Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meet & Greet

We had the opportunity to go to a get-together yesterday organized by our agency for families that are adopting from DR Congo.  A lot of the families in this program live outside of Colorado but it was nice to meet other couples going through the same process.  It was a bit disheartening to be the only couple without a referral, the only couple not able to proudly show off pictures of a new son or daughter that is waiting to be brought home.  We were reminded multiple times by agency staff members that there were quite a few healthy babies waiting for homes right now and that when we were ready to send in our fees, we'd have a pretty immediate referral.  It was nice to hear from other adoptive moms that the fundraising piece is the hardest part of the process but it so worth it once you first "meet" your child by seeing his/her picture.

The best part of the morning was being able to meet Daniel and his wife Sandra and their two children.  He is one of the country coordinators for the Congo program and is in charge of logistics on the Congo side of this process.  He grew up in Congo and moved to the U.S. when he was 19 and now lives with his family in Denver.  He was able to share a lot about how the kids in the orphanages are named, how they are taken care of, and how grateful he is that so many of these orphans will be given better lives in the United States.  He also shared with us about his involvement as president of the Congolese Community of Colorado, a group of Congolese that get together for cultural celebrations.

Sandra made us a lunch of traditional Congolese foods, including ground cassava leaves (pondu), beef samosas, and fried plantains.  We learned that there are quite a few African markets in Denver that sell many of the traditional foods served in the Congo.  She also spoke a little bit about the best way to take care of African hair.

A Congolese woman and a missionary making pondu.

We left the gathering excited to learn more about Congolese culture and how we could integrate it into our new family's traditions.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


as in, "Our home study visits are dunzo!"  The third and final home study was pretty short and sweet.  Our discussion focused on parenting strategies and techniques, and some discussion about adoption-specific realities, challenges, and issues.  We chatted a little bit about diversity (or lack thereof) in Castle Rock, and how we plan to be intentional about introducing our child to other cultures and to experience diversity early and often.  

We also talked about our desire to incorporate Congolese culture and traditions into our family.  We're not quite sure what that will look like, but I'm excited to get to know Congo, learn about the tribal culture(s), traditions, celebrations, etc. DR Congo will forever be a part of our family heritage, and we hope our child will embrace it as well.  We hope to take a trip to Congo with our child some day so that our child can visit where he/she came from.  We have been told to expect little/no background information on our child but hope that we are pleasantly surprised with the amount of history that we will be able to share with him/her someday.

Our social worker Amy (pictured with us, below) told us that she didn't have any concerns about our home study and that we were a pretty "easy" case, so that's good news!  The next step is for her to write the report and submit it to the agency.  We'll get a copy that we can review, but once it is approved by the agency, they'll send it on to the state.  The state is the final approving body for the home study.  

As we wait for Amy to complete her report and submit it, we'll be researching and hopefully beginning the required adoptive parent training that we must complete - 24 hours of training!  

We've added a couple pages to the blog - one that lists the various costs (and timing of each) and a page with some information about DR Congo. And we're putting finishing touches on our shirt design, so watch for more information on that once they're ready.  We're hoping it will raise awareness about adoption and help us with some of the costs. Stay tuned!

Digging Deeper - Home Study #2

We completed home study visit #2 Thursday night, and just have one more visit with Amy, our social worker!  

This visit consisted of one-on-one interviews of both Jenny and I.  I won't speak for Jenny, but my interview focused primarily on my childhood. Not that childhood was all that long ago, but I don't regularly just sit and reflect on my childhood. But, last night forced the issue, and I'm thankful for that. Jenny and I debriefed afterwards and she echoed many of the same sentiments - we are so thankful for the job our parents did in raising us and helping shape the people (and couple) we are today, and the parents we will soon be.

Talking about my childhood - and reflecting on it after the interview - reminded me just how incredible a job my parents did in raising me and my brothers.  I guess you never see it that way when you're in the middle of it, but now that parenthood is swiftly approaching, my childhood looks very different.

My parents did an incredible job, and I am eternally grateful for the way they raised me and for the foundation they gave me as I soon become a parent myself.  

