Friday, July 30, 2010

if you are waiting

If you, like us, are in one of the many waiting stages of the adoption process, may I recommend reading Psalm 90? (Actually, I recommend reading just about any psalm, but for the sake of today's post, let's go with Psalm 90.)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place. Our dwelling place. We can't wait for the day when our dwelling place and our son's dwelling place are one and the same. But the psalmist reminds us that today is that day: we are both at home in the Lord. He is every bit as covered by God's loving protection and grace today as he will be on the day we finally hold him in our arms.

For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. It seems to work the other way in the adoption process, right? A single day can feel like a thousand years when you are waiting to meet your child... but God is not a slave to time like us. That is not to say that he doesn't care how many days separate us from our children, but rather that he is beyond time and not bound by it as we are.

You sweep men away... we are consumed... all our days pass away... we finish our years... they quickly pass, and we fly away. These verses about our fleeting life might sound morbid and depressing, but I find comfort beneath the surface. Whatever we are going through, and whatever our children are going through or have already been through, these things will pass. As Paul puts it, "for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. How different is this prayer than the one I have caught myself praying sometimes: "Lord please number your days aright because I am so wise and know better than you when things ought to happen..."

Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? I love the honesty and passion of the psalmist here. It gives me freedom to pour out my real feelings to God... but having just prayed the prayer above, I am freshly reminded that no matter how I may feel, God is the source of all wisdom and I cannot know what is right unless he teaches me. In this verse I learn that my feelings my be valid and even valuable, but they are not the foundation of my faith.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. I want this verse to say "Satisfy us in the morning with a call from our caseworker," but it doesn't say that. It says that the source of our satisfaction, joy, and gladness is God's unfailing love -- not the fulfillment of our hopes in the form of government approvals, court dates, and plane tickets. God will give those things (He will, he will, he will! I believe, Lord help my unbelief), but those things are not prerequisites for our satisfaction, joy, and praise to God.

May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. The psalmist prays for his generation and the next, and the two are inextricably linked. The work of God among a generation of parents produces the splendor of God among their children.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us -- yes, establish the work of our hands. It is a generally recognized fact that adopting a child is a lot of work. As an adoptive parent, it can be tempting to think that this whole crazy, messy, beautiful thing is happening because we put in the work to make it happen. The psalmist doesn't leave any room for that line of thinking. This final prayer reminds us that yes, our hands have work to do, but no - we do not make anything happen. The favor of the Lord is our only hope, and we cannot lay claim to his favor by any merit of our own. Only by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can we claim favor with God - not by our work, but by his redeeming work on the cross.

I'll wrap this up with a little language lesson. In Spanish the words for "wait" and "hope" are the same: esperar. As my Spanish-speaking friend reminded me the other day, "No puedes esperar sin esperanza."

Friday, July 23, 2010

birth certificates: all good news!

We got word today that our agency representative in Addis received our child's birth certificate today! This means we now have all the necessary documents and our case can be resubmitted to court next week. We still don't know exactly when we'll be assigned a court date or when that court date will be, but as I shared yesterday the most likely time frame is October or November. We are so thankful for the hard work and diligence of the YWAM Ethiopia staff and the local MOWA office in getting all the proper paperwork as quickly as they did. Praise God - one more hurdle cleared between us and our son!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

birth certificates: good news, bad news

We are still in a holding pattern, waiting to hear that our little guy's birth certificate has been obtained and our case resubmitted to court. Due to some office closures in Ethiopia it has taken a bit longer than expected to get the certificates, but we are told they should be ready this week and that cases may be resubmitted next week. Hooray! It looks like our most likely time-frame for a court date is October or November.

On the one hand, the new birth certificate requirement probably added at least 12 weeks to our process because it pushed our court date until after the rainy season closure. But on the other hand, this requirement seems to me like an absolutely necessary and valuable thing, so for that reason I am glad it was made. Personally, I have major issues with the fact that the US issues birth certificates with adoptive parents' names, without acknowledging in any way the fact that these parents did not, in fact, play a role in the child's birth. I would want my birth certificate to have my birth parents' names on it, no matter what happened in my life after I was born. Or, if I had made the heart-wrenching decision to place my child for adoption, I would still want my name to be on the birth certificate because I still gave birth to that child. Why not let a birth certificate remain the record of a child's actual birth and then issue an adoption certificate with the same legal weight as a birth certificate? I'm sure that could create issues I haven't thought of yet, but at least it would give adoptees and birth parents the respect of having truthful documentation of their lives.

