Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's the Little Things...

Well, last night Cary discovered my best-kept secret of 3 years: Every night since June 20, 2009, I have had the pleasure of squeezing the toothpaste from the round, plump, center of the tube. That's because every night, when Cary brushes his teeth, he works the toothpaste that's left as far as it will go to the top. (Making it perfect to squeeze right in the middle!) I should qualify - I have only been enjoying this fully for about... a year and a half. (Ever since I heard him wonder out loud "Why the toothpaste doesn't just stay at the top of the tube" and I realized he had not caught on to  my guilty pleasure of squeezing the toothpaste from it's fattest point.) I started snickering a little to myself every time I got away with it. Tonight I was discovered. I may never be allowed to squeeze the toothpaste from it's fat center again, but hey... it was great while it lasted. (And maybe for the next 3 years he won't notice if I always remember it's diaper change time when the boys are wet, and he ends up changing all the stinky ones.) Eh, it's the little things...

Also, my passport came back. Dossier compiled. Waiting solely on fingerprint clearance from the FBI to submit and get our highly-awaited court date.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Am Wealthy

Part I: Therapy - One last baking spree in our first apartment. (June 14, 2012)

It's funny how fast we can run AWAY from the many evidences of God's faithfulness and provision. After consecutive days and days of blessing from the Lord, I found myself sitting in a little bank office, fighting back tears as a squirming adult man had to tell me that after the first amount for the line of credit we applied for was denied, the amount he assured me would be approved was also turned down - for some reason the max they would offer was a wopping 5k. (Maybe 1/5 of our adoption costs.) Just 15 minutes before, we were smiling. I was talking about our adoption, counting my blessings, and feeling knowledgeable about our financial options. Now, in the face of a little shock, I was sure there would be a follow up... a second option, a different direction, but... the news was grim. That was all we could possibly get from the bank. It didn't make sense. I reminded the banker that Cary and I have great credit scores, we paid a huge amount of college loans off in 3 years... Then he calmly listed off the MANY things Cary and I do NOT have. I felt small, and dumb for having applied (twice) for credit that was apparently so beyond our means, and I left (in a bit of a fury - darn my fiery flesh) fighting tears and overwhelming feelings of defeat. It seemed too early to hit such a big financial obstacle. And hearing "no" from the bank is SO big! I felt crushed.

After hours of phone counsel, and venting, and crying, I felt empty of it all... and suddenly could think of nothing but being busy and productive. So I went on a cleaning craze, raided the cabinets, and decided this apartment and I would have one more good round of amazing output. Baking spree = therapy.

I planned to watch a mind-numbing tv show while I baked - the distraction welcomed, but I couldn't turn off the Jon Foreman song I was listening to, and then the Switchfoot song that came next on the playlist... Instead of vegging out, I found my mind repeating some of these wonderful truths over and over, and at the end of those... several... hours, I had a worthwhile product (pic below) and a renewed heart.

                                               "We were meant to live for so much more."
                                             "We want more than this world's got to offer."
        "Where can you run to escape from yourself? Where you gonna go? Salvation is HERE."
                                  "I am the second man now - You're raising the dead in me."

Part II - I Am Wealthy (July 27, 2012)

By the American standard, Cary and I don't have a lot of things. After spending some time thinking about this, I am blown away by how much the world says we DON'T have. (Given, they're technically right).

-Cary and I don't have a house. (Or savings to get one.)
-We don't have 6 months savings in the bank. (Or 3.)
-We don't have fabulous health insurance, or a medical savings fund.
-We don't have a guaranteed residence, or a prettified nursery (although I love to dream of what ours would look like if we did.)

Here's what we do have:
-A call. (God called us to start a family through adoption - we heard it loud and clear.)
-A home. (Sure, it's a fluid concept - we're living in a friend's home and when it sells we'll be renting a place we have yet to find...)
-Food to eat. (Good food, too. I can cook, and love to, and the food we have is above and beyond what we need to survive.)
-Joy. (Abundant, constant, unfailing joy - enough to share with a child - or TWO we've discovered.)
-Love. (Flowing from an unfailing source. Enough to sustain our relationship, and enough to share with our two beautiful boys.)

And that makes us wealthy.

