Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Part 2: HIV: I Want that Kind of Faith

Several months after Sampson rocked my view of HIV, the blog world kept nudging the subject under my nose. Baby Josie Love came home from Uganda with HIV, and proved to be her family’s endless delight. Heck, she made me giggle with joy every time I saw pictures and stories about her.

Other mamas did not come straight out and say whether their children were HIV positive, but because the topic was on my brain, I could tell that they were inferring this fact.

The common thread between all of the mamas who had adopted HIV+ children was this: endless love and joy. Some of them were tired, some of them were thrilled… but they all felt abundantly blessed. God was taking them on an amazing ride. A ride where He was in control. A ride where they couldn’t care less what the world thought of them. They couldn’t care less about stigmas. They were done with fear and didn’t worry about contamination. They were in love with their children. God was doing amazing things. He was freeing them to love. And they were living a full life in Him.

I wanted that.

Bad.

I wanted that freedom. I wanted that reliance on God. I wanted to see the miracle of a sweet child gaining health and love through the working of Christ in my life.

So I began to research.

In my heart, I knew that the “facts” about HIV were the least relevant pieces of the puzzle. All that is relevant is what God calls us to. If God tells us to do something frightening, we can feel confident to jump in without fear. If you want to bless a child for the sake of obedience and joy in Christ, then of course God is going to be pleased with that. It doesn’t matter what the statistics say, or what the doctors say, or what the critics say, or what the advocates say. If God wants us to help the “least of these,” then let’s stop dragging our feet and JUST DO SOMETHING already!

As I began to research, this one thought kept pervading my thoughts:

If, on the streets one day, I found a tiny baby dying of AIDS, would I take her in? Would I love her? Would I call her mine? My answer, of course, was a resounding “yes!”
I knew that this hypothetical baby would probably not show up on our street or doorstep, but I knew that REAL babies all over the world were facing this disease, without medical care or even proper nutrition. And I knew I could love them. And that I live in a country with the resources to care for them. So I thought… perhaps we should PURSUE them. Why not PURSUE love?

There was only one obstacle.

My husband.

Don’t judge him. I don’t truly mean he was a REAL obstacle. He was only an obstacle in MY MIND. I hadn’t talked to him about my thoughts yet. In my mind, I wondered whether he would agree with my logic. What would he say when I talked to him about pursuing a baby with HIV?

If he was going to argue with me, then I would need to be armed with knowledge.

And so, my research began.

In my next post, I’ll share with you what I learned… I was amazed at how outdated my knowledge was. Most of America has a view of HIV that is as outdated as acid-washed jeans and 1980's frizzed hair, (as one wise mama once pointed out!) I hope God blesses you with the following posts.




    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Part 1: How God Opened Our Hearts to HIV

    In February, when we weren’t sure whether Ugandan adoption would ever work again, Brad and I saw the picture of an HIV positive two year old boy from Ghana. He was breath taking. Precious. And he needed parents.


    In a small way, I loved Sampson instantly. I think anyone would have. His big round eyes begged for you to hold him, and we wanted to. We didn’t know if God was closing a door to Uganda, and nothing looked more inviting than his little face. But… what do we do with the phrase “HIV+”? By the time Brad and I struggled, and then emailed for more information, a loving family had already committed to pursue his adoption. I can’t say we were too disappointed… we weren’t sure whether we were “up” for the challenge of HIV. But God was starting something in us.

    Days later, I read on our agency’s blog that Sampson had died of malaria… a totally preventable and treatable disease in the U.S.

    I sat in my living room and sobbed. We were not his parents, and my heart ached for those who had planned to be. While he was never meant to be ours, I could still picture that precious little face running through our kitchen. HIV was no longer a stigma in my mind. Heartbreaking, yes, but a game-changer for my love? Never again. Sampson’s face had beautifully wrecked that view in our minds.

    I think God used Sampson’s precious face, life, and death to awaken many hearts like ours. I have seen his story on several blogs. In my own soul, I finally told God “yes” to special needs children.

    In the months after Sampson's death, I wondered whether we should change our adoption route. As we thought about the implications of pursuing a child with HIV, we began the quest for information. I spoke with many mothers to HIV+ children. Brad and I met behind closed doors with doctors at the local infectious disease clinic. We read countless medical articles regarding the life and care of those with HIV.

