the journey, part 1

sometimes i forget that our family is a bit different.   in all honestly, i oftentimes forget that my little girls look different than me.  it isn't until it is just me and them walking somewhere and we are getting "the look" from people that i realize it is not the norm.  it is not a bad look, just one of "i can't figure that out...."  or the look of  "hmmm, i wonder what their story is..."

it's true, there is a story.  and i forget that too.  i fail to remember that we have been on two huge adventures and by golly, not everyone has done what we have done!  it seems so normal to me.  i don't think about the fact that we are an anamoly.  that people look at our family and have lots of questions.  that we are THE face of adoption for lots of the people we come into contact with.

and so with that comes a decent number of people who ask me questions about the process.  some of them are asking just out of curiosity but others out of a genuine desire to know how it all works.  and most of the time, i fall all over my words trying to explain.  i can't get it out, i say stupid things like, "it's no big deal."  (uh, hello sherlock, it's a big deal.)  and in general walk away thinking i did a horrible job of introducing adoption.  and what if, just maybe, that was a family who really and truly were pondering adoption.   probably not, just going with the odds.  but that is not for me to decide.  it is for me to be an advocate and to tell our story.

so....i finally got smart and decided to put it on the blog!  i know, i'm slow.  but i am seriously pushing 40 so there's my excuse.  and with no further ado...here's part 1 of the journey

there are a number of foundational decisions that you have to make before walking more than 3 steps into the adoption process.  for starters, domestic vs. international.  i am not going to get into the pros and cons of that discussion.  i am just going with what i know and that is obviously international.  so there you have it.  let's talk overseas adoption.

the second decision is the country.  there are many, many countries that are open to adoption.  historically, asia has been the hotbed for international adoptions.  but then came the eastern european countries and most recently the african countries.  south america has been in and out of the adoption scene along with some newcomers like haiti and a few others.  choosing a country is a huge decision. you are deciding on a second culture that will be part of your family.  and probably most of all, you are potentially deciding on a race that you will be introducing into your family and that has all sorts of things that go along with it.

oftentimes a family is particularly drawn to a certain country.  other times it is more of a heady decision.  either way, it is a biggie.   if you don't have a specific heart calling to a certain country than i would suggest you do some research.  every country has different guidelines.  of course, we know china the best.  and in order to adopt from china there are guidelines that must be met regarding your age, your marriage, your finanical status, your weight (yep!), your family size and on and on.  that particular country has oodles of hoops.  other countries, not so much. but you need to know if you even qualify for a particular country before getting your heart set.

another thing to investigate is the length of travel needed.  for many eastern european countries at least one parent is required to stay there for up to 3 months.  there are some families where this would not even be an option (like ours).  other countries, like china, require one 2 week stay.  in addition there are countries that have a set time (china) and other countries (african nations in general) that have no set time.  you go over and you have only a loose guess as to when you are coming home with your child.  again, things to consider.   there are many, many families who adopt from all over the world, but chances are your family will have certain needs that will rule out specific countries.

also a decision is that of the age of the child you want to adopt.   you will need to give a range that you are interested in.  for example, for our two adoptions we said 20 - 36 months.  we knew we didn't want a baby but we also knew we didn't want an older child.  one major factor in this decision is the kids you currently have in your family.  for us, we did not want to interrupt the birth order and so always requested children younger than our youngest.  but other families like to 'fill in the gap' or are generally drawn to older children.   it is a completely personal decision and each age range of children has various pros and  cons.

boy or girl.  generally families have a leaning one way of the other.  but if you don't, then you can simply request an age range and leave the gender out of the equation.  oftentimes countries will have more of one gender than another based on deep cultural mentalities that influence child abandonment.  most well known is probably that of china's girls.  so if you have a particular gender in mind, this may influence your country of choice.

and last but not least is the number of kids you are interested in adopting.  more often that not, this is a simple answer.  one.  : )  but more and more common is families adopting whole sibling groups, particularly from african nations where an entire family of children is available for adoption because of AIDS related deaths of both of their parents.  if you have a heart for a sibling group than certainly this will influence your country.

so there you have it...the foundational decisions that must be made before moving forward.  if you are in the process of these decisions i would suggest researching online and if you can, talking to other families who have adopted from your potential country(ies) of choice.  they will know best the nuances of adoption for that particular country and more importantly what it is like to raise a child from that country in america, specifically if another race is involved.

tomorrow's post...choosing your adoption agency.



i found myself rereading the blog last night for the first time in a long while.  and there were several things that came to mind...

1.  what stories i have to share
2.  what a God i have to share that is the author of those stories
3.  and gosh, our kids have really grown up!

about the third point, we now have a boy who is fully in adolescence, puberty going quite strong thankyouverymuch!  we were watching Revolution together the other night (great show to watch with middle school sons)  and i observed a) his hands are bigger than mine; b) he is getting a...i can barely get it out........mustache; and c) my baby boy is manlike!  gracious.

and now that we have got that reality out of the way - and made note of the fact that it is absolutely amazing that such a young thing as i could possibly be old enough to have a middle schooler - we get back to what swirled around and around in my heart last night.  

