Friday, December 6, 2013

The Final Post

So, I came back to the blog this morning to reminisce, and I realized that it has been almost a year since we've posted anything here.  AND, there is nothing about our journey to finally bring Judah home.  Well, here it is, the final post.  I could share more and go on and on for days about traveling in the Congo, adding two children within a month, adjusting to four kids, and the fun we've had over the last year with Judah in our family.  But, for now, it may be best to just keep it simple.  Here's our family... Noah, Tovah, Judah, and Norah

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dying Well and Adoption

I was listening to Matt Redman's song, "10,000 Reasons" today and it dawned on me that in order for us to die well, we must practice dying well throughout our lives.  It's not something that will just drop into our personalities when our time to die has come.  Let me explain a little bit how this thought dawned on me and also how it relates to adoption.

Redman's song relates how our hearts have 10,000 reasons to be singing praise to God day in and day out, never ending, never fading.  There is no reason for anyone to cease to praise God.  There is always a reason to praise the Lord.  The last verse of Redman's song is where it came to me that we must prepare now to die well.  Here are the lyrics...

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore. 

In this section of the song, he's saying that when the time of death hovers over us, there will, even then, be every reason to sing praises to God as we await the eternal dawning of never ending worship. When that time comes, even in the moment of earthly departure, "my soul will sing your praise unending."  When strength fails, when organs cease to function, when hair is gray and trips to the bathroom become more cumbersome than worth it, God is still worthy to be praised.  How then do we look forward to the day when we can glorify God in our death?  How do we know that when our time has come, we WILL sing praise unending?  I think the way we die for the glory of God is by living for the glory of God now.  

When morning dawns, is praise on our lips?  When darkness falls, is praise on our lips?  When children are born, is praise on our lips?  When children are lost, is praise on our lips?  When we worship at church, is praise on our lips?  Will our hearts, even now, sing praises to the Lord "whatever may pass or whatever lies before me"?  When praise and satisfaction in the Lord become our ever-present anthem, there is no reason to think that this anthem will be drown out by something as fleeting as death.  For those in Christ, death is just the beginning of "ten thousand years and then forevermore."  Sure, we leave those we love, but we enter into the joys of everlasting satisfaction and delight when we see Jesus Christ face to face.  Let the joys of eternal delight in Christ motivate you to rejoice today in Christ so that when your time comes to face death, praise will be the "natural" and automatic response of your soul.  

How then does this relate to adoption?  As our adoption has changed over the last few months, we haven't been affected as negatively as some other couples have.  Sure, our process has changed, our plans have changed, and our peace of mind has been shaken.  However, we've heard stories from other families that could, at times, feel like death.  For some in the adoption journey, the day to day wait for documents, referrals, or even pictures may feel like an eternity.  And yet, do we delight enough in the Lord in those moments to sing praise unending?  Do we use these moments as "practice" for when we will worship around the throne of the Lamb who was slain?  

This "strategy" for dying well sounds stoic, I know.  It's not easy, and in this life, it does not come naturally.  But maybe it will just be helpful to keep it on the front of your mind as you face life's challenges.  Maybe you can bring to mind the joys of God's provision while you are waiting on that USCIS document.  Maybe you can remember that God has a chosen son or daughter out there for you who will fit into your journey of sanctification so well that only God could have orchestrated the beauty of your family.  The Lord is good, his love endures forever.  Praise him and die well.  


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How to Help Us Financially: Lifesong

Just thought this would be
a funny picture to include.
Many of you know that Liz and I were graciously given a matching grant from Lifesong and Orphan Care Alliance around Christmas of last year.  We not only met the matching aspect of the grant, but we exceeded it!!!  This was an amazing blessing to us, and many of you were part of that effort.  Since we haven't moved along much in our adoption process, those funds are still at Lifesong and our account is still open.  This is good news for you if you would like to help us bring our Congolese baby home.

We still need between $5,000-$6,000 to get us closer to the end financially.  We're not sure about the timeline and it's possible there will still be unexpected costs, but at the moment, $5,000-$6,000 will get us closer.  The benefit to giving to Lifesong on our behalf is that they are a 501(c)(3) agency whose sole task is to help families fund adoptions.  This means that you can give to our adoption journey AND it is a tax-deductible gift.

For those who have already helped us along this journey, Thank You.  For others, if the Lord leads you to help us through this Lifesong account, here's how you can do it.

Make your check out to "Lifesong" with our family name and account # in the memo (Howell/ #2240 Adoption).  This will get that amount applied to our account.

You can send the check to:
Lifesong for Orphans
Attn: Howell/ #2240 Adoption
PO Box 40
Gridley, IL 61744

Keep in mind that we have already matched our grant, so your gifts won't be doubled at this point, but we will still be incredibly thankful for any support the Lord leads you to donate.  

Adam and Liz<><

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Paperwork Journey... Again

So after several changes, we've begun the paperwork journey again.  Well, sort of.

