Monday, November 30, 2009

Adoption Tax Credit

Did anyone know that the adoption tax credit will probably be drastically reduced for adoptions finalizing in 2011? For adoptions finalizing in 2010, your credit is up to $12,170... this is over 1/3 of the total cost of many international adoptions, and even more helpful with domestic adoption! But in 2011, the credit is expected to be cut to $5,000. ($6,000 for children with special needs.) Don't let this sway you from adoption! God is faithful to provide. But if you can, HURRY UP & take advantage of the tax credit!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Labor Pains

What a strange pleasure it is to go through the hardships that bring a child into your family. I remember when I was pregnant with Caroline, there was a certain pride that came with my complaints of swollen feet and a big stretched belly. One night in an accounting class, I endured intense contractions every 6 minutes, and excitedly wrote the time of every painful one on a sheet of notebook paper.


Lately, we have been full speed ahead on pursuing our adoption. We’ve visited doctors, called insurance agencies, panicked over lost birth certificates, and began our “adoption education” curriculum. Like the days of pregnancy, it’s really nothing too bad – but there is a sweet joy in complaining about these “labor pains.” Sometimes, when I let worry get the best of me, I smile and think of the stories I will tell this little one. “Oh, how we worked to get you home! One little detail would go wrong, and my heart would break! Do you see these big notebooks filled with the work we did preparing for you? Do you know how happy we were to save any penny we could to get you home? Do you know how hard we prayed to finally have you in our arms?”

Didn’t someone once say, “nothing good comes easily?” In this case, I guess it’s true. I have to admit that there is something sweet about our current labor pains.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

20 Years from Now

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream  Discover.             --Mark Twain


Perfect quote for what the Christian life SHOULD be. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Take to the World (by Derek Webb)

Go
In peace
To love
And to serve.

Let
Your ears
Ring long
With what you have heard.

Go
And go far.
Take light
Deep in the dark.

Believe
What’s true
Pierces all,
Even you.

May the bread on your tongue
Leave a trail of crumbs
To lead the hungry back
To the Place you are from.

Take to the world
This love, hope, & faith.
Take to the world
This rare, relentless grace.

Like the Three-in-One
Know you must become
What you want to say;
That’s still the way
HE takes to the world.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Hot Country


During our final social worker visit earlier this month, Claire asked us if we knew that Uganda was a "hot country." I love hot weather, but she was talking about something far, far better than that. She was talking about ease of attachment in the adoption process.

Many Latin American countries are also considered hot countries.  Places like China, Russia, & the Ukraine are "cold countries."  It refers to the level of affection children in the orphanage receive.  In hot countries, the culture is to touch, hug, kiss, and deeply nurture children's spirits.  In cold countries, the culture is much more reserved.  Even if the children are well fed and kept clean, they may not see as many smiles and hugs as our baby in Uganda.

So why am I so happy about this? Because my baby is being talked to, loved on, kissed & hugged & held. And I love that.  He/she will learn to attach to the caretakers... which means that he/she is learning to attach at all. This is important, because that is an emotional skill that is critical for later attachment to US, his/her FAMILY.  So three cheers for Uganda! Thanks to you for having a culture that will so greatly benefit our sweet baby!! (Now that's THANKSGIVING! Have a happy one!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adoption Advocacy

If you want to see an INCREDIBLE video, PLEASE watch this one that my husband posted in May.  I'm not kidding, it is probably one of the best secular arguements I've seen. (The argument itself is secular, but it was made by the Catholic church.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Were You Called to Adopt?

I have rarely been sure that God spoke DIRECTLY to me in my life. One of those rare times was the day God called me to adopt.

Brad & I had been married for five months. I was attending our church’s annual “Commitment Sunday,” where members look over a list of ministries and check off those areas where they’re willing to serve. The service had nothing to do with adoption, but God had other plans.

As they dimmed the lights for everyone to pray silently and consider where God was calling them to give, my heart turned to my children, of whom I had none at the time!! And one fact became clear: I would have children who did not come from my womb. The Holy Spirit came over me, and I became positive that my children were scattered, and that we would need to go find them and bring them home. I had NEVER considered adoption. And now, I had never been surer that I was to adopt. It was the Holy Spirit.

I also became filled with fear. What if I am disobedient? What if I forget this calling? What if I get so busy with life, and pregnancies, and the normal order of things, that we FORGET that OUR children are living as orphans!?! It haunted me.

So I got down on my knees and wrote a prayer for our future adoptions, right on the church commitment card. I did not write my name. Brad was on staff at the church, and I didn’t want him to find out that we would adopt through a coworker telling him before I had the chance to approach him!!

