Sunday, June 30, 2013

God's Will for Your Wait

Adoption Update:

On Friday, our dossier got sent to Bulgaria! It will be translated into Bulgarian during the next few weeks. After translation, it will be submitted to the Minister of Justice for approval and we will be put on the register of prospective parents (aka waiting list for a referral). The Bulgarian government shuts down every August (for vacation/timeoff?). So we expect to get approval and on get put on the waiting list in September if all goes well! After we get put on the waiting list, we were told to expect a 6 - 18 month wait to receive a referral. This estimate is based of our approval for 1 or 2 children, either gender, up to age 6. 

Waiting is no fun! I want to adopt yesterday! On the practical side, Andrew has 1 year left to complete his Masters degree, so this timeline works well for us. But my heart cares nothing for being practical. It dreams of sweet brown eyed son(s) or daughter(s). Since wait I must, I might as well wait well! I think waiting is a part of life. What are you waiting for? Hey! That reminds me of Dr. Seuss poem about waiting!

The Waiting Place… by Dr. Seuss
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a
Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for
Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
NO! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
So Dr. Suess thinks waiting isn't for me? Hmm! I think waiting is just part of life! I came across this great article about waiting. Chances are, you my blog reader, are waiting for something too. Maybe you too are adopting and are waiting. Or maybe you are waiting for something completely different. Whatever you are waiting for, maybe this article will help you too!

God's Will For Your Wait by Paul Tripp
(Originally published on the Gospel Coalition on 9-26-2011)

Waiting can be discouraging and hard. So what does it look like to wait in a way that makes you a participant in what God is doing rather than someone who struggles against the wait? Let me suggest several things.

Remind Yourself You Are Not Alone

As you wait, tell yourself again and again that you have not been singled out. Remind yourself that you are part of a vast company of people who are being called to wait. Reflect on the biblical story. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. Israel waited 420 years for deliverance from Egypt, then another 40 years before they could enter the land God had promised them. God's people waited generation after generation for the Messiah, and the church now waits for his return. The whole world groans as it waits for the final renewal of all things that God has promised. In ministry, it is vital to understand that waiting is not an interruption of God's plan. It is his plan. And you can know this as well: the Lord who has called you to wait is with you in your wait. He hasn't gone off to do something else, like the doctor you're waiting to see. No, God is near, and he provides for you all that you need to be able to wait.

Realize That Waiting Is Active

Usually our view of waiting is the doctor's office. We see it as a meaningless waste of time, like a man stuck in the reception area until he has nothing left to do but scan recipes in a two-year-old copy of Ladies' Home Journal.
Our waiting on God must not be understood this way. The sort of waiting to which we are called is not inactivity. It is very positive, purposeful, and spiritual. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of remembering: remembering who I am and who God is. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of worship: worshiping God for his presence, wisdom, power, love, and grace. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of serving: looking for ways to lovingly assist and encourage others who are also being called to wait. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of praying: confessing the struggles of my heart and seeking the grace of the God who has called me to wait. We must rethink waiting and remind ourselves that waiting is itself a call to action.

Celebrate How Little Control You Have

Because the constant striving in ministry to be a little god over some corner of creation is draining and futile, waiting should actually be a relief. It's a reminder that I don't have as much power and control as I thought I had. When I am required to wait I realize again that I do not have to load my church onto my shoulders. I may have God-given responsibilities in a number of areas, but that is vastly different from pretending I have sovereignty in any area.
The church is being carried on the capable shoulders of the Savior Shepherd, King of kings. All I am responsible for is the job description of character and behavior that this King has called me to in his Word. The remainder I am free to entrust to him, and for that I am very, very thankful! He really does have the whole world in his hands.

Celebrate God's Commitment to His Work of Grace

As you are waiting, reflect on how deeply broken the world that you live in actually is. Reflect on how pervasive your own struggle with sin really is. Then celebrate the fact that God is committed to the countless ways, large and small, in which his grace is at work to accomplish his purposes in you and in those to whom you minister.
When it comes to the ongoing work of grace, he is a dissatisfied Redeemer. He will not forsake the work of his hands until all has been fully restored. He will exercise his power in whatever way is necessary so that we can finally be fully redeemed from this broken world and delivered from the sin that has held us fast. Celebrate the fact that God will not forsake that process of grace in your life and ministry in order to deliver to you the momentary comfort, pleasure, and ease that you would rather have in your time of exhaustion, discouragement, and weakness. He simply loves you too much to exchange temporary gratification for eternal glory!

