10 More Days

Today, we finished  James’ required post-placement meetings with the social worker. This is a relief. The meetings are largely perfunctory.  Now, we will begin finalizing the adoption, which means soon James will “officially” be a Camorlinga and we can begin sharing photos freely.

In 10 days, Jason will be flying out to Ukraine for the first of two trips to bring home our son(s?). God has this all worked out, we just need to remember to remember that. Praying for Jason’s safe travels, and our boy’s prepared heart. Praying for James during his papa’s absence.

Since the TB debacle (yes, that’s a thing. If you missed out, just imagine prolonged drama and bureaucracy and Danielle on the verge of leaping from a building [mostly exaggerating]), we have been struggling with some persistent behavioral issues at home. Your prayers concerning this would be greatly appreciated: that Jason and I would handle our son with grace and compassion, that our disciplinary choices would result in a child that becomes a well-adjusted adult, and that James would trust us.

This book (when tempered by the wisdom of Dr. Karyn Purvis) has been a reassuring fount of ideas: Try and Make Me!

Some Updates and a Hopeful Reminder

On the Ukrainian front

Jason has finished compiling all of the necessary paperwork for our dossier to Ukraine, so today we finished having the documents notarized, and Friday we will be heading to Los Angeles to have Apostille certificates attached to nearly all of them. After this step is complete, the entire dossier will be sent to over to Ukraine on Monday. Then, as we understand it, we wait. We have not heard anything new about our boy, but we are moving forward with all of the paperwork, all the while trusting that we have correctly understood God’s will for us to do so.

There are still days when we sit and stare blankly ahead, unable to conceive of a person treating the fatherless so wretchedly, but on the whole, we are hopeful and ready to battle. He led the grumbling Israelites, surely he will lead us.

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

On the Thailand/Home front

We have a post-placement meeting with our social worker – our second since James has been home – on August 5. After a few doctor appointments, we have also figured out that since the U.S. snagged his vaccination documentation, James has to get them all again. It is a bummer, but he has been fairly understanding, and thank goodness, because he doesn’t have a choice. His first American eye exam took place yesterday and fortunately, he doesn’t seem to need glasses.

Over the last two weeks, behavior has started to normalize. We aren’t kidding ourselves into thinking tantrums won’t return, but going this long without a marathon fit has been great. Jason suggested having a “write your name once for every time you hit or kick something” rule, and that, coupled with channeling anger/sadness into a stress ball, has nearly eliminated outrageous outbursts. Ah. Dear, sweet, silent dissidence.

In the attachment department, we are still working. There are so many ways that our family of three has become attached and loving. Generally, it feels like we have found a new normal. But we are still working on clarifying our role to him. No, we aren’t just the next in a series of caretakers. No, all of the women at the orphanage were not your mothers, also. No, not every adult is safe and okay to hug. For that reason, please understand if we have to cut in. Please understand if we have to pump the brakes and ask for a step back, or if I lose my temper when you try to discipline/help him while I am already doing so. It’s still essential that he asks us for everything first, and that he learns the three of us are set apart in a special way from all other people. It has only been three months, so the solid foundation is not yet in place, but we are getting closer.

Thank you for your prayer and support and patience.

2 Months Together and Other News

Today is our two month mark as a family. Over the last week, our comfort level with each other has increased, James has started initiating affectionate interaction, and communication has taken several big steps forward. There was a period of time where he was soaking in English but not spitting much back out, but now he is taking risks, using new word combinations and even daring to willingly speak to other people. There was also a period of time during which, when asked, he would say that he did not enjoy being in a family, but now he says he does. He has explored the possibilities of throwing a fit and saying ‘no’ to EVERYTHING. Now we are in a phase of lying and hiding the evidence and that is fun for everyone (insert sarcastic ‘not-so-much’ face). At the end of the day, it is clear that our prayers asking the Lord to prepare his heart for this transition have been answered. Our son’s sensory, emotional and physical abilities are shockingly typical in most ways, the result of a less-traumatic-than-it-could-have-been childhood, and I am very grateful for the women that cared for him in Thailand. I hope that reading about the progress made in such a short amount of time will be encouraging to those who are waiting for their children. Reading other people’s blogs and books has been so helpful for me!

As you may know, in 9 days, Jude will be visiting America. The three of us are very excited for this time, though we know that it will introduce a new dynamic to the still fresh family bond, so we will trust that the God who has brought us safe thus far will continue to lead the way. When Jude goes home after the visit, we will have time to regroup, assess, and prepare ourselves for the future.

