Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December marks some huge events in our lives!
December 15th - Randy Duck (my dad) was born
December 18th - My parents were married
December 22nd - Sherma Duck (my mom) was born
December 24th... months of waiting for Zane!
December 25th - Jesus was born!

It has been a wonderful month!  Mark and I have enjoyed the Christmas season in New Orleans!  From dining at Restaurant August to caroling in Jackson Square, New Orleans is a great place to be during the Holidays.

The best thing about Christmas this year has been imagining little Zane with us at this time next year.  We think about what our family traditions will be, how he will love Christmas lights, opening his first Christmas gift...
It's magical to see Christmas through the eyes of a child.  We have been on the waiting list with AWAA for 3 months.  They have given us a 4-6 month window to receive a referral (a match with our child), so we're almost there!  After recieveing our referral we will get a court date within 6-8 weeks and an embassy date 6-8 weeks after that.  In total, we're looking at about 5-7 months more until baby Zane is home!

With that said...we have several prayer requests:
1.  Pray for families to be cleared on the first try by the Ethiopian courts. Our agency's court dates are backed up, and some are now getting them for March.  This is stressful because it will prolong our getting a court date and getting Zane home.
2.  Pray for embassy clearance for families who want to bring their children home as soon as possible.
3.  Pray that God would speed up paperwork coming from villages, orphanages, etc. to AWAA, court, embassy, whomever!
4.  Pray for referrals to be given out to families!  We have been particularly discouraged the last month as very few referrals for baby boys have gone out.  We are stagnant on the wait list, and it can be daunting at times.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

This morning I read Mark 9:35-37
And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”


Children have a special place in God's heart and He is passionate about them in His word.  It reminds me of what Christmas is all about...God's Son, Emmanuel, sent from Heaven as my payment for my sins.  He didn't die at the hands of man, He came for that very purpose knowingly and zealously to vindicate me before God. 


I know that Emmanuel is with us and with Zane.  His timing is perfect, and His love for us is abundant.   


Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We're Thankful

This weekend began the 9 days of Thanksgiving break for the Brannans.  I love our school district for giving us a week off for Thanksgiving every year.  It's a blessing to be able to relax, shop, and see friends and family before the craziness of the Christmas season begins.

We are particularly blessed this Thanksgiving to have attended a "family reunion" of sorts in College Station.  Mark was adopted by a Student Adoption Ministry family in college through First Baptist Bryan, and the Nelsons have been friends, supporters, and family to Mark during very formative years of his life.  Their love was graciously extended to me when I became a part of the "family" Mark's senior year at Texas A&M.  They are a fun couple who love the Lord and love the Aggies.  What could be sweeter?  This weekend, their son, Kyle, celebrated his 16th birthday and the adoption ministry kids from the past 10 years returned along with Kyle's blood-relatives to wish Kyle a Happy Birthday.  The Nelson's influence on a decade of Aggies was evident as we gathered and immediately bonded in our "kinship" in the Lord.  It was like Mark sat down to talk with brothers as they visited about life, "man-stuff", and family.  The wives laughed and awed over the birth of a new baby into the "family".  It was like heaven...a variety of backgrounds, races, and families gathering in fellowship around the throne of Jesus.  He was at the center of it all, and He tied us all together in love, even though some of us had never met.

Mark and I spoke for a long time after our wonderful visit with the Nelsons about faith, family, fellowship, and the importance of mentors in the lives of our children.  Mark said at one point during the visit, "We know we won't always be the best parents and that our children probably won't listen to us.  But when we surround them with people that love God and speak truth to them, maybe they'll listen to them."  It's true.  We're not naive enough to think that our kids are going to think we're wise and hang on every word we say, but wouldn't it be amazing if every direction they turn they run into a Godly man or woman who directed them to the same Jesus we speak of?  What if the cloud of witnesses cheering them on could be evident on this earth, not just in Heaven?  How much harder would they run their race?

Mark and I have taken note of the method the Nelson's have used in raising their own children.  It's not just about free dinners, doing laundry at their house, or having a home away from home for these college students.  For the Nelsons, it's about pouring into their "adopted children" the love and truth of Christ, and seeing them, in turn, pour faith, belief, and Christian mentorship into their children as well.  It's not a selfish pursuit; it's the body of Christ.  We were made to sharpen one another, provide discipleship, and be upheld by our fellow soldiers in the Gospel.  This race is not run alone...

