Tuesday, January 31, 2012

5 Secrets about Our Adoption

1. Adoption is our first choice.

Numero Uno. If I had a dollar for every time someone thought otherwise, I would have had our adoption fully funded months ago. I can't tell you how many times people have told me, "I know this couple who was in the adoption process and then they got pregnant." Then they look at me with knowing eyes thinking they are offering me hope. When I hear people say things like that, I hear the equivalent of, "I know this couple who went to the zoo and got their eyes poked out by parakeets." Yep, pregnancy and eyes poked out by parakeets are pretty much the same thing in my book right now.

Contrary to popular belief (or assumption), Zac and I have never been told by a doctor that we cannot have kids, nor have we been hoping this entire adoption process that we will get pregnant.

At one point, we thought our adoption wasn't going to go through and we mourned. We experienced grief, sadness, and loss at the thought that we may not get to adopt. I cried countless times, especially when I saw the bus stop benches with the "You can Adopt!" advertisements. I imagined this little one halfway around the world whom I had let down. I'm so thankful that our adoption IS going through, and we have the privilege of welcoming a little one into our home.

Adoption is amazing, and we are so happy to be a part of it.

2. We are not setting out to save the world by adopting.

The way I see it, orphans are a symptom of a greater problem in society.  The greater problem is hard to pinpoint, but it involves anything that is keeping a biological mom and dad from raising their child together.  It comes in the form of poverty, mental illness, abuse, prejudice, unplanned pregnancy, broken relationships, health problems, and death.

Adoption only treats the symptom. Adoption is not the answer nor the end goal.  We can't fix the issue of orphaned children by having every orphan adopted; we must address the bigger problems causing children to be placed in orphanages in the first place.  During my life, I hope to work toward fixing that. I hope you will work toward that too.

3. There are things you can say that may make me reconsider our friendship. Please take note.

We have been fortunate to have taken courses and read books and papers all on the topic of adoption. We have learned what language to use when talking about adoption so as to call things what they are make children who have been adopted feel welcome. I want to share this information with you so that you too know some good ways in which to talk about adoption.

Here are some things I hope you don't say when you talk about our family:
A.) What not to say: "The Harders have 2 adopted children."
Why this isn't the best choice:
Adoption is a one-time event that takes place in a kid's life. They shouldn't be referred to as someone's "adopted child" for the rest of their lives.  It's like saying of a child who was in the hospital once when they were 3, "This is Jennifer's hospitalized child." We would never say that. They were hospitalized one time and it is over and done with. Now they are healthy and moving on. My children were adopted - one time. Now the adoption is complete and they are my own.
Instead say: "The Harders have 2 children."

B.) What not to say: "The Harders have 2 adopted children and 2 of their own."
Why this isn't the best choice:
My adopted children are my own. If not, whose are they? What message might they hear when someone says this in front of them? I plan on raising all of my children with the same level of love and commitment, regardless of if they came to me through birth or adoption.

Also, why must someone differentiate between children who were adopted or children who were born into a family?  What do they mean and what does it matter? 

Instead say: "The Harders have 4 children."

C.) What not to say: "The Harders have 2 children who were adopted and 2 natural children."

Why this isn't the best choice:
My children who were adopted must have 3 eyes then, to not be natural! I think the word people are looking for there is biological. That is an okay thing for you to say in my book. I someday may have a mix of children who were adopted and biological children. Please don't use "natural" because it implies "unnatural." 
Instead say: "The Harders have 4 children."
Or, if you must differentiate for some reason, please say "The Harders have 2 children who were adopted and 2 biological children."
Bottom Line: I want my children differentiated based on their personalities and interests, not by how they came into our family.  I would love love LOVE it if someday someone said about us, "Those are the Harders.  Ava likes baseball, Micah likes jazz, Lily likes art and Martin likes race cars."  That would be so cool.


4. Adoption doesn't cost as crazy much as you think.

I often hear people say, "I'd be interested in adopting, but it costs too much."  I say that if somebody really wanted to adopt a child, they would make it happen.  It's a matter of will, not finances.

