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.

Why I Want to Adopt

A couple of days ago, you heard from Melinda about “A Mother’s Heart for Adoption.”  Mel’s heart has been very clear and strong from the beginning about how she feels about the adoption and I’m glad she was able to share some of it in the video.  And, in general, I believe that it is a little easier for moms to talk about that subject.  For men, the world tells us that we’re supposed to be “tough, stoic and in control at all times.”  We “can’t be ruled by emotion” because we have to make level-headed decisions.  And like a lot of guys, I fit into that category a lot of times.  Except on this topic.  Don’t get me wrong– I’m not ruled by emotion (and there’s plenty of emotion to go around when you’re in the adoption process).  But I’ve definitely learned how to be attuned to the ways in which God has spoken to my heart about the children that we’ve been called to adopt.

So, you might ask: why do I, Jon Parks, want to adopt?  It’s a fair question.  After all, I’m the father of two wonderful and healthy children and they are definitely a blessing to our family.  I’m married to one of the most beautiful, smart and talented women around.  I’ve got a great job where I get to use my talents to do some fun and (sometimes) amazing things.   I enjoy the company of good friends and family.  So, in the eyes of some, it might seem like trying to adopt sort of flies in the face of all that.  You might even be tempted to think “isn’t bringing in two children that don’t speak our language and don’t know anything about our culture going to wreck all of that?”  Or perhaps something like “what if the adopted children have health issues?  Won’t that take away time, attention and resources from Anna and Ryan?”  It’s OK if you’ve thought that, because honestly, I wondered about some of those same things when we were first called to adoption.  Yeah, that’s right– I’m not perfect.  I was a little hesitant about adoption, too.

You see, when I was growing up, I was a part of a family of four.  My mom, my dad, my sister and me.  Two parents, one boy and one girl.  That seemed “normal” to me.  And in fact, it was quite “normal.”  I have a great family and had one of the most amazing childhoods that anyone could ever ask for.  But the idea that you might have more than two children in a family seemed, well, it seemed a little odd to me.

And then I met Melinda.  Mel had an older brother and an older sister.  As we dated, and later after we were married, we would discuss what would be the “ideal” number of children for us to have.  I would say “two”; Mel would say “three.”  It was a friendly discussion, but I was always convinced that I would win out.  Because you know, from a level-headed perspective, it is just too darn costly to support more than two kids! 🙂

And then we had Anna.  Wow.  Boy did that ever open my world.  For the first time, I saw what it meant to love someone that you didn’t really know much about.  And not just a puppy-love kind of way.  No.  Instead it was in a way that says “I love every single thing about you.  Yes– even when you poop on my hand while I’m changing your diaper!”  I love my little girl and after I learned more about being a daddy, I quickly realized that I wanted as many children as we could possibly have.

And then we had Ryan.  Ryan is a completely different personality.  In fact, he’s more like Melinda.  Very lively, great personality and really likable.  He’s also a lot like a bowling ball.  He’s always rolling around and knocking into things (and then laughing about it in a way that only a two-year old really can!).  My relationship with Ryan is a whole lot more rough and tumble (think one-on-one indoor tackle football) and it is amazing how God uses that to build a strong bond between us.  I truly love my son.

So, fast forward to the Fall of 2009.  I’m driving in my car on my way back to the office and listening to a couple talk about how adopting children transformed their lives.  That’s right– transformed their lives.  Like a lot of people, I bought into the popular belief that the parents were doing this amazing thing to help these poor little children that lived in awful conditions.  Instead, this couple talked about the way that God used the entire adoption process to transform them!  He used it to strengthen their relationship with Him.  He used it to show them how they had been adopted into His eternal family.  He used it to show them that there was much more to life than just going to work, accumulating more “things” and trying to climb the ladder in society to achieve higher levels of success.  Yes– they were going to be able to make a difference in the life of a child, but God was going to make a difference in their lives too.  And that’s where I really came to understand it– answering the call to adopt is about being obedient to the path that God has called you to and letting Him transform you.

So, why do I want to adopt?  It may sound hokey, but I want to adopt because God called me to.  He showed me the wonderful journey that I’ve been on as a father the past few years and how He used that to strengthen my faith in Him, how He made me a better father and how He transformed me as a Husband.  And He has shared with me that adoption is the next part of my journey in life.

Of course, I also want to adopt because He has shown me that there are children in this world that go to be every night and they do not know anyone called “mom” or “dad.”  There are children that, when they are afraid, they do not have anyone to turn to to put their arm around them and hold them to provide comfort.  There are children that do not have much in the way of hope beyond their relatively short time in the orphanage and almost no hope of how to avoid the evils that await them in the world.  There are children that, simply put, will be lost unless someone stands up, steps forward and willingly commits to being their parents.

That’s what I want to do.  That’s why I want to adopt.  I want to stand up and be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others.  Thanks for coming along with us on this journey.  I hope we’ll be able to share more with you about the transformation that is taking place.