I am thankful for the body of Christ, for the family we have that exceeds boundaries placed by man.  I pray our children will know the kind of love that God has shown us through people like the Nelsons.

BTW...GIG 'EM AGS!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Repetition

I am extremely turned-off by redundancy, and I annoy myself when I think that I may be saying the same thing over and over.  Maybe that's because I spend most of my day repeating myself.  I teach the same lesson three times in one day.  Within that lesson I may give the same directions two or three times, and within that direction, I may repeat a key phrase twice more for added emphasis.  Obviously, I'm experienced in redundant, monotonous verbiage.  The deal is, as much as I hate to repeat myself, it really boils down to a subconscious feeling I have that nobody really wants to know all I have to say (and I have A LOT to say usually!).  I feel like if I write one more blog entry about how we're waiting...still...people might vomit.
And the truth is, there is absolutely nothing happening on our end of the adoption right now besides WAITING.  (My favorite.)

So for those of you patient enough to read as I drone on and on (thanks, mom!)...I still wonder what Zane looks like...I still wonder if he has a twin that we will adopt too...I still think about his mom and wonder how she's doing.  I wonder who his dad is and if he is an upstanding man.  I wonder what region of Ethiopia he's from and what it looks like.  I wonder if I will see it one day and maybe even meet his birth family.  I think about what I might say to them.  I dream of his curly locks resting softly upon his smooth skin.  I think of his cheeks and how I will want to kiss 'em and press them to my face every minute.  And his sweet hands that will gently rest in mine.  Most of all, though, I think of his eyes and the story they might tell.  His soul will pour out through those eyes, and I wonder so desperately about them.  What color will they be and what shape will they take?  What will they convey to me about his time with his birth family, his trip to the orphanage, his understanding that they are not coming back, and his adventure to a transition home where he will be given to Mark and I, his new family.

Better yet...more than what his eyes convey to me, I wonder what his eyes convey to himself.  What is his perception of his world?  What message did he receive from his birth families faces the day he was born?  What signs did he interpret as he made his way to the orphanage?  What did he perceive about life...about himself when no one came back to get him?
My heart hurts over this and yearns for God's intervention.  Satan will pounce at the opportunity to speak lies of abandonment and unworthiness to any child(ren) who will listen.  If he can convince us of our lack of value to God, he can render our lives completely ineffective, unproductive, and completely worthless to the Kingdom of God.  He wreaks havoc in the world's children everyday, and I am desperate for God to preserve the heart of my child.  I pray he will know, even now, his God in such an intimate way, that he feels His presence with him every moment.  I pray he talks about Him when he gets up in the morning and when he lie down at night, and that he knows Him as Father as well as I know my own earthly father.  While we are away from him, He will be his Daddy, and oh, how I want him to know His face, His touch, His words.  I pray for God to show Himself...for God to whisper in his ear the truth about who he is in Christ:  loved, accepted, rescued.

No matter how much I tire of talking, I never grow weary over praying for my Zane's relationship with Jesus, his understanding of God's love, and his confidence as a child of the Savior.  While English grammar, test directions, and rules grow mundane, some things are clearly worth repeating.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Perfect Weekend

Last weekend I had Fall Break!  It's the first year we've been given a four-day weekend in the middle of the fall, and it was much appreciated!  Mark and I planned months ago to meet our friends in College Station for an Aggie football game, and we were thrilled to see the Aggies beat the Raiders!  However, this weekend ended up being better than we ever imagined.

First, we have to thank God that we got to Houston from New Orleans in 5 1/2 hours on Thursday night.  It's always a gamble when you drive the perilous I-10 through endless construction and traffic, and we are so thankful when we bypass traffic and have an easy drive home.

Secondly, we got to sleep in for 4 days!  It's so nice to not have anywhere to be and to wake up on your own!  No alarms, no stress, just rest.

Thirdly, beautiful weather allowed for a fun neighborhood cookout on my parent's driveway Friday night and Sunday night while trick-or-treaters ran by searching for candy.  It was incredibly entertaining to see the costumes and children scuttling by with sugar-highs.