That night as we prepared for bed, I nervously said to Brad, “I think we should adopt someday.” Brad did not blink. He said, “Of course! I’ve always thought we should adopt.” I was excited & shocked! I questioned him extensively about when he was called & why he didn’t tell me, but he didn’t have much to say. He simply had a confidence that we would be parents through adoption some day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

November

November weather jogs many memories for me. Brad & I had many major changes of heart that led us to our adoption, and they all seem to have been during Novembers. This blows my mind, because I think the timing is proof that God answers prayer!!! It is no coincidence that it is this month, when Christians worldwide focus on praying for orphans, that God moved our hearts – even when we knew nothing about Orphan Sunday, Adoption Month, or the doctrine of adoption. So keep praying. God is answering!
  • November 2006 – During our annual “commitment Sunday” at church, God called me to adopt – from out of the blue. I nervously told Brad about my hair-raising experience that night, and he did not skip one beat in agreeing that he had also been called to adopt. (I’ll tell this entire story tomorrow.)
  • November 2007 – We found ourselves, quite by happy surprise, six months pregnant with Caroline. We were so excited preparing for her that we couldn’t think one day past my due date. Consequently, our thoughts were not on adoption. But God knew what was to come!
  • November 2008 – On Thanksgiving Day, Brad & I retreated to my parents basement bedroom to put our nine month old Caroline to sleep. Nothing unusual happened that day. But as our conversation turned to future children, it took us about five minutes to feel clear that God hadn’t only called us to adopt “SOME DAY,” but that we would adopt soon… our NEXT child!!
  • November 2009 – This year was our first exposure to Orphan Sunday, and to the massive movement for orphan care ministries. And I want to be a part of it. I hope November 2010, in addition to having our baby home, holds some more beautiful news about how our family has moved towards encouraging orphan care throughout God’s church!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kampala

Many imagine that we're traveling to the huts of Uganda, deep in the African bush to get our child.  While I think that'd make for exciting stories, I have to admit that our trip will be a bit easier than that. Here are some pictures of the capital city, where we will spend most of our time.








Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's Saturday

An update on our home study: 
(sigh)  Due to MANY factors, I just found out that our time-sensitive fingerprints didn't get mailed out until yesterday. A little later than I was hoping for. For Caroline's sake, I want these completed quickly so we can travel in June!!! (I explained why here.)  Please pray that I would learn to REST in God's perfect timing, instead of being eaten with worry! He IS in control!

In any case, we haven't even hit the real road bumps of the adoption process yet, like the family I talked about yesterday:


I posted yesterday about James & Cher, who are in Uganda trying to get their children Ezekiel & Kaysia home. They have asked that today, Saturday, be a day of prayer & fasting for their frightening situation. Pray that the government there start granting visas to Canadian families!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Please Pray

I posted a while back about the timeline of a Canadian family who is now in Uganda, awaiting their adoption of two children. They found out today that Uganda has not been granting visas for Canadians, despite these families meeting every requirement. There is a chance they will have to leave the country without their children. They're asking us to intervene with prayers. In fact, they are asking us to “shower heaven” with prayer and fasting, on SaturdayTheir post is here. Prayerfully consider joining them. Can you imagine being separated from your children?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hope Behind the Pain

I accidentally created a "series," and this is part 3, the end.  When I found the Bible verse about our responsibility to ACT,  I did not know I would then find the Nobel Prize photo from the Sudan famine.  My intention in posting the photo was not to simply to shock & to horrify... because for those of us who hope in Christ, nothing is hopeless.  Let me explain.

On Monday, after watching a documentary on the heartbreaking suffering of those in Northern Uganda, my husband asked our many guests whether seeing it made them feel like God was more real, or less real.  He essentially asked them the age-old question, "Since evil & suffering exist, can God exist?"  Because the conversation was with a group of Christians, I'm sure you can imagine the faith-building turns this conversation took.  

What struck me was a comment that my (newly engaged!!) friend Jessica made once everyone else left. Jessica confessed that, to her, God never felt MORE real than when she saw great sufferings around her.  She said it is then that she feels the Holy Spirit in her, prompting her to step in and meet needs.  And she sees other Christians feeling the same thing... not stopping to ogle at the horror of it all and then walk away, but feeling empowered by Jesus to be used by Him, and to bring His help & His compassion to whomever has a need.

For us who live by faith, nothing should be hopeless.  Christ rose from the dead.  His conquering death symbolizes His victory over evil, sin, sickness, and any horror we can imagine.  If we truly believe we have His Holy Spirit living in us, then there is no suffering too great for us to give ourselves to.  He has already conquered it, whether we see it or not.  So we can be confident that there is no lost cause... nothing we cannot do, by His power.  