    In the next several days, I want to share with you some of the lessons that we learned.

    Amelia does not have HIV. From what we can tell, she is a perfectly healthy baby. When we started our adoption process, long before seeing Sampson, we checked a literal “no” box in regards to HIV, and this "no" was attached to our home study, CIS approval, and will eventually be attached to Amelia's visa. By the time sweet Sampson caused us to reconsider this, it was nearly time to receive a referral, and our adoption process had already stretched longer than we’d ever dreamed. For that reason, we did not change routes.

    Because we are not the parents to a child with HIV, we have the freedom to speak out for those who are.

    We do not have a family member with HIV, but my heart burns with passion on the subject. And since no one in our family faces this disease, we are free to speak loudly where others may face stigma. I hope you will stay with me in the days that follow. You will probably be shocked, and hopefully empowered, by what you learn.

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Intro: A Series is Born

    I have never before done a "series" within my blog.  But a certain topic has weighed so heavily on my heart for the past many months... and so a series is born.  This series is about adoption and HIV.  It is for YOU to read. Whoever you are.  Whether or not adoption is your "thing," whether or not HIV is interesting to you... I hope you'll be blessed to read this.  I pray that God will use it to drop the stigmas, to open our eyes, and to open our arms. 

    So for the next several days, read on.  Here is what is to come.


    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    Amelia's Famous Smile


    Other than this tiny tidbit, we haven’t gotten any updates on Amelia since her referral.  So imagine my joy when I received a group picture of ALL of the babies and ALL of the workers from her home! She is a tiny blip in BOY clothes on the front row, but that tiny blip is making me smile ear-to-ear, for the second day in a row! (We also heard that a worker thinks she and another baby there have "famous smiles.")

    OH how I love my precious Amelia Lou! 

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Thank You, Lion King

    A Ugandan travel site suggested a few helpful phrases that I might learn before our trip to Uganda. Thanks to Disney’s The Lion King, I already knew a couple. The song “Hakuna Matata” taught us to say “no worries/no problem!”

    Later in the movie, monkey Rafiki is in the woods mumbling some nonsense song: “Asante sana, squish banana…” Turns out that “asante sana” means “thank you very much.”

    Brad’s brother gave Caroline a Ugandan onesie after his trip there that taught us “Jambo” or “hello/welcome!”

    So to Brad’s brother and those at Disney, THANK YOU for teaching us some common phrases from Uganda. Or, perhaps I should say “asante sana.”


    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Growing Up in Photos

    I often use this blog as a forum for “the Goode family” adoption woes. I can be pretty selfish that way. It’s all about me. It’s my blog, after all. But my heart has been broken lately for some of the Mama’s I mentioned yesterday.

    Did you realize that many of the families adopting from our babies’ home have been holding pictures of their babies for over HALF OF A YEAR!? Did you know that some of these children will have their SECOND birthday before their parents can get to them? Sure, I know people adopt older children all of the time, but these families intended to adopt babies. They wanted to hold their children from their very early days of life. Since then, they’ve fallen in love with the toddlers they were matched with, only to watch more time slip away because of bureaucracy and red tape. Imagine the pain of watching YOUR child grow up on another continent through occasional pictures.

    These families are waiting on court appointments so they can fly to Uganda and wrap their arms around the children God has entrusted to them. These parents daily walk past empty cribs, and new clothes that have become too small. Some of their journeys started with infertility, adding to the pain of this lengthy journey towards parenthood. Others already have children who ask daily when their siblings will come home.

    WILL YOU PRAY that the court systems begin to move, and QUICKLY? Will you ask others to pray? We all need your prayers. We have no power over this situation. God holds it in His hands. Yes, we ask for God’s glory first. We ask for His will. But we also ask for His mighty hand to MOVE. PLEASE join us. Hearts are breaking. We are asking for your help. God is MIGHTY, and LOVING, and POWERFUL. HE can do it! Please join us as we pray in faith!

