Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dirty Dog

Honest, I don't know HOW these towels got pulled off of the clothesline!


(Warning- this is not a happy post.)

I was born an optimist.  My mom says that I was always a happy little kid.

And I don't feel as if I've had an overtly easy life.  I've survived divorce, a fire that took all my sentimental possessions, miscarriages, job losses, a child who was born with multiple special needs, and the usual ups and downs that come with being part of the human race.

And yet, I had always had a rosy outlook on life and thought I could conquere the world and it's problems.   I had a strong faith and felt that with God and my family on my side,  I could survive anything.

And then, on Oct 23, 1997, my son Travis and daughter Erin were in a car accident on their way to school. 

And suddenly I was in a hospital watching nurses change the blood-soaked towels that were wrapped around my daughter's head... I signed donor forms to select which organs we would agree to donate... I held Erin's hand as we stood around her saying the Lords Prayer, and the life support machines were turned off.

Nothing in life or in the Bible prepares you for that.

Erin Leigh
I spent the next year just trying to draw a deep breath because my chest hurt so much.  I forced myself to get out of bed to take care of our 4 boys, even though my efforts were mechanical and probably not very thoughtful of them.  I questioned my faith and was terribly angry at God for taking my daughter.

I felt beat up and alone.

And almost every day, on the way to work, I had to talk myself out of driving my car into a telephone pole.

In my grief, I reasoned that Loren could take care of the boys on his own, right?  But who was taking care of Erin?  Was she scared and lonely, questioning what had happened? If I could be with her, then she wouldn't be afraid, and someone would be watching out for her. 

These questions tormented me.

Instead of doing something drastic, I spent each Friday at her graveside during my lunch hour, talking to her and working through my grief.  During this quiet time, I began forming an idea in my head to help turn this tragedy into something positive.

Erin had always said she wanted to adopt lots of children.  My grandmother had been adopted, and I had always had the desire to adopt.  Together, Loren and I decided that we would adopt as our way of helping out girls who need a home, and do this in Erin's memory.  We really felt led by God to do this, and once the decision was made, many people were placed in our life who had experience with adoption and who shared their information and passion for adoption. 

It felt good to be back.  Good to feel as if God was partnering with us again, instead of turning his back on us.

It felt good to finally feel as if we were doing something productive, and could channel our grief into something positive for children.  Because the same training needed to adopt was also used for becoming a licensed Foster Parent, we went ahead and became licensed as Fost/Adopt Parents. 

My sweet baby girl, Menha, and Camille

We became foster parents over 11 years ago, and have had 20+ kids live with us, for a length of 4 months to over a year.  During this time, we have attempted to adopt 4 girls and 1 boy who we were told could likely become available for adoption- only one of the girls did, and that is our daughter, Camille.
(The other children were returned to their mothers or other relatives.  Very hard to send them back to what they had come from, knowing what we knew.)

Luke, Bri, Dad, Mom, Camille, Tanner on Adoption Day!
I question all the time why God doesn't place more children in our home who need permanent homes, because that is what we have prayed for again and again.  Parenting, loving, and raising children, only to send them back to adults who have disappointed and abused them, is the hardest thing that we do as foster parents.  Missing them when they leave is the second hardest thing.

So after 11 years and much heartache, we decided to see if we would finally qualify financially for international adoption.  We made it by the skin of our teeth, so last year, we began the paper chase.  On April of 2011, we received our referral of Qinqiao Dang, who is 16 mo old and now waiting for us in Shanxi Province, China.

Our Quinn
 During our research, we had heard about the China Special Focus program, and had decided that we would do whatever we could to bring 2 children home from China.   We were ready to cash in more of our retirement, and contacted our agency to let them know we wanted to pursue 2 children.

Here's a surprise- did you know that agencies can make their own policies in regards to adopting 2 at once?  Neither did we.  I thought that if China was okay with it, then our agency would be more than excited to bring 2 more orphans home.  I was wrong- they denied our request.  They think 2 SN children at once is too much for any family, and that each child should come into the family on it's own.

At this point, I'm beginning to become frustrated. And wishing we had used a different agency.

Fast forward a few months to July, and we are approached by a friend who is looking to place a healthy baby that is due in September.  She was a fellow foster parent and she knew how hard we had tried to adopt in the past.  She wondered if we would be interested-DUH!  Because our agency mentions supporting Concurrent Adoptions in their literature, I thought for sure this was God's way of rewarding us (so to speak) for being obedient in our mission to provide permanency and a home for children.  