Let's pray together that God fill us with the FAITH that moves mountains... faith that feeds the hungry, takes in widows & orphans, speaks truth in love, cares for the sick.   "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" - Mark 9:24

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Picture of Poverty

I posted a Bible verse yesterday regarding OUR responsibility to ACT, once we know the pain that is in this world.  In light of that verse, I am posting this picture.  Now we have seen it with our own eyes.  I've never seen anything quite like this.



Here is the story behind the picture, which I've copied from another blog.  I don't post this to be morbid, but because I do think it is so easy to blind ourselves to the needs God has more than equipped us to help with.  If you find this disturbing, then let's be disturbed enough to act in compassion!

Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer prize winning photo taken in 1993 during the Sudan famine, the picture depicts a famine stricken child being stalked by a vulture, the child is crawling toward a united nations food camp, located a kilometer away.
No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer who left the scene as soon as the photo was taken. He later confided to friends that he wished he had intervened. Journalists at the time were warned never to touch famine victims for fear of disease.
Three months later, and only two weeks after being bestowed with the Pulitzer Prize, Kevin Carter committed suicide.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why YOU should also adopt :)

Depending on who you ask, there are between 143 & 147 million orphans in the world. Now you know. So why should you adopt? Read the amazing verse below in two translations:

“Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,” [i.e. "that's not for me"] will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know— Someone not impressed with weak excuses.” -Proverbs 24:12 (The Message)

“Once our eyes are opened we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act.” Proverbs 24:12

Monday, November 16, 2009

What Is a Blessing?

We had a great talk in our small group about how we distort the definition of a blessing.  We finally agreed that "blessing" is anything that points us to God & teaches us to depend on Him.  Which means that prosperity is not necessarily a blessing, since it does the opposite... Prosperity can make us feel in control. Self sufficient.  It distorts the beautiful truth that we rest in God's hands.  Losing a job, then, or facing life-threatening disease, may be some of the greatest blessings God ever gives us, if they cause us to rely Him.  Knowing God, and depending on Him as Father, after all, is the greatest joy we could ever know... even if the journey to knowing Him has MAJOR growing pains.  So... are you REALLY ready to pray that God bless you?  :)

This whole discussion got an old Caedmon's Call song in my head:

I get turned around
And I mistake my happiness for blessing.
I'm blessed as the poor
But still I judge success by how I'm dressing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adoption Quote

Oh wow. I read this quote, and my heart screamed, YES, YES, THIS IS TRUE! THIS IS WHAT IS ALREADY HAPPENING TO ME!  Let me tell you, if you take ONE STEP towards adoption, JUST ONE, then God will open His floodgates and start a work in your heart, even before you are ever CLOSE to holding your little child.  What's even greater about this quote is that it isn't talking about one individual's changing heart, but about an entire CHURCH changing through starting an orphan ministry. God, awaken the hearts of our churches through orphan ministries!!

"As our church grows excited about orphan ministry, I see people understanding the character of God more. I feel that we are coming to grasp the love of God more deeply.  I also see it growing our understanding of biblical love -- that it involves real sacrifice; it gives like God does to those who have no way to pay you back.  The impact spills out beyond the church.  People outside our church that you never would have expected are intrigued, asking questions, because they're seeing the adoptions and care for the foster kids.  It really gives the church a more powerful testimony to the community."

Daniel Bennett, paster of Bethany Community Church in Peoria, IL

Friday, November 13, 2009

OUR FINAL SOCIAL WORK VISIT!



We had our final social worker visit yesterday, & it went GREAT!!!! One step down, many to go. Woohoo! And we MAY know the sex of our baby!!! Read on!

Here are the highlights:

  • There is a very good chance that we’ll still be able to travel in the summer. Thank you, God! Please keep praying.

  • We’ll stay at Bridge Africa.

  • We’ll adopt through Loving Hearts Baby Home.

  • We’ve requested a baby between 4 and 14 months, and we’ve said our ideal is 4 to 6 months. (Although Brad did bring up a good point... if you were running a Christian orphanage, wouldn't you try to adopt out the oldest age on everyone's profile, so that the babies wouldn't "age out" of their adoptable prime? So we figure, based on nothing but conjecture, that our child will be around a year old.)

  • There is a very good chance that the sex of our baby will be…. Can you guess???.... what do you think??... a boy! We’re open to either, but most of the families adopting from Loving Hearts through our agency right now are requesting girls, which makes us think we’d be likely to get a boy. Who knows!?! It's fun to think that we have a hint, though!
In any case, thank you for your continued prayers. We’re on cloud 9!