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Walking Together

    As our adoption process stretches on, my heart grows for those families who are in this journey with us… families across the U.S. whose babies live in the same babies’ home as Amelia, who will use the same Ugandan attorney that we will use, and who will stay in the same facility we will stay in once we travel to Uganda.


    No adoption is the same. Each country works so differently, and even agencies within the same country can take you through totally different steps and experiences. Sometimes, it can feel isolating. In February, who understood how devastating it felt to wonder whether adoption from Uganda would ever be possible again? Not many people knew that pain… not many people understood that, to us who were in love with babies we’ve never held, it truly felt like a threatened miscarriage.

    I suppose that is why this group of parents is so special to me. Just to know that they’re out there, and that they understand our very unique situation. They feel the bizarre emotions that we’re feeling. And perhaps sweetest of all – their babies are playing with our baby.

    I’ve spoken with many of these Mamas through email, and with a couple of them briefly on the phone. I am rooting for those who have held pictures of their sweet ones for half a year or more, long before we had to start missing Amelia by face. I look forward to meeting many of them in person… Sara and her family, who will probably travel with us… Michelle and Toria, who live in my home town… Melissa, who has family near us and often thoughtfully sends any trace of information she can find about our little ones. And for those families who are far behind us in the process? I whisper a prayer for God to hold them steady during the bumps ahead.


    I am learning some beautiful things. In life, you need others. Above all, you need God. And I am so thankful that He has connected us with sweet friends to walk this road that He is taking us on.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Husbands

    Poor Brad.

    If you haven’t read Amy Block’s post about “reluctant husbands,” it is worth your time to read. No, Brad is not reluctant about adoption. He is in love with Amelia. But Amy’s post showed me that my materialism could be a major hindrance to Brad’s ability to chase after all that God calls us to in life.

    Lately, jewelry has been a big topic of my joking with friends. As girls, we superficially love some bling. Since many friends are now pregnant or engaged, there is ample opportunity to discuss “Push Presents,” anniversary gifts, and other jewelry.

    Before you start thinking that we’re sinful and graspy, remember this: There is nothing wrong with appreciating jewelry. There is nothing wrong with owning it and loving it. I bet that even Jesus can appreciate the sweetness of a gorgeous piece of jewelry given by an adoring husband.

    Still, my heart has been convicted lately.

    Why?

    Because I am more materialistic that I want to be.


    You see, as much as my jewelry conversations with friends are a joke, I still walk away hoping for a certain 5 year anniversary present. And as proud as I get that I’ve spent so little on clothes in past years, my heart reveals that it wants, wants, wants the best fashions out there. And as much as I wish for our lives to be extraordinary for Christ, I also want to keep our big house, and someday actually fill it up!

    Yet, when I close my eyes and imagine who I’d be if God TOTALLY set me free, all of the material things go away. I picture myself owning little, giving much, and feeling peace. Part of me actually aches for that. The other part of me? Well, it’s materialistic.

    So how do I ever get the GOOD part of me satisfied? How does my life become all that it could be in Christ – all that I ache for? And how do Brad and I ever get on the same page about what that life looks like when I am begging for radical Christianity out one side of my mouth, while materialism spills out the other?

    Here’s the answer:

    It won’t happen.

    I can’t have both.

    Having both is impossible.

    We have to pick the good. Only the good. We can only run towards Christ. We have to lay our selfish desires at His feet, and let Him free us. What is a ring, or a big house, or a great outfit, compared to being IN STEP with our loving Creator?  Can you imagine with me how it will feel when we are free!? Jesus, let it be soon.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Thanks for Stopping By!

    The other day, a sweet friend grimaced as she asked me for the latest on our adoption process. She admitted that she was nervous to ask me, because she felt guilty that she hadn’t read my blog recently.

    Just an FYI for future reference… I am no one special, and I certainly do not expect anyone to keep up daily with my crazy blog ramblings. I am just so flattered that you ever stopped by!

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Green Thumbs Up

    I realize that this is mostly an adoption blog, or at most, a Christian blog. I admit that I am about to be totally off subject.  But I figure someone reading this has to love gardening, plants, nature, and landscapes.