After days of reflecting on being looked in the face and told I don't have enough to justify being trusted with more, I feel more strongly than ever, that despite what I don't have, I have MORE than enough. Enough to share. I have been blessed with abundantly more than I need. I can live without everything on the first list. By God's grace I can say the things that matter are the things that I have. I. Am. Wealthy.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Mighty Men

God has given us 2 beautiful boys. We've never held them. We've only seen them in pictures, but this is what we know...

Getting your referral is kind of surreal. I guess every new mother has the experience of looking at her child for the first time, searching that face for things she knows, comparing it to the one she abstractly imagined before, pouring over every detail... Before having time to prepare for that experience or really think much about what it would be like, Cary and I found ourselves looking into TWO new little faces for the first time. What a bag of emotions! Sweet, new people! Different than I imagined. What will they look like in 5 years, 10 years, 30 years... After accepting our referral, Cary and I continued to pour over the few pictures we had. We drew as many conclusions as possible about the personalities of our infant boys. They're fraternal twins, we're pretty sure. They both have big, beautiful brown eyes and the cutest tiny toes. We think they don't appreciate that at their care center, they're sometimes dressed in pink (we can tell), but they love their nannies. They're skeptical of cameras. Another observation we made is that in every one of their first pictures, both boys had their little fists clenched, sometimes drawn back like they were prepared to throw a punch, or held up like they were flexing. For this reason, Cary started calling them our "Mighty Men." It's a reference I delight in, because my husband has long treasured the description of David's "mighty men" in 2 Samuel 23:8-22 and 1 Chronicles 11:10-47. Men who fearlessly followed the Lord. Men who demonstrated bravery, who risked their lives out of love for one another. I know these are the kind of men he is going to raise our little boys to be. We love to dream of what our "Mighty Men" may talk like, play like, BE like today, tomorrow, 20 years from now.... The dreaming is fun, but we are most thankful for the things we KNOW:

  • God chose us to be the parents of these 2 beautiful boys.
  • Even though we've never been with them, He always has.
  • Our God is good. He has a plan for these boys that was in the works long before we knew who they were, and He's entrusting it to us.

Oh, boys. Until we get our hands on you, we'll continue to become better prayer warriors trusting Jesus with our fears about this process. We'll rejoice in the unseen plans God will continue to reveal for you. Mommy will continue to go to the baby clothes section to hold onesies that are your size, research twin dynamics, and scrutinize every picture she can find of the care center you are in so she can better imagine you there. Your Daddy's prayers for you are powerful. He'll continue to talk about holding you, wrestling with you, and tucking you in at night. God's plans for you are special. "...Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jer 29:11 We love you, Mighty Men.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


We have to start with a quick flash back...

It was a typical week night in our apartment this spring... After making a big decision about which agency we would work with, Cary and I had eaten dinner and were sitting on the couch having just finished a video session from the adoption series "If You Were Mine." (Highly recommended.) I was finishing some notes on our study guide. It was pretty late, and we were both feeling a little punchy. The session had in some way touched on decision making, and the types of child care you as a couple are open to/prepared for. I joked with Cary... "Let's just bring home a sibling group of 4 or 5, and then we're done! Instant family." He gave me a you better be joking look and teased back, "No - we'll get twin boys!" I sat back with a grimace - boys are not my comfort zone. And two at once?! But seconds later, I melted. "Awww, think... blue shirt, green pants, green shirt, blue pants! They'd be SO cute!!" Cary rolled his eyes. We cleaned up dinner and called it a night.

The next day I called Susan, our coordinator-to-be, and told her we'd chosen IAG as our adoption agency, and we would mail our application soon. Susan and I talked about what would happen next, beginning our paper work, etc. She told me that IAG's director, Jim, was on his way back from Ethiopia, and that she could send me the IAG waiting list, but it would be updated soon. She said she knew of at least 2 kids to be added to the list; twin infant boys. *My stomach flipped* I asked... "Twin boys? Infants?" She said yes, they had a medical condition that mandated they be added to the waiting list immediately. But sensing the interest in my voice, she cautioned me - every IAG family waiting to bring a child home would get a chance to accept them. (I tried to tell myself that was great. They'd be taken home to a good family - but I also couldn't stop the resonating feeling that these were the boys Cary and I had envisioned last night!)

