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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Home Study Officially Completed!

With the amount of personal and weighty issues on some of our most recent posts (which I felt necessary to be transparent about), it's refreshing to type up a more practical and less complex blog post with some exciting news..

We just received an e-mail from our social worker with an attached copy of our home study for us to review! From this moment on, we are officially and legally able to adopt a child. What a big victory this is in our adoption journey. Since we finished our online training classes this week, we were able to submit our last few certificates and our remaining home study paperwork. It seems like yesterday that we began our home study process, intimidated by the long daunting road ahead. With the mounds of paperwork and every last tedious detail (including, but not limited to: health physicals, water approval, fingerprinting, child abuse clearance, etc.) weighing over our heads, we took each stride in faith. And now, finally, we have made it through this crucial part of the process and we're onto the next stage.

We now need to create our adoption profile. We have already begun a rough draft that we have started to put together. This is the next big hurdle in the process, as once this is finished, we will be able to be shown to prospective birth families. Then the REAL waiting begins! Of course, we do have a few things to keep us busy during the official wait time to be matched. One of which is to apply for the Abba Fund through our church, which will provide a matching grant during our fund raising process. More on that later!

For now, we are rejoicing in this little "BIG" victory in our adoption process!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Infertility and the Sovereignty of God

 "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power 
of Christ may rest upon me."
--2 Corinthians 12:9

Meet someone, get married, own a home and have a family. This is a typical vision of a Midwestern, middle class dream... but what if God had a different plan for you?

Although getting married seems much more like a choice (in reality it too is a gift and not a given), it appears that once you're married, children are more of a rightful passage. As if it's the next step in life and the result of your union together, creating little carbon copies of yourself. Indeed, it is biblical to think so, as God did command this in Genesis 1:28:

"And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

And there are endless verses in scripture about what a blessing children are from the Lord:

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! --Psalm 127:3-5

"Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table." --Psalm 128:3

"For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you." Psalm 147:13

So what happens when you have a couple who, for almost 8 long years, is still waiting for this "ultimate" blessing? What if they did receive their answer to prayer, but God took that miracle away after 3 months of pregnancy. He then left every month after that empty and barren for the next 5 years? Would you shake your fists at God, tell him that it's not fair? Not fair that he continuously blesses those who neglect their children, or worse yet, blessed millions (roughly 56 million) of women who have aborted their babies since Roe vs. Wade?

But what if we were asking the wrong questions? What if I told you these fists that used to clench at God, now receive openly (with much joy) this trial of infertility? And I told you that it doesn't have to do with getting what we originally wanted or even succumbing to plan B. That through this withholding in our lives, God has awakened a reality of his greatness and glory in our lives. So I tell you today boldly, don't feel sorrowful for us! May our testimony through this trial bring about displaying the living truth. Christ IS the ultimate blessing, and he has not withheld that from us! What may seem as a disadvantage in this life has only brought an overflow of blessing, and we can't even see the whole picture yet. Imagine if God has given us this taste of Romans 8:28 in the here and now just how infinitely wide and wondrous his plan must be.

That's not to say this road has been an easy one. Not by far. Nor has it been even-keeled. Years of praying and watching others experience pregnancy after pregnancy, always attending someone else's baby shower while your arms are empty and longing. Having friends who have been married less time than us and already have more than one child. Feeling like you are at a standstill, while the rest of the world is moving full speed ahead. Trust me, it hasn't been a painless road. If fact, there have been times where it has been hard to breathe. Hard to accept the reality that God has ordained this. Feeling like "less of a woman" because I can't bear the child that my husband and I long for. That may sound dramatic to some, but honestly, have you thought or even considered what it must be like to be denied something that God has created you emotionally and physically for? Numerous woman in the Bible know this feeling all too well... Sara, Hannah, Elizabeth, Rachel..

"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children," --Genesis 16:1-2

"When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”--Genesis 30:1

"He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children."--1 Samuel 1:2

"But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years."--Luke 1:13

Notice Rachel's words to Jacob "Give me children, or I shall die!" Those are pretty strong words.  There obviously is a cultural difference, but if we are honest, has it changed that much? When a women gets married, how long does it take before friends and family members are asking when she's going to get pregnant? Even today, there is pressure from those around you to fulfill this calling.  Medical technology with regard to fertility drugs is rampant in society, giving women the ability to go to any extreme to achieve that long awaited pregnancy. The feeling of inadequacy of not being able to bear children has clearly not changed from the Old Testament until now.

So how did we go from this point of desperation to the point of embracing adoption and not considering it to be a plan B, you ask? As I sit here typing this question, I wonder exactly how I am going to put this all into words. But here goes...