    My brother, (the amazing landscape architect,) has an incredible blog. http://www.groundeddesign.com/ I can’t make basil grow in a pot, yet I still love to read his blog. Really. Go read it. 

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Mercy vs. Grace


    MERCY withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac.
    GRACE provides a ram in the thicket.
         Genesis 22:11-14


    MERCY runs to forgive the prodigal.
    GRACE throws a party with a robe, a ring, and a fatted calf.
         Luke 15:20-24


    MERCY hears the cry of the thief on the cross.
    GRACE promises paradise that very day.
         Luke 23:38-43


    MERCY converts Paul on the road to Damascus.
    GRACE calls him to be the great apostle.
         Acts 9:1-6, 17


    MERCY closes the door to hell.
    GRACE opens the door to heaven.
         Ephesians 2:8-9



    and the difference between mercy and grace is this


    MERCY withholds from us what we deserve.
    GRACE gives us what we do not deserve.
         Romans 5:20


    Dr. David Jeremiah
    Turning Point Ministries

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Worth the Wait

    I am a brat.

    I saw baby wearing a "Worth the Wait" onesie yesterday, and I wanted to turn to her mother and say, "DUH she was worth the wait! She's a precious baby and you ONLY waited for 9 months!! How hard is that!?  We're looking at an AT LEAST 19 month wait if we're lucky."

    Like I said, I'm a brat. I know it. That's why I didn't verbalize my thoughts. For all I know, this poor mother waited for 5 years before she even became pregnant, and I may know nothing of waiting in comparison to her.

    But I do have to say... our 9 month wait for Caroline was a cinch. Adoption is hard, hard, hard. Beautiful. But did I mention, HARD!?

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    One Month

    As of today, we have been gazing at pictures of our beautiful Amelia for exactly a month. It has been heaven. When we started the adoption process nearly 16 months ago, (yes, SIXTEEN MONTHS!!!) the plan was to receive our referral LAST SPRING, and then travel SHORTLY AFTER being matched with our child. 

    Um, in case you didn't notice, things haven't gone as planned.

    When I think about how far that original plan has derailed, I can get pretty sad and frustrated. That is, UNTIL I realize that, had we had it our way, we would've been matched with a different child.

    No thank you.

    Amelia is OUR baby girl, and that is for sure! I'll take a thousand delays to get OUR daughter over the fast track to "just any child."  God is working His will, of that I am sure!

    (Now, will one of you please remind me of that the next time I get sad and frustrated!?)

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    The Nightmare Continues

    For 20 years, Joseph Kony’s army tormented Uganda, killing and kidnapping thousands. He particularly targets children, forcing them to murder, abduct, and molest others.

    Joseph Kony has been forced out of Uganda in recent years, and is now setting his sights on rebuilding his army of children by terrorizing the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    This kind of evil is unfathomable. Click here to read more.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    The Amelia Story

    Caroline:      When will we get Amelia?

    Me:      When it gets cold outside, and you are putting on a jacket every morning, you’ll know that it is almost time for Mama and Daddy to go to Africa.

    Caroline:     I'll go to Mimi and Pal’s house?

    Me:     Yes, it will be so fun! Mama and Daddy will go bye-bye, and you will play with Mimi and Pal for THIS MANY (holding up 10 fingers) days and nights!  THEN, after 10 days, guess who will come home to play with you?

    Caroline:     (eyes light up) I don’t know!!!

    Me:     Daddy!

    Caroline:      Daddy!!!

    Me:     Mama won't come home yet. Mama will still be gone.  Caroline and Daddy will get to have fun all by yourselves! Daddy will take you to school, and tickle you at night, and read you stories...

    (Caroline giggles.)

    Me:     ...  sometimes Daddy will take you to eat dinner with friends!

    Caroline:     Mr. Chris and Miss Jess?

    Me:     Sometimes! And Mama will still be gone. It will only be Caroline and Daddy. Where will Mama be?

    Caroline:     Africa?

    Me:     Yes. And one day, after a LONG time, Mama will come home!! Oh, I will be happy to see Caroline! I will hug you and kiss you and kiss you! (I pause and start to whisper.) And guess who else will come home with Mama?

    Caroline:     I don’t know! (but she is starting to get a low giggle, knowing exactly what is coming, since we tell this story all of the time.)