UPDATE: I just read Brad's blog & laughed... amusing to see how differently we heard the exact same facts. We apparantly are unclear on the details, but we know that we heard a lot of GOOD NEWS either way!! :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Change America Through Adoption


SIDE NOTE: Our "home tour" & last of 4 social worker meetings for our adoption is today!!! I'll post updates soon!

The ABBA Fund guys recently figured out how to wipe out the US waiting children list!!! If every American Southern Baptist church adopted 1 to 3 children, they'd adopt all 130,000 waiting U.S. children!! (& that's just with the help of one denomination!)  By the way, the cost of adopting most waiting children in the US is $0!!!

Imagine the impact this would have on America. 130,000 precious souls taken out of the desperation that often leads to crime, pain, poverty, and hopelessness.  130,000 precious souls instead exposed to the hope that comes from the love of God through a forever family, and exposed to the gospel!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nervous

We got some adoption news that made me nervous yesterday.  Our goal is to travel in the summer so Caroline can stay with my mom, who is a school teacher, while we're gone about 4 weeks. I want her in one safe, consistent, & loving place while we're gone. I won't have her shuffled around when she will already have a hard enough time being left.

We'd recently put our adoption on hold to focus on building our house & the CPA exam, realizing that we could do this & still travel in June.  What we failed to do was first take care of fingerprinting for FBI clearance and for Child Abuse & Neglect clearance (CANs).

So yesterday we realilzed we're in a time crunch. These fingerprints clear anywhere between two to four months of sending them.  If ours clear in two, & if the rest of the process goes as smoothly as possible, then there is a chance we could still travel in June.  If it takes four months, we wouldn't leave until mid-August. This is when my mom starts school.

It makes me nervous. But God will work His plan. Maybe He'll work it out how we hope, or maybe He has a plan that is far better -- though scarier-- than what we planned for ourselves.

Sorry about the spelling errors. I am in a rush today! Please say a prayer for us.

Please pray that our delay won't make the adoption process more difficult on Caroline while we leave her for Uganda.  Please pray that we go to get our child at exactly the moment God lovingly planned.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog World

Well, I seem to have become quite the blogger addict. It’s true. But I have some very valid excuses for my behavior. For starters, I’m going to pop if I don’t talk about adoption. It is a passion, and it rarely comes up in conversation unless someone already knows that we’re adopting! Secondly, I want people to read my blog & PERHAPS think a little harder about adopting a child of their own. For those already adopting, I want to be a resource where they can hear of other’s experiences -- & especially expose them to how the gospel is revealed through adoption, if they hadn't already heard about that aspect. (I can still remember the first Ugandan adoption blog I ever found… I read every adoption post from start to finish in one day, happily sobbing!)

Anyway, in order for anyone to find my blog & POSSIBLY find any value in it, I have heard that you need to post often. For keywords to come up in google searches, etc, you need to be VERY consistently blogging. Since I am about to explode with adoption thoughts anyway, that’s easy enough.

So if you know me personally & wonder why Rachel so suddenly & deeply sank into the computer world, well, there it is. Don’t worry. I’m still here in the real world, too!

Monday, November 9, 2009

How Our "In Country" Process May Go

Woohoo! I found a blog about a couple CURRENTLY in Uganda going through the court process of adopting 2 children, and it gives me a better idea of what our timeline MAY be like when we go in early June. Here's how theirs is playing out:

  • Day 1, Oct. 23 - Fly out. They only got word to fly the DAY before!
  • Day 2, Oct. 24 - Arrive after 29 1/2 hour trip (from Canada).
  • Day 5, Oct. 27 - 1st court date for 1st child. (They waited for hours for the late judge, & there was a lot of legal arguing that scared them until their lawyer said he thought it had all gone very well!)
  • Day 6, Oct 28 - 1st court date for 2nd child.
  • Day 14ish?? - Wife leaves to go take care of children at home, while husband stays with children in Uganda
  • Day 18, Nov 9 - (Today) They EXPECT to receive their final rulings on both children. We'll watch to see what happens!
  • They'll be waiting on their visas to leave the country, from what I understand. It sounded like they're praying to leave within a week after Nov 9 court ruling???

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy Orphan Sunday!

Happy Orphan Sunday!!! November 8th is part of the worldwide movement where churches recognize the indescribable love our FATHER had for us to seek us out and adopt us as His own children.  This moves us to compassion to do the same for the orphans of this world.

