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!

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.

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.

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.

Thoughts on July 4th and Adoption

July 4th is a wonderful time each year for our family.  We love to do the traditional things like grill out, make a trip to a pool and watch fireworks (lots and lots of fireworks!).  We also like to read through portions of the Declaration of Independence as a reminder of exactly why our nation was created and the principles that are important to us, especially the concept of freedom.

This year, however, I found my typical thoughts about July 4th focusing on what our children in the Ukraine will think about our American holiday once they are Americans.  To recap– when we adopt the children and bring them home with us, the moment they touch down on U.S. soil and pass through customs with their Citizenship and Immigration Service paperwork, they will become Americans– right away!  It’s exciting to know that I will be there at the exact moment that two of my children become American citizens!

So, this year, the children we’re adopting spent July 4th in an orphanage in the Ukraine, totally unaware of what July 4th means to Americans.  And next year, Lord willing, they will be in the United States, they will be Americans and they will be enjoying the holiday that celebrates freedom.  And they will do it while getting used to the idea of what their new country is all about.  Bottom line: even though the last round of fireworks is just about to die out for this year’s July 4th celebration, I’m already excited and looking forward to July 4th 2011!