Thursday, June 1, 2017

Choose to Chance the Rapids

I, like most, live with opposing forces battling within me. I have always been a fairly obedient person. I tend to follow the rules, listen and respect authority, and desire to meet or exceed expectations.
However, there is the other side. The side that has diverse interests and desires that go against the norm. I have a major case of wanderlust, I desire to live a creative and spontaneous life, and I want to buck against what is widely accepted and say, "why?"


Whew, it is exhausting! I'm sure there are a million and one psychological and sociological reasons why this internal conflict exists, but at the core of it all is one nasty four "f" letter word. Fear. What will people think of me? What if I am rejected? What if no one like what they see when I show who I really am? Will I be all alone?

I like to think that I don't care too much about others' approval, but obviously I do. I care about the fact that most people in this word like people to remain in neat categorized boxes.  You are ir/responsible, _____ profession, a mom/ without kids, a wife/single/divorcee/girlfriend, an extrovert/introvert, a good/bad....whatever skill. Dare I say we are all more complex than this? Aren't we capable of growing and changing. Can our interests be varied or even at time conflicting?

I'm actively fighting against this. A battle that surely will be arduous. However, what is the alternative? Each day I'm taking time to dream,  from there come action steps, and hopefully then I'll start to take my unique form.

What holds you back? Where are you feeling like you need to buck against the norm a bit more? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Settling into the unknown

Recently, a friend of mine recommended that I read Sue Monk Kidd's When the Heart Waits. Kidd's writing is beautifully descriptive as she shares about a season in her life where she was called to wait. The biggest take away is that the only way out of the pain of waiting is settling deep into it. Sounds fun, right? Counter-intuitive?

The image present throughout the book is that of a caterpillar's metamorphosis. A caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon and stays there until the change is complete. There is no rushing the stages of metamorphosis. "It's truly a fantastic mechanism developed by nature, yet while all may seem fantastic on the outside, this transformation looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis. In short, for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly it digests itself using enzymes triggered by hormones, before sleeping cells similar to stem cells grow into the body parts of the future butterfly." (ZME Science). In other words, in order to feel the greatest change, we have to enter into the painful and long process of digesting our old self and turning into something new. 

Several months ago I began counseling. I consider myself a well-adjusted person, but over the past two and a half years I've experienced a good amount of loss in different forms. I am no longer teaching - a profession that I am deeply passionate about and felt great success and satisfaction. My husband and I have struggled with infertility - a journey filled with disappointment and loss of a life we thought we'd have. Then there is the adoption - the wait that seems to never end and the ache that won't go away. I found that I was crumbling under the weight of these struggles. I would be able to handle the pain for a period of time, perhaps through telling myself the trite pieces of conventional wisdom that we have all heard - "It will all work out," "It is for the best," "At least you have ___," "Everything happens for a reason." Or times when I was feeling more spiritual I may have been able to cling to God' promises of His goodness. The only thing is, these little nuggets of wisdom weren't helping. They simply weren't permeating my heart. Aside - If you have a friend or family member experiencing some kind of long trial, advice on how to get out of the pain or "band-aid" comments like those above aren't helpful. Just say, "I'm sorry you are in pain. How can I support you during this time?"

My counselor explained to me that all people have a reaction to pain or trauma - 5 F's: fight, flight, freeze, fidget, and faint. She discerningly deduced that I faint. When faced with pain or trauma, I deal with it as long as I can and then I check out or metaphorically faint. She explained that we have to pave a new path in my mind, a path into the pain. She has helped me find my way into the depths of the pain (which goes waaaaayyyyyy deeper than we think), and coached me on how to stay in it. You know what's strange? I began learning how to support myself in the pain and I have begun to feel a positive change. I am not crumbling like I was before. Don't get me wrong, I cry, but I can stay in the place of pain without fear or avoidance.

I am not sure how long I will be wrapped up in a cocoon and when I will emerge. But, I am now confident of this - I will emerge different, better, and with  wings.

"I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" Psalm 27:13-14.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

4 years later....where are we now?

July 28, 2016

So much time has passed, where do I begin? Let's circle back. For years, God gently tugged at our heart to adopt, and in July of 2012 we finally acted on the tugs and applied to our adoption agency, America World (

When we began the process, the wait time for the Ethiopia program was 18-24 months. The assumption was that our adopted child would be in our home by the summer of 2014. However, the climate of international adoption across the world was changing. The wait times kept moving out. So, we decided, "Hey, let's try for a biological child!" Liv was born in November of 2013, and changed our world and blessed us with so much joy.

