Waiting

Our adoption process is long.  Longer than I imagined.  Longer than I expected.  And, most certainly, longer than I would have chosen.  Friends, family, and total strangers who heard we are adopting ask how it’s going.  For years now, my answer has been the same:  “We are still just waiting.”

Waiting.  Such a strange concept.  “Waiting” implies a sense that the outcome or result is not in your control and in someone else’s.  As such, waiting has a passive connotation. Pro-active waiting isn’t really even waiting.  While there are certainly pro-active or preparatory things that one can do with their time while waiting, the action of “waiting” is hardly an action at all.

At some point, if you wait for long enough, the “waiting” status begins to feel permanent.  For my husband and I, we can’t move states or even houses if we wanted to.  As a result, we started doing the long-term investment type of house projects on a house that we didn’t see ourselves in long-term.  For my husband, “waiting” has meant delaying grad school, and our current inability to relocate may even mean him passing up a promotion at work.  For me, it means investing time and energy into a career that I viewed as a placeholder for the much less lucrative job I really want: mama-hood.  So, we maintain the status quo as we wait.

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In the past, I judged people for not making things they want happen.  I have watched friends unhappily spend years in the same stagnant job with no clear opportunity for advancement.  I have seen others work for years in various internships while unsuccessfully applying and re-applying to medical school.  I would think “Move on!,” “Be more proactive!,” “Where is your resilience?,” or judge them for wasting so much time in the status quo.  But, after joining them in the waiting game, I have learned not to judge.  Maybe they feel called to the path or outcome that they are waiting for, just as we feel called to adopt.  Who am I to judge?*  (*Laziness or a lack of motivation to change a poor situation is a whole different ball of wax.)  

By now, people have said all of the things I used to think about others to us – often to our faces.  Knowing that people think we are nuts for waiting so long, I used to muster up a defense.  Now, I don’t bother.  I just smile and give brief, dumb sounding answers like: “We are still just waiting…”  “Yes, you are correct. We have been waiting for a long time…”  “Oh, thank you for the information, but, as far as we know, fertility isn’t an issue…” “Yes, we explored [fill in the blank type of adoption].  We are going to stick with adopting from Uganda for the time being…”  The bottom-line answer to all of people’s questions is that, regardless of the time lapsed, I believe this is how we are to build our family.

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The biggest lesson I have learned in this process is that God uses waiting.  We have watched Him use it to prepare our relationship, minds, finances, families, and hearts.  We are learning to trust His timing of the process and not our own ideas of perfect timing.  If I am able to brush aside the anxiety and frustrations we have had waiting, I can see how rewarding this time has been for us on many levels.

Because we have been blessed with such a lengthy wait, we feel that we have a responsibility to be aware and prepared for when the time does come.  So even though waiting is our new state of being, we are making efforts to proactively use the time we spend waiting.  Rather than crawling into a hole until the time comes, we read nearly every adoption book ever written, stay up to date on current events in Uganda, and maintain frequent communication with our adoption agency about the status of Ugandan adoptions.  And, despite my husband’s eye rolling at my pronunciation efforts, I have attempted to learn some basic words and phrases in Uganda’s most common tribal dialect – with limited success.  I certainly do not believe that the things we can do in our own power will ever fully prepare us, but, I figure, they are a more productive use of the time than thumb twiddling.

Amidst the countless blessings that waiting has provided and the ability for us to proactively prepare, it hasn’t made the past few years easy. Waiting is hard. Waiting is stressful. The level of uncertainty is nearly crippling at times. So crippling that the cloud of anxiety feels palpable. A many number of times, I have forgotten about the outpouring of blessings, growth, and healing that have occurred as a result of our wait, and angrily prayed, “Why are we still waiting? What other things can be more important for us to be focusing on right now?…” God probably views my outbursts as indicators that I indeed do need to more deeply root my trust in Him before He ends our wait.

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Even though waiting has placed our life in a state of limbo, I have to trust. I have to trust His plan. I have to trust His timing. Not one single aspect of this journey has been in our control. Yet, we have seen His faithfulness throughout this process in so many ways. As we near the end of the journey, trusting is getting easier.