God.  our family.  and the amazing things we have done together.

as i was reading our sarahjoy adventure my mouth was almost gaping open at the lengths God went to to provide for us and to give us every last thing that we needed - not only financially but in our souls.  our whole being as a family and as individuals was covered in Godness.   i never want to forget.  but i do.  and that's why blogs are good.   they help me remember where we were and where God took us.  even now, my insides get tight and this rush of emotion comes over me when i think of his mercy towards us in the adoption journey.

i want to do it again.  i do.  i think of how many thousands of orphans there are just in china and i want to bring another one home.  not because my family needs more kids or because i have an insatiable desire to fill up every last possible square inch of our house or because our new minivan now can (coincidentally) seat 8, but because God has created each and every little child.  be they in the most loving home imaginable or abandoned on the streets of china, he created each child and they are a treasure.   he commands US to be for these little ones, to take care of his treasures.  and i can't stand the thought of me sitting in america - with my extremely comfortable life - and saying no to precious treasure.   

does it terrify me?  yes.  i am comfortable.  i am sitting really pretty in my american lifestyle.  heck, i even took a family trip to disney world this year.  how much more american can you get? (okay, we could get a dog...but that is NOT happening) and if i am truthful, there is a (BIG) part of me that doesn't want to mess with my comfort.   i don't want a tighter budget and a more 'intimate' living arrangement.  i don't want diapers again.  my kids are independent or at least there are enough of them that as a group they are independent.  who wants to throw a kink in that reality?  i sleep in when i want to and i go to the store when i want to.  my kids are healthy and well adjusted.  they are smart and successful.  (and enormously cute.)  my life is easy.  and to bring another one home?  to have to walk that tightrope of faith again and have no idea what it's like on the other side?  to throw some cranky, crying toddler into the mix whose adjustment is unknown and whose health is a question mark?  yikes.  and yet it plagues me.  it reeks havoc in my heart to think i am saying no.  


even as i write this i am so conflicted.  i want to do the right thing.  i want what God wants for me, for our family.  and in so many ways it seems so easy.  how could God NOT want us to welcome another little child?  as someone said the very first time we were pondering adoption, "if you are thinking about a little girl in china i am pretty sure that is God.  that isn't normal!"  and there is a lot of truth to that.   and yet i don't want to write my own story.  i don't want my passions and emotions to drive what i think God has for us.  could i get some writing on the wall?  could i get an 'amen' from the heavens?  maybe God would have me direct my passions elsewhere, to intentionally encourage other families in adoption.  i mean there is a limit as to how many the sanzones can bring home!  but there is no limit to how many we can be a part of bringing home.  

God's ways are not our ways.  i got one thing down, he's asking for some discomfort.  the question is does it come in the form of diapers or does it come in the form of pounding the pavement.

could i get a coke zero to take the edge off?  


big things

oh how i wish i could know God's plans.

one year has passed since sj came home. and in remembering i found myself simply overwhelmed at what God did to bring her to us. and to bring her to full health. she is absolutely the cutest thing on the planet (i've been teaching her how to say that!) and she is a picture of God's miraculous hand, walking around in our house. what an incredible privilege, and one i completely take for granted, that we have witnessed God's miracles over and over and over again. truly, who can say that?

over the past couple of weeks i have been trying to wrap my head around it. i mean, the things God did were huge! why? or more pressing to me right now, why not? why don't we expect God to be big all the time? why is it so overwhelming and surprising? what else does he have planned for us and he is just waiting to be given the opportunity? he is simply waiting for someone to have enough faith to follow God into something "crazy" and then watch Him do his thing? but instead he gets us, who have our lives neatly packaged. we go about our business with absolutely no need for the supernatural, so why would he ever show up? we don't ask for anything miraculous so we never get it! we never launch out to that place of crazy discomfort so that it can only be God who meets our needs.

i know that God does not always choose to do the miraculous. if he did, we wouldn't have nearly the pain that we live amongst. i would never want to encinuate that i was one who thought that miracles simply don't happen in certain situations because someone didn't pray enough. my 36 years have had way too much reality for that to even enter my brain. nor am i an advocate of irresponsibility and then waiting for God to bail you out. no. not my thing. at all. hear me LOUD and CLEAR.

but what i AM burdened about is the idea that God may be calling us to something way out of our comfort zone and we don't go simply because we are scared. we're afraid God won't show up and do what he needs to do. we're not willing to risk the chance of looking like a fool as we patiently ponder God's arrival. and what sarahjoy's story reminds me is that God showed up! he really did! we prayed that he would provide and we completed her $30,000 adoption with a few extra dollars in the account! we prayed he would match us with a little girl who fit right into our family and whose health needs we could manage and out of the hundreds of thousands of orphans available for adoption, look who we got! you don't have to be around her too long before you will say, as so many do, she is a SANZONE! and as is God's way so much of the time, he gave us far more than we could have asked or imagined. not only did he provide adoption funds, but he kept providing through his people's generous gifts towards SJ's medical bills. we didn't ask for that! we didn't even have a chance to pray about that, or expect anything! but it was as if God wanted to say, "HEY! not only can i do the miraculous, i can do miraculous on STEROIDS!" and yes, God brought us through heart surgery and lots of question marks and gave us back SJ. he did miracles for that child to walk out of the hospital. but not only did he heal her little body, he gave us a 100% healhty little girl! one year later there is not a thing wrong with her. MIRACLES PLUS MIRACLES!