Our church has not yet celebrated an Orphan Sunday. I am dying for them to in 2010!!!! How incredible would it be to see the adoptive families of our church give testimony to what God has done, and to hear sermons on our own adoption… how incredible to see people moved to faith in God by realizing His Fatherly love for us, & to see Christians moved to adopt sweet orphans from around the globe!!!


The Orphan Sunday website is an incredible resource. They have everything needed to bring awareness to your church – both to the doctrine of adoption, and the practical loving act of physical adoption. They have sermon outlines, Sunday school lessons, promotional posters, etc. Start praying today about next year… Orphan Sunday 2010! Let’s bring it to our churches!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Loving Uganda


When I was at my brother-in-laws wedding, I met a girl whose family was from Uganda. She grew up in the UK and was the elegant girlfriend of one of the groomsmen. She had beautiful brown skin and a graceful demeanor, and I was so drawn to her for the sake of wanting a link to my child. I realize how desperate I am for any thread of connection to our baby. We talked about Kampala and what travelers should know, mostly because it kept me from asking the embarrassing questions that leapt into my mind.

I wanted to ask her whether Ugandans have a certain “look” – to find out whether I was looking into a face similar to that of our son/daughter. (But then I imagined someone telling me that they were adopting from Alabama, and were wondering whether their child would look like me. What a dumb question!) I did tell her she was beautiful, and I think she knew what I was getting at. She said that Eastern Africans are beautiful people, which made me proud of our precious little one whom I have not seen.

What is this love I have for Ugandans? Is this common among those adopting internationally? I didn’t expect to love the entire country. – Especially since I ascribe to Russ Moore’s views about heritage – that this baby’s heritage will be the same as Caroline’s heritage. I long to go there. I can’t tell if it is simply a longing for anything related to my child, or if it represents to me the one area of life where I know I am in God’s will, or if it is truly a draw to the Ugandans as a people.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

147 Million Orphans

I recently told you all to buy stuff at http://www.147millionorphans.com/ .  I was premature. NOW their site is up & running, and here's more good news: They have a fundraising program for adopting/fostering families! Raise orphan awareness and funds at the same time!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Child Sacrifices in Uganda


My brother just sent me this article about the rise in child sacrifices in Uganda due to increasing reliance on witchcraft and a time of famine.  Wow.  To say that we are numb to the world's problems is an understatement.

My dad then sent me a blog link which listed some sobering statistics about the state our children live in worldwide.  I think of all of the reasons I may, down the road, think we cannot adopt an additional child: our town's school system is inferior to the expensive private school systems; we don't have a big enough house; it may change our standard of living.  Then I read these numbers -- precious children -- and I pray that God would open our eyes to what REALLY matters, and that any decision we make will always be based on His standards.  Read the below list with a prayerful heart, and we just might learn to feel for the world God created. (for the full blog, click here.)

  •  1 billion people live on less than $1 a day; 2.7 billion live on less than $2 a day; in most of these areas, the population in 50% children
  • Child soldiers - 250,000 (I'll post on this in relation to Uganda soon)
  • Child labor - 218 million
  • Children in sex trades - 1.8 million children
  • Children living without parents on the street - 100 million, as a conservative estimate.
  • Children under 15 living with AIDS - 2.3 million
  • New children infected with AIDS DAILY - 1,000
  • Children orphaned by AIDS by 2010 - 25 million

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brett Dennen

Brett Dennen is a songwriter Brad introduced me to when Caroline was a newborn.  One of the first songs she clearly enjoyed was his, as we'd dance her tears away to the line "I'll be the one who loves you most."

My sister just sent me a link to this video of another song, which was already a favorite of mine because of the lyrics. From what I can tell, he is searching for truth and not yet a Christian... I say "yet" because if he is not one already, then God is still using him to sing songs that scream out the gospel without him even knowing it. "There ain't no reason things are this way [...] but love will come set me free, I know it will."

On top of the amazing lyrics, the images in this video blew me away. Lately, I feel like one of those people in the video... the ending is enough to make you weep, and wake us all up to the reality of what we ignore in this world! Please watch the video!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Under 7 Months!!!

Check out the ticker on our page... we're crossing under the "7 months to go" mark on our adoption countdown!!!  Woohoo!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Santa, Please?



This is what I asked Brad for as a Christmas gift. I THINK I like the cross best?? I'd put it on a pretty chain & wear it daily!!! If you're adopting and are interested, this site has sterling charms for many countries and/or adoption situations.(Click & then scroll waaay down.) We may not be able to feel a baby kicking every day, but wouldn't this necklace be a sweet reminder of our coming child!?