There is currently a tax credit for families who adopt.  Families can get reimbursed for a little over $12,000 of their adoption expenses.  The rules vary with the type of adoption.  A domestic adoption can receive reimbursement on an ongoing basis when the family files taxes, even if the adoption isn't completed yet - an International adoption can only get reimbursed after the adoption has been finalized.  However, whenever it is that you get reimbursed, that's $12,000 that you can get paid back for your adoption!  That's a hefty chunk of the fees!

Additionally, there are a number of grants available to families who are adopting.  If you're interested, please contact me and I will give you a list.  We have not applied for any grants yet because Zac's workplace reimburses up to $10,000 of adoption fees for their employees.  We are so thankful for this program.

There are definitely ways to make this happen.  Also, one great thing we found was that the money wasn't needed all at one time.  We paid for things gradually as they were needed.  An application fee, then a home study, then a court fee, etc.  If there is a serious cash flow problem, people can always take out a loan or ask others for donations.  Many families make a product to sell, such as a t-shirt or jewelry, and raise money for their adoption that way.

It is possible for anyone to adopt!  The secret's out!

5. Our adoption is not self-less.  

Adoption is twofold: it provides a family for a child who doesn't have one, and it provides a child for a family who wants one.  We are so excited that we will be providing a home for a child. We have so much love to give and have a wonderful extended family who our child will be blessed by.

However, we are also excited for us!  We will be welcoming in a child to our home.  We are thrilled to be parents and eagerly anticipating this new chapter in life that will come to us because of this child.

We are receiving a wonderful gift because of this adoption, and our child is receiving a wonderful gift too.  It is not one-sided.

Those are all my secrets today.  But don't worry, I have more secrets to share.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Wish I Could Hug

As I was on my way back to my classroom after lunch last week, I noticed a little boy in the hallway whom I knew because of my after-school remedial class.  He was hunched down, almost sitting on the floor, and he didn't look like his usual self.  He looked sad. 

I looked at him and asked him if he was okay.  He answered me by shaking his head back and forth slowly.  I questioned further, and his eyes started to water as he shared how a kid in his class told on him.  Now, knowing this kid, he probably DID need to be told on.  He doesn't always make the best behavior choices.  However, that aside, his hurt was real.

As we talked about the situation more and what he could do in the future, the tears that had pooled began falling.  They fell from his eyelids and landed on his knees.  He looked so sad and defeated.  Every instinct in me wanted to wrap my arms around this little one and just hold him.  To let him cry, and to feel sad with him, and hold him.

But I'm a teacher, and our job is a precarious one. We are under much scrutiny and can lose our jobs over a filed complaint, even if we did nothing wrong. 

So I was afraid to hug him.  It felt so wrong not to.  I encouraged him with my words and tried to get him to go back into his class.  I told him to take a minute in the hall before going back in (after all, who wants to walk back into the classroom crying).  As I walked away, my conscience tugged at me.  But legally that's what I was to do.

I wish I could hug students.  It seems so wrong that the "right" thing to do is walk away while a little boy wipes his tears in the hallway alone. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Clutter and Control

I've been under a bit of stress lately.  I'm trying to balance home and work and life and hopes and dreams and commitments and everything in between.  At times it can feel overwhelming, and Saturday was one of those days. 

While my dear husband was relaxing, I was frantic and cooped up in the house.  I (of course) created a task list, for better or for worse I'm not sure.  I began trying to complete tasks, but it was one of those days where I would begin one project, get distracted by another, start mixing something in the kitchen, then remember the first project.  You know the days I'm talking about!

Suddenly the whole thing just became too much for me and I was overwhelmed by all the clutter and the messes in the house and I couldn't focus until SOMETHING was cleaned up!

I began attacking the papers on the desk with fervor, putting away things that had been sitting there for months and organizing and paying bills and filing recipes and you name it.  I had to do something.  I had to create some sort of order out of chaos.  I needed to control some part of my life.


I started thinking about why I was organizing.  What was it for?  What was I trying to accomplish? 

I realized that I was trying to put order to chaos in a tangible way because I couldn't seem to infuse order into the chaos of my life at that point.  Some people eat when they're stressed and some procrastinate.  Me?  I organize.