The next time I talked to Susan about our paperwork, I asked about the twin boys. She told me one of them was sick. *Dismay!* I told her if they needed anything - we could help... Money for treatments, anything... We'd like to know. When Cary got home, I told him the news and that I hadn't heard back from her all day, so I was going to call Susan back. Maybe our church could send money... Maybe she had an update... He told me no - I was already becoming that obnoxious waiting parent we knew we didn't want to be to our coordinator. So we prayed for the boys, and I waited.

                                                               *                          *                        *

We had plans to meet my Dad and Katherine in Roanoke on Thursday, May 24 for a last dinner with Kath before she left for Leadership Project (and to announce that we were starting a family through adoption! This was last post.) A few hours before we were supposed to meet them, I was walking around Pier 1 looking for a wedding gift for a friend, and stuffers for Katherine's gift, when Susan called. Still browsing the store, I picked up the phone. (I imagined we'd probably done something wrong in our paperwork.) Susan asked how I was, etc. And then she asked if we'd be interested in getting more information about the twin boys. I was excited that she'd remembered our interest- "Of course we'd like more information! Is the one who was sick better?" Yes! She kept talking and I became aware that I was talking too loud to be on the phone in a store, so I tried to find a more private area of the store - I was a little distracted. I contemplated putting the sale item in my hand back down, and then decided to just completely focus on the phone call and make shopping decisions later. She was saying "You'll have 5 days..." And I didn't know what she was talking about. "5 days?" I asked. "Yes, 5 days from the time you get our email." "Email...??" I'd missed something. "Yes, the email will share all of the information we have about the boys. We'll send it as soon as we get off the phone. Then you'll have 5 days to think about it and get back to us..." Yikes. This sounded a bit weird. I knew this agency was very careful about the privacy and interest of the orphans they took in. They  only shared information like this if... "Susan-" I interrupted, "Is this a referral?" "Yes!" she said. "This is a referral." (For the twin boys we'd been praying for!) I screamed! I jumped, and made noises I'm glad I can't remember - and then realized I was way too loud to be in a store - people were stopped and staring, and so I ran outside to the sidewalk and called Cary who was at work. He didn't pick up, so I called again. And when he didn't pick up, I called again. And again. Poor guy. When he DID pick up under the assumption this must be an emergency, I sprang the great news on him!! In hind sight... I probably should have waited until we were together in person. :) Over the phone, I felt the color drain from his face when I yelled, "You're gonna be glad you picked up. You wouldn't want to miss that we're getting our babies!" (What?) "We got a referral!!" (Silence.) Ooops. "Hunnee, sorry - let me back up. Are you ok? I didn't know this could happen yet either. But it's for the boys! The twins we've been praying for that we thought we couldn't possibly have! Are you sitting down?" He regained composure. I paced back and forth in front of that glorious Pier 1 display window - it's never looked better - and filled him in. And when he was feeling better and on his way home, I continued pacing while I called my mom.

As I hung up and thought about walking back into the store to make my purchase, wondering if I was as visibly glowing as I felt, a song drifted into my head... "Oh, Lord, You have been good, You have been faithful to all generations." I didn't think much of it. I made my purchase. I drove over to Target to finish getting what I needed. Shopping seems weird on the heels of something so great. As I walked through the aisles, I was thinking, I just want to take off running. I think I could run 5 miles without "growing weary" the way I think the Bible tells us we'll be able to in heaven. And then I thought, I just want to get my hands on someone who knows how crazy it is that we just got this phone call... Someone who would totally GET my joy right now - like Jody Hilt, a mom from our church who not only has been through the same Ethiopian adoption experience, but is headed back to Ethiopia this summer to serve as a missionary for the next 2 years.

I'm learning, folks, don't speak it to God unless you mean it.

I walked toward the sock section, turned the corner, and there sat a wailing Ethiopian child in a cart being consoled by the one and only Jody Hilt! I stopped in my tracks. Jody turned around, and said "Hey." I was thinking... Don't casually "hey" me. I just transported you here through time and space... this is crazy.

