Thursday, April 29, 2010

unhealthy hearts

today i scheduled bella's cardiac consult appointment.  this is the second time i have had to schedule this.  last august i made the call thinking we would possibly have her by january 2010.  i had to cancel that one.  the day i called and told them we just wouldn't have her that early, my voice cracked. they were pleasant and sweet and told me to reschedule when we were closer to getting her.  so now with our LOA in hand,  i called.  i've never been particularly good at scheduling appointments for the four, healthy kids living in our home.  scheduling one for a daughter i have not yet held, was unbelievably strange.  we have a date though:  friday morning, july 16th.  it may be cutting it close...there's a chance i'll have to push it back again.  but not months...maybe just a week or two...not months.  i am sure.  i hung up the phone and prayed, "Lord, let this one be right."  let us walk into that cardiologist's office on a sunny, summer, friday morning.  let us Lord.  please, let us.  let this be the day when we finally have some information on our little girl.  right now we know so little.  sometimes i just cannot wrap my brain around the fact that we have a tiny girl waiting on the other side of the world.  a tiny girl who had open heart surgery last july.  a tiny girl with a serious medical condition but in an orphanage which hasn't allowed us even the most scant update.  all we know is "she hasn't had to go back to the doctor."  she wouldn't be taken unless there was something blatantly wrong.  well, that's a blessing....but in our country where well visits and specialists and preventive medicine is the norm...i realize how far apart our worlds really are. the nurse asked me to list the problems with her heart.  i started to recite words and terms which are now a part of my vocabulary.  i listed the three different conditions with her heart and when i asked her if she wanted more information, she paused and then answered, "'ve run out of room to write."  i faltered for a moment.  this IS a lot.  i looked at the file on the kitchen counter and at all the long, hard to pronounce names and i felt my own heart skip a beat.  i felt that breathlessness which sometimes hits me in small waves of anxiety.  we've had people ask us if we "really know what adopting a child from another country with special needs will look like."  our answer:  no.  we don't.   we've read articles and books. we've been counseled. we've done the coursework and  the videos and the etc... but truth be told,  we really don't know. we can't possibly know.  we've also had numerous people remark how eager we must be to get her to america so that she can have good medical care.  so that her heart can be monitored ...fixed...repaired...healed.   oh yes. of course we are eager.  of course we will want to seek out the best care available.  of course we are thrilled to be living in a city like atlanta which has all sorts of tremendous options.  but....i have to tell you, there's more to this picture.  bringing bella to america to fix her broken heart is part of it.  yes.   but here's the deal...if you ask us what really is most exciting about adopting this child and bringing her home, it is the chance she will have to hear someday about the eternal healing of her heart.   are you following?  yes, she will come and receive good medical care for her physical, earthly, temporary heart.  but even more so,  this child will come and hear about Jesus, the lover of her heart.  she will hear about Jesus, the healer of broken hearts.  she will hear about Jesus and have the chance to know Him and His eternal healing.  i have tried to put words to this in the past.  it is almost impossible.  adoption is such the picture of our relationship with Christ.  He adopts us into His kingdom.  we are absolutely helpless and hopeless without Him. we have no advocate, no means, nothing to bring, no thing to offer.  but He chooses us and brings us home.  as broken people, we are all in need of some good heart-fixing.  we are all in need of some major restoration and repair whether we live in china or america.   i am amazed that God chose for us this little girl with an unhealthy heart.   really these words are not sufficient to express the joy i feel when i think about the way our God works to show His great love and His great glory.  i have written about this passage - isaiah 61- in other posts, but it just keeps coming back to me.  it is the very picture of is the picture of how God rescues us and tenderly places upon our heads a Crown of He covers our sad situations with the Oil of Gladness and a Garment of he binds up our brokenness...and proclaims freedom and release....

