Monthly Archives: January 2015

Home study

Wow.

There is sort of a weird shift that happened, fairly quickly.  The first stages of adopting are things like telling family and close friends, praying, researching, looking at agencies.  Once we had narrowed it down to an agency, we did the application thing.  In the meantime we were getting the blog setup and wrapping our brains around finances.  All of that was stuff to “do”, but not in an overwhelming sense.

And then all of the sudden, we were in the midst of our home study.  I’m not sure what I thought – I guess maybe that there would be more warning?  It came on fast.

The home study is no joke.  My perception of home study was always that it was pretty focused on the home.  It’s not though, it is a lot about documentation (financial, medical, etc), parent training, parents’ background and mental/emotional/spiritual health.  It’s a little ironic actually, because 7 years ago I was pregnant with my first child and we were SO MUCH LESS PREPARED TO BE PARENTS, however nobody asked us any of these questions then.

Yesterday I couldn’t find my social security card anywhere.  I tore the house apart, my mom looked through paperwork at her house (my mom is an organizing guru – folder included my Kindergarten report card, swimming lessons evaluation, and my sister’s driver’s permit).  No social security card.  I finally found it in my wallet.  If I’m this dumb about every one of the 300 steps, it’s going to take a long time.

One of my friends asked me why we feel like there is such a rush to get  things done.  They reality is I feel the void of our daughter pretty profoundly right now.  I didn’t think I would, until maybe we saw her picture or knew things about her, but I have this sense that we have a child on the other side of the world.  I think about the days wasted.  If I am not efficient in all these tasks, she’ll pay the price by waiting longer.

While to some extent this is a motivator to work hard and be organized, I know I can’t keep living like this.  I feel impatient, on edge.  It’s been hard for me to grasp at moments why other people don’t have the same burden that I do.  Lord, help me to feel this fully and not go to an ugly place.  I know you understand the waiting.

Advertisements

Why adoption? Why now? Why China?

Why Adoption?  Why Now?

For as long as I can remember, I have considered, dreamed, and talked about adoption.  My mom told me recently that I talked about it even further back than I could remember.  In 2001, I spent a summer in Southeast Asia as a missionary.  There are moments from that summer that have remained burned in my memory.  A destitute woman trying to hand me, a silly 20 year old girl, her baby – convinced her baby would have a better life with me than even her own mother.  A street kid begging for food every time we ate at one particular restaurant.  While this tiny little guy would begin to try and charm us out of our food or money, the restaurant owner would run him off.  I remember feeling overwhelmingly sad for that little boy, while that restaurant owner remarked she wouldn’t have any customers left if he didn’t go somewhere else.  He couldn’t have been older than six or seven.

Throughout the years, my longing to be part of that story never changed.  Through our marriage, there have been pieces of conversations through the years where this dream, this passion, has always been there.

But for many years, that has not been God’s plan for us.  We married before we were even out of college and life became a whirlwind of new jobs, master’s degrees, moving, a house, career decisions, two babies.  The past ten years have been rich.  And full.

In summer of 2011, Bennett was 9 months old.  Pregnancy was not my favorite to begin with, but his extra large size at birth especially had done a number on me.  We knew we were done with biological kids and made things…um permanent.  We felt fairly confident, however, that our family was not complete.  For the past three years, we have talked about adoption as a sort of wistful possibility.  Maybe someday when our kids are a littler older.  But there have always been fears about our ability to take this on, fears about finances, and never a green light from God about timing.  In the meantime, God called us to follow Him on the adventure of starting the counseling center at The Waters and joining the pastoral staff there as well as a year long journey for Russ to a new career – helping us realize that obedience, however hard and scary, results in bigger blessings than our hearts could dream up.

Towards the end of 2013, my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia called Pick’s Disease.  There are similarities to Alzheimer’s, however what he has seems to be progressing more quickly.  It has been devastating.  Much of the past year has been spent grieving, processing, spending as much time as we can with our family, and trying to balance enjoying the time we have now with preparing for what is coming next.  I can honestly tell you that adopting at this point was not on our minds – we know we are already walking out one journey.

In the summer of 2014, one of my close friends spoke over me that 2015 was going to be a big year for my family.  That the Holy Spirit had told him that I need draw in my wagons, if you will, be protective of my time and what I take on, and that I need to be highly available for my family in the next year.

I knew what he was thinking, what the logical conclusion was – my dad.  I also knew in that moment that was not the case.  That was the first word I heard from God that adoption was coming.  I was overwhelmed.  I didn’t tell Russ.  I basically told God that he would have to make things very obvious if this was indeed our “go” time.

