The strength to meet the new day, with a desire to live in the waiting, knowing He will wait with me.   


I and will choose this year to find joy...to find beauty...to find the words to cry out to God when it hurts.  To live in lament.  







Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two years.


Today marks two years the ban on exit letters has been in place.  Most days I try to think of the way we were with him.  The way he was when we left him.  It hurts to think of him with so much time between us.  Two years.  Two. Years.  When I think of the 730 days we’ve missed with him…I can’t, I just can’t.   I can’t let myself dwell on the sadness of this.  If I felt the pain everyday,  it would be too much to bare.  But there are days….like today…when I feel it.  When I let myself look at the pictures and videos and cry all day.  When I let myself wonder what he will be like when I see him again.  When I let myself wonder IF I will see him again.  I wait for something beautiful.  I wait for a day I don’t know will come.   As I wait, I force myself to see the beauty in what is now.  The new life God has given us that moves and grows rapidly inside the mystery of the womb.  My eldest son that gives the extra dose of joy I need each day.  I am grateful, I am.  But today, I cry for him.  I ache for him.  Moses.

“Now, in the Bible a name…reveals the very essence of a thing, or rather the essence as God's gift…To name a thing is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it, to know it as coming from God and to know its place and function within the cosmos created by God.  To name a thing, in other words, is to bless God for it and in it.” - John Piper

Originally we chose the name Moses because it meant “drawn up out of the water”, and I always loved the story of Moses in the Bible.  He was raised by people that were not his race but he went back to save his people.  He was literally “drawn up” out of his circumstances to a higher purpose in the overarching story of the God who loved him.   We always hoped that our Moses would feel at home with us but have a tugging on his heart to give back to the people and the culture that birthed him. We had hoped that he would also be used by God someday to be a great man for his people. 

We didn’t know when we chose this name how significant it would become to his/our journey. We didn’t know the long echoing cry of the patriarch of the Bible would become our cry.  “Let my people go” “Let our children go”  Very different situations, but to me the cry of desperation is the same.  He is one of God’s children, an Israelite and he has yet to be “drawn up” out of the water to fulfill his purpose.  But if Moses and the Israelites can wander in the desert for 40 years, we too can wait on God’s timing.   We may never see what God does through our Moses.  But we trust that God will do what He promised.  He will draw His people closer to himself and we will wait.  He will hear our groanings and he will not forget us.

These words have echoed in my heart all week.

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I'll go where You will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I'll go where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me

 And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me

-All Sons and Daughters