In related news, LifeSong approved a matching grant for our family AS WELL AS a project with Both Hands! Simply put, if we can raise $4000, they will match it dollar for dollar. We have some creative ideas in mind, but those can wait for another post 🙂

 

One less orphan. But.

You know that moment when you get into the back of a taxi with your sobbing child, who looks nothing like you, who keeps looking out the back window and cries uncontrollably for the duration of the ride? Or that moment when you realize the taxi driver, who doesn’t understand enough English for you to possibly offer an explanation, is suspiciously eyeing you and your husband in the rear view mirror? The best part is that I know some of you really DO know what that moment is like, and the rest of you can imagine.

I’m really not sure how best to sum up the goodbye party from yesterday. The long term benefit is that James was given an opportunity to say goodbye and he will have video and pictures of him with his friends to look back on. The short term result has been that he is keenly aware of his losses, and though we are glad he is able to grieve openly, it is extremely difficult to comfort him well while the language barrier and newness of our relationship is getting in the way. We need prayer for these things and take comfort in the knowledge that we aren’t walking this road alone, or first, for that matter.

The orphans. I’d love if some of you would share links to your blog posts about your orphanage trip or some of your thoughts on your orphanage visits in the comments on this post. Perhaps some of you will read these and be moved to action or prayer. There were about 17 children in James’ group, with varying degrees of special needs and institutional behaviors, and each one should be in a family. As we handed out balloons and stickers and the playtime was underway, most of them made some attempt to catch our attention and interact with us. One girl would come up every few moments and show me where she had placed a sticker on her body. Her face was marred by a massive scar, but she was a smiley one. One small girl would come up and insist that I separate the sticker from the backing for her. Several kids approached us and made sure to double check that we weren’t their mommy and daddy, also. One very small boy (3?4?) seemed to have learned that he could get attention by reaching up skirts or pinching legs, and when my attention wasn’t on him, he would plow into other children. Anything for a bit of attention.

The chaos in that room. The needs going unmet. The utter brokenness that had brought each child together in that place. There aren’t words, friends.

It isn’t right.

I think we all know it in our hearts, but we need to start moving. The least of these is worth our time and our effort and our own discomfort… But I don’t feel like preaching at you all, so I won’t.

I feel more like begging.

I AM. LEGEND: Balaclavas, a Visa and a Swastika

Danielle does the blogging and you should be thankful for that. However, tonight she is in bed and I am wide awake trying to process the day. I think I will leave the going away party for her to write about; she is the wordsmith and was there for its entirety. I will tell you about a trip to the US embassy.

As a result of the expeditious processing of James’ Visa, I took my leave of the going away party early leaving Danielle to face the room of clamoring orphans. It was difficult to leave early and miss such a meaningful moment but I would be lying to you if I said there was not a part of me that felt a modicum of relief. Relief from the eyes; eyes within which a cocktail of hope, desperation, loneliness and joy swirled. Eyes that asked why we hadn’t chosen them, that pleaded for attention and sparked when they received it. I will not soon forget them.

I had waited for the last possible moment to leave so I hurried down the sun drenched street, sweat dripping into my eyes as I looked for an available taxi. In Bangkok it is often quicker to walk a block and catch a ride in a less congested area. Once it took us 30 minutes to travel one block, traffic here is horrible. As I walked past Lumpini Park, home to the Yellow Shirt protests, the bullhorn speeches and shrill whistles could be heard coming from the tent city. Danielle and I had mistakenly walked into this camp last week thinking it was a night market. We should have been tipped off by the bag checks and lack of tourists if not by the fist pumping and soup lines. At the edges of the park there were sandbag bunkers filled with military, across the street were police trucks next to a burned out car. The military tends to support the yellow shirts while the police tend to support the red shirts. It was then that I saw a group of men wearing balaclavas sitting on some steps. Did I mention how hot it was… far too hot to be wearing balaclavas for any innocent reason.

Still failing to find a taxi I decided to broaden my experience and take a motorcycle taxi. There are gads of these fellows along the sidewalks wearing bright pink or orange vests who would love to take you on a harrowing adventure as you weave through traffic toward your destination. I haggled a price from a pink clad man and then we were off sans helmets. Perhaps I should specify that I was without a helmet; his head was safely encased in protective gear as I clung to James’ paperwork in one hand while the other grasped the back of the bike. There were moments that I enjoyed myself but mostly I focused on not falling off or worrying about my driver’s deft threading of traffic.

I made it to the embassy with one minute to spare. In the movies there is always a tall gate manned by marines and the hero plus one damsel in distress run toward the gate yelling, “I’m an American citizen, open up!” I had hoped to do this at some point. Thus far I have been disappointed. Perhaps the marine gate is located elsewhere but only Thai security manned the doors to the consular.

