Thursday, February 26, 2009
We are actually not leaning toward an infant adoption.
We are seriously praying about adopting an 8 1/2 year old girl and possibly her 5 year old sister!!!!
Yes, God has been strreeeeeeeetching our hearts wide open.
It took us a while to get to this place of openness to God. And by us, I mean me, mostly. I was determined this time around to adopt a newborn here in the US or an infant under 12 months of age, through international adoption. I told this to God, my husband, my parents and my friends.
Jumping into first time parenthood with a talking and running and opinionated little person had been quite a shock and challenge. I felt that adopting an infant would allow me to ease a bit more into parenthood-- in the sense that the child would be stationary and unable to talk back. :) We would also get to start the bonding process at an earlier stage and enjoy witnessing the first steps, first tooth, first word, etc. - things we missed with Noelle. I had convinced myself that newborn or infant adoption was the way to go.
Then late last fall I happened upon an adoption agency's Waiting Child Photolisting (pictures and descriptions of special needs and / or older kids needing parents - the "type" of children that are typically more difficult to find homes for). On a few of my yahoo groups, the theme seemed to be parents talking about adopting "waiting children". It had never really entered my mind. Since I had no interest in an older child, nor did we feel led or able to adopt a child with more severe medical problems, that adoption path was not even on my radar screen.
But I began to think about it. I started toying around with the idea. I became curious...
So one day I requested permission to view the Taiwan waiting children on one of our 'top 3 agency choices' website. I scanned the page and saw 2 precious sisters, a 6 month old baby and her 7 year old sister, that immediately grabbed my heart. They were in Taiwan (cool) and one of the girls was a little baby (double cool)! I shared the info with Eric, my parents and a couple close friends. I contacted the agency and we received their files to review. For a few weeks we prayed diligently about these little gals and whether we should jump ahead of our original schedule and pursue their adoption.
The fascinating part of this whole scenario was that the little girl who constantly popped into my mind's eye was NOT the cute fuzzy-headed baby, but the 7 year old girl. The more I prayed, the more I felt drawn to her and begun to imagine a life with her. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. I questioned myself and God but couldn't get her out of my mind or heart. God was beginning to open my heart toward a new path - and a different child - than what I had envisioned for myself. And He was beginning to stretch my idea of faith in Him.
Ultimately, Eric and I came to the conclusion that we were not able to move forward to pursue their adoption. We committed to pray for them, however, until we knew they had a family. (Just a few weeks later another family moved forward to adopt them!)
Since then, I have begun reading books and articles about adopting older children. I joined the Adopting Older Kids yahoo group (great resource and wonderful people), and started talking with parents who have gone down this road. I also signed up to view photolistings with several agencies. More importantly, Eric and I continued to pray for God's leading, offering ourselves to Him as parents to ANY child He should chose to bring into our family.
And this is how I found 8 year old "her". She was added late December (?) to that original photolisting I mentioned above. She actually has some brothers and a sister (they can all be adopted separately as they are living in separate foster homes), but as before, HERS was the face that jumped out at me and grabbed my heart.
This time I hesitated at telling Eric or anyone else. I knew we were now waiting for the house to sell before starting our home study. I didn't want to rush ahead and get emotionally attached. I didn't request her file. I just kept it all to myself and prayed.
After a few weeks of "her" remaining on my heart, I finally told Eric about her. I explained that I felt a strong pull towards this girl, in spite of the challenge that adopting her would bring into our lives. The more I prayed, the more of a connection I felt to her. Eric pleasantly surprised me. He was very open to the idea that God could be using me to find our next child, and just maybe it was "her".
So that was several weeks ago. Now Eric and I are praying together about this little gal. We are praying to receive confirmation to go ahead with her adoption. We are even praying about her younger sister, who we only recently discovered is also available for adoption.
We realize that adopting an older child will likely bring about challenges larger than we have ever faced. But if God is opening the door to a different kind of family, one that includes older children, then we say "Yes" to His vision. We will continue to walk this path - pray for our house to sell soon, get our home study done, and apply with the agency to adopt "her" (if she is still available at that time) and maybe her younger sister - unless God clearly halts us. We are leaving the details in His very capable hands.