The sooner I realized how inconsequential my notions are and learned to trust, I was able to more fully enjoy right where I am. No official referral. No set timeline. No clarity. I can choose to wallow in these details, which I certainly have! Or, I can choose to rest in the peace of knowing this is where I am supposed to be right now.

Where we are right now is still just waiting. And, that is alright with me.

Waiting is hard. Trusting is harder. But, if you take the leap of faith to trust, oh, the blessings you will surely see.

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Thankgiving amidst waiting

Life is a never ending period of waiting and preparing for what is to come.  Adoption epitomizes this seemingly endless prepare and wait cycle for adoptive families….  I call our adoption process “The Hurrry Up and Wait Dance.”  Update this, update that, wait for a match, wait for a referral, wait for a court date, wait to travel, wait for visas, wait, wait, wait….  I don’t know how many times I have said, “Surely by next ________ we will have a referral/traveled/our child home/etc.”  And then the following month/holiday season/year/etc. rolls around and we are still waiting.

Over on the Sparrow Fund Blog, Stephanie Smit wrote about her experiences on the topic and learning to trust God’s timing and understand that no part of this process is within your control.

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The other side of the adoption waiting game coin are of course the children waiting, praying, hoping for a family of their own.  A quirky family of their own to sit around the table and eat mashed potatoes with.  Please read Mary Lee’s beautiful narrative in the Huffington Post on her journey as a teen from foster care to adoption.  You can find the piece here.

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Practicing gratitude and recognizing how incredibly blessed we have been this year – even if things don’t look as we had expected.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Adoption from the eyes of Adoptees

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

The familiar adoption narrative is almost always told through the eyes of the adoptive parents.  These narratives often focus on the positive and redemptive aspects of adoption experience, as seen through the parents eyes.  We rarely hear the adoption story through a lens of loss, confusion, frustration, heartache, and even anger that are experienced by the adoptee.  Many adoptees learn to “parrot” the redemptive,positive adoption narrative as told by their parents since it seems to be the more accepted perspective and also because this is the narrative their adoptive parents prefer to hear.

Especially for children adopted internationally, their entire wold was virtually flipped upside down when they were adopted so their perspective on the adoption experience is typically one of fear, unfamiliarity, and confusion.  In other words, the opposite of their adoptive family who are overjoyed after waiting and waiting to bring this child home.  These “homecoming” stories however are not where the experience of adoption end for the adoptees.

Psychologists, therapists, and counselors will all tell you that hushing of the adoptee is the wrong way to approach the adoption narrative. Children and adult adoptees alike should be free to voice their experience and their parents should be there to help facilitate and welcome those discussions, even if they are painful for both parent and child.  As Patty Cogen states in her book Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, “what is mentionable, is manageable.”  Parents and communities need to open our minds to hearing about the adoption experience through another lens.  This is how the healing process can begin for the adoptee, and adoptive parent’s fears that talking about it will make it worse are completely false.  The fact is that having the airwaves open for these discussions will help the child to feel more, not less, connected to their adopted family.  They will feel more understood and accepted by their adoptive family, which is why these discussions are such an integral part of the process!

You don’t have to take my word for it, even though I could talk your ear off on the subject for hours, but I won’t…  BUT if you want to read more check out the book referenced above or this one!

Hearing about the adoption experience through the eyes of adoptees shouldn’t be something new, but unfortunately, theirs is often not the version of the story we hear.  If we as communities, families, & churches are going to throw our support at friends and family who decide to adopt, then we, as a community, should also be listening to the adoptee’s stories and learning what we can do to support them through their healing process and beyond.

Now, I will step down from my soapbox, but please lets hear adoptees voices during National Adoption Month!  #flipthescript on adoption!

See what they have are saying in some of the video clips below…

Or view the extended version of the above video here.

 

World Adoption Day

Thats right, it’s World Adoption Day.  Social media is full of links, stories, and adoption love.  Check out #worldadoptionday on Twitter and Instagram!

What is it?  Check out why the founder of Adopt Together, Hank Fortener, says we need #WorldAdoptionDay

Then check out this excellent post written by Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Mini Van about starting a family through adoption: Always thought about adopting?  Here’s why you should do it FIRST

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

Adoption is all around us whether we see it or not. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not.