Saturday was ideal, as we got to eat at our favorite College Station restaurants, Koppe Bridge for hamburgers and Rudy's for good Texas Bar-b-que!  We got to shop for Aggie paraphernalia, and got our first items of clothing for our little boy(s)...TEXAS A&M t-shirts!

Our seats were at the 35 yard line, first deck.  We eyed David Robinson just below where we sat, watched George Bush lead out the team, and of course sat in awe at the "Fightin' Texas Aggie Band".  The best news is that we played great and beat the Raiders!


We headed up to San Antonio after the game to stay with Laura and Ben (Mark's sister and brother-in-law). Unfortunately, we were meeting under sad circumstances.  Mark's grandmother is dying, and we were taking our last opportunities to visit her.  We spent a couple of hours with her on Sunday as she laughed and joked as usual about life...and death.  We wrote notes to her and were comforted by her peace, joy, and readiness to spend eternity with her Savior, Jesus.  There was no sadness, only joy for Grenna's life, ministry, and future in Heaven.

It made me think.  I want to go like that.  Wondering how much longer I have to "do this" because I can't wait to see Him.  I want to be ready; so much so that every moment I long more to see His face.  What a way to go.  There is NO better way to go, and the sad reality is that so many will suffer greatly at the hands of death. As if death isn't fearful enough, many will spend eternity in anguish at what might have been if they had only trusted Jesus.  This is the only sadness we feel as Grenna passes on...the sadness for loved ones who may not be ready...It hurts to leave behind loved ones you may not ever see again because they have rejected Christ.  I saw this anguish in her face this weekend, and it pained all of us.

With all of the fun, beauty, and complete delight I felt this weekend, there is no pleasure that eclipses the truth of our need for a Savior.  Every good thing in our lives comes from Him and He alone is worthy of praise.  What will happen when we die?  We all will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, but for some of us it will be too late.  What should we do then?  Become better people?  Go to church more?  Have a more philanthropic life?  NO!  We all fall short of the glory of God, no matter what we do!  We must rely on His grace and His righteousness.  That's the transforming, life-changing power of the Gospel.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

ONE MONTH DTE!

Today marks ONE MONTH that we have been waiting for Zane.  We have been told to expect a 3-8 month wait for a referral for a baby boy.

On the "unofficial wait list" that people in our agency keep up with, we have moved up to number 22!!  So in one month we've moved  up 7 spots!  YEA!  Things are moving!

A big prayer request right now for our agency is for people who have referrals to get court dates.  The courts were closed through August and September, so there is a little back up with the court process.  Please pray that many families will be scheduled for court, so the process doesn't keep backing up.

Thanks for praying for Zane and for us as we wait for him to come home!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

.

I am officially registered for a great adoptive moms retreat!  Upon hearing about the event, I knew it would be an awesome time.  Any excuse to get together with a bunch of girls who love Jesus, love girl time, and love adoption!  I'm perfectly content to sign up for these kinds of things by myself, and usually I'm surprised and thrilled to meet up with people I know at the event.  Signing up for this event, however, was an even better surprise!

Several girls on the America World Yahoo Group threw around ideas of going, so I knew there would be a few familiar faces as the first day of registration came and went.  When I went to sign up there were only four spots left because so many women committed to go!  Kristy, my AWAA NOLA buddy, called and we determined to go together.  In a matter of three days, Jamie from Baton Rouge, Kara from the Woodlands, Autumn from Houston, and several others in the America World group had registered to go!  I am so excited to see these girls and meet some of them face-to-face for the first time!

A remarkable thing is after learning about all of the wonderful America World girls going, I got on Facebook and found Mary Beth from Arkansas is also going.  Mary Beth is the beautiful wife of my high school friend, Casey Picker.  I have been in contact with her regularly since I learned of their adoption of their 2nd son from Ethiopia, and I followed their 2nd adoption of a little girl from Ethiopia this summer.  Although I feel like I know her, I have never met Mary Beth.  I am so thrilled to be able to meet her and hang out with her at this retreat!