As I continue thinking on this, I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.  I feel like that little kid who needs her favorite blanket to relax.  But instead of a blankie, I go for a nice, tall stack of unorganized papers.

Good thing or bad?  I don't know.  But I do know is that it works for me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Baby Pictures

Here are some pictures from a photo shoot with my 2-week old niece.  We had a great afternoon together!

Highlights from our time together included: 
  • Cuddle time with Auntie Amber
  • Great conversation with my sister and brother-in-law
  • Warm, homemade brownies 
  • The smallest, cutest tutu I have ever seen
  • Watching my sister be a mom
  • Seeing what a great team my sister and her husband are
  • Witnessing one of the best diaper blowouts I've ever seen

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Breaking Apart Isaiah 55

Recently I was sitting with my Bible at Caribou and came across Isaiah 55. I'm sure I've read this before, but today I was struck by the beauty of this chapter. If you are feeling a little down, or even if you're fine and you just want to remember God's love for you, read this chapter.

I had an ah-ha moment reading verses 10-11. It says...

10 As the rain and the snow
   come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
   without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
   It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Now, usually when things are worded like this with a lot of interjections, I lose track of what was said at the beginning of the sentence. Today I was determined to make sense of it, so I reread each phrase separately, thinking of it in terms of the "Word of God" instead of rain or snow. Listen to this, my revised version:

The word of God comes down from heaven and waters the earth.
(It provides the means for growth.)

It makes the earth bud and flourish.
(Not only grow, but flower. The word of God makes things thrive and makes things beautiful.)

It yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater.
(It provides seed - the means to continue - as well as nourishment for those who hear it. The word of God is able to be ongoing.)
As I read this, I see how powerful the word of God is. It provides growth, enhances lives, is ongoing, and nourishes.

Verse 11 continues, saying that word goes out from the mouth of God and will not return empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.

I picture the word of God in the second half of this verse as something invisible, zooming through the air, zipping in between people on a crowded street, flying around corners until it hits its target. It has an intended purpose and won't stop until it gets there.

The Word of God is so powerful and incredibly alive.  I think we forget that sometimes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Universal Letter Writing Week

Happy Universal Letter Writing Week!  I appreciate that this event is not just a one-day holiday but rather an entire week devoted to sitting down with pen and paper to communicate with the special people in your life.

How will you celebrate this year? 

Here are some ideas of people you could send a letter to during Universal Letter Writing Week:

1.) A college roommate - recall a shared memory
2.) A parent or sibling - tell that person what you appreciate about them
3.) Someone who recently went out of their way to show you kindness
4.) A store where you received excellent customer service
5.) A former teacher of yours - tell them about how they impacted your life
6.) A friend who is struggling - let them know you care
7.) A previous employer where you enjoyed working
8.) A newspaper or magazine - let them know how much you appreciate their publication
9.) Your member of congress - advocate for change (find your representative here)
10.) A pastor - thank them for their service and dedication.  I bet it's not an easy job!
11.) A letter to a nursing home patient.  It doesn't matter if you know them or not, in general mail is appreciated.  You could work together with some children in your life to make cards and drop them off at a nearby nursing home.

What other ideas do you have?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany...What REALLY Happened?

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I've never questioned how this all went down until this morning.  I was reading an Epiphany devotional and my mind started to wander.  Did the wise men really just follow the star, go into the house, and give Jesus gifts?  What if it was more like this...

Wise Man 1 (WM1): Are we almost there? I'd really like to stop and use the bathroom before we get there.

WM2: I think we're almost there, the star seems to be slowing down now.

WM3: I'd rather we just go there first and use their bathroom.  I'm anxious to see the new king.

WM1: Fine, let's just go there first.

The star stops moving and they slow to a stop as well.

WM2: (In disbelief) - Could this be it?

WM1: (Stroking his beard) - I don't know, it doesn't seem very extraordinary.  I doubt a king would be here.

WM3: (hands on hips) - The star stopped here, this is obviously it.  Let's go in, c'mon.  We didn't come all this way to stand outside.