Over the course of the fall, adoption was everywhere.  Everything I read, in my time with God, people I ran into.  I continued to ask God to make things clear.  Russ and I had several conversations about all of it, although I kept much of the weight of what God was saying to me on the inside as I continued to run from it a little.

Last year, our church launched a missions effort called Waters Global.  We sent out four teams over the course of 2014 to different places.  Russ and I led a group to the Los Angeles Dream Center in August.  The experience was life-changing.  One of the things I came home with was an even deeper desire to not just be about causes but to resolve to do my part as I feel led, no matter how little or insignificant it felt.  Something I have prayed about a lot since that trip is how to address the needs I see, the ones I am “triggered” by, when I am just me – just one person.  And God has reminded me – “I don’t expect you to do everything, but do SOMETHING.  Don’t turn a blind eye to all the hurt you know about because you can’t fix all of it.”  I have realized that it’s not about changing the masses.  I might never do that.  But my individual actions can have individual effects.

In early December, Waters Global launched for 2015.  Russ and I sat in the back of the auditorium as they introduced the trips for the upcoming year.  We were both so thankful for all God had done over the past year and so excited about the coming trips.  At one point we looked at each other and checked in – “you feeling like you are supposed to be on any of these?”.  Both of us were a resounding no.  Like we probably could not have felt any more no-ish.

And again, I knew.  I knew we weren’t going on any trips because God had another adventure in front of us.  A crazy, beautiful, life-changing, forever, expensive adventure.  2015 was the year we adopt.

This time I told him.  In true Russ fashion, he told me we would pray about it.

I have to give my husband credit.  We both know that his default would probably be a more…conventional life.  At this point we laugh about how many things in our life have started with me saying “hey, what do you think about _____________ “.  At one point in our lives, it bothered me that lots of things were my idea.  But I know how blessed I am now.  I am a visionary, a dreamer.  Russ is a practical, steady force in my life.  But despite his innate desire for things to feel steady and ordinary, this man wants to know and follow the heart of God above anything else.  I will never stop being grateful for his heart – to be obedient no matter what.  I know though, making me happy is high on his list.  I begged him this time – don’t say yes to me.  I only want to do this if you truly believe this is an act of obedience.

As we began to pray seriously, we both received confirmation separately.  I’ve already written about some of my moments.  I’ll never forget standing in our kitchen, hearing him tell me that he knows we are supposed to go down this road, hearing his words about God revealing Himself to him.  I hope I always remember that moment.

One of the very beautiful and further confirming moments in this journey was telling my mom.  Russ had asked me some hard questions along the way about if I was really prepared to walk through this as we take this journey with my dad.  I had some answers, but one of my primary responses to that is that I have to believe that if we are being obedient, that God has gone before us in that (Romans 8:28).

I admit I was nervous to tell my mom.  I struggle some with thinking the worst about people as it is, but I also anticipated that she would question the wisdom of the timing.  Nobody knows the difficulty of all this like her.

But my mama, my sweet, Godly mama.  It was pretty incredible.  She reminded me that even in the midst of our heart-breaking circumstance, life doesn’t stop.  That God doesn’t stop working.  She reminded me that we still have time with my dad, that he and this grandchild will still get to know each other.  She was excited.  She rebuked the fears I had been carrying with me – will God provide?  will Campbell and Bennett thrive?  She expressed belief and affirmation in us – that we know how to hear God and that we know all that He promises.

And she is right.  Although there are so many unknowns in all this, we know that God is trustworthy and we can believe Him to do what He says He is going to do.  And we know that at the end of all this, we will be able to give Him glory that He gave an orphan a family and gave us another daughter.

Why China?

Starting waaaaaay back when, I have felt passionate about international adoption.  I’m going to assume that goes back to missions experiences.

We essentially came full-circle here.  I would have told you years ago that our heart was to adopt internationally, but major fear and insecurity developed about finances.  We prayed about foster care/foster-to-adopt, because (to be totally transparent) we could afford it, but that did not feel like the right fit for our family.  I think it is a great option for some people.  It was not the right thing for our family.

As we began to look internationally again, we prayed and were drawn to China.  It is a great fit for us time-wise and travel-wise.  And of the international options, it is on the less expensive side (seriously!  insane, I know.)

china

Official Application!

