Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Faith and Joy!

The year has come to an end and as I look back, I am thankful for so many things the last year has brought. I obediently stepped out in faith on the adoption journey and my faith has been strengthened. I am learning to trust God more. Walking down this path without knowing how it will all fall into place, I know that He is control. I am so thankful for all the fellow bloggers I have “met” who are traveling or have traveled down this same adoption path. I am humbled by their faith and their walk encourages me to fully lean on Jesus. In my blissful ignorance, when I actually started the process at the beginning of this year, I really thought a child would have been placed in our home by the end of the year. But all in God’s timing! Our foster care agency social worker has still not written up our home study (10 months after we started the process), but somehow, I have managed not to lose heart. On the international adoption front, we have 20% of the necessary funds required, but again, I have not lost heart and instead I am joyful that we reached this milestone. I still fervently believe God has called us to open our hearts and home for some of His own, and I just as fervently believe that He will make a way.

I have grown some and there is still plenty of room for growth. While I have always been floored at the ineptitude of our local child welfare agency, it had never occurred to me to pray for the workers there. This next year, I am praying for an extra measure of grace that I may remember to pray for them daily and all the hurting children they are charged with protecting.

As things stand, it still seems likely that our first adopted child will come to us through International Adoption from Ethiopia and the second adopted child will be placed in our home from the foster care system.

God’s blessings to all in the coming year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We have a calendar where we have been crossing off the days before Christmas and it was precious to see my son this morning when he woke up and realized that today was the day! He had been trying to see if he could open just one present before Christmas Day. His reasoning: though it was not yet Christmas Day, it was the Christmas Season! I wish I had been able to capture his excitement when he was jumping up and down and shouting in glee when he opened a present from Santa and found a train he had been wanting for his collection. He is still at the innocent age where he is able to get so much joy from a $5 present. Actually, I am so thankful that he has such a heart of gratitude. He is always so appreciative when he receives a gift and always hugs the gift giver and remembers who gave him almost each and every toy (the few he does not remember, he always remembers to asks mommy or daddy who gave it to him when he is playing with it).

We enjoyed the simplicity I had been wanting by focusing on Him whose birthday we were celebrating. After gift opening, scripture reading and breakfast, we headed off to my father-in-law’s house and had a good time with family. Because they did not grow up in a Christian family, there is no religious connotation to the celebration of Christmas. However, my brother in law “accidentally” held a Study Bible my sister-in-law received for Christmas. This is major, considering for years he never celebrated Christmas with the family. Instead, he and his family always went to Alcatraz Island to demand the government return it to the Native Americans. Think Berkeley types and their families having a wonderful bar-be-cue in the guise of a protest! This has changed within the last three years and we even celebrated Christmas at his house 2 years ago! Now that is huge! Of course, there were only winter solstice decorations, but that is progress! There is hope after all. Maybe next year, he may even open up the Bible??? We had a good time teasing him about it! On our way home, we spent a couple hours with my side of the family. All in all, a wonderful Christmas Season. My husband even adhered to his plan to par down this year. Just one unplanned gift! And he even agreed that we had a wonderful Christmas this year.

Praying that next Christmas, we will be making new memories with the other child or children that God will have placed in our home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Traditions.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories and what are your family traditions? As a child, I loved going caroling on Christmas Eve and all the carolers would be carrying lanterns and we would all end up in Church for the midnight service. For Christmas, we always got new clothes and shoes and we could hardly wait for Christmas day so that we could wear our new clothes, go to church and then go back home for the biggest party ever. My parents always had an open house on Christmas day and we were never sure who would turn up. We always had over 50 people at my parent’s house on Christmas Day and we had fun playing, playing, playing and eating, eating, eating. When most people always remember a favorite dessert they always had during Christmas, my family remembers that antacids were always the fi rst item on the shopping list when preparing for our big feast!

Traditions that my husband, son and I have include getting and decorating our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, playing Christmas music thoughout the month of December, going to see Christmas lights the weekend before Christmas, watching Charlie Brown ‘s Christmas Story and making a special appetizer pastry that takes four to five hours to make! Actually, I have done this 3 years out of the last six and wiggled out of it the rest of the time because it is so labor intensive. However, I have decided to make this a yearly tradition. My husband helped me make the pastries last night and they are in the freezer ready to be deep fried on Christmas Day. It was a wonderful time of fellowship listening to Christmas music, watching my son look at the Christmas Tree lights and folding those pastries with my husband. He is the most playful, funny and kind hearted man I know! We also stay up late and open one present each on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, we have a good breakfast before loading up and going to spend Christmas with either my family or my husband’s family. Now that my son is older, we will be reading one of the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story.