WM1: (hand on forehead, runs hand through hair) - I don't know, we're going to look like idiots if we barge into this house and it's not the right one.  What are we going to do?  Say, "Whoops, sorry" and then take our treasures back outside and knock on the neighbor's house?

WM2: (walking around) - It seems that the star's light is more on this house than any others nearby.  I'm sure it's the one.  I'll knock.

Door opens before he can knock.  Teenage girl appears - "I heard some commotion.  Is everything okay?"

WM1: (under his breath to WM3) - I told you this wasn't it.  How are we going to get out of this one?

Isn't that fun to imagine what might have happened?  Did the three wise men know immediately that this was it?  How do you introduce yourself to a complete stranger and explain why you're on their doorstep?  I love thinking about all that is not written in the Bible, and imagining how these interactions went.  All that is written is that they came to the house, saw Jesus and Mary, and then bowed down to worship.  I would have enjoyed being there and seeing that moment unfold in its entirety!

Happy Epiphany!  Today the three kings have come to welcome and worship the King of Heaven and Earth. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thank-you Notes

Thank you notes are a magnificent thing. In recent years I find myself writing more and more of them. Hands down, I write the most thank-you notes at Christmas time.

I'm currently up to my elbows in stamps, ink pads, tape, and craft paper making my Christmas thank-you notes for this year. I like making cards with the recipient in mind. I've been casually writing the notes as they are created, and I have to say, writing thank-you notes is one of my favorite things to do.

Writing a thank-you note allows me to think back to the person who did something nice for me, and to relive that moment or experience. When I've been writing to thank the people who have hosted parties or Christmas celebrations, I remember how much fun I had, the conversations, decorations, food, and all the little details. It's like hitting rewind and doing it all over again!

I've noticed that after I finish writing a note, my heart is light and I'm smiling recalling the kindness shown to me. I'm thinking about how I am cared for and loved, and how I love and care for the person who I'm writing to.

It's pretty great.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Reflection

This past May I was in Hawaii for a combined birthday/anniversary trip. Zac and I were in Hawaii on my actual birthday, and as I prepared for the trip I dreamed about all the cool things I could do to welcome in my 30's. The idea I finally landed on was to wake up before dawn, hike to a mountain peak, and watch the sunrise on my first day of being 30. Doesn't that sound glorious?

It didn't happen. It didn't happen for multiple reasons. The evening before my birthday we took a romantic dinner sailboat tour during which I got seasick. I'll spare the details, but let's just say I was not excited about getting up early the next day to go hiking before dawn. As we were winding up the sailboat tour and I was feeling better, I stood at the back of the boat and watched the sun set.

As the sun set, I reflected on my plans and compared them to how everything actually turned out. Instead of watching the sun rise on my 30th birthday, I was watching the sun set on my last day being 29. I thought about the significance of that and how reflective it was of how I was viewing my 30's. I was looking forward to all that there was to come, but in doing so I was forgetting to look back at the last year and decade of my life and remember all that there had been.

I began thinking about when I was 20 and the big things that happened that year of my life. So much happened during that entire decade! I graduated from college, did a year of volunteer work, met and married my husband, chose a career...the list goes on and on! I was thankful to have the opportunity on the sailboat to stop and reflect on the previous decade. This would have been bypassed had I been only focusing on welcoming in my 30's.

As I welcome the new year, I feel similarly. I spent so much time thinking about who I was going to spend New Year's Eve with, where we would go, what food I would prepare, and what things we would do. I thought about all that 2012 would bring and the wonderful changes that lay ahead for me. It's good and it's fun to think ahead, but it's also important to remember the past.

Today's entry in my Advent devotional, Child of the Light, encouraged reflecting on 2011, so I spent a good chunk of time at a coffee shop this morning thinking back over the year. To help me think about the past year, I used the suggested scripture passage, writing it out line by line and writing a few sentences about each line from my year. Here is the passage I used, from Ecclesiastes 3:

1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

2a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

This was incredibly meaningful for me, and I suggest it for you too. Take some time to think back on the year that was completed. Who were you when it started and who are you now because of the events from the past year? What ways have you grown and what have you learned about yourself?

Happy New Year, and happy old year too. :)