This will definitely have to be the first of many annual retreats like this one!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Waiting List

Ethiopia has a "rainy season" between August and October.  During this time, most activity shuts down, as the roads become dangerous for travel.  For the past few weeks, I have been eagerly watching our agency's UNOFFICIAL waiting list for any sign of activity.  Finally, last week about 10 court dates were given or confirmed, and several referrals were given out.  When we sent our dossier to Ethiopia in September, we were number 29 on the "waiting list", and now we have already moved up to 27!  Of course, there is still a long way to go, but it's so cool to see movement!
In the meantime, I've been reading some great books.  One particularly important book for families adopting from Ethiopia is There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Green.  It is wonderfully written, and it balances history with personal stories about Ethiopian orphans and caregivers.  A great book on the theology of adoption is Adopted for Life, by Russel Moore.  It reveals God's heart for us and shows how adoption is part of God's design for mankind.  I am now reading Radical by David Platt, which has nothing to do with adoption, but ironically has EVERYTHING to do with adoption at the same time.  Its about American Christians futile pursuit of the American Dream, and the REAL life that is found in abandoning everything for the sake of the gospel; not the gospel as it applies to me, but the true gospel of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  It's about living for the glory of God and making Him known throughout the world.  And what it costs to do that.  I think David Platt is really on to something with this book...it's definitely something I will be thinking about for a while.  My next reads will be...
The Connected Child by Karen Purvis (awesome child development specialist from TCU),
Parenting By the Book by John Rosemond,
Thriving As An Adoptive Family by David and Renee' Sanford,
Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson,
I'm Chocolate, Your Vanilla by Marguerite A. Wright,
Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell,
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.,
Ethiopia by Phillip Briggs,
Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen, M.A.

Please give me feedback under comments if you've read any of these.  I need help prioritizing them.  If you have any to add, I have lots of time I need to fill will reading!  It keeps me from obsessing over the waiting list!

While we wait, we are also getting some ideas for a nursery.  It is very difficult for me to choose a nursery theme or even colors.

On one hand, I love the calm, cool colors of a Restoration Hardware nursery like this one...

OR...



On the other hand, I love whimsical, modern looks such as this zebra-modern look:
Or maybe this oriental-modern look:
Even this fun, colorful whimsical look:
I'm not so fond of the boyish theme styled bedding, unless it's subtle:
SUBTLE...

NOT SO SUBTLE:


Let me know what your favorite look is in the comment section!
THANKS FOR THE HELP!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

DELIVERED!

The embassy approved our request for a Visa AND...
Our dossier was delivered to Addis Ababa on September 30th!  We're rolling!  
Sep 30, 2010 3:00 PM
Delivered
KIRKOS SUB-CITY, ADDIS ABABA ET
Sep 30, 2010 12:30 PM
In transit
ADDIS ABABA ET
Package available for clearance
Sep 30, 2010 12:30 PM
Int'l shipment release
ADDIS ABABA ET
Sep 30, 2010 3:36 AM
In transit
DUBAI AE
Sep 29, 2010 6:13 PM
At local FedEx facility
DUBAI AE
Sep 29, 2010 4:47 AM
Departed FedEx location
PARIS FR
Sep 29, 2010 4:42 AM
In transit
PARIS FR
Sep 28, 2010 9:19 PM
Departed FedEx location
PARIS FR
Sep 28, 2010 7:12 PM
Arrived at FedEx location
PARIS FR
Sep 28, 2010 12:40 AM
Arrived at FedEx location
PARIS FR
Sep 28, 2010 12:29 AM
At local FedEx facility
PARIS FR
Sep 27, 2010 11:36 PM
In transit
FRANKFURT DE
Sep 27, 2010 9:02 PM
Departed FedEx location
KOELN DE
Sep 27, 2010 4:33 PM
Arrived at FedEx location
KOELN DE
Sep 27, 2010 3:54 AM
Departed FedEx location
NEWARK, NJ
Sep 27, 2010 1:52 AM
In transit
NEWARK, NJ
Sep 25, 2010 8:22 AM
Departed FedEx location
NEWARK, NJ
Sep 25, 2010 7:25 AM
Arrived at FedEx location
NEWARK, NJ
Sep 24, 2010 8:23 PM
Left FedEx origin facility
HERNDON, VA
Sep 24, 2010 4:19 PM
Picked up
HERNDON, VA
Sep 24, 2010 2:15 PM
Shipment information sent to FedEx
Many of you have been asking about next steps for us, so here's an approximate timeline:

  • We wait for 3-6 months to get word from America World that we have been matched with a little boy 0-12 months or twin boys 0-12 months.
  • America World sends us a "referral" complete with a picture of the child, background information, etc.
  • We wait for 4-6 weeks for America World to set us up with a court date in Ethiopia.
  • We travel to Ethiopia to testify before court that we will bring up the little boy(s) to be healthy and happy.
  • We come home and wait for 4-6 weeks for clearance to travel to pick up the boy(s).
  • We travel to Ethiopia to pick up our kid(s)!
Our prayer request at this time is that God will show us clearly what he wants for us.  We have had in mind twins from the beginning.  The passion is growing stronger, especially for Mark, to have two boys.  Pray for us, America World, and the appropriate powers in Ethiopia to match us with two boys if that's what God wants for us.  Also pray for the caregivers that they would have energy and the mind of Christ to see to every child's needs while they wait for their forever family.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

DTE - 9/24/10

Mark and I received an email today from our Family Coordinator with AWAA that our dossier has been approved.  It will be sent to Ethiopia on September 24th, this Friday!  YEA!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kinko's Trip!

Today we copied all of our dossier documents three times, put them in order and prepared for tomorrow's mailing!  Mark will take the dossier to FedEx at 8am and it will be off to Virginia to be approved by America World.  I can't wait to get the call that we are finally DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia)!
Right now, the wait for a male infant is approximately 4-6 months.  We hope to receive a referral for Zane by February, travel for our Court date in March/April, and go pick him up in April/May.  It's so exciting!

First we double checked (really I don't remember how many times I've checked) all the paperwork at home.
Then we headed to our local Kinko's/FedEx Office.


This is Mark documenting how much money the copies are costing us.  He is a VERY trusty accountant!  :)
putting all the copies in order...


getting a little overwhelmed at the amount of paperwork...

Mark's version of helping... He's so faking it. :)


getting closer to the finish line....

My "baby bump!"

Manly "baby on the way" pose.

It's official.  I'm going to be an ehmyay, "mama!"



Saturday, September 18, 2010

FINALLY HERE!

I am so excited I could cry.  We just received our I-171H in the mail today!  We will be sending our dossier to AWAA on Monday.  Hopefully we will have our dossier in Ethiopia by Friday!!!!  YEA!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stalking

I'm becoming a mail stalker.  Yes, that was M-A-I-L, not M-A-L-E.  We're expecting our I-171H forms (Immigration) to come in the mail...we think.  We got a call from USCIS with a question about Mark "making his appointment" and I called her back to leave her a message that "yes, he did 'make his appointment.'"  I did not hear back about what this means or if further discussion was needed.  I even brought my phone to work to receive the call between 10 and 11 a.m. (the only hours she returns calls.)  I have not heard one word back from USCIS about this voice message I got two weeks ago.  For days I thought she had figured out the answer to her question and she didn't need me anymore.  I just figured I would see the forms in the mail in the next couple of days.  After a week of checking the mail box and not finding it there, I'm starting to have doubts.  What if she put me at the end of a big long list of "people to call back between 10 and 11 a.m." because I failed to answer her call?  If that's the case, I won't be hearing from her for quite a while I'm sure.  This would further delay our sending of our dossier to Ethiopia, and in turn, delay our referral for our waiting little boy, which would delay our court date to make the little boy ours, and then delay our travel date where we bring our little boy home.  So this is really NO BIG DEAL.  REALLY.  I'm totally fine with checking the mail EVERY day to see more junk mail, bills, and coupons to Bed Bath and Beyond (you know what I'm saying?  How many coupons can they give out!)
All that aside, when I step back and try to see the broader picture, I remember that there are MANY things God is lining up across the world at this very moment.  There is a mother who is deciding what she will do with her unborn or recently born child.  There is a counselor or advisor who is crossing her path to encourage her to choose life and health for her baby.  There is an orphanage that is making room for another baby among the dozens of cribs in their baby room.  There is a volunteer that is donating more formula to the orphanage so the baby can be fed and cared for.  There is an agency that is preparing to advocate for our family.  There is a judge who needs a heart filled with compassion.  And there is a family who needs to understand God's wisdom and love.  No plan is ever standing still in God's Kingdom.  There are thousands of moments that must happen in the lives of hundreds of people before Zane is ready to come home.  Even if we can't see any movement, there is always action going on in the Heavenly realms.  If any of these moments are missed, the plan fails...and God promises His plans NEVER fail.  I'm so glad that I can rest in that.  There is nothing going on right now that isn't part of the greater picture.  I can and I will wait for the Lord.  His timing is ALWAYS perfect.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to Save A Life


Ethiopian Orphans from Simon Scionka on Vimeo.