Picking an agency was hard.  There are quite a few and the differences are fairly minute.  We did research, watched webinars, asked for opinions from the China Adoption forums & Facebook groups.  We narrowed it down to several, sent emails with some questions, filled out pre-applications, and prayed.

Annnnd nothing.  Seriously…crickets.  Which is hilarious, because the folks on my China Adoption FB group are all “use ____________, they’ll get back with you in seconds!”.  About every agency we had contacted….who never contacted us.

I was on the verge of making phone calls, but in all of this, I desperately want it to be God’s hand.  I left one message, at the agency that had the most recommendations for the profile of child we are wanting to adopt.

So we prayed – God, which agency is right?  Which one leads us to our girl?  Make it OBVIOUS.

And after all the emails, pre-applications, and the phone call – we got one email response.  From a super personable girl at a great agency.  We’ve emailed back and forth a ton over the past two days, she’s answered a lot of questions.  It seems pretty obvious – this is our direction.

Last night Russ and I filled out the official application, which included a medical questionnaire.  In essence, after researching common special needs you indicate what needs you would be willing to take on in a child.

It was brutal.  Russ and I are both very aware that this child will join already full lives.  And we want to be aware of the effects of whatever needs she brings on our big kids and our time as a family.  And yet we wish, with all that we have, that we had the means to say yes to anything.  And the reality is, we know many of these children were abandoned in the first place because in the first days or months of life they showed signs of physical imperfection.  And we know fully well that their value is not wrapped up in how healthy they are.

Today we took passport photos, got together pictures of our family and house, and wrote our first check in this process.

And with that, we have an official application.  We took a field trip this evening and mailed it off.  Next step – home study!

IMG_9193

Campbell & Bennie

On Saturday (1/17) we told Campbell and Bennett.

A week ago, on a day when Russ and I were in the thick of having hard conversations and asking ourselves the really tough questions, we were sitting on the couch not doing much of anything while the kids ate lunch on Saturday.

From the kitchen table, Campbell Rose speaks up and says “guys, it really is time for us to have a little sister.”

Wow. We just look at each other. This was not normal out of their mouths.

Fast-forward a week later. Russell and I have both individually received confirmation from God. As we push ahead we want to tell the two most important people to us, who will play a significant role in this girl’s life. We all piled on our bed. We explained what adoption is. Campbell starts to catch on “can WE bring a child that doesn’t have parents to be in our family?!”. As we explained more about the process and that ultimately we will bring a little girl home and she will forever be part of our family, Campbell yells out “I’ve been waiting to have a little sister!”. My sweet, beautiful girl. Bennett was a little trickier. He alternated between “I would rather have a little brother” and “I can’t wait that long! I want her to come home now!”.

It was sweet and cute, but what hit me most is their continued questions and conversation as the day went on. Campbell came in a bit later and asked if this meant she and Bennie would share a room. When I said yes, she was excited. And excited to make a special space in our home for our new sister. She said “Mom, I bet she’s never had her own room!”. Riding in the car later, they were talking back and forth about it. Bennett was still struggling with the time frame. Campbell told him “I’ll be seven or probably even almost eight when Mom and Dada go get her”. She seems to grasp this concept more. They talked about toys they can put aside for her now, that might be the right age for her when she gets here. Bennie talked about how much his friend, Eli, loves his little sister, Evalyn. And how it might be pretty cool to have a little sister.

I think in my fear, I was scared that their reactions would be negative – that they would instantly go to this place of not wanting to share: their parents, their home, their toys, their lives. I’m not naive to the fact that when little sister is here in the flesh there will likely be growing pains, but I could not be prouder of these two babies. I was 17 when I came to know the Lord; Russ about the same age. While there are reasons that I wish I would have been in relationship with Him before that point in my life, one of the best outcomes for us both is that faith has never been just something we do – we both have been radically impacted by the Gospel. We have talked through the years about how desperately we want our children to not know Jesus in the capacity of something we always do, because they have always been in church, because they go to a Christian school, because their mom is a pastor and their dad a worship leader, but that they know Him actively, with desperation and need. That it’s personal.

We are praying, that in the good moments and the hard ones, that God would use this that He has called our family to for good. For every part of our family.

I know that Russ and I have not chosen this path for our family. God is calling us. My prayer, as we walk this journey to our little girl, is that God changes all of us. That all five Kings are forever different because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we experience Him through this adoption. 15429

Confirmation

As Russ and I began to sense God calling us to this adoption, we knew there would be objections.  Not everyone was going to understand, not everyone else has the ability to know what God is calling us to.  We knew we might run into resistance in areas of our lives.