Evan got a new job and we transplanted our family to Florida two years ago, which has been fun but very trying at times. As the wait time on our adoption continues to move farther and farther away, we continue to pray and ask God if He wants us to change something. Should we change to domestic adoption? Change countries? Foster to adopt? So far, no news from the Big Guy. He's asking us to continue to persevere and wait. This. is. not. easy.

We feel the desire to continue to grow our family, and so the conversation about another biological child came up. However, this time God revealed another layer to our story. Liv was a special blessing. We knew she was special, amazing, and a miracle, but to what extent... we had no idea. After a year a half of trying, many tests and appointments, we found out that the chances of another biological child is like being struck by lightning...twice. We are immensely grateful for our blonde bolt of lightning, but we still ache.

The question we have been pondering, is what should our posture be in the wait. We can't do anything, but what should our heart be doing? God has shown us to continue to seek his glory. Seek Him though crying out, praying, pleading, and just being. We aren't sure why this is our story, nor do we know all the reasons for the wait. But, God is good. His timing is perfect, and this is His story. His stories are way better than the ones that I write, but I'd being lying if I said I didn't want to flip to the last page and see how this one turns out.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I love Jen Hatmaker

I just do. She inspires me with her faith, honesty, and poignant writing. She is also an adoptive parent, and I just learned that we are with the same agency. Here is a link to her referral story. I long for the day when my day will be blindsided by a call from my family coordinator saying, "Sit down, this is your referral call."

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The other part of orphan care

Through our process of adoption, I've learned so much about the needs of orphans in the world. To sum it up, most children who are orphaned are not able to be adopted. Therefore, adoption alone is not going to address the needs of these children. Yes, we are adopting, but our journey to meet the needs of orphans will continue beyond our adoption to orphan prevention. See the article below:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Update on the O haus

In July, the O Haus moved down to Orlando, Florida. It was not the easiest transition, but we knew that God was in the midst of our circumstances. We are now 8 months into our time here, and the winds have shifted. While it was chaotic and emotional in the beginning, we now feel like we are getting settled and God is providing us with a community and more peace. We are even in the process of buying a house!!!

One of the main reasons that we moved from Virginia was for Evan. He finished up a Master's degree from Virginia Tech in Instructional Design, and in January of last year he began his search for something in this industry. Lo and behold, Orlando is a major hub for the type of work Evan does. He is working for a government contractor designing instruction for Naval battleships. He is thoroughly enjoying his job, loving the change of pace, and the creative challenges of his job.

I have returned to teaching 5th grade. The school where I teach is nestled in a community and has some of the hardest working and supportive teachers I have ever encountered. It's been a tough adjustment from teaching in Virginia with all the differences in standards and testing. I regularly struggle with balancing motherhood and working and if this the career for me long term. However, I am trusting that God is using me where I am right now and so I will keep trucking.

Liv is an adorable package of joy and energy. She is walking, running, climbing, chattering, and bringing smiles to everyone around her. We regularly hear, "She is so happy!" She has been smiling since 6 weeks and pretty much hasn't stopped since.

Enzo is adjusting to the role as big brother. He is enjoying Liv's new found ability to throw the ball for him.

Since we have been in the process of adoption (July 2012), the wait time has increased 3 times. We are now in the midst of a 36-48 month wait from DTE (the date went sent our Dossier to Ethiopia- March 1, 2013). As of right now that means the soonest we would receive a referral is March 1, 2016 and the latest is March 1, 2017. HOWEVER, wait times are showing a trend of increasing so the wait time is likely longer. It's been hard to continue waiting. It seems like the pregnancy that will not end sometimes. We are trying to find the balance of expectancy while still living in the present. We will be working on some fundraisers in the near future to keep up with the financial demands.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In the wait

I received an email from our family coordinator recently just wanting to check in and confirm the details of our request. I answered all of the same questions as I have before (male or female, possibility of siblings, between 0-24 months). I told her about Liv, and how she brings us such joy,  smiles constantly, and overall is a very laid back girl.

Then, she asked a simple question, "How are you doing in the wait?" Well, I started to respond, and realized that the flood gates opened. I have so many more doubts, fears, and questions than I did when we started in 2012. I don't see this as a bad thing though. I think that this is a necessary process to go through instead of blindly walking through this.

I asked a lot of questions about why the wait is so long, why I don't hear anything about our specific case, and what comes of the orphans that are in orphanages right now. My family coordinator had some great insights, and I've included some of her thoughts below.