Let Your Waiting Strengthen Your Faith

As I think about waiting, I often remember what is said of Abraham in Romans 4:18-21. The passage tells us that as he waited, Abraham was strengthened in his faith. That's not what we would expect, is it? We tend to think that, having been given a promise from God, a person might well begin to wait with vibrant faith. But as the wait drags on it seems like that faith would gradually weaken. So why did Abraham's faith on the whole grow stronger and stronger? Because of what he did as he waited. During his wait, Abraham became a student of the character and power of God, and the more he saw God for who he is, the stronger his faith became. He meditated on the glory of God, not on the difficulty of his situation.
There are three ways in which, like Abraham, you can let your waiting strengthen your faith. You can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know God better through spending time in his Word, thus developing a deeper sense of his character, wisdom, power, and plan. Second, you can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know yourself better. As you wait, and as your heart is revealed, you have the precious opportunity to become a student of your own heart. What sins, weaknesses, and struggles has God revealed during the wait? Where has waiting exposed the lies and false gods that make waiting difficult? And third, you can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know others better, as their hearts are similarly revealed. This can offer you precious opportunities for even more effective ministry to those in your care.
Determine to grow stronger, more effective, and more full of faith as you wait. It is, after all, a key part of God's intention.

Count Your Blessings

Vital to productive waiting is a commitment to resist the grumbling and complaining that often kidnap us all. To fight this tendency, learn to number your blessings as you wait.
I once heard a missionary leader tell a story of how he was dreading an extremely long road trip. Then the thought came to him that this time of being imprisoned behind the wheel of his car was in fact an opportunity. He decided that as he drove he would thank God for every little detail of blessing and grace he could recall, beginning with his earliest memory. As he drove hour after hour, he recounted to God year after year and decade after decade of blessing upon blessing. By the end of his journey, he still had not come up to the present day. As a result, rather than ending his trip exhausted and bored, he ended it excited and changed. He saw his life through new eyes, with the presence and provision of God in his life taking on a clarity and comprehensiveness he had never before glimpsed.
By contrast, waiting often becomes for us an exercise in reminding ourselves of what we don't have. How much better, how much more fruitful, how much more joyful, to take waiting as an opportunity to recount the many, many good things in our lives that we have been given---things we could have never earned, achieved, or deserved.

Long for Eternity

There is one other thing waiting is meant to do: God intends that waiting would make me long for home. When I consider this, I am often reminded of camping. I suspect the whole purpose of camping is to make you thankful for home. When you camp, everything is more difficult than it would be at home. In the beginning, that can be fun. But three or four days in, you begin to get tired of having to make a fire, having to hunt for drinkable water, and having to fish for supper. You quietly (or not so quietly) begin to long for home.
Waiting is meant to remind you that you live "between the already and the not yet." Yes, there are many, many things for which to be thankful in this life, but this place is not your final home. You are in a temporary dwelling in a temporary location. In the life and ministry you experience here, there is one aspect or another that can remind you this is not home. The hardships of your present life and ministry speak clearly: this is not the final destination. Waiting is meant to produce in you a God-honoring dissatisfaction with the status quo. Waiting is meant to make you hungry, to produce in you a longing. For what? To be home---home with your Lord forever, home where sin is no more, home in a world that has been made completely new. As you wait, keep telling yourself, This is not my final destination.
Right now, right here, in your personal life or ministry, there is some way, perhaps many ways, in which God is calling you to wait. How well are you waiting? Has your waiting produced in you a faith that is stronger? Or weaker? Has the manner of your waiting drawn you closer to God? Or further away? Has your approach to waiting helped remind you of all the blessings you have been showered with? Or has it tempted you to continually rehearse your list of unmet wants? Has your waiting served to teach you truths about yourself? Or has it only made you more blind about yourself and angry about your circumstances? Has the way you wait enabled you to reach out and minister to others better, or has it simply drawn you deeper into the claustrophobic drama of your own waiting?
In each case, it's your choice. Take hold of the grace that God makes available. All of these outcomes are contingent on whether you choose God or self, fruitfulness or futility, his powerful grace or your own feeble will. Always remember that God is never separate from your wait. He is the Lord of waiting. He is the liberal giver of grace for the wait. Because your wait is not outside of his plan, but a vital and necessary part of it, he is with you in your wait. And remember God is not so much after the success of your ministry, he's after you. So as you wait, tell yourself again and again: Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Fabulous, Cloud Nine Weekend