Two days ago I had a difficult conversation.  The overwhelming theme was that adoption was not fair to my young biological children, that it is too big of a risk.  That adoption is good but we should raise our kids first.

This was hard.  Because it played right into a fear of mine.  Last week I posted a question on a China Adoption forum that I am on.  “We have two biological kids – 6 & 4. Obviously one of our concerns is about how our children fare in this process. We have compassionate, loving kids and foresee them being a beautiful part of the life of an adopted child. They are very attached though, quality time is important to us. Anyone see the kids they already had negatively effected through this process?

The responses were overwhelmingly positive.  People spoke of a brief adjustment period, as with any new sibling, but over and over again, people spoke of the things that their adoptive children added to their biological childrens’ lives.

I got home Wednesday night emotional.  Tired.  Russ and I talked through the conversation I had that day.  Did it change our perspectives?  Did we feel less called?  Were we doing this for any motive than feeling like God was absolutely calling us?  No.  Further – have we asked ourselves the hard questions enough?  Can we proceed, knowing that God does not promise it will be easy?  We agreed – we will pause the forward movement for the next two weeks and pray.  We asked God that night – give us confirmation.  Make it obvious.  Take away the desire if this is not from Him.

Yesterday I googled “negative effects of adoption on biological children”.   I read page after page.  And then I read this.

“Will adoption ‘ruin’ my biological children?”

Too many times those of us who already have biological children who are weighing adoption think that adoption is going to ‘ruin’ our biological kids. That it is going to take away something that they deserve. I believe this sort of reasoning is a lie, straight from the devil himself, and I feel the need to expose it! As I’ve said on this blog many times, over the past few years God has absolutely destroyed MY idea of what our family should look like. It started with our adoption, it continued with allowing our home to become open to those in need. With clenched fists I desperately wanted to hang onto the dreamy family picture that sat on our fire place back in 2008. In my mind, we embodied the perfect American family: a mom, a dad, a little boy, a little girl. I wrestled with God over how opening up our home to those in need was ruining my dream. Our time, our money, our everything was now being spent on OTHERS…not just our own children. It bothered me….I wanted my kids to have all my love, my attention, my energy, my wisdom, my gifts FIRST….and the ‘leftovers’ could be spent on others.

What God eventually revealed to me was that I had deceived myself into fashioning and forming my children into little idols.

I wanted to focus on raising my kids first, to protect them from everything ‘bad’ in the world, and to put them above all else. Don’t get me wrong, we do have an extremely important responsibility to care for, protect, and raise up our children that God has blessed us with. But, here’s the thing: as believers we have an enemy prowling around who takes his job of deceiving Christ-followers very seriously. Satan totally capitalized on these motherly best-of-intentions of mine by twisting them a little. Before I knew it, I had gotten myself caught up into all sorts of scenarios that ‘might’ happen. I became completely paralyzed in the decision to adopt because in every scenario there was the potential for our own kids to be affected negatively. I worried that bringing in an adopted child might ruffle our own kid’s feathers too much and could possibly mess them up. I reasoned that we certainly weren’t being wise to open up our home to a ‘stranger’ when we had such young kids at home. And it seemed that an adoption would take away from the time and attention on our own kids….

Jesus had something to say to me about these thoughts.

Matthew 10:37-39 ~ ‘Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’

This verse is now my reminder that my first devotion always needs to be towards God and His Kingdom. That might mean that He may ask me to do some hard things. Like adopt orphans into our already established family. Yes, it will change our family dynamic. But not as much as Abraham probably thought his family dynamic was going to change as he walked up that mountain to follow God’s command to sacrifice his one and only Son that he had waited years and years for (Genesis 22). And He stepped forward in faith, trusting that God’s plan and purpose was greater than even his own mind could rationalize. God isn’t asking me to sacrifice my one and only son. He’s asking me to give life to my son/daughter living on the other side of the world that I never even knew I had.