I have been trying to get a protestant church that does a midnight service on Christmas Eve, but so far I have not been so successful. The first protestant church we found about 5 years ago, had an open invitation for communion and they clearly stated on their invitation that Holy communion was open to all irrespective of your religion. They said it did not matter if you were Muslim, Jewish or Hindu to please join in taking communion. Okay, so even if you do not believe in the deity of Christ or that He is the messiah, you are to partake in communion in remembrance of Him who you do not believe in? So what is the meaning of communion again? No return visit. Last year, we went to a catholic church and it was standing room only. We may have theological differences, but the service was beautiful and there was such a sense of reverence. I think the protestant church tried so hard to emphasis grace and do away with legalism that the end by-product is services that most times seem so flippant and irreverent. Some sweet old lady fell in love with my son and gave him a statue of Jesus and a Rosary at the end of the service! So we soldier on looking for a protestant church with a midnight service. This year we are going for a candlelight service at 6:00 p.m. Next year, we will return to the catholic church if no protestant church takes up the challenge. I am determined to share this tradition with my son.

I so desperately wish that my adoptive child or children were here this Christmas as we make new memories. But all in God’s timing. It is tough wondering if my child/ren know that they are loved, wondering if they have warm clothes to wear, or if they will have enough food. I really don't think this year I will be gorging myself as the children God will place in our home and hearts have been so much on my mind lately.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jesus, The Reason for the Season

I love, love Christmas. And it is made even more special watching my four year old son and husband get into all the Christmas festivities with gusto. In the last few years, I have felt commercialism seep more into my observance of Christmas. I am driven by empathy for others and I never adhere to my list for the people I will buy gifts for. My heart is always drawn to others who do not have families to celebrate Christmas with and once I start on this road, things quickly go out of control. I also get suckered by all the wonderfully wrapped gifts at the stores and I quickly start thinking who would love a particular wonderfully wrapped box of chocolate! But of course, since they do not have much family, I need to get them something else! While it gives me great pleasure giving to others, I find myself at the stores on the 23rd of December in long lines because I have thought of yet one more person. My family has some Christmas traditions, but I have been feeling more and more that my husband and I focus more on gift giving. I will do my Christmas shopping for family on both sides and for our friends and then my husband goes to do his last minute Christmas Shopping (he likes living on the edge)! He ends up buying another gift for most of the people I had already shopped. I do not like to take the joy he gets from doing this, but I have always wished we could write down a list and stick to it! This year, I have been yearning for my observance of Christmas to have more meaning than gift buying. And God is good. When I asked my husband to let me know who he was shopping for so that we would not duplicate efforts, he said that this year he is scaling back. What! Never in a million years would I have expected this. My husband’s dad raised 5 kids as a single parent and toys and gifts were few and far between during the year. However, on each of the children’s birthdays and on Christmas, my father-in-law would go overboard. Hence my husband’s love for Christmas and “going overboard” too!

Most of my Christmas shopping was done in November. I have been successful in sticking to my list this year and my husband has surely cut back! This year, he only shopped for four people (a huge improvement from his normal list of 13-15 people)! He only shopped my son, the family member for whom he is playing Secret Santa, and a friend from church who will join us for Christmas. There is hope after all!

This year, rather than thinking of which gift I should get a friend or family member, I am more concerned that they have the greatest gift of all – Salvation. Of what value is my getting them their 100th shirt or sweater if I have never shared the gospel message with them. The earthly things will all pass away, but the gift of salvation will last for all eternity (and the consequence of rejecting that free gift). Church has been wonderful this Christmas season. Each of the last four Sundays was strictly on the Christmas message with readings from the Old and New Testament and lots of Christmas Carols. Sometimes I always feel that the church treats Christmas and Easter as an interruption to their program instead of a time to slow done and be reflective. As a child, Christmas and Easter were such "Holy" holidays and I am so full of Joy this Christmas season that I got both the simplicity I have been yearning for and church services that have been drawing me to center my observance of Christmas on Him whose birth we celebrate.