Probably what has been the strongest confirmation for me to adopt an older child is an insight I received recently. One morning after spending time in Bible study and prayer, I was in the bathroom getting ready for the day. This realization came to me:
Whenever I've had doubts, fears and hesitation in adopting "her", those were the days I hadn't spent much time praying and meditating in the Word, times when I was feeling more distant from God. Conversely, the days I have good fellowship with my Lord and am living in His spirit, are the days I feel excited and up for the challenges of bringing an older girl into our family.
Wow! That hit me hard.
~When I am close to God, He helps me see I can take hold of BIG dreams "with Him".
~When I am further from God, doubts and fears rule my mind and I want to "play it safe", or even run away.
Playing it safe may be the easier route, but when it comes right down to it, I'd rather stick close to God and see what adventures He has in store. Besides, I'm used to adventure. Life being married to a pastor has been anything but slow, dull or predictable. Our road together is marked with challenges, difficulties, even heartache. But what stands out most in my mind are the tremendous blessings our Heavenly Father so graciously gives. I have told Eric on different occasions that I wish things would just be normal and boring from time to time. But when it comes right down to it, I chose the "heavenly surprises" God likes to bring us over "boring" any day!
How 'bout YOU? Will YOU be the kind of person God can take on an amazing ride? Who's with me?!?
From here, I struggle with how to close this post. I've come back to the computer half a dozen times trying to "finish" the story, but I just can't seem to come up with a good ending. Maybe that's because our story is unfinished - the story of finding our next child, and the story of my journey with Christ. So, I'll just walk out the path ...and see where God takes us!~~~
**July 2009 UPDATE**
I removed all references using this little girls initials. For now she will be referred to as "her" (or maybe "Claire"...though it's not official yet).
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Allow me to begin with a little background information. Ever since February 2005, when we discovered that conceiving a child on our own would be nearly impossible, God started working HIS plan out in our lives. We grieved and prayed and shed some tears, but ultimately gave it to God. We knew without a shadow of a doubt that God had put the desire in our hearts to be parents, so He would provide the way. Through our grief, God was leading us in a new direction - Adoption.
This was an idea that came quite naturally to me. My younger brother Jonathan had been adopted into our family as an infant, so I was very comfortable with this path. I began to research everything I could on the subject - Internet, books, magazines, seminars, etc. I sent for over a dozen informational packets from various adoption agencies - public, private, international, domestic - and devoured the details provided in each one. But all the time I was praying.
Eric was less sure about the whole adoption thing. He had had less personal familiarity with adoptive families and was still grieving the loss of a potential biological child. I was tempted to push (and probably did sometimes), but God kept reminding me that all was better in HIS time. Ultimately God brought Eric around. He planted a seed in Eric's heart that over several months grew into a strong conviction that we should adopt. That was the time to move ahead. And that is how God brought us to our first child, our daughter Noelle.
Now we are praying and researching and planning for our second child - the passion for adoption stronger than ever in our hearts. We had originally wanted to adopt another little girl from China so Noelle could have a sister of the same ethnicity and heritage. We believe this would have been a great support system for 2 sisters growing up together in our home. Unfortunately we are unable to pursue this avenue due to the adoption policy changes that China made in 2007. So we began looking into Taiwan. Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China, is a beautiful and friendly country. It is making great strides in its young democracy and has an entrepreneurial spirit and growing economy.
One thing about Taiwan adoption that is very attractive is that you can adopt young babies (often 10 months or younger at time of travel). These infants live in foster homes or orphanages. Adoption organizations in Taiwan or adoption agencies here will match a child with a family, but in many cases, the birth mothers are involved in selecting parents for their child (similar to our US system of infant adoption). We love the idea of being able to meet our child's birth parents and keeping in touch over the years. Even though this idea may sound "scary" or "risky" to some people, studies have shown time and time again that this is by far the healthiest situation for the adopted child (not to mention, giving the birth family reassurance that their child is well loved). There are fewer unanswered questions and a relationship with the birth family can ease feelings of abandonment that adopted children often struggle with.
So Taiwan infant adoption is one option we are considering. If we signed with an agency, we are looking at a 1-2 year wait for a referral (match) and then another 6-8 months waiting to travel to pick up our child. We are also looking into adopting independently - i.e. locating our own birth mother and hiring a lawyer to process the paperwork. This can be a very challenging route to pursue, but would be significantly less expensive. If we went independent, we would contact Nazarene (our church denomination) pastors and missionaries in Taiwan and pray for God to orchestrate a match for us.
