Wow…a month already!

I thought I would try to give a quick update about what’s going on at the Parks’ house.  We have been home a little over a month with Elliott.  We have had many new “adventures” since Elliott joined our family.  The first couple of weeks were extremely hard as we dealt with and worked on several different things:  helping Elliott use sign language at mealtimes instead of screaming through them all, helping Elliott gain comfort with riding in cars, going outside, baths, diaper changes, putting on pjs, and putting on shoes ( instead of screaming through them all!), helping Ryan adjust to sharing a room, helping Ryan learn not to put anything (no matter how kind hearted the intent) in Elliott’s crib with him at night—no books, no wipes, no stuffed animals, etc…, helping Ryan adjust to his nap/rest time being in the bonus room in a special tent while Elliott napped in the boys’ room, and helping Anna adjust to having two younger brothers!

Dr. Karyn Purvis, an expert on adoption issues, bonding, and connecting, encourages new adoptive parents to spend much of the first two months just being with their newest family member as much as possible.  She talks about how infants naturally get the time at home all day with their mommies, especially if nursing, and how children who are adopted can “catch up” on many of the things they missed out on as babies like rocking, being fed, being sung to, etc…  We believe that our family needs a little more time of just being at home (and at the various dr. offices) while we continue to foster some bonding and continue to adjust.  Elliott will be us for the rest of his life and will have lots of opportunities to make friends and get out and about, so we see absolutely no reason to rush these first precious times. 

 I have had several local and far away friends ask about how I am doing since I haven’t been around and have been pretty silent on email, Facebook, and on the phone.  I am doing well!!  I am very busy just meeting and trying to understand the needs of all three children while also maintaining our house (food, laundry, etc…).  I will certainly be ready to return to the fellowship and study at church when we feel like Elliott is ready.  Since a church nursery has many similarities for Elliott to his orphanage setting (lots of children, fewer workers, shared toys, etc…) we do not want to push him into the setting before we think he is ready.  We also cannot predict what behaviors may come out once he is back in that setting again!  Also, we want to strengthen the bond he has with us by us meeting all of his needs including diaper changes and feeding, before someone else meets those needs for him (even if just for an hour or so). 

God has given me such wonderful friends. One friend knows how lonely Sunday mornings can be when everyone is having fellowship at church and you are not able to come Sunday after Sunday and she has come and visited with me and Elliott during one hour of church.  What a blessing to me!  Other friends have continued to email me prayers they have lifted for us during this transition.  Just reading the words of their prayers has encouraged my heart and connected me with them in Christian fellowship.  A few others have come and stayed while Elliott and I visit many of the various doctors all over Raleigh.   So far he has just been to several screenings.  We have seen our ped several times, an orthopedic specialist (we were released from him last week), we have a vision check with a ped ophthalmologist next week as well as a check with an ENT and a visit to the endocrinologist to check for a very low vitamin D level as well as to check a few other things.  After that we will head to a cardiologist to check out the possible heart issue and then on to the neurologist to investigate the medical file stating that one stomach of the brain (a little background…we still have no idea what the Ukrainian drs meant when they were talking about stomachs of the brain, so it will be another new adventure…for the record-we are not at all concerned about Elliott’s health at this point!) was enlarged when Elliott was younger.  I am praying that a month or so from now we will be done with the many dr. offices and will be able to be cleared to just routine visits. 

 We still covet your prayers for Elliott to bond with us as his mommy and daddy and sister and brother.  Also for the wisdom of all of the doctors we will see over the coming months.  Finally, I covet your prayers for Jon and I to continue to grow stronger in or marriage in the midst of the many transitions and challenges we face each day.  My personal prayer is that each morning I will wake up and remember that I need God just as desperately as I did each day while we were in the Ukraine.  I pray that my false sense of control or comfort will not overshadow my real need for a loving God and His grace and provision and wisdom on a daily basis.  God is certainly at work in mighty ways in our family and I want to be sure that I do not miss out on His plans.  While in the Ukraine, Jon and I both read much of the book, Crazy Love by Francis Chan in which he talks about how everyone’s life is really a drama in which God is the main character and we are each only the supporting actors in our own lives.  I want to keep that perspective and make sure I do not miss God at work in my life during these long days and new adventures!