In all our preparations to make this Christmas the best one yet, May we look back to the best one of all 2,000 years ago and really spend time reflecting on the “Reason for the Season”!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Me! Monday

I so totally did not have a busy week and had enough time to get present for my son’s friend's birthday. Being so good at multi-tasking, I had good intentions to get a present on the way to the birthday party. Of course, I did leave enough time for my husband to get an attack of the vanities and he so totally did not squander the time allocated to get a gift by taking an extra looong shower and changing clothes numerous times! I mean, we do have to look our best when going to a five year old’s birthday party! Being the good mommy I am, I so totally did not re-gift a present my son got for his birthday and which he had been saving to open later. Of course, being a good mommy, I so did not hide the wrapped present from my son and rush us all out of the house. I also did not change the topic a million times and turn up the radio in the car because my son is aware we always go present shopping together and he was curious to know what I got for his friend’s birthday. No, not me, because good mommies don't do things like that :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Not me! Monday

Since we are in the wait mode on the adoption front and it is not like we have had not had numerous adoption- related classes, this Saturday, so that we can feel as though we are being proactive and doing something and for the heck of it, we took another adoption class. We met another pre-adoptive couple and the husband told us that he worked in a group home with 6 -13 years old who were very disturbed and on serious psychotropic medications. Think fascination with setting fires, fascination with knives and scissors and hurting dogs and children. Miniature Jeffery Dahmers (not my words – but the gentleman who had worked with the children).

For a little levity on a very serious discussion on what we would do if that was one of our children, I so totally did not start joking on barricading ourselves in the bedroom at night. I also so totally did not encourage my husband and the other couple, by laughing uncontrollable when they were coming up with different suggestions on what they would do. I mean it is not funny hearing someone laugh when telling you they would tie a bell around the child’s ankle to herald the child's approach and warm them of imminent danger. Nor is it funny to suggest training the dogs to bark and let you know that a child is approaching your bedroom when you are asleep. I also so totally did not re-tell my sister the story in the evening and laugh once again until my sides hurt. Because, lets face, I am a serious child advocate and it just is not nice laughing at things like that. Also, my husband does not have a quick wit and a warped sense of humor and is able to provide comedic relief in most serious situations. I am not even telling whose bright ideas they were: bell or trained dogs. I think that my husband actually met his twin because I am not sure whose idea was worse, my husband’s or the other gentleman’s.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hair and Adoptions!

Okay, so I know I have posted before on all the “chance” meetings I have had with adoptive parents, but I still get a kick every time it happens! In keeping with my new resolve to cut costs everywhere I can so that we can save for our adoption, I made an appointment to get my hair done at a Beauty College. They charge 1/3 what I normally pay at a regular salon, but the downside is that you get a student to do your hair, and you are never quite sure how far along they are in the program! Anyway, that was my second visit and I have been pleased with the results both times! (could this be due to the fact I have become less vain the older I got hence my standards may have lowered? Hmm :) I was a bit late because, I get lost—I am the girl who gets lost going home and I sometimes second guess the GPS system that I got as a Christmas present last year and still manage to get lost! By God’s providence, someone else got to do my hair and of course, she is an adoptive mom to a four year old boy! She adopted a child who was exposed to alcohol and drugs in utero from the foster care system when the child was 3 months old. She just answered God’s calling to adopt this child as a single 25 year old and just trusted God. My hair dresser is now married and has a second child who is one and both her children are the best of friends. More likely than not, if an infant gets placed in our home from the foster care system, statistically, the child will most likely to have been exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero. This is the primary reason most infants are removed from their parents care (alcohol is actually more damaging to a child in the womb than any other illegal drug, but since alcohol is a legal beverage, they do not test for alcohol exposure once a child is born. However, it is safe to assume that the child will have fetal alcohol syndrome though their file may not mention this). My hair dresser shared that her son is well adjusted, loving, attached, and does extremely well in school. She does not see any lasting damage from the drug and alcolol exposure, though as an infant, she told me he cried a lot. I normally tend to prepare my mind for the worst case scenario and it was no different when I read about all the ill effects of alcohol and drug exposure to an unborn baby. This “chance” meeting could not have been more timely. I was feeling a little discouraged on the adoption front, because my 10 year old car would not start and we had just heard the verdict from the mechanic: $603 in repairs! Ouch! Oh car, do you know how far back you just set us on our international adoption? Oh, well, I guess the car does not care – probably thinks I should be grateful that it has ran for 10 years relatively problem free. Yeah, yeah, more than 130, 000 miles later, I guess I should not be complaining!. Anyway, God is good and I did get encouragment just when I needed it!