[Disclaimer: I feel I should admit that I am not the most informed person on the whole issue of how an adoption is legally documented, so if someone out there reading this sees something in the above paragraph which is misinformed or not factual... help a sister out and educate me. I'm just basing my opinions on what I do know, which is admittedly not all that much. End disclaimer.]

Anyway, as sad as I am to have to wait 12 or more extra weeks to hold my little man, I am so very glad that his country of origin is taking steps to make their adoption process more ethical and respectful of the children and birth parents involved. I am hoping that we will receive a copy of our son's original (pre-adoption) birth certificate. It makes me uncomfortable to think that the only legal document we'll have related to his birth will have our names on it. Even though we will now be his parents forever, the truth is that we weren't there when he was born and a piece of paper doesn't change that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

what the CT adoption article didn't say

I recently read this article from the July issue of Christianity Today, titled "Abba Changes Everything: Why Every Christian Is Called To Rescue Orphans", by Russell Moore. At the risk of over-simplifying, the main point of the article seemed to be that, in light of the biblical call to care for those in need and the biblical model of adoption, all Christians ought to either pursue adoption themselves or support those who do so. A cursory mention of other options (such as mission trips or child sponsorship) was given, but the terms 'orphan care' and 'adoption' were often used interchangeably and the general take-home message as I understood it was that, according to Mr. Moore, adoption is the best and most godly way to 'rescue orphans.'

Based on the amount of time, money, and energy our family has invested in adoption, I think it goes without saying that I believe it to be a worthwhile endeavor... but to be honest, this article left me frustrated.

I think the main frustrations for me were not about what the article did say (in fact, I probably agree with a fair amount of it), but more about what it did not say. It did not mention the underlying problems - complicated, serious, multifaceted problems - that have produced the surface symptom of 210 million children in the world classified by UNICEF as "orphans." Ignoring these issues begs the question, What if all 210 million of those children lived in countries which allow adoption and were legally able to be adopted, and 210 million families adopted them... then what? 210 million more children would be waiting when we all turned around again because adoption only addresses the surface symptom and not the underlying issues.

And the reality is, no matter how much adoption is advocated, preached, and promoted, many of these 210 million children will never be adopted. That being the case, I was frustrated that the article did not seriously develop any alternative ways to address the needs of those children, the ones who either cannot or will not be adopted. Where was the call to love these children? In some countries this love might look like building schools, digging wells, teaching sustainable farming practices, or sponsoring a child. Here in America it might mean volunteering as a mentor, becoming a foster parent or respite care provider, or finding ways to support struggling single parents. If all we can talk about is adoption, we are leaving the needs of millions of children out of the picture.

Why are we (Christians) so afraid to admit that adoption won't fix everything? It reminds me of that particular brand of evangelism that tries to sell the idea that Jesus will make your life all sunshine and rainbows if you're a Christian. Shhh! Don't tell anyone that a life of discipleship is hard, that becoming like Christ means 'taking up your cross', that bad stuff still happens after you decide to follow Jesus -- it might scare people away! Yes. It might. But it's true and it needs to be said sometimes.

I hope more and more families will consider adoption as they make family-building decisions. And I hope Christians will consider ways that they might extend God's love to children in need. But I also hope we will stop confusing those two things, because they are not interchangeable.

**If you want to read more, I appreciated this adoptive parent's take on the CT article in her post, The Theology of Adoption. In it she links to this other fantastic and thought-provoking post, also about adoption theology, which is worth reading in its entirety.

**One more side-note: I will devote a whole post to this eventually, but it's worth saying that my thoughts outlined above are part of why I have loved working with YWAM Ethiopia so much. Humanitarian work is their primary focus, they do just about every single thing I listed that was missing from the CT article (and more), and they are just plain amazing folks.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

paper wait

It's been a long time since I've posted any updates on our adoption progress. No news has meant exactly that: no news. Our referral documents arrived in Addis almost 5 weeks ago but we have not yet been assigned a court date.

About 2 weeks ago we found out that the courts added a requirement for all adoption cases -- orphanages would now be required to provide birth certificates for children before their cases could be submitted to court. This means the YWAM orphanage staff needs to work to obtain a birth certificate for our little guy (he was not issued one at birth) and then our in-country representative will resubmit our case to court.

Yesterday we got an update from our caseworker at CHI letting us know that our case is still waiting on the certificate, but they are expecting to get it next week sometime and will resubmit our case to court at that point.

We are still not sure if there is a chance we could travel before the courts close down for the rainy season... but either way we are glad to know that our agencies are working hard on behalf of our child and us. Thanks for your continued prayers!