As I discussed my childhood, I was trying to think of just one thing I'd change about the way my parents raised me, and I couldn't come up with a single thing.  Sure, I could say they made me buy my own pager (remember when those were cool??), or I could only get the VERY baggy pants instead of the RIDICULOUSLY baggy ones, but in the things that mattered, my parents got it right.  Here are some of the things I've learned as I reflect on how I was raised:
  • We went to church for as long as I can remember. As children, we were required to go, but our faith was between us and God.  They gave us the choice as to what that would look like in our lives, but they laid the foundation.  All three of us brothers accepted Christ as our personal Savior and Lord of our lives at young ages.  My faith has only grown stronger through the years, and it is that hope and faith in Christ that directs my life.  They laid the foundation for me to understand my purpose in life and devoting my life to serve my God and hopefully glorify Him with my life.  In these last twelve months, as it become a reality that our dream of adding children to our family began to look very different than we had imagined, it was our faith and trust that God has a plan for us that brought us through the time of grieving and struggling to understand why we had to go through that trial. This is a foundation we plan to provide for our children, and we pray that they will open their hearts and lives to Jesus and devote their lives to Him.
  • They were intentional about spending time with me, talking with me, learning about the things I was passionate about, making me feel important, special, etc.  My mom made sure she was home before we got home from school every day growing up so she could be there to chat and hear about the day.
  • They were very involved in our education and encouraged us to do our best but they weren't crazy about it as long as we were trying as much as we could.  They knew we wouldn't excel at everything but wanted us to give it our all.
  • They were proud of us, and told us so. OFTEN.
  • They encouraged us to do the activities we were passionate about, which mainly translated into sports in our family.  Again, encouragement to try our best, but never put unnecessary pressure on us, and never pushed us to keep at an activity if we were losing interest.  It was clear I was a terrible baseball player by the end of elementary school, and there was no pressure to continue playing.  Instead, focus shifted elsewhere to other interests and activities.
  • They intentionally allowed for "free time" - time to do nothing, play in the neighborhood, game nights, family time, etc.  To us kids, it just looked like play time, but I think my parents were intentional about having some flex in our lives to relax, refresh, etc. and not constantly be on the go.  This down time is something I value today.  
  • They made a big deal about birthdays, holidays, etc.  Any opportunity to celebrate life, family, friends, etc. That made us feel so loved and so important to them, and it developed family memories we'll never forget - holidays at the lagoon, fireworks in Woodbridge, Easter egg hunts in the backyard, birthday parties, and so on...
  • They opened our home to us and our friends any time, any number of friends, etc.  I just thought they were being nice but there were some serious ulterior motives - why not have us there - safe environment, scope out the quality of kids we were surrounding ourselves with, etc.  And, they ended up investing in the lives of many of my friends, many of whom still have close relationships with me AND with my parents.  My parents opened their homes and their hearts to many of my friends that desperately needed love from parental figures. Such incredible hearts of service.
  • They were always/still are very generous and ready to help out. If it was providing a meal to a family going through some challenges, or helping out at church, my parents stepped up to do what they could.
  • They taught us to be responsible - pretty sure that from the minute I was 16, I was employed and have been ever since.  Working was a requirement and this began teaching me the value of the dollar, how to manage money, etc.  If I wanted to go out with friends, that was on my dime so I had to keep that job going.  Not sure I'd work at a candy store again - too much of that paycheck stayed there every two weeks...darn sweet tooth.
Ma, Pops - I'm sure you're reading this - I know this doesn't get said nearly enough, but I just want to say thanks for your intentionality, your sacrifice, and your unconditional love that you showed us every single day, even when we made it next to impossible.  I can only hope and pray that Jenny and I raise our children the way you did. Thank you for helping me not screw myself up too much, for keeping us grounded and rooted in faith and family. I love you both so much.

Another question that really challenged me was: "What lessons have I learned through our experience with infertility?"

I won't go into details, but 2011 was a roller coaster of emotions for us - hopeful expectation followed by disappointment, month after long month.  Until October, when it was confirmed that conception wasn't likely in the plans for us, at least not right now. We had said before we were married that Lord willing, we'd adopt "someday".  Well, that day came a lot sooner than we expected.

Thanks to a number of resources including books, music, family, friends, and our pastor, we were able to work through this process and begin healing.  Not only did we heal, God put an even greater passion for adoption in our hearts and turned our heads and hearts to international adoption, and then to DR Congo. 

So, what lessons did I learn through this process? I'll share a few - some of these I think I'm still learning and understanding more fully.  It's all part of the journey...
  • Faith - not something I necessarily learned, but remembered, is that God asks us to have faith in Him and trust Him, whether life makes sense or not.  Faith in trusting that He is in control, that He has plans for us, and that He wants us to release our burdens and worries and plans to Him.  This obviously wasn't the way Jenny and I had it mapped out, but you know what, that's OK.  God is God.  His plans are so much better than ours, and this just means that He sees us fit to be parents of a beautiful little baby boy or girl from one of the poorest countries in the world.  We are called to care for the widows, the orphans, the poorest of the poor. God has called us to care for an orphan by adopting them as our own - what a privilege!
  • Jenny & I grieve very differently, and that's OK. We each grieved and we each needed time and space to grieve in our own way.  I learned to give her the freedom to grieve how she needed to, in the time she needed to.  As guys, we usually try to move on and fix everything as quickly as possible.  I learned to put that response in my back pocket and be a support for Jenny as she grieved in her way.  
  • It reminded me that it's OK to cry - it had been a while since I've had something to grieve, something that really brought those emotions to the surface.  It was healthy and helpful.
  • Allow the grieving process to work itself out.  We didn't want to jump into the next roller coaster (i.e. the adoption process) until we had worked through the emotion and realities of infertility.  I can't say this won't be something that will never again cause some pain for us, but we needed to work through this reality.  We didn't rush anything, but prayed that God would heal us and focus us on the next chapter.  October and November were healing months - we received encouragement from our pastor, our parents, siblings, family, friends, etc.  Around the same time, Jenny joined a small group of women going through similar situations, which has been incredibly valuable for her, and through which we've developed a small network of families that have or are working through the adoption process. At the same time, I believe God was planting seeds in us both that led us to decide to adopt internationally and to specifically focus on DR Congo.  We then identified an agency in Denver, met them, and it was a great fit.  It was all part of the healing process.
I could ramble on and on, but those were the key things that stuck out to me from the interview.  I'm not the most reflective person in the world...if I lay in bed and "reflect", I'm usually snoring in about 30 seconds.  I guess this process and what the future holds has provided the opportunity to reflect on some of these things as I prepare to be a dad.  Awesome.

Our last home study is tomorrow (today, I guess!)...then the home study is out of our hands!