Thursday, October 29, 2015

Is it Christmas yet?

The weather here in NM is finally starting to reflect the calendar just a tiny bit.  Our leaves are starting to change, and while it's still in the 70's by the afternoon, the mornings have been delightfully cool.  I've actually worn sweaters!  Winter is my favorite time of year--soups, sweaters, fires--but fall would be my next favorite.  I mean, who doesn't love red leaves?

I grew up in Illinois, and my internal calendar still says that leaves should start changing some time in September.  The first 'fall' I had in AZ, I was shocked to find that Christmas arrived when the weather was still warm.  In my head, it still felt like September!  I've gotten a little better (12 years in the southwest now, and at least NM has four seasons), but this year has been particularly late with the cold weather. 

So perhaps it's the change in weather that has marked a change in my attitude toward this adoption.  I take back everything I said about it being calmer/more relaxed/less pressured.  The last week has been a roller coaster of wishing we were leaving tomorrow and wondering what I should be doing in the time I have left.  I'm doing so much better this time in terms of not stressing mentally about some arbitrary list of 'must get done,' but communication between my head and the chemicals in my body isn't always great.  At Bible study this week, my prayer request was that I'd sleep well between now and Christmas.  :)

The truth is, there is an ebb and flow to the pain of being away from Titus, and it has flowed this past week.  The process of falling in love with a child that you have never touched, never held, never spoken to is an interesting one--part deliberate and part uncontrollable.  When we started the process, I would tell people I have four children--three here and one in China.  Before we matched with Titus, I would calculate how old my son might be, and of course we started praying right away for "little brother" with the kids.  I tried to do as much as I could to invite the bonding process to begin before we go to China.*

But by inviting that process to begin, you invite the pain of separation as well.  And it gets way harder when you have a picture, and a video.  You're not supposed to have to watch your son cry on a video halfway around the world.  And now instead of telling yourself you have a son, you feel it in your heart, because it hurts.  I wish we were leaving tomorrow.   

*Of course you have to remember that while you've had time to start the bonding process, your little one has not.  The odds are good that he or she will not fall in love at first sight.  This time we'll get to send a care package to Titus with pictures, so it'll be interesting to see if things are different because of that.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Art of Celebration

There was a time when I got in the habit of reviewing at the end of each day.  I would analyze what I accomplished, how the kids behaved, how I behaved, my energy level...the metrics are endless. By those metrics, some days were worth celebrating, and some days, not so much:

--My head pounding from equal measures of reining it in and blowing my top (all before 9 in the morning!).
--Every time I had turned around that morning, Luke and Liz had been at each the other's throat (probably because I tried to get too much done instead of spending time with them). 
--David came home to every single toy strewn across the floor. 

In truth, these are the little things…the results of a three-ring circus living at my house (soon to be four!) 

There are other days that are even harder to celebrate:  the day you get the phone call, the diagnosis, the news.  Earthquakes and fires and hurricanes.  Violence in the streets again.  Hearing Liz cry out my name during the night, and wishing I had been there to comfort her earlier; wondering why we live in a world where adoption is necessary.   

These evaluations colored my days—good days, bad days—and it was a struggle until I listened to my favorite CD again.  One of my favorite songs on it is Boldly I Approach, and this is what I figured out from listening to it:

I'm doing it all wrong.  (Surprise, surprise)  There is an art to celebration, and the art lies in choosing what to celebrate.  When I seek to celebrate myself and my accomplishments, or my kids and their accomplishments, guess what?  There will always be days with nothing to celebrate.  And if my celebrations depend on things ‘going well,’ what will I do when they don’t? 

But there is someone whose accomplishments are worth celebrating.  Someone who never fails to do what He set out to do.  The One who made the day good in the first place.

When we choose to celebrate all that God has done, we can celebrate every day from now through eternity. 

Now, these are the things I try to celebrate:
God has won the victory already.
His mercies are new every morning.
He loves me no matter what happens.
He has made me free from condemnation.
He has made an end to all my sin (even though some days it doesn't feel like it, it's still TRUE)
I stand blameless before Him through Jesus Christ.

These are the celebrations that carry us through our failures, the celebrations that comfort us during times of distress.  These are the celebrations we will continue in heaven, when we reach the shore.

This is the art of celebration
Knowing we're free from condemnation
Oh praise the One, praise the One
Who made an end to all my sin

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More progress

I feel like it's very rare these days to be in the position where you go out and check the mail every day, hoping for a letter (especially one from Homeland Security!).  Most of the time we know what's coming, because we are the ones who ordered it.  You may get surprise packages or letters now and then, but the anticipation is missing there too.  

We were waiting for our I-800 provisional approval letter, and it arrived in the mail this week!  Our next anticipated letter is the visa application approval for Titus.  After that comes Article 5 submission (in China at the US Consulate there), and then Travel Authorization is next.  Yikes!

It's been a little different this time around, though, because we really can't leave until I give my final on December 10.  When we were chasing papers with Liz, I think we hit every major holiday in China and the US between December and March.  This time, we've made great progress, but there is so much less pressure to (attempt) to move things along.  Unless we run into major snags, I think we may get TA with a couple weeks to spare!  

I'd still like to get a few things done around the house before Titus comes, but I think that's been a little different too.  Last time there was some expectation on my part that doing certain things (organizing, decluttering, etc.) would help me prepare for Liz's arrival.  I'm not sure it really helped that much, and things were still crazy for a while after she got home.  So while sorting through the books and toys might make things marginally less messy in January, I'm focusing on more important priorities right now. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


At the beginning of September, I started a project at church.  I still remember those fateful words, "I can probably take care of this week, and then I really should stop." 