There are things that your biological kids WILL have to ‘give up’ in adoption (birth order position, a room all to themselves, etc). But contrary to what Satan would have you think, these things are not going to ruin them. You’re actually giving them SO MUCH more! For our family, adoption and opening up our home to those in need has taught our kids more about the gospel than any bible study we have ever done. Since they do have to give some things up, they experience firsthand what it’s like to love sacrificially – just as Christ loves us. They get to see us reach out to give hope, a future, and a family to the fatherless….just as God did for us when we were living without Him. They see what it looks like for others to be adopted into our family and have all the rights as sons and daughters, just like God adopts us as His children through the blood of Jesus Christ. They see in our family picture a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God will look like some day when we get to heaven ~ colorful! Again, these things are just tiny glimpses of the gospel, but setting our family up in this way is shaping and forming our biological kid’s character and personalities better than anything we could teach them with our words. Sure we could tell them with our words that Jesus commands us to love the unloveable, to seek justice on the account of the oppressed, to love their neighbor as themselves, or to lay down their lives for others just as Christ did for us. But through serving others and opening up our home and family by way of adoption, we get to SHOW them all these things and more. We get to live this out. Our kids are seeing that following Jesus can be quite the adventure. It’s not boring, it’s exciting. It’s a thrill to allow God to use you, and to watch Him work in supernatural ways, right in your very own home.

http://team-sullivan.blogspot.com/2011/11/will-adoption-ruin-my-biological.html
It’s hard to put words to what this did to me.  It was like reading words to my own thoughts, my own fears.  And yet there is this whisper in my ear – the Holy Spirit – telling me, your children are not going to lose in this.  My plans for them are GOOD.  I want to show them how to love, how to really love.  I want to take the Kings, all the Kings, on an adventure.  Where love is bigger and more powerful than anything else.

I forwarded this blog post I read to my husband and my dear friend, who is both wise and rich in the gift of prophecy.  She sent me this back:

Oh my goodness gracious! THIS was used by God (divine timing again) to show you truth Kristin! My heart is jumping, I have goose bumps from head to toe reading this – this holds much confirmation for you but there is one question left: are you ready? Are you & Russ really ready to pursue this because i think again from last night, you will have obstacles & naysayers in your way – but Who will you be listening to?

I am given the green light to say this to you friend:

‘she is connected to music in some way…this beautiful little one waiting for you both. It is either the name of the orphanage or her name itself is connected to music, to ‘song’, she already loves music too, but more than that, this whole thing is deeply connected to music, singing, and worship.’

I can’t wrap my brain around why God would show me that if this weren’t a journey for you Kristin. And of course she would be connected to music & this is a heart connection for you all.

Praying with your amazing family & here for you no matter what!
❤️

The day before, I had written the blog post about her name.  A nod to the worship song that is carrying me through.
Confirmation.  Jesus, continue to guide us.

Asking

“you do not have because you have chosen not to ask.” James 4:3

Finances.  Ugh.  This just **may be one of the more daunting parts of adoption.  And yet, I know all of this is God’s anyways.  I know He has the ability to make funds rain down.

I’m feeling the Spirit tell me to pray with big expectations.  Asking that God would provide all the money in ways that reveal His power and providence in this.

I struggled in the very beginning with the very idea that we will have to raise funds at all.  And then I realized that there is a pride aspect to that.  I don’t want help.  I don’t want to hear from the naysayers that think adoption shouldn’t be fund raised for, that have criticism and objection.  A good friend pointed out to me that as believers, as followers of Jesus, we are all called to orphans.  And yet maybe not all of us are called to bring children into our homes.  I have been very grateful to have incredible women around me who have rallied, who are excited about fundraising, who have told me over and over that we are not alone here.

I’m finding myself shifting, feeling a little excited about the village that will bring our girl home.  Definitely feeling excited about how God will show off here.

Jesus, work beyond our wildest expectations here.  Provide in a way that floors us, that confirms we are walking right where we are supposed to be.  You know every dollar we need to get her here and exactly how you will provide that.  We wait excited to see you work.

Rend

In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won’t let go
In my questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
I will trust the promise,
You will carry me
Safe to shore

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea

Fire before us, You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms

Isaiah 64: 1-4

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
    and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
    and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
    you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
 Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

Over the past few weeks, as I have begged God for clarity, for His direction, I have found myself listening to this song over and over again.  These beautiful words by Rend Collective that speak hope to me, when the way ahead feels fuzzy, scary, and filled with uncertainty.

Several months ago I read a blog.  About a long awaited for and prayed for child.  The writer quoted these beautiful lyrics over and over during a difficult pregnancy.  And at the end, she gave the miracle baby boy a meaningful name based on the journey that God had taken her on.

Both of our children’s middle names start with R.  I found myself wondering, would we continue this pattern?  I wouldn’t want her to feel she was any less part of us.  But there are so many other meaningful names that I would choose.

And then I remembered, she is a testament to the God who does “awesome things we do not expect”.

I think we’ll name her Rend.