"Hey." (I scored zero on social graces here. Pretty sure I made no attempt at how are you? let me introduce myself or ask about the (sister-in-law) standing next to you?) Shameful. "Guess who just called me." Jody looked puzzled. We'd just been at their house a few weeks ago discussing agencies and the beginnings of the adoption process. "Who?" I had zero restraint. "Our coordinator. With a referral." Jody yelled, "Shut up!" Haha. See! She understood how ridiculous - how impossible it all was! She was exactly who I wanted to be standing there with. I continued, "And seriously, Jody, I prayed you here. I JUST said to the Lord, I just wish I could run into Jody Hilt, and... you're here! Seriously, if there's anything you need... tell me. I'm pretty sure anything I pray for right now will happen." After more debriefing, more processing, finding real comfort in her putting her life on hold at that minute to share the moment in mine and enjoying all of her kids who were standing around, chiming in or coming and going, I went to check out.

I had to meet Cary to go tell my Dad we'd decided to start our family by adopting. And to tell him, we already had a referral. Whew!

For the duration of that evening, the same song continued to play in my head. (God even provided music for the most beautiful thing He's done for us.) As I drove to meet up with Cary, I listened to what the words were saying, and was blown away by their truth. I lost it as I sang the refrain.

                                                           Oh Lord, You have been good
                                                  You have been faithful to all generations
                                                            Oh Lord, Your steadfast love
                                                 and tender mercy have been our salvation

                                                       For by Your hand we have been fed
                                                      And by Your Spirit we have been led
                                                                                              -Twila Paris

Over the next 5 days, Cary and I did a lot of praying. I made 32 phone calls. We called doctors, government agencies, social workers, an MD at Veterans Affairs ("The V.A.," easily confused with UVA) and most wanted to be extremely helpful. We asked hard questions. Were we equipped to handle the boys' medical condition? Did we have enough money? Were we ready? I'm being completely truthful when I say, we heard zero "No"s. Not a single one. And I tried to get them. I needed to hear some. But there were none to be had. The more "yes" I heard, the deeper I dug for a "no." But I found none. Every door flung open. God said yes.

And so, on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, we accepted our referral for OUR BOYS. 
Our precious, twin boys. Forever.

(Next post: Our Mighty Men.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Announcement #3! - My Dad

Since I was still in the throws of middle school band madness and Cary was doing research for grad school and his company during the week, weekends were the name of the game. We had planned to visit my dad to share our good news the following weekend, but... A week is so long when you have big news! We called him and asked him if he would meet us in Roanoke for dinner on Thursday night. I used Katherine as the excuse to justify 1.5 hour trips for all of us on a weeknight (it was true that she was heading out of town for summer project the next weekend), and so he agreed.

About my Dad: My dad is a man of transportation. My Dad is a farmer with a pick up truck and tractors and a combine. And a fertilizer businessman with dump trucks and loaders and spreaders. And a pilot. And for fun, he has a boat. He has a shepherd dog named Lucy, and now all of us kids are out of the house. For awhile now I've been aware of how much fun my dad is going to have with his grandkids. I don't know how much he's though about it yet, if at all, but I'm pretty sure he's going to be all about them. He's an encourager of mischief and fun. We're going to have to keep a close eye on the kids when they're with Grandad.

We designed the perfect card:

The front:

The delivery:

My family loves eating Mexican. When I was growing up, we ate Mexican with my dad once a week. That Thursday night we met at a new favorite Mexican restaurant of Cary's and mine so my dad and sister could try it out.

About 3 hours before we were scheduled to meet in Roanoke, I got a very important phone call. I didn't know it was going to be important when I answered, but it changed our lives. That's my next post. :)

After recovering from our phone call, Cary and I met up, jumped in the car, and headed to meet my Dad and sister who are always early. As always, they beat us there. We had a very attentive waiter. He was flirting with my sister. (Not uncommon.) We were having a great time catching up, eating great guacamole, laughing a lot, and I suddenly had a panic attack. Things were going to change. This was so much fun - just the four of us - and once we get the boys, it will never be just the 4 of us again. It made my heart speed up, but deep down, I knew it was time for this. We were about to tell my Dad about what was SUPPOSED to be, for all of us! And I was excited.

We gave Katherine a legitimate going away present (I was teary walking around the store picking out things I knew she'd use all summer so far away), and then we pulled out a present for my dad. He looked surprised, but started opening it. It was a captain's hat. An itty bitty one. We had given my dad a captain's hat for his birthday last year. This one was identical, but... smaller. But when he opened it, the size difference wasn't obvious. He nodded.