Some other countries we have looked into are Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda. The agency we used for Noelle, America World, has a great Rwanda program that looks very promising and so far is very stable. There are healthy and very young babies available, the time in country is short and the costs are extremely reasonable ("reasonable", as far as adoptions go).
We are also thinking about US infant adoption. We would not, however, go through an agency. We would hire a lawyer and network with family and friends to locate a birth mother ourselves. Again, with Independent adoption, God is the one making the match for us. And how can we go wrong with God in charge? The answer is, we can't!
So basically, we are open to whomever and whatever God wants. We feel honored, amazed and blessed to be people God has chosen to call "an adoptive family". Personal biology is unimportant to us - FAMILY is what is important. We trust God to bring the right child(ren) into our family - Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, African, etc. Each and every child on this planet has been made in the image of God, so whomever God brings to our home will be a wonderful blessing. How cool is that!?!?
Okay. Now for the bigger news. Which route are we choosing? Taiwan? Rwanda? US? Agency directed? Independent?
Well check back soon and I'll spill the beans.
Yes, FOR REAL this time...
Check out this slide show!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
You people are fabulous!!! I haven't received this many comments about a post in quite some time! LOL Your compliments are truly appreciated and have given me much needed chuckles after a stressful week. And to reply to those who asked about Noelle's response-- she did indeed give me a curious and surprised look when I walked in the door, like she wasn't sure who I was. Then she needed to feel it...and has been rubbing my head whenever we hug.
The response at church has also been quite amusing. They've only seen me in a longish hair "style" (I use this word loosely) and have been quite shocked at the change (tho' positive). I've even had some members start to approach me to welcome me to the service and then realize who I am! Too fun!!
As to Eric's reaction-- well, let's just say he is happy that I am happy. He prefers long hair, like most fellas do, but he says I'm beautiful no matter what shape my 'head' is in. That works for me! :)
I've been sick of my no-particular-style stuck-in-the-80's look for quite some time. Many have heard me say, "I REALLY need to get something done with my hair!" Even my husband has been after me to get to the salon. (Allow me to clarify: Eric prefers my hair long tho he always seems to like my look regardless - he's a good fella!) So when my mom said on Wednesday that she would like to treat me to a new 'do, I jumped at the chance.
We headed to Regis at the mall. The place was dead on a rainy Wednesday morning, and the manager, Rachel, was able to take me right away. I had no idea what I wanted, so she kindly sat with us to look at style books and discuss options.
When I pointed out a couple short styles I liked, she exclaimed, "You are willing to going THAT short?" I replied, "Sure, why not?" And then the fun began!
With my back to the mirror, Rachel snipped, dried and styled, and my mom grinned from a nearby chair. When the job was done, Rachel spun me around to see if I approved.
Boy, it sure is a different look for me, but I think I'm going to like it. I even feel more youthful and have a new bounce in my step. What I'm thinking now is, why did I wait so long to get this done?!
Here's a couple shots I took with my phone:
In the midst of our disappointment, however, we know that God is still in control and HE has our buyer. March is typically when things start moving again in the housing market, so maybe we will see some more interest in our house soon.
We do ask for your continued prayers. We know that God is calling us to adopt again, but we want to wait for relief from this financial burden before we commit to the process. We desire to be good stewards of all He has given and want honor Him with our finances. We had hoped to make some money from the sale of our house to pay down debt and get started with an adoption agency, but in this economic climate we may have to drop the price rock bottom to just get rid of the thing. It is difficult to know what the best move is. Please pray that we do the right thing.
I keep reminding myself that even if we don't make a dime on the house but simply have the relief of no more mortgage (which of itself would be terrific), God will always provide. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, so who am I to worry anyway? :)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday morning a group of moms and daughters from our FCC group met at the mall play area. The girls had tons of fun and it gave us grownups an opportunity to visit. Then we adjourned to the food court for lunch. A fun day was had by all~
Noelle is very excited to see Maggie arrrive at the mall play area
Elianna and Elizabeth - apparently driving is better with 2 behind the wheel!