We were excited beyond belief.  I know I walked around grinning for weeks!  I attended doctor visits and got to know the birthmother.  I thought how wonderful it would be for the two girls to grow up together.  Being 2 years apart, and they would be able to play together and be best friends.  It felt like it was meant to be.

Then our agency said no again.  Apparently concurrent doesn't mean the same thing to them as it does to us.

SOOOOOO........ now I'm back to feeling picked on, bereft, beat up, and struggling to work up the optimism that I have always counted on to get me through life's obstacles.  My faith feels artificial and I'm working on getting that sense of peace that I started this adventure with.  I resent and regret that this journey that began with such hope and promise has become an emotional minefield, spotted with disappointments.

The worst part is I feel I've let Erin down.  Even as a 5th grader, she talked about adopting kids, and we wanted to make that happen for her, since she's unable to do it herself.  We thought we would have a housefull by now.  We've been tenacious and put ourselves out there, taking tough kids that others wouldn't take, jumping at any opportunity to grow our family, and here we are, 11 years later, still jumping through hoops.

It's exhausting. It's depressing.  And it just shouldn't be this hard.

So if I seem somewhat down, please understand that it's nothing personal.  I'm just disappointed in myself and my efforts, and I'm trying to rally. 

 I want to get that excited feeling again about adoption, life and the good things in it, before we leave to go get Quinn.  I want to be able to pass on feelings of optimism and trust to her.

And I want to make Erin proud.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Weekend~

3 day weekends are always super busy- trying to fit in the "to do" lists with some family time and fun, and it never seems to all get done!

We included an out of town football game, working the Food Bank, attended the LifeLight concert 2 nights in a row, worked on tearing out woodwork and kitchen counters at the old house, cleaned our Parish Hall in preparation for Sunday School beginning, attended church, and indulged in our guilty pleasure- watching several episodes of The Office!

Stuff hauled out from Loren's parents' attic- what is up with the stuffed raccoon?!

"I look good even when I'm working!"

We worked on removing the kitchen counters and cupboards from the old house, to be used in our mudroom once we move over there.  Loren continues to find neat and strange items as we go through the storage closets and attic, so that keeps it interesting!  We've resorted to chucking wood out the upstairs window, just to save time from hauling it through the house. (Notice the open window upstairs?!)

As busy as we could've been, we did manage to get to 2 evenings of Lifelight and it was INCREDIBLE!!  Every year, they just seem to get better and better.  There is something so amazing to be sitting in a crowd of thousands of people (actually over 300,000 attended this year), listening to wonderful Christian music and learning so much from inspiring speakers.  Don Piper, the minister that wrote "19 minutes in Heaven" was a speaker, whom I had heard before, and Alan Greene, the coordinator of Lifelight, is always inspirational to listen to.

  It gives me so much hope in the future when I see so many young people there, hearing the Message.  The performers were some that we really enjoy listening to on the radio- Sanctus Real, 10th Avenue North, Britta Nicole and Jeremy Camp.  Can't wait to go again next year!

And after cleaning the Parish and working on the house, we stopped at our friends, the Wirths, for a quick visit, and ended up helping them with chores!

Then my cousin, Jamie  and his family, my aunt Gayle, and my Mom came over that afternoon and surprised us with a washing machine they had gotten at an auction- how cool is that!?  We're going to be doing laundry in style now :-)  

All in all, a super busy, productive, and wonderful Labor Day Weekend~

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bri came up with a new strategy for getting what she wants....

How pitiful is that?!  She figures that if she uses the cute puppy face to her advantage, we can't say no.

She may just be onto something!

Yesterday, the girls and their friend, Moyra, took their 4H chickens to our local nursing home for their Chicken Week.  (Did you know it's National Chicken Month?  Well, their Activities Director did!)

Bri standing on the Bingo Card, telling about her Belgian Quail

Camille letting residents pet her Silkie.
They gave their 4H Showmanship presentations to explain all about their chickens, then answered questions.  Then the chickens were put into an enlarged Bingo card on the ground, and each nursing home resident that attended was allowed to pick a number on the Bingo card.  We then waited for the chickens to see which number they would "poop" on, and the person that picked it was the winner!

 The comments from the residents were so funny!!  Many of them had grown up on a farm and they shared alot of memories they had from raising or butchering chickens and ducks.  It was a good day, and I'm sure the residents will be talking about chickens all week!