Basically, there’s lots of families and lots of children. I can ensure you this is very frustrating for me being in Ethiopia and seeing children who need families and knowing there are families waiting. However, it is mostly the government of Ethiopia causing this delay. We used to have very quick wait times years ago, but now the government is taking very long to sign off on documentation for a child to be cleared for adoption. We certainly support ethical adoptions and examining paperwork. But there’s lots of unnecessary holds. There has been negative adoption news coverage in Ethiopia, as well (one being the Hannah Williams story about an American couple who punished a child to the point of death). We are working to get more positive stories out to the Ethiopia government. But the reality is, there is  A LOT of documentation needed for each child’s adoption and everything takes much longer here. And sometimes, one level of the government doesn’t sign off on a document sitting on their desk for a while. And that document may be a preerequisite for another document. We have had a child sit in our Transition Home for a year before because of paperwork issues.
Here is some more information that may help, as well:
Included here are links to a couple of blog posts written by our CEO about ethical practices in adoption, especially pertaining to America World.
Below talks about how we get referrals and operate in country:
America World partners with several orphanages in Ethiopia.  Before we choose to partner with an orphanage, it goes through a screening process.  America World holds our partners to high standards and will break a partnership should there be any sign of unethical activity occurring.  Many of our orphanages do not strictly work with AWAA, but instead partner with other agencies and organizations, as well. 
America World also does their own investigation in each case before making a referral match.  We have specific staff that go to the field and investigate each child’s case.  In a relinquishment case, the staff member goes to the living family member and asks questions such as:
·         “Why did you give this child up for adoption?”
·         “How old do you believe this child to be?”
·         “How did you hear about adoption? Were you coerced into this decision?  Do you still want to give this child up for adoption?”
·         “Do you understand that once court is complete this is permanent?”
If it is an abandonment case, our staff goes to the locality of abandonment and interviews the local police and others in that area.  Our staff ensures this information is consistent with the information in the profile and that the case has no red flags.  If there are red flags, we further investigate.
Here is a note from Ryan Hanlon, the Executive Director of Programs:
Response to Book on International Adoption
At America World Adoption, we generally use our blog as a means of updating families on news and updates about adoption programs, training opportunities or other resources. Today, however, I want to use this forum to address some of the misinformation we’ve heard recently about Christian adoption agencies and the movement over the last decade in which Christians around the country have responded to God’s call on their lives to provide a family for parentless children.
A recent book calls into question the commitment, practices and motivations of reputable Christian agencies and the commitment and motivation of Christian adoptive families. This book, which I will not name, and the author have exaggerated facts, and misquoted and quoted out of context Christian adoption professionals.
As a licensed, accredited adoption agency, America World Adoption maintains the highest standards of service throughout our work. America World Adoption is proud of our work in Ethiopia and other countries and have been recognized by the U.S. Consulate in Ethiopia, the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues as well as the Ethiopian government for our strong efforts to ensure our work in Ethiopia is ethical, transparent and prioritizes children’s best interests.
International adoption is not the only thing we do in Ethiopia. In fact, we serve hundreds more families and children in Ethiopia every year that are not part of our adoption services. Our agency offers (free of charge) domestic adoption services to Ethiopian families interested in adopting a child. We are proud that we (with the support of our donors and adoptive families) are able to work with the Ethiopian government to provide financial assistance to vulnerable families so that we can prevent their family from breaking apart. In addition, we support nutrition projects, child education sponsorships and many other important projects. In total, we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to support vulnerable families and communities in Ethiopia that is not part of the adoption processes for the families we serve.
In the book I’m referring to, the author asserts that evangelical adoption agencies are trafficking children and willfully separating families at any cost for the sake of finding children for adoptive families. Unfortunately, we all know that many children and families are exploited in this world. However, I don’t think it’s fair to say that evangelical adoption agencies are fueling this problem. It may be true that some agencies have had poor practices or even blindly allowed poor practices to be part of their adoption services – but that is not characteristic of Ethiopian adoption or international adoption in general. We at America World Adoption find unethical and disreputable practices to be reprehensible. 
It’s commendable that the author of the book attempts to raise awareness for unethical practices in international adoption; however, there should be recognition that these practices are not characteristic of international adoption as a whole. It’s inaccurate of her to broadly paint Christian agencies and Christian families as responsible for problems with international adoption. This book does not adequately recognize that many of the organizations that are at the forefront of combatting child trafficking, caring for the poor and supporting family services across the globe are Christian organizations. We thank God for organizations such as World Vision, International Justice Mission, Compassion International, hundreds of other groups and thousands of churches around the world.
There are tens of thousands of children around the world that desperately need families. At America World Adoption we continue to affirm our mission of building Christian families according to God’s plan of adoption. Our hope and prayer is a world where every child can grow up knowing they’re loved by their family and loved by God.
Ryan Hanlon
Executive Director of Programs