What next???

Well, since receiving our SDA appointment date yesterday, our heads have been spinning.  The more we think through our travel and discuss what needs to be done, the more I realize we actually have more unknowns now than before.  Here are a few examples of some of the questions we’ve gotten since yesterday:

How long will you be there?  ( we have no true idea.  Anywhere from 13 days to 3 weeks depending on numerous factors outside of our control.  In fact, we have to book our return flight making sure we can easily change our plane tickets to accommodate a different date and possibly two additional passengers!)

Will you bring the children home when you come? ( we have no idea.  Whether or not we are able to bring the children home after this one trip depends on numerous factors outside of our control.  We may not even know for a week or longer once in the Ukraine if we will be coming home with our children this trip or not.)

Wow!  We do not know when in December we will be home.  We do not know if we will celebrate Christmas this year with four children at our house or two.  We do not know if we will have girls or boys or both from the Ukraine.  We do not have any idea how old they might be ( of course they will be between 1-4 years).  Other than the fact that we will be sitting in the SDA in Kiev on Thanksgiving morning at 9am, we just don’t know.

The more that sinks in, the more joyful I am that none of the additional details depends on me or my strength.  I cannot even imagine if the many details were on my shoulders to manage or even to decide.  How grateful I am to have a mighty, loving God who already knows the answers to every unknown that keeps coming into my mind.  I am able to peacefully (okay…somewhat peacefully:) rest and let go of any anxiety or burden I feel for the details.  God knows every answer to my many questions and has lovingly blessed us and reminded us of His power with the mere fact that we are traveling so soon and that our appointment is on Thanksgiving Day.  He is reassuring us how much He loves us and how He plans to prosper us ( in love) and not to harm us. 

If you are worrying or stressing about the unknowns in your life, no matter how great or small, I encourage you to get into God’s word and remember How mighty He is and remember His provision–you will be blessed as you remember who God is in your life!

How will I answer?

*Warning:  God is at work on my ungrateful heart.  Reading this post might open your eyes to how God might be working on yours, too!*

 I have given some thought over the past several months to how I might answer my children when, one day, he or she asks why they were an orphan in the Ukraine.  Thinking about that eminent question has caused me to realize like never before that God alone is the answer to the question as to why I was allowed to be born as a little girl in America to an affluent (compared to the world’s population) family who loved me and treated me well.  I had no choice in that matter and nothing in my own strength allowed me the privilege to be born in the United State to a loving family.  I could have born with the exact same talents and could have been given the same gifts and been born in China as a little girl.  My life would likely look very different than it does now.  I could have just as easily been born in the Ukraine to a mother who gave me up as an orphan to live in a state run orphanage.  The only difference is God. 

 I am not sure I will ever know or my children will ever know why God chose us to be born into different circumstances (at least we won’t know this side of heaven, and we probably won’t care once we’re in heaven!).  I am so honored, humbled, and grateful, however, that because I was born into this country into a loving family with all of the rights and privileges including schooling, nourishment, and spiritual development that go along with my upbringing, that I will be able to answer my child that at least one part of God’s plan for me being born into my circumstances have allowed me to answer his or her questions about why he was born into his.

Choosing not to see

I have chosen to sin for much of the day today.  And my sin not only separates my from my holy and loving God, but He detests it.  My sin has been my ingratitude, ungratefulness, and lack of  joy!  Let me share with you my short day so far:

Ryan woke me up around 3:30am and proceeded to have trouble getting settled back until I finally returned to bed around 5:40am.  Instead of singing God’s praises that I have a healthy son who still considers my singing and rocking to be his source of comfort, I quietly grumbled to myself and out loud grumbled to Jon about how tired I was.