We got our dossier back from our previous agency and I spent that last several hours scanning each document in order to send it to our new consultant for review.  We've basically moved to an independent adoption, but we are working closely with a lady whose former position at the U.S. State Department was the Adoption Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Congo.  Her role was to review adoption cases in the Congo and issue visas once the cases were approved.  So, if anyone is going to know about how to adopt a child from the DRC, Danielle will know.  She's the one that we are sending our scanned dossier documents to.

So we've kind of started the paperwork again, but we already have much of it in place.  We'll probably have to get some updated medical letters and background checks, but overall we have what we need.  We got our newest I-171h in the mail from USCIS reflecting our pregnancy last week.

It's fun to feel like things are moving once again.  Please pray for us as we make a decision about working with a particular attorney in the Congo.  Danielle has connections in the DRC with people who run orphanages and have children available for adoption.  She recently presented us with an attorney who will be able to locate a referral for us, and we are praying about jumping on board with him.

The recent changes in our adoption journey have set us back a little bit financially.  I've found out by talking to others that this is not uncommon to encounter unexpected costs or increased fees even after you agree to a certain estimate.  The independent adoption is cheaper than adopting through an agency, so our total costs at the very end will be almost identical.  However, over the next few months, we will need to do a couple of fundraisers and perhaps recruit more Lifesong support to cover travel costs and other miscellaneous costs (visa fees, DGM fees, etc.).  So, keep your eyes peeled for fundraiser opportunities.  We've got a couple in mind that might prove to be quite fun.  We also still have some t-shirts for sale ($20).  If you want one of those, you can contact us here or via Facebook and we'll get it to you.

As always, thanks for your continued prayer and support.  This has already been a longer journey than initially expected, but we know the Lord's timing is best and we are more than comfortable resting in His timing.

Adam and Liz<><

Friday, June 29, 2012

Despicable Adoption

Ok, so maybe the title was a little over the top, but it got you to click on the link, right?

With the weather outside pushing 100+ degrees, we've decided to stay inside, which inevitably leads to some movies on the tube.  Today we watched Despicable Me.  We've seen it many times, and for those who know the plot, you may know why we love that movie so much.  The movie's been around long enough that I don't mind to ruin it for you. :-)

Gru, the main, despicable character, decides to adopt these three precious girls, but with entirely wrong motives.  Hence, he's despicable.  However, in the process, he falls deeply in love with these girls and in the end, he fights to get them back.  He rescues his little girls from the other villain, Vector, and takes his girls home to safety.

When watching this movie today, I was especially struck by the title "Despicable."  For Gru, this adjective is, in fact, true.  Whether he becomes "respectable" in the process, I'll let you decide, but in the end, he adopts these girls and appears to love them as his daughters.  Although Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures probably didn't intend this message, the thought came to my mind today that we are all "despicable" due to sin, and yet God can take our despicable hearts and break them for a particular oppressed people.  For Liz and I, God has broken our despicable hearts for the orphan.  He regularly uses broken vessels to extend the joy of Christ.  In our case, we can't wait to introduce our little Congolese warrior to the Christ who died for his soul.  Why would we be so excited to complete this adoption?  Because God, through Christ, has rescued our despicable hearts by adopting us into his family.  Adoption is a picture of how God can take what was once abandoned, broken, and despicable and transform it into something that is glorious.

We are certainly not completely transformed, nor are we even on our last leg.  God has much work still to do in our hearts.  This is where we get the idea of a "despicable adoption."  The adoption journey itself is not despicable; in fact, it is remarkably glorious (even with the bumps).  This adoption journey is "despicable" because God is using obviously broken people to carry out his glorious purposes for the orphan.  I mentioned yesterday that God never changes and that part of his character is to execute justice for the orphan.  Using broken, "despicable" vessels to care for the orphan is but one way that God executes justice for the millions of orphans in the world today.  So, are we broken?  Yes.  Are we despicable?  Yes.  Does God have a bigger purpose using despicable people to carry out his glorious purposes?  Absolutely, YES!!!  So in some sense, if we think about it rightly, the title "Despicable Adoption" is exactly what Illumination had in mind with the title "Despicable Me."  We are thankful that God has chosen to use our family to defend the fatherless.  Broken people advocating for broken orphans in broken situations.  Needless to say, we are resting in the security of a Heavenly Father who takes what is broken and makes everything glorious.

In Christ,
Adam and Liz<><

Thursday, June 28, 2012

God's Consistency is Deeply Satisfying

I can't even begin to tell you how much has changed since the last post.  The details would be too time consuming, but suffice it to say, we've had major changes with our adoption journey in the last week.  Liz and I believe these changes are positive, but they were not easy.  We may share more about this journey at some time in the future, but for now, we want to ask that you would pray that God would continue to be the one thing (person/entity) that DOES NOT CHANGE.  God has been graciously sovereign during our entire journey, and we know that anything He brings our way is good for us, even if it is painful and difficult.

In spite of all of the unknowns in this entire process, here is one thing we know more now than ever.  God cares more about our orphaned son than we do (and I can assure you, we care ALOT).  Reading the Psalms the other day, I came across Psalm 10:14, 17-18.  Here it is for those of you who haven't memorized the Psalter. :-)

"... to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper to the fatherless. O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more."  