"Wait," I said. "Did we already give you a hat like that?"

"Yeah, I think so, but that's ok... You can always use another hat." We laughed. I said, "Open the card." So he did. He looked it over, and his eyebrows began to raise.

"We're adopting a little boy from Ethiopia!"

My Dad's reaction was great. And the conversation that followed was even better, but... I can't tell you today, because that would give away too much about tomorrow's post.

Cary and I are beyond thankful. With all of the immediate family in the know, we realize that we're beyond blessed to have so much amazing family, and better yet, a family that is so ready to welcome our little ones home. To God be the glory.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Announcement #2! Telling Mom, Dad, Katherine, Addie, and Eli

The weekend after Pete's graduation, we took a pre-Katherine-departure family trip to Twin Falls State Park in West Virginia. (Katherine is my 23 yr old baby sister. She has a sweet job, but is gone alllll summer. Read about it HERE.) One of my favorite things about a family trip is the long car ride. I LOVE having everyone crammed into one small space, with no escape. No kidding, I do. Maybe it's because I have opportunity for close observation of the little quirks about each person that I love. Maybe it's because I also love a little bit of sibling... ya know, annoyingness. (Poking, copying, teasing... whatever it takes to find a nerve.) As the eldest, it's usually my job to start it. Sometimes Eli takes over for me.

We arrived at our cabin on Friday night. The family plan was to eat in all weekend, and do one nice dinner out. When we realized how little food (or civilization) there is near Twin Falls, we decided that nice dinner would be at the lodge's nice restaurant. (A splurge!) Cary and I had decided we would share our news at the nice family dinner. And... since not telling them for a whole week nearly killed me, we decided to push for having that event on the first night.

The Plan: We wrapped a pack of cute baby boy bibs with the little pockets on the front. Inside one of the pockets, we put a message written in the voice of our little boy. We thought at the end of our fun family meal, when everyone is starting to lean back in their chairs, we'll let Addie and Eli open the present, someone read the card, and watch their faces for that moment that they "get it!"

Does anything go according to the original plan? (I've mentioned this before. Is there already a sub-theme forming? I'm only on my 3rd post!) Sometimes... Ok, often, my family finds ourselves in Griswold-like scenarios. Here's how the nice family evening out went:

-Cary and I pushed for eating our nice dinner out the first night. After unloading the van and settling in, who wants to cook?! :) Everyone agreed.
-The Twin Falls Lodge is LOVELY. We cleaned up a little at our cabin, and everyone was excited to head to our fancy dinner.
-We walked toward the back of the lodge where the restaurant was. We were greeted by a lady who clearly aspired to do something else with her life, and whom we'd clearly offended by walking up to the door. Woops.
-She escorted us about 10 feet in to the almost empty dining room, and pointed to a table. I asked... "Can we sit back there by the windows?" (Hey, this was going to be a big event!)
-That was it. We were officially added to the "Least Favorite Persons" list. My bad. (But the atmosphere was SO much nicer!)
-We regrouped. After some awkward, sometimes barking exchanges about drinks and menus, we found ourselves chatting and passing childrens' menus around the table, each time adding caricatures of one another. Family time!
(I had butterflies in my stomach. We had such great news to share!!)
-We ordered. Ok, we all tried to get our orders through without being thwarted by the waitress whose vendetta was to tell us "They're out of an ingredient for that," or... "I know the menu says it comes with that, but it doesn't."
-We played more games at the table. We got our fried green tomatoes appetizer!! (Something must have burned in the oil it was fried in, or... they grabbed the wrong breading, maybe? We just dipped them in more ranch.)
-We laughed, we teased... we waited for refills. And waited.
-And the food came! And... it was depressing. There were several deflated faces at the sight of their plates, but the saddest was Addie's. Addie had ordered the kids' pasta with alfredo sauce. The waitress had told her they didn't serve alfredo sauce. We questioned the menu's indication that... they did serve alfredo sauce. She'd gone back to the kitchen, and came back to unhappily announce that Addie could indeed have alfredo sauce. Well, there was her cold, saucy pasta, with one gigantic meatball in the middle. Katherine took one look and said something blunt like, "I wouldn't eat that." If only we'd gone with that gut feeling. We started looking around the table, offering ranch to make one dish more enjoyable, sharing extra french fries, etc.
-By the end of the meal, no one felt very good, or anywhere near deliciously satisfied, and when the bill came, it was pretty hefty. Ouch.
-Time for our announcement!!! ...Not.