It's hot.  So hot I can't bear to move for fear that I might start sweating.  The sun's beating down at about 100 degrees and the heat index has been reaching up to 110.  To add to the heat, New Orleans is privileged to be surrounded by steaming marshes, creeks, and canals whose waters evaporate into the blazing hot air causing us all to barely be able to breath.  The Mississippi River looks like something out of a horror film.  Steam and fog move mysteriously across the water like ghosts choking residents with it's thick moist consistency.
About the only thing I want to do these days is jump in a pool full of ice and enjoy the refreshing feeling of freezing to death.  If only the 1940's insulation in my walls would contain the air conditioning that has been constantly flowing out of vents in my home 24/7!  There have been many days I've thought of buying a new house with beautiful double-paned windows that actually seal when they close, updated insulation that fills the walls with protection from outside elements, and a ventilation system that keeps our attic cool.  I've thought about a covered deck out back surrounding an underground pool with chilly waters and a relaxing rock fountain.  Add to that an outdoor ice machine, cold drinks, and a pool raft, and I'd have it made.
Six months ago, I would have started saving for exactly those things.  "Why shouldn't I have what many, if not most, homes in America have?"  "It's hot, I work hard, I make money, I deserve these things."  "Life is too short to not enjoy it!"  "I'll feel less stressed and more comfortable with some place to relax."  The explanations and rationalizations I created for spending money were countless.  Afterall, they are all based in some sort of truth...a self-centered truth.
I believe it's these so called "truths" that keep many of us self-absorbed, dissatisfied, and depressed.  The "truth" is there is nothing on earth that will satisfy our deepest needs.  All efforts to de-stress, de-toxify, de-brief, de-whatever are futile if there is nothing better, nobler, wiser to replace it.  The TRUTH is, the only thing that satisfies us is knowing God and making Him known throughout the world.
In adoption, I have found that there is nothing closer to God's heart.  Just as God has adopted us as heirs of His promise, given us full rights as sons, and blessed us with a glorious inheritance, Mark and I are now in turn offering a reflection of God's adoption of us to a baby boy in Ethiopia.
I'm ashamed I ever thought of spending my money, my time, my resources on anything less than a human life.  How much we have in America!  Yet we are content to write checks to charities to avoid getting our "hands dirty."  There is no amount of money saves lives.  God saves lives.  And he uses His people to bring salvation to the "ends of the earth."  One of the ways He does that is through Christian men and women adopting children as sons and daughters who have the full rights and full inheritance of biological children.
I am beside myself when I think of the reality of circumstances in this video.  I can't go on.  I feel like crumbling to the floor in anguish.  I will never be the same.  No discomfort and no sacrifice  is too difficult if it means the rescue of these children.  "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Another prayer answered...Another one requested.

I have been putting off a new entry and rationalizing my procrastination for days now.  While procrastination is never a good idea, there are many good reasons for my delay in writing this entry.
Top Ten:
10.  Football season started.
9.  School is keeping me very busy.
8.  I've been planning a bridal luncheon for my sweet cousin, Amber's wedding on September 5th.
7.  Sometimes, I feel like being lazy and just watching TV.
6.  The dishes are overflowing out of my sink and need to be washed.
5.  I've been reading some great adoption books, Adopted for Life by Russel Moore and There is No Me Without You by Melissa Faye Green
4.  I've been reading countless updates on our adoption Yahoo Group.
3.  Adoption blog-stalking is very time consuming.
2.  I can't stand blogs that just COMPLAIN and I don't want to be "that blogger."
1.  I'm tired of talking about adoption paperwork and that's about all there is to talk about right now.