Being an Old Testament guy, I can't help but share some of the original Hebrew with you.  When David says that God is "a helper to the fatherless," he uses a grammatical construction that portrays God's occupation or inherent character.  In other words, the Helper to the orphan is who God is by trade.  It's what he does so often that it can be said he IS this.  So, since helping the fatherless is one of God's "occupations," and since God never changes, we know now more than ever that God is fighting on behalf of our little guy in the Congo.  He is helping him.  He is executing justice for him.  He is intricately working the events of human beings in such a way the He will be most glorified by the ransom of this fragile Congolese soul into a family that desperately wants to love him.  God is most glorified when we are most satisfied IN HIM.  God is in control.  God loves our orphan more than we do.  God never changes.  Liz and I are satisfied with that.

So we journey on.  One foot in front of the other.  One document after another.  One signature after another.  The same glory, the same pursuit, the same God who loves us through Jesus Christ.  Please continue to pray for us.

In Christ,
Adam and Liz<><

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Much Needed Update...

So, as you can see, it was December the last time we updated our blog.  Sorry about that.  This year has been a busy one for us to say the least.  I'll see if I can give you the long story in a few paragraphs.

In November, the Congo held its second "democratic" elections.  As a result, we've been told that the adoption process for most families in the Congo program was delayed about 3-4 months.  That brings us to now.  In the meantime, we've been waiting for a referral and have found out some good news at times and some bad news.

Some of the good news is that we are expecting another biological child in November of this year.  So I guess you could say we have two kids and two on the way.  Liz and I found out about our newest biological addition in March and so we began the process to update our home study to account for this "change of condition."  In October 2011 (I'll freely jump all over the calendar) we found out that our home study agency had to shut down, so for this second home study, we basically started over.  Childplace in Jeffersonville, IN helped us out tremendously and made the process quite simple the second time around.  We sent off our second home study to USCIS for updates yesterday and we will now wait on them to send us a new I-171h to add to our dossier.  This addition of a biological child was a hurdle we were worried about.  At the beginning of our process, our agency told us that Congo will allow adoptions to families with two children already.  This new child would make our third, so were a little concerned about what this might mean for our entire process.  Thankfully, our agency has placed children from the Congo with families that have as many as five children already, so our case worker didn't think another biological child would be a problem.  So, we updated our home study and are still trucking.

In the Congo, our agency has now opened a second orphanage.  For those who don't already know, one of the reasons we chose One World Adoption Services was that they have an orphanage in the Congo.  Now that they have two orphanages, there are more places from which our agency can care for children and supply referrals for adoptive families.  This was good news to us hoping that we would have a referral soon.  This news came about 3 weeks ago, and still no referral.  We've talked to our case worker several times and she tells us that it will probably be soon for a referral.  However, just in the last two weeks, we heard that the director of the orphanage in the Congo was let go from her position, so the agency has focused their attention on hiring and training another direct in country.  This again has slowed down our process.  We've yet to receive a referral.

Liz and I feel like we prepared ourselves to be patient, and somehow we've not jumped off the deep end with all these delays and changes.  However, we still deeply desire to see the face of our little Congolese orphan.  But for now, we wait.  I saw via Twitter this week that the agency congratulated two people for their new positions in the orphanage in the Congo, so I'm assuming that they have placed people in the proper positions in country and will be training them to gather the necessary paperwork from the Congo for referrals to be processed.  Pray with us that these people will work with integrity and precision for all those families who are still waiting on referrals from the Congo.

So, here we sit.  Summer schedule; time on our hands; still waiting.

We don't regret any of this process so far and we know that the Lord has led us the entire way.  Here are a couple of stories that show Liz and I how the Lord has worked so far.  Financially, the Lord provided all but $300 of our expected costs for this adoption.  This amount included ONE home study.  However, we had to do two.  Our church graciously has set up an adoption grant for families who are adopting, and because the Lord was so good to provide what we needed, we have not yet needed to apply for that grant.  We found out during this second home study that the price of our second home study was exactly the amount of the grant we can receive from our church family.  What a blessing to see how God has provided even before we knew we needed it.

A second example of God's providence and goodness is related to our wait.  Liz and I CANNOT complain about our wait.  God knew that he would give us a third biological child.  The Lord knew that we would have to redo our home study.  The Lord knew that this school year would be the busiest one of our lives and that we probably couldn't handle adding an adoptive child to our family yet.  However, in the midst of our waiting on a referral, we've had time to unwind from a difficult school year.  We've had more than enough time to redo our home study without the pressure of deadlines.  Now, we have a second home study completed and in the mail, our dossier is translated, and we are back in the waiting game knowing that God has delayed our process until now.  We are thankful that his timing is perfect, and we continually pray that we will rest in his timing.

We would continue to covet your prayers.  Pray for our little guy in the Congo.  Pray for our agency as they train new staff in the Congo.  Pray for us that we would continue to be patient and trust the Lord.

Adam and Liz<><