my heart aches to see God do something big in our family again. i feel as though through my rememberance he has placed in me an unsettledness. a "feeling", a gut thing that says let me do it again. oh boy, it's scary. don't get me wrong. but the reality of God's vastness and longing to do great and mighty things through his people trumps fear. at least it does when i stare at what happened in the last 24 months to bring sj home. when it's in front of my face and i can't deny it i KNOW i want to do it again. i want to be up close and personal with God's faithfulness and his miracles!

so who knows what is in store for us? i don't know. all i know is that eric and i are praying and asking God to be really clear. REALLY clear. there is nothing more invigorating and pleasurable than being in the center of God's will. and there is absolutely zero that is more frightening than being outside. so our prayer is simple...show us your will God. show us what big thing you want to walk us through next.

and hang on for the ride!



it has been a year since we brought sarahjoy home and as we mark that anniversary with krispy kreme donuts (i mean what else would you mark it with?) i have found myself remembering the journey. why is it that we forget the past so quickly? forget how MUCH God did to bring her home! really, folks, he did above and beyond what we could have ever thought or imagined and i am embarrassed to say that i have rarely reflected on that reality in the past year. the present fullness of life so often edges out the past stories of the miraculous. and yet, we must remember. we must reflect on God's faithfulness lest we forget.

i went back and was looking at the list of people who invested in sarahjoy's little life. i was completely overwhelmed. i didn't count them, but they took up two pages when i printed them out. so many people who came together to bring her home. i can't really wrap my mind around it actually. there were even people on that list that i didn't know. friends of friends who were prompted to give to a little girl's journey. over $30,000. a miracle. God moving individuals to come together for a greater cause. i stand amazed.

and that's just the people who financially supported sarahjoy. if i tried to make a list of people who prayed for her it would have to remain unfinished. i don't even know many of them. it is not uncommon for me to meet someone at church who tells me they have prayed for sarahjoy. i don't know them, but they knew my baby and prayed her home. they prayed for someone they didn't even a know. an "unknown" little girl in a faraway country. why? why were so many prompted to do so? the only answer i have...the miraculous hand of God. the hand that brings families together across continents and moves people's hearts to come together and plead for God's blessings on a faraway little life, on our life.

i remain undeniably indebted to so many people. they brought my baby home. they brought my baby into my arms, out of death's grip, and back to life. i am so thankful. i shout to the world, my God is great, he is greatly to be praised. he looks upon the orphan with compassion and cares for them. he uses each of us to bring his will to fruition. he blesses those who follow him. he is a God of the miraculous and completely unfathomable.

and here i sit, as the recipient of so many blessings. not the least of which is a precious little girl, full of spunk and feisty energy. who has been given a new chance at life. who brings joy to our days. who is mine. and who is a product of hundreds, if not thousands, of people's prayers and gifts. a picture of the true nature of God.

because of you, she's mine.

may God use her story for his glory.



over the years i have had a number of people ask me, "why don't you adopt from the U.S.?" i actually hate that question. because behind it, whether they are willing to admit it or not, is the assumption that a child from the usa is more important than a child elsewhere. for some reason we feel like a child in our own country deserves adoption more than a child somewhere else. and of course, that assumption is simply symptomatic of the great american mindset that we are God's greatest gift to this earth. that there is no other country who could rival us, even their PEOPLE are less than ours. their HUMAN BEINGS are of less significance than our population.

i know that most people who ask that question are not even conscious of this mindset. at least, i will give them that benefit. but truly, it is an arrogant, arrogant thought process that questions why someone would adopt anywhere other than the usa. and it really bothers me.

recently i came across this video. it will make you sick to your stomach if you have any sense of compassion. it is truly unbelievable to many americans, those who haven't been exposed to the realities of the world in which we live. i challenge you to watch it. to open your eyes to the horrors going on in other countries. and maybe you will have the opportunity to bring a little light to that question that i hate.



thank you, part B

Baby Chic Pink Thank You 3x5 folded card
Elegant thank you cards and notes by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

y'all get to look at my cute card so i can get a $10 credit to shutterfly!  but it is cute, if i do say so myself.  and fits perfectly into my plan to write thank you notes to those who were instrumental in bringing little SJ home.  yes, mom, i have already written thank you notes once.  but you know, i feel like people need to see and hear again just how much their gifts to us helped perform a miracle.  God is so gracious to have given us little SJ. 


editor's letters

reading the 'letters to the editor' in wheaton's alumni magazine tonight...

the place God calls you to is the place where your gladness and the world's hunger meet. Frederick Buechner

thought provoking...