Anna, who has been fighting a fever and vomiting for a couple of days, came skipping into my room around 7:00am–earlier than normal.  She was so clearly feeling much better and was over the worst of her sickness.  Instead of praising God for answering my prayer to heal her completely and quickly, I grumbled about how early it was, how energetic she was, and how tired I was (my grumbling was internal, but likely showed on my countenance).

After praying and waving goodbye to Jon as he took our dossier docs to be apostilled downtown, I continued to live in a state of mentally thinking about how tired I was.  Jon called around 9:00am or so to tell me that of our 23 docs taken for apostille, they rejected 14 of them for a minor wording issue by our notary.  Instead of rejoicing that we live in Raleigh and have the opportunity to take them again later today or tomorrow once corrected, I grumbled about how hard we had worked, how much time we had spent getting them “just right” and how much we needed them done quickly in order for our travel plans not to be impacted.

Suddenly, I began rushing around trying to print out new copies of the docs so we can fill them out, began trying to get the children ready to be gone for most-if not all, of the morning, began trying to carefully reread the directions again, began trying to contact our case manager at our agency to seek advice, and began trying to squelch my frustration with the whole situation.

By 10am we are on the road headed to meet Jon, fill out new forms, contact a notary, and get the forms notarized again.  Instead of pulling together for this, Jon and I both allowed some of our frustration about the entire situation to seep onto each other.

By 1:15pm, after an entire morning in the car and several phone calls and errands, Jon calls me to let me know he just dropped off the docs again for apostilling at the Secretary of State’s office downtown.  I sighed a breath of relief and continued driving for home to get the kids down for their rest time–since I was also exhausted!

By 2:30pm, the Holy Spirit had so convicted me of my attitude that I spent time in God’s word and realized how foolish, ungrateful, and quick to choose to sin I had been all day long. 

Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes and allowing me to see myself and You as You see me.  Thank you, Lord, that we have the privilege of adopting..thank you, Lord that your will is perfect and your timing is perfect, thank you, Lord, that you allowed so many miraculous things to happen all morning for us to even be able to get our docs turned in again today..thank you, Lord, for allowing me to see my selfishness and ingratitude, thank you, Lord for loving me and dying on the cross for my ugly, sinful heart.

Yes, Lord, I believe Your word is true.  I believe you are who you say you are, I believe in your love for me and your desire for my life to glorify You and You alone. 

I give thanks to all who have lifted us up today and our docs up today as well.  I will rest in God’s perfect timing and God’s perfect will for my life.  And I will sing praise to God despite the circumstances.

Help us bring them home!

As we continue to prepare to bring home our children, we continue to find opportunities to use the talents God has given us.  Our church, WCRBC, is having a Women’s Expo on Saturday, September 11th from 9-noon.  I am participating in this event and will be selling items with all proceeds going towards our adoption.  If you have been seeking an opportunity to partner with us to bring our children home, here is a unique chance.  I am having a Sewing Party this coming Tuesday at my house from 7:30 until around 10ish to finish sewing some items for the Expo.  I would love to have local ladies join me.  Bring a sewing machine if you have one…only very basic sewing skills are needed for this project.  If you have a willingness but no machine, you can come and cut fabric or iron fusible fleece for me!  Just  let me know if you can make it.  I am praying for God to bring a large number of women to help on Tuesday.

Even if I don’t want to…

I encourage you to take a minute and watch the next short video clip about children from hard places.  From everything I understand about the orphange conditions in the Ukraine, I cannot imagine I am going to easily want to maintain as much continuity and familiarity for our children as suggested.  I am sure my desire as their mother will be to try to swifly move them into feeling a new familiarity.  This video, however, reminded me to think about the children’s losses through their eyes.  When they first come home, to them, it may seem as if everything familiar (no matter how bad) has been removed or taken from them.  Familiar smells, familiar foods, familiar language, familiar music, familiar faces.  They are going to be thrown head first into a new culture with new grown-ups and kids whom they have never seen before.  Even as an adult who knows Christ, that would be hard for me to transition easily and without some sort of resistance.  I am so humbled to get even just a small glimpse of the sacrifice Christ made by leaving a sinless heaven where there is no pain, death, or evil in order to come to earth for me.  What a rotten place earth must have looked like to Jesus.  I can imagine that the orphanage may look like a rotten place to me, but to my children in the Ukraine, it may be the only stable familiar thing they have ever known.