Teagan is a girl on the move
Our official start day was Tuesday. Here's the stats:
1 tinkle accident at lunch time (but no potty today (a.k.a. poo-poo))
1 tinkle accident after dinner - this one was partly my fault due to lingering over dinner with friends at church (our Wed. evening meal is at church)
1 potty accident while in the church nursery
0? (I don't think there was a tinkle accident at preschool, but a potty in her diaper during preschool naptime)
0 accidents (though no potty today; we are feeding lots of pear juice and prunes)
1 potty accident this morning (though she tried to finish on her potty chair)
Then...Wah Lah!!! After lunch she produced a potty on the potty chair all by herself!!! People, it's time to crack open the sparkling cider! WooHooo!!!!!!!!
Of course Noelle was very excited with her accomplishment and proclaimed, "I made a long SNAKE!!"
And what did I do? After awarding the her the promised lollipop--
--I took a picture of said snake and emailed it to Eric. Yep. Yep, I did.
His emailed response was, uh..., let's just say "impressed" and leave it at that. ;-)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
She loves it!!!
And not only that, but rather than doing the lease-to-own, she wants to buy the house outright!!!
She will be speaking with the bank this week and if she can get a the needed loan (she's got a few "issues" to clear up, so please pray...), she wants to move forward right away with the purchase. (If the loan doesn't come through, she is still interested in a lease-to-own.)
Eric and I are just so hopeful. I can hardly keep my excitement from bubbling out of me, but I know we still need to pray and WAIT. Dear Ones, hang with us a little bit longer and keep sending those prayers to our Heavenly Father. And as always, we will let you know what happens.
All our love-
Jen and Eric
Noelle made it all day and all evening with only one accident!!! Yeehaa!!! (This one accident occured during lunch. Our kiddo highly values meal time. lol ) She is currently sleeping peacefully, wearing a pull-up, and her froggy potty chair is close at hand. We also removed the bed rail on her converted crib/toddler bed so she doesn't have to climb out to get to the potty. She did not actually potty (bm) today, so we'll see if that happens tonight - she had a messy diaper this morning. Hopefully our toilet training won't lead to constipation... Tomorrow - prune juice!
I'm very interested to see what the night holds.
OOOOhhh do we dare???
Yes. Yes we do.
We sent Noelle to school in PANTIES!!!!!!!!!!
What led us to go out on a limb today, you ask?
Well...for the first time yesterday, Noelle, who was wearing panties from her naptime to bedtime, let us know when she needed to go tinkle and potty - first time ever that she seemed to recognize her body signals and then told us about it. WOOHOO!!!
So what did I do? Last night I went to WalMart and bought a super cheap potty chair in the form of a happy faced frog. It's perfect. Noelle loves frogs. She's got her stuffed animal "Froggy" that we sent in her China care package, and he's one of her best friends. She's got a frog blanket which also came to her in her China care package, and this blanket is oh-so-soft and cuddly yellow. And most recently she acquired some frog undies. See the theme here?
(Note: We actually have a friend who's got an "all the bells and whistles" chair she will be giving us the next time we see her, but frankly I was excited and couldn't wait until then.)
So this morning we snuck it into her bedroom before she was quite awake. When she saw it, she was all big smiles and wanted to immediately sit on it (fully clothed, at first). When asked if she wanted to wear a diaper or panties to school today, she insisted "Pantieeees!!!!" Then before heading out the door, Noelle pulled down her clothes, had a small but successful tinkle in the froggy chair, and pulled her panties and pants back up (only slightly askew) all by herself. Yay for our big girl!!!
So...I decided to just go for it. We hadn't even been working on the potty training much the past several days. I was about to give up because she seemed to find it all too exhausting. But after yesterday... Well, jump right in, I say!
So as I write this post, Noelle is off to preschool with Daddy. She is armed with a bag full of extra panties and pants. She left with a big "well done!" sticker on her chest and a huge smile on her face.
Tune in later for "Tinkle Watch"
Monday, February 9, 2009
So please pray with us -- and tell all the prayer warriors you know! -- for this whole situation. If God has brought this woman to us as the solution to our housing situation, then pray that we will come to an agreement that works on both ends. If this is not the buyer that God has in store - if our buyer is coming next month when the market traditionally picks up - then pray that the deal will not work or we will feel a strong halt in our spirit about signing an agreement.