The whole thing was pretty hilarious (in an unbelievable sort of way), and maybe the overall zany memory was worth the price, but we were all ready to get back and settle in. All I could think of were the double stuffed oreos back at the cabin that would surely make my stomach feel better. That night, Addie woke up sick. Pretty seriously sick, with food poisoning. (Ugh.) Poor girlie. She handled it like a champ, but she and mom didn't get much sleep, and so we laid low in the cabin Saturday morning watching horrible westerns and Dennis the Mennis while Addie slept it off.

About 12:00, Addie's tummy settled down, and she looked around and said, "What are we going to do today?" So we were off! Off to do the things we do on family vacations. And Cary and I had no idea when we were going to make our announcement. Here are some of our typical family vacation scenes:

 After hiking and checking out the authentic homestead, the ponies, and the visitors store, we'd promised to stop at the playground Addie had noted EVERY time we passed it on our way to and from the lodge. Eli, Addie, and Cary took off through the rubber mulch. Dad stayed close to keep an eye on them. Mama, Kath, and I sat down to rest and observe. We created obstacle courses for Cary and Addie to compete on. (To clear up any confusion, yes, Cary is my 25 year old husband.  He just likes the playground as much as my 8 and 2 year old siblings.) When they started to slow down, Mom suggested dinner time! The wrapped package zipped up in my purse was burning a hole through it. We couldn't wait any more (and we couldn't risk another dinner DISASTER!) So after making lots of "let's do it now" eye contact with Cary, as everyone gathered to get ready to leave, I said, "--Oh, wait! Let's do one more thing." To which my sisters, ready for dinner, groaned. When they asked, what?? I, thinking fast (which... not really my thing) said, "We brought, a, sort-of, family game." Yee-ha. Everyone was already sitting down to catch their breath. I pulled out the wrapped package and everyone looked a bit more interested. I told Dad to open it, and he let Eli help him.

As he pulled out the bibs, I watched closely for he or my mom to instantly know what this was about. I mean, baby bibs!? (Maybe we should have started with something less obvious.) But when Dad said, "Ohhhh." And passed them to Eli, I laughed and realized he thought they were for him. "Oh, there's something else in there." Dad (in his, not-incredibly-enthused voice) said, "Oh, there's a card." I WISH I could share the pictures I took of this crafty little card. (In a tragic technology fail... well, a little my fault since I tripped and unplugged the camera while it was uploading) the pictures of this were lost. So instead I'll indulge my already overly descriptive self:

It was a boy themed card with a little train on the front. (At that point, all we knew was that we were getting a boy from Ethiopia, and we thought we'd wait 3+++ months to find out anything more.) Inside, in little person handwriting, it said:

You haven't met me yet, but you will soon. My place at the table is between Eli and Addie. Right now there's an ocean between us, but my mommy and daddy are coming soon. They tell me that I am going to have the best grandparents, aunts, and uncle I could dream of having. I love you already.
         -Your Grandson and nephew (signed with a baby foot-print)

Dad read it - mostly, and it's meaning was unclear. We waited. Someone quietly reread it under their breath, and then... Light bulb! My mom's eyebrows went up, and then she screamed "Get Out Of Here!" and sobbed the biggest tears of joy I've ever seen. :) While Mama was hugging me, Katherine said, "Ahhh! I have to HUG something!" And grabbed Cary. He was not offended. :) Addie, Eli, and Dad joined in the hugging, and Addie chimed in cute questions, like, "So... you're having a baby? You're getting a baby? Where's Eth-i-nopia?" So then we all piled into the van (my favorite!) and Cary and I began to spill all the details of when and how we'd decided, what we knew so far, wait times, travel details, etc, Katherine kept looking at me with big eyes, shaking her head and saying, "I can't believe you're going to be a mom!" and everybody thought out loud about what our little ones would call them... It was a great day.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Since paperwork is winding down and I'm feeling committed to shifting my energies to documenting our boys' story, I'm gonna try to proceed chronologically... So far we have our decision documented. Let's fast forward through lots of searching and praying and DREAMS (to be documented later), and we send our contract in to International Adoption Guides, an agency that we LOVE working with. It's time to tell the fam.