Insight 3: Provide Familiarity and Continuity from Tapestry on Vimeo.

Insight 3: Provide Familiarity and Continuity from Tapestry on Vimeo.

Yes, simplify my life!

I have gotten a number of “shocked” looks recently as I have let people know that God has made it clear to me that I need to unload all of my outside-of-our house responsibilities as we prepare to bring our other children home.  At first, this may sound like a good reason to get out of tasks.  In reality, it is an admission that God is in control and a submission to His will as He authors our family.  I am not sure I can truly have appropriate expectations for what our family might face in the coming months.  As the first video stated, having virtually no expectations is the best scenario!  This video gave me a gentle confirmation that God wants my time and attention to be given to running our house, supporting Jon, and loving all four of my children.  Until all four of my children understand a mother’s love and what a family is, I cannot possibly serve or minister outside of our house to others during this season of transition. 

Again, my friend Jeanette who adopted Sara Beth from China a year ago, gives commentary on how she prepared to simplify her life and even her house and clutter in preparation for bringing Sara Beth home.  I encourage you to read her post by clicking here.

Insight 2: Simplify Your Life from Tapestry on Vimeo.

Educated on Adoption

You may not be seeking an education on adoption, adoptive families, or the adoption process, but taking a few minutes to watch this video  might help you realize that an education on adoption is actually an insight into people.  I have a high regard for Dr. Karyn Purvis and the work she does with children from hard places.  My friend, Jeanette, began posting these short videos daily along with some wonderful commentary on her blog.  I encourage you to check out her insights for this video by clicking here. Dr. Purvis has made several short videos related to different issues or challenges on adoption.  I urge you to take a minute or two each day to watch these videos over the course of the next week or two.  I will post a video for you to view as well as some commentary.  Please take this opportunity to gain insight into all people and give some specific thought to the fatherless!

Insight 1: Explore Your Expectations from Tapestry on Vimeo.

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

I have realized the more I follow some truly well-written blogs, the more I want to just direct my friends and family to them!  It isn’t that I do not feel like God has given me a voice of my own, I just sometimes feel like redirecting my own friends and family is the best option.  Let me now redirect you…Jon had an influential mentor with Young Life in high school named Mr. Finley.  Through a series of God orchestrated events, he has caught back up with Mr. Finley and his entire family online recently.  Interestingly enough, the Finleys adopted a daughter from the Ukraine last year.  Mr. Finley’s wife is a wonderful blogger, speaker, and writer who keeps a fantastic blog.  I encourage you to check it out at http://www.finleylifetothefull.com/ 

Back in May, Cindy Finley wrote a post about supporting adoptive families during the adoption process.  I encourage you to click here and read the entire post.  The meat of her advice was to pray, encourage, and serve them because adoption is hard.  I could not agree any more with her advice and her post!  Please read it and take an active role in caring for the orphans.  If you are interested, in addition to our own adoption process, I can tell you about several families who are currently oversees adopting or who are, like us, knee deep in paperwork and waiting. 

We are realizing first hand the paperwork hoops required.  Each time we think we have correctly completed a document, we find out there is a glitch.  Although this can be discouraging to us, we realize that the paperwork is just a minor, albeit important, hurdle to be taken conquered in order to bring home our children from the Ukraine…and we are willing to face any necessary hurdle for our children.

Called to Adopt?

Today when reading a facebook post from a friend, I found this link on her wall.  Monroe is in the Ukraine right now…just like our children.  I urge you to prayerfully read his story… 

“Monroe WILL be transferred in just six months time. That’s how long a family has to get to him.  The institution he will be moved to is known to be one of the worst in the country.  There is no way sweet Monroe can survive there.  Absolutely no way.”

To read the whole story from the blog No Greater Joy Mom click here.