'Will keep you posted! Thank you SO much!!!
I saw you meet your child today.
You kissed your baby joyfully
And as you walked away with her.
I played pretend you'd chosen me.
I'm happy for the baby,
Yet inside I'm aching miserably.
I want to plead as you go by,
"Does no one want a child of three?"
I saw you meet your child today,
In love with her before you met.
And as I watched you take her out
I knew it wasn't my turn yet.
I recognize you from last year!
I knew I'd seen your face before,
But you came for a second babe.
"Does no one want a child of four?"
I saw you meet your child today,
But this time there was something new.
A nurse came in and took MY hand
And then she gave my hand to you.
"Can this be true? I'm almost six!"
And there are infants here you see.
But then you kissed me and I knew
The child you chose was me.
by Debbie Bodie
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I miss the times when there is *so much snow* that there is almost a 'festive' feeling in the air. With a heavy blanket of snow, you are freezing cold but somehow you don't mind because you feel warm inside, 'electrified' even.
Accompanying that electric feeling is the joy of messy, slipping, sliding acrobatics. Everyone is laughing and giggling as they struggle to keep their balance, doing a sort of avante garde ballet to a backdrop of puffy white. How can you not burst into a huge grin with such antics?
And the great excuse for stocking up on the *necessities* - snacks, dvd rentals, etc. "Shucks! I think I'll have to miss that evening meeting. Better stay close to home in this weather!" Break out the marshmallows and hot chocolate - light the fireplace - snuggle up close to those you love!
But the thing I love most about a fresh blanket of snow is the Quiet-quiet. The heavy flakes act as a damper to the noise and chaos of a busy world. Everything seems to go dim and fade away. Standing in the middle of a wide, white, open space, you inhale deeply and you can Think. It is calm. Peaceful. Dreamy.
If you look closely, you can see the big flakes coming down (but not sticking...) in this photo I took earlier this week
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Initially when I put that little teaser on the blog, it was intended to buy me some time for thinking through a more detailed post, though I won't deny that a deep, deep part of me just thought it might be fun to torment you all. (Hey, just keepin' in real!) ;-) I just did not realize, however, how many family and friends would contact us wanting to know what the big news is.
One funny incident I'll share is about Eric's parents. Not long after I published the post, Eric gets a concerned call from his folks wanting to know what is going on with us. They had just read the blog and wanted to find out what we hadn't been telling them. Oops. My poor hubby actually had no idea, not having read the latest installment of JTN (Journey to Noelle). He tried his best to assure them that everything is fine, good in fact, ...and immediately gets online.
Then he calls me. "What exactly are you referring to here??"
Oops again. I thought HE at least would know what I'm referring to. (Note to self: keep working on Communication)
I explain the thing ('translate') and he says, "Okay. But you're going to drive people nuts. Why don't you just tell people??"
Last Sunday at church I had a friend catch me after service. She says, "What's the big news on the blog?!!?"
(Incidentally, this friend, who wishes to remain nameless, has *the best* morning routine. She arrives early to work, warms up her breakfast in the microwave, sits down to her computer...and logs on to "Journey to Noelle". Man oh man, I'm feelin' the love! Then after reading JTN, she checks the online obituaries. Love it!!)
Not having a good answer for her, I just tell her to keep watching the blog. At this point I knew I would have to do a follow-up post soon.
"Journey to Noelle" is going to be changing in a few months.
The title is going change.
"Journey to ???"
...to be announced
The Johnson family is adopting again!!! Wooooooohoooooo----
Now before you get too excited----this is NOT happening right away. Much depends on our house back in Missouri selling. If it sells this spring, we hope to officially begin the adoption process (e.g. sign with an agency) this summer.
We are still praying through our final decision of where to adopt (here in the States or internationally), how to adopt (we are considering an 'independent' adoption), and what age of child. We actually have several options before us, but are leaning more strongly towards two in particular. In my next "psst!" post, I will share many more details and the options that are before us.
What we do know for sure is that God has placed adoption on our hearts and in our hearts, and this is the plan He has chosen for our family. Even now He is preparing a child, born or not yet born, for our family, as He is preparing our family for this new child.
Friends, get ready to join the ride!!!