Based on a recent survey, nearly 40% of American adults have considered adoption. Now if we do the math, 40% of American Adults is roughly 80 million people. I was surprised when I learned that adoption was so widely contemplated.

Today in the U.S., there are more than 423,000 kids in the Foster Care system. Of these 423,000 kids, roughly 115,000 of them are available for adoption. Or in case I’m not being clear, we have roughly 115,000 kids that, by definition, are orphans in the United States. These 115,000 children are 100% legally adoptable. If their birth parents are living, their parents’ parental rights have been terminated, leaving these children without a family to call their own. Every year more children become legally adoptable than are adopted, adding to the 115,000 waiting.

Are you ready for a really hard truth? This one stings a bit. Last year 23,000 kids aged out of the U.S. foster care system with out an adoptive family. 25% of these kids were without a high school diploma and based on statistics, only 6% of these kids will go on to complete a 2 or 4 year college degree. 40% will spend time homeless. 33% will not have enough food at some point within the year. Only 48% of them will be employed in their early 20s, and of those who are employed, they will make lower wages than their similarly aged peers. Additionally, 50% will have some sort of substance abuse problem. The conclusion that I draw from these statistics is that, despite a well-intentioned foster care system, sending an 18 year old out into the world on their own does not result in a high level of success.

I have heard far to many people respond by saying “So what?” to those statistics. To those who respond this way, I have a few questions: How many of you were truly on your own at age 18? Even if you were, how similar did your situation truly look to a foster child who lacked a permanent living situation? What things did your support system do to prepare you for the world? Do you think most children who grew up in the foster care system were equally as well prepared? And, wasn’t it nice, after you turned 18, to have a parent’s home to come to for Thanksgiving or Christmas? How about health insurance? Whose plan were you on when you were 19 or 20? I could go on and on… But the fact is that turning 18 is not the same for a foster child as it is for other kids.

My intention with the paragraphs above is to bring some clarity to the realities of those not legally adopted by the age of 18.  With that said, not every Waiting Child is nearing 18 years of age. The age of Waiting Children is one of the largest and most prevalent myths about adopting from the foster care system. In truth, the average age of a Waiting Child from the U.S. foster care system is 8 years old. Allow me to be the first to say, that adoption in general is not for everyone. And similarly, adopting a teen is also certainly not for everyone, but children of all ages are in need of a family. It’s easier to naively believe that orphans are only in far off lands, but nope, many are right here in our own backyards. In my state alone there are over 1,500 kids waiting for families. How many are there in yours?

Now lets go back to those 80 million Americans who have considered adoption and how they connect with the U.S.’s Waiting Children. If just 1 out of every 500 of those individuals who considered adoption were to adopt, then every Waiting Child could have a permanent family. One out of every 500. That’s just 0.2% of the adults who have considered adoption and out of roughly 200 million total adults in the U.S., this would equate to only 0.08% of them choosing to adopt.

While the number of waiting children in the foster care system is far too large, the tiny percentage of our population that it would take to reduce that number to zero is the even more incredulous statistic in my mind.

My goal for November is simply to honor the many children in the US and elsewhere who are without families by sharing some of the facts and a few of their stories. I hope that this information might cause you to pause. Hopefully you will share something you learn with someone you know! Who knows, maybe you will spark a discussion that strikes a chord with someone out there.

The Fine Art of Waiting

When your life looks different than you thought it would look, what do you do?  Maybe you are one of the lucky few for whom your life looks better than you ever could have imagined, and for that, you are so thankful.  I hope that you all are in that category, but in reality, most of us fit into the category where one or more aspects of our life aren’t quite how we expected.  Maybe you aren’t in the place you expected geographically, financially, professionally, personally, or otherwise.  Put me down for a big fat “yes” to at least a couple of those.

Some folks are better at redirecting their goals and mindset than others, and I would like to think of myself as being amongst this set.  I have a handful of friends who I refer to as “The Planners.”  One of said friends was dead set on meeting the love of her life by age 22, being engaged by 23, and married by 24.  The first baby would arrive by the time she was 26 and the second 2 years later.  She would be a stay-at-home-mom and have a photography business on the side when time allowed.  As I’m sure you have already guessed, life had other plans that didn’t coincide with her strict timeline.  Resilience is not her strong suit.  When things didn’t go as planned, she felt like her life was an aimless waste.