I was the only one in the Visa processing area when I entered. I sat for about three minutes staring at poster warning that false visas and passports will open lots of doors (iron barred ones behind which you will sit for years) and close one (to the US) forever. Then my name was called, I was given a sealed envelope for US customs and told in no uncertain terms that I should not open it for any reason lest a sniper emerge from the brush and execute me on the spot. Or maybe it was a hefty fine plus extra hassle at the airport, who can recall details?

I chugged a few small paper cones worth of water and headed back out into the heat. Taxis were plentiful on the street and I caught one with no hassle. Why not have another go at the motorcycle you ask? I was nervous that the sacred envelope might be damaged and said sniper would exact his revenge. Anyhow, taxis are air-conditioned. My driver, Mr. Noppadon, had a swastika tattooed on his right hand. I have seen hundreds of these in Thailand proudly displayed on shirts, patches, temples and now taxi driver hands. Now before you lecture me on the religious significance of the swastika know that I am aware of the distinctions between that use and Nazi use. I am not so sure that the Thai people are aware of that though. Many of the ones I have seen on shirts for example are full on German Nazi Swastikas but I digress. Across the inside of the windshield Mr. Noppadon had written, “I AM. LEGEND.” This stuck me a certain way at the time but I will forgo explaining this as now it strikes me differently. “I am.”

I made it back to the Children’s Home just in time, Danielle and James were about to head back to the hotel. Again, I will leave the parting for Danielle to tell you about but the upshot is that I’m pretty sure our taxi driver thought that we were abducting James.

Dear readers, thank you for your prayers and support along the way, it has meant a great deal to us. Some of you have been down this road already, other are preparing to make it. Some of you are considering adoption yourselves. If I could properly convey the look in those children’s eyes to you dear readers, you would start the journey today.

If you’re happy with him you can have him.

Today consisted of heading to the DSDW board interview and the US Embassy to apply for James’ visa. Thankfully, the board interview went well and they granted us approval to take him home. They asked questions about schooling, our jobs, whether we are prepared to care for him when the “honeymoon” period is over (how much longer do you all think we have? Want to take bets?) and asked him which of us he likes best. He told her he likes us both equally, which has been his answer each of the three times he has been asked that question. Imagine our relief!

The interview ended with one of the women telling us that “if you are happy with him, you can have him,” and that was basically the official blessing from Thailand. She didn’t say it in a way that was meant to be offhanded, but it did sound a lot like someone might give away a puppy. We left the meeting in pools of sweat, but also very relieved. James was very polite during the meeting but spent much of the morning dazed by the activity and formality.

The visa interview went well, though we discovered upon arrival that we couldn’t bring our backpacks in the embassy (we seriously had to go ask some shopkeeper to watch our bags for us and thank goodness they did), and then discovered the embassy credit card system wasn’t working, so Jason had to run to find an ATM. They told us that James’ visa will be ready to pick up at 3pm tomorrow, which is AWESOME, since it means we will be on track to fly home as planned. Thank you, God.

Once we arrived at the hotel, all three of us collapsed onto the ground and made exaggerated sighs of relief. The day was trying and the trials were compounded by the 104• temperature, James’ confusion (too many people, too many transitions), my super-fantastic cramps, and Jason’s extremely unpleasant gastric disturbance (those are the most polite ways to describe what was seriously the worst day health-wise for both of us).

Tomorrow afternoon is James’ goodbye party with other kids from the home. We are praying that he has a good time and that it will be a day of closure and joy for him. Now, we are off to the pool, because the boy is a fish (that sinks like lead) and they told us we can have him.

WE ARE GOING TO THAILAND!

I briefly considered writing this entire post in capital letters but figured that would get old for you pretty fast. It is finally time. We have finally received the OK to book plane tickets and make solid plans for travel. We are finally going to meet James.

God has been incredibly faithful during this time. So much has happened during our wait. Basically the whole gamut of human experience has been experienced by our family and close friends (can I get a weary amen?), and through it all we have seen the Lord’s grace and mercy and perfect timing unfold. We have obviously complained (too much, right?), and been impatient, and been unable to comprehend what goodness could possibly result during those times, but we were never abandoned. At no point were we left to our own devices to divine the next step. Looking back through older posts, and reflecting on the journey that took place independent of this process, I am so comforted and so aware of the abundant, undeserved gentleness that has been afforded to us. God is good.

And now we get to meet our son.