    Me:     (voice excited) Who is Mama going to bring home to our house from Africa?

    Caroline:     (even more excited, giggles growing) I don’t know!!!

    Me:     You know. Who is coming to live here forever and be your little sister?

    Caroline:     (laughing hard) AMELIA!!!

    Me:     Yes, Amelia! And you are going to play with her, and kiss her, and laugh with her, and hold her!

    Caroline:     (laughing VERY hard) Her gonna be so HEAVY!!!!

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    She Gets It!

    Our sweet two-year-old Caroline totally comprehends that she’s getting a little sister. Why shouldn’t she? We’re not pointing at my belly, confusing her with abstract talk of pregnancy and ultrasounds. We have real photographs of Amelia holding toys, sitting in swings, and sleeping in others’ arms.

    Caroline LOVES to tell others that she has a “little sister in Africa. Her name Amelia Mercy Lou.” She daily asks to look at Amelia’s pictures, and asks to hear stories about what life with Amelia will be like. She pretends that she is changing Amelia’s diaper, and even pretends to BE Amelia.

    Caroline has eased some of my worries by HAPPILY passing toys, clothes, and her “crib room” along to Amelia. Only once has she insisted that “Amelia will share” when talking about a particular toy that Caroline still uses … And I suppose Amelia can share. It’s a small price to pay for having the best big sister she could ask for!

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Moby Wrap

    Carriers are supposed to be very helpful with adoption bonding. If you've researched carriers or tried one of your own, I'd love some advice.  I am considering this "Moby Wrap" for me and Amelia...


    ... and I am considering this kid's version for Caroline and her babies, haha! How cute is this!?


    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    John 12:36

    While you have the light,
    believe in the light,
    that you may become
    sons of light.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Jay and Adoption

    Another family has inquired about adopting “Jay.”

    Wow.

    Our prayer is that he find a family and his God-given place in life, regardless of whether that life includes us. We're not legally available to adopt him while in process to adopt Amelia, so of course we want other families to consider loving him forever.

    I’ve felt so guilty about our relationship with Jay ever since we got our referral for Amelia. We are head-over-heels in love with Amelia, because we know she is designated to be ours. But what is the healthy emotional balance with Jay, who may or may not be adopted by another family?

    I truly love and enjoy Jay. But I often feel anxious about him, wondering whether we’re all going to be hurt in this process… wondering whether I rely on Christ enough to have the love, strength, and wisdom I need to navigate this situation.

    I know what I need. I need to fix my eyes on a God who is bigger than this situation, bigger than our life stories, bigger than any hopes Jay or our family may have. Please pray that we can rest in the love of the God who writes each page of history.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Agh...

    All week, I keep wishing I were living in some third world country, (AFRICA!) serving God instead of procrastinating on my dirty dishes and filling in spreadsheets. I cannot wait to go to Uganda.  It is so easy to forget what really matters here!!

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Haiti. Thankful to Wait.

    When people discover that we are adopting, and especially when they hear that our process has been delayed again and again, they offer us sympathetic eyes. They usually say, “It’s a shame that ‘they’ make it take so long, and make it cost so much when there are so many children who need homes.”

    I wish it were so simple. The truth is that there are two sides to every story, and that there is a valid case both for hastening adoption and for the laws that often slow it down.


    Look no further than this article, which shows the negative repercussions caused by America’s hurried adoption attempts from Haiti after the earthquakes. Yes, God worked many adoption miracles through the quake aftermath. But like I said, there are two sides to every story. Maybe I should even find some gratitude for our long, long wait for Amelia.

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Go Buy This!

    If you're adopting from Uganda, you will cherish this photo book, as well as the stories inside.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Amelia's First Present

    Right after receiving our referral, my sweet friend Jessica brought a pink zebra toy/blanket with Amelia's name monogrammed across the bottom. (somewhat similar to what is pictured here.)


    Caroline LOVES to snuggle with "Amelia's blanket." We heard that it's good to bring a snuggling item that smells like our home to Uganda. That way, Amelia can get used to the scent of "home" weeks before arriving. We hope it eases the transition for our baby girl.