So...with that said, here is the most mundane post I hope to ever write, written entirely out of my own personal guilt over procrastinating for so long.  I must break free.  Here goes...

Monday, August 23rd (Mark's birthday), Mark and I headed to the local USCIS office to be fingerprinted for our Biometrics appointment at 8:00 a.m.  It was to be a quick fingerprinting, followed by a fast drive to work so I could make it for my first class.  We arrived a few minutes early, entered the office, and approached a metal detector much like the airport security scanners.  As I entered, I was told I could not bring in my coffee...understandable.  I set it down on the ground in the hallway outside the office, so I could grab it on the way out.  Big mistake.  Apparently, drinks have to be taken all the way back down to your car even though the USCIS office is in a regular office building where many people gather in the hallways and elevators with a steaming hot mug of delicious coffee.  No problem.  I took it back to the car.  When I came back up, we went through security easily and got in line with our appointment papers.  When I approached the counter the girl said we did not have the appropriate paperwork.  Mark's appointment was verified, but I did not have an appointment sheet.  I felt like throwing up.  After waiting 5 months to have this moment, the last piece of our dossier completed, I was about to freak out.  I stepped away from the window, turned toward a chair, and sat down.  Immediately, Mark said, "You can just sit there and pray and don't worry about it."  He knew I was on the verge of a meltdown.  He said it right in time because I was just about to explode.  I did exactly as he suggested and prayed with all my heart that the women would find my paperwork quickly and that there would be NO ISSUES with it.  About 15 minutes passed and I was quoting the last verse I knew from the bible about peace and patience in my head when the woman yelled my name to approach the window.  I darted to toward her as she non-nonchalantly placed the paperwork under the window for me to grab.  What a miracle.  USCIS had found my paperwork and no extra calls, raised voices, or sudden freak-outs were required.
It was a mere 15 minute wait after that, and I was in the fingerprinting area getting my immigration fingerprints made!  It was an emotional roller-coaster, but all is well that ends well. :)
Now we are waiting for the USCIS fingerprints to be processed and for an I-171H form, stating we've been cleared, to be sent to our home.  Seems simple, right?
Wednesday, September 1st, the day I expected to possibly receive the forms, I got a call from a USCIS adoption officer.  She wanted to know if "Mark made his appointment..."  I still don't know what that means because when I called back at 4:00 on Wed. afternoon, the voicemail said the office was closed for a government holiday.  No need to look up and re-read, folks.  You're right.  It was WEDNESDAY.  I thought Labor Day was Monday????  I guess the government got off Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  Wow!  Why don't I work for USCIS???
Today is Tuesday, September 7th, the day after Labor Day.  When I called the office today, the voicemail said, "I only return calls between 10 am and 11 am."  At this point, Mark and I were laughing out loud.  This has got to be the funniest work schedule I've ever heard of!  As of now, we still have not touched base with USCIS to see what was meant by "Did Mark make his appointment?"
USCIS saga to be continued...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Gonna Be Worth It