We’ll leave during the second(ish) week of April and return around the 28th, with the highlight of the visit being the 17th: the day we meet James! Fortunately, we know what it feels like when a child is COMPLETELY unimpressed by us and thinks we are the most terrifying people on the face of the earth during the first meeting (Thanks, V!), so we don’t have lofty expectations of how that meeting will go. Our prayer requests moving forward are going to be for safe travel to and from, wisdom about how best to meet James’ needs during the first days, and that we would be constantly aware of how incredibly huge this transition will be for him. He didn’t ask for this, he didn’t choose us, and there is a good chance he has no idea what a massive life shift he is about to experience. He has every right to be REALLY displeased. We have been asking God to prepare his heart for this and I am hopeful that this will be the last significant trauma he experiences at his young age.

Some sweet friends have asked for a bit of instruction about how they can be helpful during the first days, weeks and months of transition, so I’ll post some things that I’ve found useful in the next day or two for you to check out if you’re interested.

Thank you for your faithful support. You’re fantastic.

(The timeline from start to present)

 

A Lot and Not a Lot – One Month Later

If this is a paper pregnancy, are these contractions?

James

A few weeks ago, we received James’ birth certificate and documents that detailed the termination of his birth parents’ rights. Reading the story and seeing in black and white that his mom had relinquished rights was very hard (even though we knew that had taken place before, it just became very real and very, very sad) and both Jason and I had a difficult time imagining all of the hurt that is wrapped up in this situation. James’ history, the details of it, are something that we won’t be sharing freely, out of respect for him. That sort of thing is his to share at some point when he is ready, and we will just keep things very general if asked.

Receiving the documents indicated that the “To Whom it May Concern” letter (AKA the letter we have been waiting on for like a year) was on its way as well, and we were informed that it arrived today! This means we can have a more firm expectation (rather than total guesswork) of traveling by/in April to pick up our boy. *big sigh of relief* Granted, the political climate is turbulent, and a lot can happen in two months, but our case worker seemed to think this would be a reasonable timeline.

Between now and then, our i800 form is being submitted to the US, the US will approve and send that to the US embassy in Bangkok, the US embassy will send that to the DSDW, some other paperwork needs to be given to someone during this time (thank goodness our case worker knows what is going on), and then, once the TRC is notified, we get to choose a travel date and go. Please be in prayer, if you choose to, that our patience tanks would be refilled, that James would be well cared for and safe in the time that remains, that the violent unrest in Bangkok would result in good progress for the Thai people and that everyone involved in the processing of orphan paperwork around the world would HUSTLE.

Bangkok, Thailand

JV

Due to the nature of Ukrainian adoption/hosting policies, we will need to share any info on JV in person. Just ask 🙂

Thank you, dear friends and family.

Kiev, Ukraine

the one about my mom

I wrote yesterday about being ‘desperate’ for heaven. I think that might not make as much sense as I’d like if I don’t give a bit of an explanation about how my mom’s death has affected my life in the last 4 months. Most of you who will read this have been affected to some degree by her passing, as well, so know that I don’t seek to speak for anyone but myself, and please understand that I recognize we all process and grieve at different speeds. Sometimes, it is good to get into another person’s thoughts during that time (or so I’ve found), so here is your invitation to enter mine.

A statement that I heard a month before her death is a totally plain one, but one that became very poignant to me for obvious reasons. We all already know this, but if you haven’t really stopped to give it the depth of consideration that it deserves, you do yourself a disservice. The wise man said this: “Only one thing is going to prevent you from watching every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease and that will be your own death by murder, accident or disease.”

.

That strange thing that we all manage to do, where we forget that this breath really could be our last, and that as we breathe it, thousands of other people are breathing their last because of murder, accident or disease; Where we imagine that as we go about our business today, doing this or that, making plans for tomorrow and a year from now, we are somehow in control of the length of our days; That strange thing that we all do. Stop it for a moment.

Am I saying that we should mope around and fixate on our impending demise and the demise of everyone we’ve ever met? Not necessarily, but I am reminded of Paul, who wrote “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” You see, if all you have are human hopes, or if this momentary life is all you have to live for, then by all means, eat, drink, pillage and plunder, because whatever small pleasure you can derive from that is the last pleasure you will ever experience. Today or tomorrow you will be as dead as everyone who has ever come before you or will ever come after you.

BUT.

If you have a heavenly hope, if you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who broke the chains of death and sin for all who believe in Him, then you needn’t be weighed down by the incredibly heavy stuff I’m laying on you or the incredibly heavy stuff that was undoubtedly weighing you down long before you read this post. It isn’t too late to escape the meaninglessness of this life by gaining the meaning found in our great God and to escape the utter torment that will be an eternity spent knowing that you chose to reject the Living God. You can scoff. You can also be mistaken.