Even since the earliest days of our marriage, God has been preparing a place in our hearts for adoption, but we've been discovering that this space is far vaster than we'd even imagined. In withholding biological children, he has nurtured in us a deep desire to care for the orphan and also a true glimpse of what God's family composition looks like. He has diminished the false perception of the importance of biology and revealed to us the deep impenetrable truth of being adopted into the family of God. You may say, from a logical standpoint, that our adoption plan "technically" is plan B, because we desired to have biological children first. And that's when I would tell you that there is no plan B with God, and that he doesn't provide second best for his children. He worked in a way that brought us here through the trial of infertility. When we hold true to God's promises, we know that he has chosen us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Every detail of our lives is according to his purpose, including the way he blesses us with children. So I say to you again, this is not plan B.

The thing is, we now deeply desire to parent and love a child from any background. And we value the love of a mother and father in a way that goes deeper than bloodlines. We will nurture this child from the moment he or she is laid into our arms. This child will be ours. God has provided a way for that. He's withheld something great, to provide something even greater. Whatever one may think we lack through this adoption, God has abundantly given by this process. There will not be a physical resemblance that links us to our child in the here and now, but God doesn't use the flesh as a means to build his kingdom..

"In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.." --Ephesians 1:5

In our lives, the pain of infertility and the grace of a Sovereign God to bring us to adoption mirrors the story of redemption. Before the foundation of the world, God planned to redeem his sinful, chosen people and adopt them as sons. This was never a plan B for God. We live in a fallen world, a fallen world full of imperfections, including barrenness. That is the reality that we live in. But the greater reality is that we serve a God who redeems. And through our adoption process, we get to be a living example of that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Give Me the Gospel and Let Me Be Culturally Awkward

We attended our final in-person Adoptive Training class on Sunday, June 30th. The class focus was on "Trans-racial Adoption." The discussion started out a bit difficult for us, for a few different reasons. One of those reasons was that the agency which was providing these classes is not a Christian agency. Without going into too much detail, being in this environment made us feel very heavyhearted. We left the class, slightly more encouraged than when we had arrived.. but still with questions.

The main question flashing brightly in our minds..When a Caucasian couple is desiring to adopt trans-racially, is there a cultural difference that needs to be addressed and more importantly embraced? Even though this may seem like an ignorant viewpoint, I felt like skin color simply shouldn't matter. (In fact, I mentioned this to the Dr. on the panel, who was African-American, and she clearly responded with, "well, what do you see when you look at me, you see a black woman!") At least in that setting, this kind of simple mindedness was not well received.

Matt and I were wrestling with this experience, as we tried to line it up with what we believe to be true of the gospel. If we, as brothers and sisters in Christ (from every cultural background), are adopted into the same family of God under one Father..why should we allow society/culture to dictate what is an appropriate family composition?

 Listen to Voddie Baucham's counter-cultural response:

"Here's the question. The question is. How do I honor the biology. That's the question. How do I honor the genetics. How do I honor the culture. Let me respond.  You Can't! And You don't have to. A couple of things. Number 1, there is the cultural myth. The myth that these people are dealing with is that black people have a culture. Black people in Los Angeles are a lot different than black people in Chicago, black people in Chicago are a lot different than black people in South Carolina or Georgia, black people in Georgia aren't a whole lot like black people in Texas, other than their melanin count. It is pure myth that there is a such thing as a quote un quote African-American Culture. 

Secondly, the only thing in anyone's culture that ought to be lauded is that which is derived from and brings glory and honor to Jesus Christ. If there is a part of "black" culture that is Christless, I do not embrace it because I happen to be black. We embrace those things in our cultures that are derived from and bring glory to and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what we do. And here's what we get hung up on. We think that somehow these difficulties are worthy of forgoing the opportunity of giving someone the gospel! Listen to me. When children are adopted into a home there is always an identity crisis. It is always going to be difficult. But what we have to give is the gospel! That is what is most important, and so we overcome these difficulties as they arise. But this question comes from this idea that the most important thing for a black person is to be black! (That doesn't come from the Bible.) Give me the Gospel and let me be culturally awkward."

We have asked all family and friends to please listen to this full sermon by Voddie Baucham. It has been truly groundbreaking on many levels in our adoption process, not just regarding the trans-racial aspect. Please, please listen to this sermon, if you haven't already. (And if you have, listen again.. Matt and I continue to listen to over and over again.. it's THAT good!)

Voddie Baucham's sermon on Adoption:

In closing I would like to say, although we have learned beneficial things through this class, the answer to our question doesn't lie in any adoptee's experience in trans-racial adoption or even an expert in clinical psychology. The answer lies in the foundation of the gospel. I had lost focus in this, as I got wrapped up in the discussion of this "secular" training class. Sadly, every household does not hold to this life-line truth, therefore there will be trials in homes without the correct remedy. And although, this truth will be present in our home and in our child's life, this will not eliminate any struggles that may arise. It will however, give us a guideline to live as we were meant to live, on this imperfect side of heaven.