I stood before a crowded room of over 50 adolescent 7th graders on Friday and told them about my family, my interests, my likes and dislikes, my favorite books, movies, music, and places to visit.  It was my attempt to summarize who I am so they might have some insight into the kind of person I am and the type of community I want us to have in my classroom.  It was going pretty smoothly.  I was excitedly showing off my brother who is proudly serving in the United States Army, my mom who also loves working with middle school students "just like them," my dad who is the "sweetest, most sincere, and funniest person I know," my best friend and husband whom I love to "hang out with," and my two dogs who are as much of a mess as they look in the pictures.  Their eyes were wide with interest, grins on their faces showed their amusement, and their posture encouraged me to continue.  I flipped to the next slide where I revealed that one family member was missing, and I explained our adoption of Zane that is currently in process.  On the slide, I had a beautiful Ethiopian flag, a decadent picture of moist Ethiopian coffee beans, two pictures of the captiol, Addis Ababa, and a large outine of Africa in the middle.  I don't know what the children were thinking when I told them we were adopting, but I do know that many of their faces were excited and surprised and others were confused and perplexed.  I've never seen such a contrast of emotions!  One even asked, "Will he be black?"  It's a great question!  One that many wouldn't know to ask because they might assume that because Zane's from Africa he would be very dark.  I tried to answer as best as I could with "His skin color could range from light/tan skinned to very dark skinned.  There are many different people in Ethiopia and cultures from the middle east, Italy, and East Africa merge to make up this country."  There was an interesting hush across the room, and honestly, I don't know what to make of it.  I don't know if I should make anything of it at all, and I try not to in my mind.  But I can't stop thinking of the boy's face after his question was answered.  To me, it was a look of disapproval or disappointment.  I hope I'm making the wrong assumption about his look, but still I can't get it out of my mind.  If he was disapproving...why was he?  Of what was he disappointed?  Is it because I'm too white to parent a tan/dark baby?  Is the baby too black to have a white mom?  Is it too weird to adopt a child at all?  Is it upsetting to him that I might choose to mother the motherless, rather than birthing a child biologically?  What do people perceive about me?  Do they think I am a merely caught up in a generational trend?  Do they think I am an arrogant "princess"-type thinking I can save the world?  And why do I care what they think?  Why?
It is so difficult for me to look at the world and accept injustices, abuses, and inequalities.  I don't want to be misunderstood, yet I don't want to be defensive either.  People will have their judgements, but there is only one Judge.  People will have their opinions, but there is one Truth.  And He is worth it all.  
When I look at Zane in my mind's eye, I see the utmost in earthly beauty.  He is full of color, full of life, full of hope, and full of wonder.  When I imagine Him, I imagine the face of one who has seen the face of God.  There is radiance, gratitude, and peace.  I don't know what color he will be, but I know He will be beautiful and there will be no one else in all the world like him.  I know he will be fearfully and wonderfully made; knit together by the hands of God.  I know I will be lost for words and yet so full of things I want to say to him.  His color will be vibrant and He will be made in God's image.
When I imagine Heaven, I imagine there are colors I've never seen before.  Paul said that we now see through a glass dimly, but then we shall see face to face.  What we think of as blue on earth will have no semblance to the radiant shades of blue we will see when our eyes are unveiled.  Likewise, the colors of our skin will radiate with glory indescribable.  I imagine a sea of people who shine with the light of Christ and the beauty of rich browns, tans, blacks, reds, and yellows that have never been perceived by mankind.  What humanity has made into a divisive and volatile physical attribute that has caused hatred and wars, God is making into a glorious and everlasting Kingdom that reflects His nature and His beauty.
I want so badly for people to know how color-blessed we are on this side of Heaven.  I wish humans could love one another and really understand God's love for us.  What would we do and how would we treat people if we really embraced them as our brothers and sisters?  How would our children respond to our example?  How would future generations embody the call of the Great Commission?  Maybe adoption wouldn't be such a perplexing thing to our children after all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Immigration Fingerprints

CLOSED.

Thank you all for your prayers for Mark and I as we attempted to get our immigration fingerprints.  We went at about 4:00 p.m. and the office was already closed.  We looked online before coming to see if they had office hours and there were none listed.  Obviously, there are no office hours on the door either.  Mark did; however, find office hours on another door with a random acronym on it and they said 8-2:30, so we're assuming these hours apply for the USCIS office as well.

Interestingly, God answered your prayers in a way we did not expect.  Having an hour of concentrated thinking time in the car as I sat on I-10 in traffic to get to this office turned out to be the "answer" I needed.  I realized that my school schedule is such that I do not have students until 9:20 a.m.  From 7:10 - 9:20, I am doing various "teacher" duties, like hallway monitoring, team meeting, etc.  Therefore, the August 23rd appointment at 8:00 a.m. might work out.  I will have to miss my team meeting, but I won't feel like I'm letting down my students and my new partner teacher! (Hugs, Becky!)

Another way that God answered your prayers is that Mark and I began really considering the timing of our August 23rd appointment.  It will probably mean that our Dossier will be in Ethiopia in the middle to end of September.  If wait time for a referral (match with a child) goes as it has been going recently, that will put us getting our referral in March, traveling for court at the end of April possibly, and picking up Zane at the end of May/early June.  For a teacher, this would be perfect timing!

I know that God's timing is perfect, and He's already working this thing out.  Thanks for praying for us.  Little did we know, your prayers would change US, not our circumstances.  God is faithful to do that, isn't He?