If you know Cary and I, you know that we love face time. We idealize sitting around the table, (preferably a table loaded with good home cooking), and talking. And when the food is gone, more talking. Leaning back in chairs, studying faces, swapping stories that remind you of another story, which is just like that time... Well, you get the picture. We value patience and suspense and the right timing... We're THOSE people who wouldn't want to find out if we are having a boy or a girl from the ultrasound... I know, I know.  I never shook presents before opening them - it's like cheating, and who really wants to know before they open them anyways? I share this, because it might help you understand why we felt INSISTENT that we would not share our most exciting news with anyone until we could tell our family, and then closest friends, face to face.

Announcement #1: The Hills

Cary's entire family was coming into town for youngest brother Pete's graduation from VT. Better yet, most of them were going to stay with us in our 2 bedroom apartment. (I love lots of family in small quarters. Again, we're weird like that.) After Pete's graduation, the whole family was supposed to go camping together at the beach - Pete's one request. We didn't want to overshadow celebration of the graduate with our news, so we decided we would wait and do our announcement by the campfire. Does anything go according to original plans? Yeah, right. With so many schedules for when to come and how long to stay, we weren't sure we could coordinate everyone being at the beach at the same time, then Cary's mom wasn't going to be able to get off work to go, and - oh yeah - I found out I could not take off my last 2 days of school without superintendent approval to go camping as we'd planned. Scratch.

Plan B: Everyone was already going to be together, IN OUR APARTMENT. We couldn't do much better than that. Since it was Pete's weekend to be the star, we decided we'd wait til the end of the weekend. We recently started a Hill family "secret santa" tradition, and since everyone was going to be together, Becky (keeper of the Hill family organization) planned to have us draw names while we were together. So...

Our plan: Cary would draw a picture of a baby instead of writing his name to put in the cup. Whoever drew the baby, would undoubtedly say, "Hey! What's this? I drew... a baby?" Which would be the perfect set up for our announcement! Cute, right?

The execution: After a big Saturday morning brunch, Cary and I were washing dishes, adults were sitting around, the nieces were playing... just how we like it. Becky said, "Hey, I'll get everything together so we can draw secret-santa names." Eeek! this was it!! Cary and I told her where to find a cup, pens, etc, and leaned into eachother with anticipation. Yay! Then Becky said, "I'll go ahead and write out all the names and go ahead and drop them in, that way we can all just get together and draw." I panicked... The plan was for US to write our OWN names (or other creative hints). "Uh, I can help you!" Of course, she said she could manage. Because I'm Type A, I began to despair. The plan had crumbled. The end. Cary (who is so NOT type A), shrugged it off. We'll make it work, he whispered. "How?!" I hissed. He looked confident, as he does in such crises, and I started to feel better. We all gathered in the living room, made a circle, and reviewed the terms of drawing, re-drawing, etc. (Cary was discretely tearing off another piece of the red paper Becky had used for names, and scratching out his best take on a baby. Only Cary can pull something like this off. If I attempted it, 3 people would ask me what I was doing.) Cary got to draw first. As he reached into the cup, he dropped our baby announcement in. The drawing continued. He drew, I drew, Becky drew... each person opened the name, thought about it, and passed the cup. No baby yet. Josh drew, Astleigh drew... (Only 3 people left! Where was the baby?!) Pete drew, opened his, looked puzzled, and asked, "What?" Then he relaxed, said, "Oh," and passed the cup. (False alarm.) Ben drew, Lynne drew, and... Billy drew. Everyone looked satisfied. Cary grabbed the cup: "Wait, there's one left!" Becky perked - "No way, I put each of our names in the cup, and everyone drew. How is there one left?" This is where the dialogue gets rich, so I must switch formats so that you can stay with me-

Pete: Well, I drew a picture of a baby. But then I just figured Becky put it in there.
Becky: (emphatic) I did not put that in there. I swear I did not put that in there!
Cary and I were enjoying this. A realization was on the horizon!
Pete: Well, I just figured you put it in there, like I'm supposed to buy stuff for the new baby or something?
Becky: You guys I seriously did not put that in there! (Both Becky and Pete were settling down. Here it came!) ...I guess we need to redraw.
Blink, blink: What?
Cary: Wait, if Becky didn't put it in there, who did?
Pete: (An "aha!") Oh... It was totally Cary. Cary Put it in there. (Haha, yes!) Arright, let's re-draw."
Wait, really??
Cary: I did put it in there, but WHY did I put it in there?