There are many things that have changed for me since my mom passed away and a lot of them aren’t unique. I miss her, of course. I cry at unexpected times. I also became aware of how little I deserve the salvation I’ve received in Jesus. This is no small realization. It’s a big part of the reason I decided to be baptized so long after the fact. If you’ve heard my testimony, you know I was wrenched out of sin through no merit of my own, and if you’ve known me long, you probably know that I am a person who has needed a lot of forgiving in her life. The things of this world become awfully dim when weighed against the astounding nature of God and eternity. I will give you an example of one such thing. Three days after my mom died, I realized that I could not go on holding her life over my uncle.

I knew that he shot her. I knew that he had had some part in it – conscious or unconscious – but to what degree? Can we possibly know? I knew that I had been terrified of him from the moment I learned what happened. In my mind, he morphed into something inhuman, “the entity” that robbed my mother of her body and ultimately her life, but honestly, I came to recognize the fantasy in that. I came to see that I had painted a picture of the situation that was born of my own fear and hurt and frustration. It was the result of seeing my parents persevere and suffer daily during those 2 and a half years, seeing my brother suffer quietly, seeing my grandmother’s mental acuity decline under the burden, seeing dreams for the future disappear for all of us.

But on that day, I read Isaiah 43:25. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” It had been written on our shower door for the better part of the year, but on that day it spoke to me. I wept, not because forgiving was hard, but because I had been so hard. I had forgotten the breadth of my own sin and though I had been forgiven much, had been unable to forgive. I was the unmerciful servant and it was an ugly thing to realize. The way I looked at my uncle shifted that day. Could I imagine the weight of killing someone I love by accident? Could I bear the weight of that? Did hating him restore her body or restore her life? The terrible image of a monster that I had allowed myself to paint melted away into the image of a regular, broken, human being, loved by Christ and worthy of my forgiveness. The judgement that comes after the grave is sufficient for me.

Jason drove me to his house that evening and I forgave him plainly and fully, and that is my story. Please do not hear my story as condemnation of your own. These things don’t happen the same for everyone, nor should anyone expect them to. It took nearly three years to arrive at that place, and I still marvel at the grace that had to be poured out on me before it could happen. I am thankful for the weight that was lifted, thankful for the grace I received, and thankful for the opportunity to extend that grace to another.

When I set out to write this, I didn’t intend to head down such an uncomfortable path, but I think, in order to understand what I mean about adoption leading to a posture of desperation for heaven, I needed to reiterate how broken we are and how broken this world is. If we begin to believe that this world is the height of “goodness,” or that heaven is about fluffy clouds and bored angels, we forget that heaven is really about no more pain, no more death, perfect restored bodies and minds united with their God and creator and the One who ransomed them from sin. Heaven is worth being desperate for, and we catch glimpses of it as we wait.

My mother’s passing has increased my awareness of our imminent deaths. It has turned head knowledge into heart knowledge and has made me yearn for the day when these things will be no more. When accident and disease and murder are wiped away like so many tears, I will see her again, whole and smiling.

I do so hope that you will be there with us.

Memorial_1

Another Reason the Video was Awesome

There is one thing lately that has become very apparent about the adoption process; if viewed from a particular angle, it makes you desperate for heaven. ‘Desperate’ in the “on your knees, begging that today would be the day that Christ returns” sense of the word. It’s been two years for us of planning and dreaming and praying and waiting and joy and sadness and doing well and failing, and in the last few weeks, I think I’ve finally started to see things with a better perspective.

How could this adoption story not remind us of our own adoptions through Christ, by which those of us who trust in Him have been saved from the punishment we know we deserve? Out of so much brokenness, He is redeeming the situation and knitting us together with someone we haven’t physically met.

When we received the video of James, a realization brought me great excitement. I had been dreaming about what he might sound like, how he might walk, what makes him smile, and so on. I had read his paperwork and seen photos, but it isn’t quite the same, right? Hearing him and seeing him was so much better than I could have expected. It was incredible. How much more incredible will it be to touch him and talk to him and look into his eyes?

And how much more so with Jesus?

How much more incredible will that be? We read His word and talk to Him and receive leading from the Spirit; how much more to actually touch Him and walk with Him and see Him with our own eyes? I can’t really begin to fathom it, but seeing the connection in essence of waiting to meet our son and waiting to meet our Savior has made me desperate to know.  I love this renewed and expanded excitement. I’m thankful for the ways adoption has drawn us closer to God, through prayer and community and so on, but I’m also thankful for the ways that adoption provides clear parallels to our relationship with God.