Excuse me while I laugh my head off. 

Really, how good are you at 'stopping' in the middle of a project you created?  After that week, there was about two weeks of giving 90% of my time to try and 'finish' the project.  Of course, David was 100% correct when he said, "This is going to be more work than you think."

I've since admitted that I'll be seeing this through to the end (basically Thanksgiving) and taken it to a much more reasonable time commitment.  But during those two weeks, I realized this was the first big project I'd taken on since Liz came home, and I ended up wrestling a bit with how to manage priorities. 

This is a worthy project.  It's going to bless a lot of families (I hope), and it may even have some staying power past this Christmas.  It's not the only place I can spend my time, though.  There are so many worthy projects, and I also have, you know, a house, a husband, and children to deal with too.

Time is definitely a limited currency, and it's hard to know where to spend it sometimes.  I was reminded of a few things by some wise people around me:

1.  There will always be seasons in our lives.  Some seasons are busy (like this one), and some seasons need to be deliberately slower (like when we bring Titus home).  If there is a two week period where I need to set aside every checkmark on my to-do list so I can get a project off the ground, that's okay.  When it begins to take over my life long-term...then it's time to step back and reassess. 

2.  Do the things that bring you joy.  I'm enjoying this project at church, but I still love teaching chemistry the most.  It's made me reconsider taking two semesters off when Titus comes home, because when I think about what makes my heart sing, teaching chemistry is pretty near the top of the list.  I just wish cleaning my house brought me joy too...

3.  It's important to have people in your life who will help you identify the top priorities and help you say no.  Enter David, who kindly reminded me I could NOT also take on organizing all the kids clothes at the thrift store where we volunteer right now, and served as a good sounding board while I figured things out. 

4.  But it's also helpful to have people in your life who enable you.  During that two-week "get this project off the ground" period, David was instrumental in helping me focus, reminding me to eat after teaching, taking the kids outside so I could work, and giving me advice when I needed to figure things out.

(If nothing else, I've been reminded yet again that David is the very best of men)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Antidote to Fear

A year ago, I was not sure I wanted to adopt again.

I was in the middle of a rough semester--a new class I didn't enjoy teaching (with a larger work load than I was used to), some other things going on that were anxiety-inducing, and parenting a two, three, and four year old.  The pace was relentless, but each day felt endless. 

I knew we'd always planned to have four kids (at least), and we wanted to adopt a little boy from China the next time.  My heart had been there, but I just wasn't really feeling it.  After all, toddler is not my absolute favorite stage thus far, and don't even get me started on potty training for the fourth time.

Maybe three was enough.

The truth is, I was afraid. Afraid that four kids would be too much for me (whatever that means), that I'd discover new depths of frustration and impatience, and that I'd take it out on them. Despite how difficult I'd found things to be, Liz's adoption had so many things that went well!  She bonded, she was barely delayed developmentally, we didn't have to worry about much medical stuff at all...surely doing this again would only be harder.  Surely God would make it harder this time. 

And there is the insidious nature of fear.  In my case, my fear led me to cast God as the adversary.  He would lead us into another adoption, and then make it even harder, even more challenging.  Surely He had already given us all the blessings, all the answered prayers in Liz's adoption.  I just didn't feel up for the fight to do it right, to learn from Liz's adoption, and to be the kind of parent I knew I should be for another child.

My thoughts traveled around and around these ideas until we drove home for Christmas:  twenty hours driving there, and eighteen hours driving back, not to mention the six hours in between homes.  I do most of the driving on these trips, so I actually had some time to think and listen to a lot of music.  We got Rend Collective's "The Art of Celebration" and although I'd listened to their music, I was really able to concentrate on the words during the long drive home.

These songs finally made me realize how messed up my thinking had become.  God wouldn't give me a challenge and then sit back to watch how I handled it.  No, He would be there fighting with me and for me.  Why would He dole out His blessing in small measures...the delight I feel in giving to my children is nothing compared to what He feels about me!  While I felt like these experiences tore me down, He was actually shaping me to be more like Him.  It hurts to have the dross burned out.  But I know He is glorified through it. 

The antidote to fear is to speak (or sing) the truth about God:

We were born for greater things, We were born to chase Your dreams
Your great love will lead me through

In view of Your matchless sacrifice, Take every treasure, take this life

 Yeah, you lift me when I'm sinking
Like the swell of mighty oceans
The power of redemption
Yeah, it gives me wings to soar

You're not finished with me yet
By Your power I can change, I can change
'Cause You're not finished with me yet

Jesus, my soul is fearless
For You are with us
Fighting for us
In the valley of shadows
You are still with us
Fighting for us

Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Of course, you know it took a few more months to come around, but that drive was the beginning of my turn away from the fear and seek the path God wanted for me and for our family.  At the moment, I'm getting a little nervous at how little time I'll have between finishing my class and leaving for China (and don't get me started on my 'little' church project), but I can honestly say I don't feel afraid any more. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Our Little Boy

Titus Perkins
LOA: 10/1/2015

10 months old
(He's about 15 months now)

That means this handsome little man is officially ours...if only it meant we could head on over and get him! 

We can't buy tickets until we get our consulate appointment, which is about four steps away.  Our paperwork is now at US Immigration.  We received general permission to adopt a child (I-800A), but now we need specific permission to adopt Titus (I-800).  We need the I-800 and a few more things, then we can send it all back to China and get our Travel Authorization (TA).  After we get that, we can schedule our consulate appointment with the US Consulate in Guangzhou, and THEN we can buy our tickets. 

But the ball is rolling now, and there's a good chance we will be spending Christmas and/or New Years on a plane!