Maybe I am afraid of disappointing myself by setting life goals like this, because I am certain that disappointment would ensue.  In fact, I make personal practice of not setting timeline expectations for major life events.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a goal setter when it comes to other things but not with regards to things that I have no control over.  I was certainly not looking for “Mr. Right” when my now-husband waltzed into the picture, but, of course, I am so glad he did.

So my non-planning self thought the international adoption process would be a breeze.  Do some paperwork.  Do some waiting.  And eventually a stork drops a child on your door step… Or something like that.

In reality, adoption should come with a disclaimer that reads “Planners need not apply,” but “Organized, redundant-paperwork loving people, sign here.”  If you fall into the former category, the process will drive you insane.  Although every ounce of my brain knows this, my heart has gotten the best of me.  With this adoption process, I find myself breaking my timeline expectation rules left and right.

If there is one thing I have learned throughout this process, it is that there are very few things in the world that I have less control over than the timing of an international adoption.  And yet, I find myself saying things like, “Next summer, when our kid is here….”  Two years ago, I was certain that by the following Christmas we would be a family of 3.  As we approach yet another holiday season, there is still no child in our midst.  Pre-conceived notions be damned.

There are only so many preparations I can make for a hypothetical, unknown child before I start walking a fine-line of crazy.  Thumb twiddling and smiling while friends become parents and in some cases, become parents again only gets a girl so far!  I never realized how crippling not being able to plan would feel.  Vacations?  On hold, due our hoarding of paid vacation time like squirrels in the winter.   Move?  And re-do our home study; are you insane?!

Am I whining about a completely first world problem?  Yes, absolutely!  But to all you planners out there, I get it!  Pushing the pause button on your life over something you have desired or worked towards is really hard.  Letting so much of life pass us by while we wait – especially when we don’t know when we get to hit “resume.”  Life doesn’t always happen on our time table and trusting that life happen when it is supposed to is even harder.  Promotions, job changes, moves, marriages, relationships, kids, etc….All can be major life-changing events and learning to be content with the status-quo until they occur is hard – even for us so-called non-planners.

Just don’t let life pass you by while you wait for whatever it is to occur…

Africa

It takes a lot for news and issues from the continent of Africa to make US headlines or get air-time.  My theory is that the only reason the Ebola outbreak got so much media attention was because of the potential threat it posed to folks outside West Africa’s borders.  But when Africa’s happenings aren’t perceived to impact us, the media is quick to program coverage over their scheduled time slots – in this case -in favor of things like an extensive debate about the defense’s case in the Chris Kyle murder trial or the Democratic National Convention.

Where has the coverage on the civil war in South Sudan been?…

Heard much about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda lately?…

Sure, you can argue that Boko Haram has been in the headlines over the past year for the kidnapping female students.  But, where was the media coverage in January when Boko Haram murdered more people than any other month to date?  Yesterday, how many of you heard about the deadly blast they caused in a Nigerian market?  The truth is that Americans eat-up humanitarian stories with catchy social media-ready phrases like “#bringbackourgirls,” but when it comes to the well-being of the African continent, without the hip-phraseology, US airtime will be allocated elsewhere.

About a week ago, Tim and I were watching the nightly news on CNN when we saw an ad that the following Wednesday (this past Wednesday) their Inside Africa show would be doing a story on how the lakes and rivers in Uganda are helping industry, ecology, and the Ugandan people.  As a couple adopting from Uganda who are hoping to learn as much about the country’s culture as we can glean from books, TV, and the internet, we programmed our DVR, added the day/time to our phone calendars, and made sure we were home from our little dinner out in time for this show.

But instead, CNN decided to cover other things (see the first paragraph).  The scheduled programming reader-board teasing me with the “Inside Africa” title still showing.  Maybe they will just jump to it late.  Maybe its actually on next.  Or, maybe CNN decided, once again, to ignore Africa in favor of analyzing something that they had covered all day to death.

All right America, stop hash-tagging catchy slogans – I’m talking about you #bringbackourgirls and #blacklivesmatter – when they are popular, and start prioritizing programming that highlights black cultures in positive ways.  Contrary to popular belief, some of us were actually looking forward to watching!