And then the "aha" happened.

Faces lit up, and arms came toward me - so I quickly clarified: "We ARE starting a family. We are adopting a baby from Ethiopia!" Faces brightened again, there were excited voices and hugs all around. I have to say, our baby got the warmest welcome we could have imagined or asked for. Thanks, Hills, for instantaneously sharing our joy, and being so ready to open Hill family goodness to our little one(s). How lucky they will be to grow up having you in their lives!

(Up Next: Announcement #2: Mama, Dad, Katherine, Addie, and Eli)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Beginning of Our Family's Story

Cary and I made an agreement before we got married to NOT start browsing the baby section or brainstorm baby names or nursery decor as soon as we made it down the aisle in an effort to be content in our newlywed stage of life, and to avoid turning on the maternal button I've long sensed might be lurking in me somewhere, coded "all systems go." And we kept to our pact! We've LOVED being newlyweds, and long enjoyed the days of early morning coffee and prayer time together, evenings devoted to together-time dinners, walks, outings, couch time... Marriage has been the best. Another favorite of ours is a nice long drive. Cary and I got to know each other on long car-pool commutes, and found more excuses for extended talk time on our long drives to and from VT. This past November, we were on a 6 hour drive to a conference in Norfolk. (Uninterrupted us time!) Long drives = time to reminisce; for Cary to humor me with guessing games to see if we can find something we don't know about one another; for me to humor him in allowing him to sing falsetto along with the radio... On this particular drive, we'd turned the radio down while we were talking and kept right on talking over it after we lost signal and it turned to static. We were looking at a long stretch of houses, picking out ones we could see ourselves in down the road... I took a step toward the forbidden, and ventured the question, "How long do you think it will be before  we start a family?" Cary mused... "I'd say, probably in the next 2-3 years." I was excited. "I was thinking 2!" He thought for a minute. "I could see it being more like 2." This was fun! "Do you think we'll have a boy or a girl first?" The fun questions and hypotheticals bounced back and forth. "Do you think we'll ever adopt?" We'd attended a seminar at church to increase awareness about the many orphans in the world, even in our own communities. We'd decided my parents would be perfect candidates to adopt. :) Cary answered, "I could see that down the road... maybe once we have some parenting experience and if we feel led..." And then a door that NEITHER of us had anticipated or thought about, opened. We talked about adoption. How there really is a serious need for the care of orphans in the world. We talked about adoptive families, and then family dynamics, and suddenly... we were excited. Cary was looking at me and saying, "I think we should adopt first." I was thrilled, and my head was spinning, but I was so unsure. We talked about things that made us feel like beginning our family with adoption made sense for us. But what if this was just an US plan. How do we know this idea is from God? What if it's just something we're excited about right now, but it was never His plan... We KNOW we want to do what He predestined us to... And so I asked Cary, "What if this is just a crazy idea I cooked up that we could get excited about, but was never His plan?" He nodded... We got quiet. It was a weighty question hanging in the air as we continued down the road. The radio static was just clearing up as a new station filtered in.

"Up next, we'll meet a family who decided to answer God's call to provide for the orphan...." No way. We both froze. We looked at each  other. No way. The radio program went on. It was all about a family in Canada who'd adopted several children. Their adjustments. Their heart for those kids. We cried. I had dared to ask the question out loud... "How do we know if this is from God?" And He answered. Through our radio. We haven't doubted our call since. We realized that we have the opportunity to share the kind of love our God has shown us - to be a loving home for kids who couldn't otherwise have one, can't earn one, may even show us a zillion times that they don't deserve one. It's our call. And every day since we said "yes" has been more beautiful than the last.  


Romans 8:15-16 says "You have received the spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' ...That we are children of God and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." That God would offer us sonship still blows my mind. But that love keeps going. His adoption story is timeless. It's where the Hill family adventure begins...