This past weekend Andrew and I had the great privilege of attending a Bulgaria Adoptive Families Reunion. It was wonderful! The only way I could have enjoyed it more was if I had a referral picture to show off or perhaps if I had some beautiful olive-skinned children with us whom I called my son(s) or daughter(s)! I am not sure the total number of families at the reunion but I think I counted over twenty families from at least ten different states! There were families with adopted children only, with biological children and adopted children, families who in process to adopt for the first time or the second or third time, large families and small families. But we were all united by the adoption of children from Bulgaria! It was wonderful to sit around a camp fire or a table and converse with people who understood. These parents understood the paperwork, the waiting, the emotional roller coaster. It was great also to be joining a support network of people who will understand us after the adoption is complete and we are facing the challenges of parenting children who lived the first years of their life in an orphanage and who don't speak English yet.

Other highlights of the weekend included eating Shopska salad and other Bulgarian food, seeing referral pictures of famies' kids they would soon be bringing home, hearing traditional Bulgarian music and learning some of the culture.

I would love to share lots of pictures from the weekend, but for the privacy of the families at the reunion, I will not be sharing them on a public blog like this. Instead, I will print the pictures and stick them in my scrapbook!

One of the best parts of the weekend was seeing all the children! There were children everywhere. Beautiful children with dark eyes, olive skin, and dark hair. Beautiful children with lighter skin and hair. All so beautiful. There were little toddlers and preschool age children, and lots of elementary school age children and teenagers. The children were all playing together: groups of teenagers skate boarding or hanging out, little children riding bikes or scooters, medium sized children tossing water balloons back and forth. Some children home as little as 6 months ago, and some children home for 8+ years. Some of the children this weekend knew each other in their orphanage before being adopted! How amazing that they get to see each other again! Seeing these kids made our adoption seem real! On the other side of all our paperwork and waiting and saving funds are real children who will join are family!

I want to bring our kids to the reunion every summer because I know how meaningful and important and fun it will be for them. Sometimes children who have been adopted can feel different than the other children they may be surrounded by in their school, church, or community. They need to be able to be with other children who have a similar background and who look like them. Other moms shared these stories. (Names omitted for privacy.)

We had an amazing weekend meeting other families who have shared the same Bulgaria adoption journey. (Our son) met other amazing, inspiring kids who looked like him and have been through similar experiences. (My husband) and I met other wonderful parents who have shared the roller coaster of international adoption. We wondered if (our son) got anything out of it because it was stressful for him at times and them he told us he liked it because "he made new friends and saw that he's not the only kid with a disability who gets adopted." That made this mom's heart smile!

-from a mom at the reunion

The reunion has finally become therapeutic for (my son). He enjoyed himself, and found some degree of healing to his heart. For those (parents) who having been making the event part of their children's life from the beginning off their American life know how wonderful this is for them.

-from another mom at the reunion

Monday, June 10, 2013

Celebrating the Small Steps

In a big thing like international adoption, you have to celebrate every small step of progress. Today, we received our approval to adopt from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (For those of you who speak adoptionese our I800A was approved by USCIS on Friday and we received our I797 in the mail today!) For those of you who aren't familiar with all this adoption jargon, it just means that the US government has given us the initial approval to adopt children from another country.

Seriously, USCIS, I800A, dossier, apostilled....I think I will write an adoption dictionary/encyclopedia when we are finished with our adoption to explain all these terms for families who decide to adopt. For us, each step of the adoption brings new terms to learn. Thankful for a good agency to guide us through this adoption maze! Of course by the time I finished writing and publishing such a book, it would be out of date because adoption laws and regulations are constantly changing...

What is next: 
I was so happy to receive our approval notice because it was the last document needed to complete our dossier (adoption paper work). I mailed a notarized copy of it to our agency today and they should have it by Wednesday! Our agency will finish preparing our dossier (adoption paperwork) and have it sent to Bulgaria. We hope it will be ready to send to Bulgaria for translation this summer!