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners....
to comfort all who mourn...
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair." 
~ isaiah 61

Thursday, April 22, 2010

an early LOA and a little humble pie

my phone rang.  i recognized our adoption agent's number.  it must be josh.  why would he be calling?  uh-oh, what is wrong? i thought...
  "jody, i have great news!" he said immediately.  "great news...i can't even believe this, but your LOA is back early.  much earlier than expected." 
  "what? are you kidding me?" i was stunned.  we had just this past week come to terms with the fact that we were still possibly a month away from receiving this LOA.   i, too, couldn't believe it.
   "that's awesome, great," i stumbled through my excitement, not really knowing what to say.  i could feel the smile stretch across my face.  i could feel the increased beat of my heart and the joy spreading to the tips of my toes. this was big.  and i knew it.
   josh continued, "average wait time on this is typically 60+ days...yours came back in 29 days.  i don't know why. i am not sure we've ever had one come back this early.  it's crazy.  this actually puts you a month ahead of where we thought you'd be."
   "josh, i know.  i can't believe it...but in a way i can.   do you know the hundreds of people praying for bella right now?" i replied.
just last week josh had told me because of the timing, we probably wouldn't be getting bella until end of summer or early fall.  we had been hoping all along for early summer, convinced that bringing her home before we were into another busy school year would be best.  i grew panicy at the thought of leaving our crazy household in august as emily started high school and the other three resumed their hectic schedules.  i asked people to pray specifically that this would speed up.  the very night before the phone call, while tyler was praying at bedtime, he asked God to move things along more quickly.   only a few days ago in my last blog entry (just the facts mam), i wrote about how our dates added up to a later travel time but declared we would pray "earnestly and expectantly" for an earlier date.  crazy.  i would like to say that this was our faith. i would like to write that we prayed with complete faith God would indeed move things along....that  we prayed expectantly as we are instructed to do.  but i would be lying.  i typed that phrase, yes.  i said those words, yes.  but i can tell you it was probably more just a plea than it was a statement of my strong belief.  i am sure on the inside i was thinking more along the lines of, "well...we'll pray this way, but we know nothing goes quickly in the world of adoption.  we know that smooth is not usually the descriptive adjective used...we know most things come back late, not early."  i typed "earnestly and expectantly", but truthfully, i felt half hearted and doubtful.
when i got the call this week from josh i experienced disbelief and great joy.  soon after though,  i had an intense moment of embarrassment.  i had doubted God.   deep in my heart i had doubted God, the Savior and Father of bella grace.   i doubted the God who has been delivering people from darkness and imprisonment for thousands of years. God who parted the red sea.  God who provided manna in the wilderness. God who protected daniel in the lions' den.  God who walked on water. God who multiplied fish and bread. God who has rescued me from great darkness.   what could i say?  once again, completely humbled that He would choose to work through this adoption teaching me even more Great is His Faithfulness.  our children recognized it immediately.  they knew prayers had been answered.  there didn't have to be a reason for our LOA to come back so quickly.  it came back quickly because God heard their prayers. God hears their prayers.  their faith is simple.  my thoughts were centering on china and the government and the system and all of its miles of red tape.  i hadn't factored in a our miraculous and all powerful God.   i hadn't factored in that for a God who moves moutains this piece of paper was nothing.
so with that lesson learned, we go forward.  we now have about 60 days until we will receive our TA (travel approval).  if things continue to move along, we will most likely be heading to china sometime at the end of june or early july. we are thrilled.   not because we convinced God of our timing...but because we are convinvced that His timing is perfect.   as i stated in the last entry, "He knows the very day we will walk in that orphanage and hold our bella for the first time."  we will continue to pray earnestly and expectantly....and we will.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

just the facts mam!

my original intention with this blog was to keep everyone updated on the very latest concerning our adoption of bella grace.  but as is usual with me, words get in the way.  why say something short and sweet when i can elaborate, elongate and extenuate. why skip down a succint path when i can travel a more circuitous route. even my 12 year old son recently told me, "mom, you could turn anything into a story."  i am pretty sure he wasn't paying me a compliment.  if you've been reading my blog for very long you are, by now, quite certain i was the student who always ran over in her essays and long in her explanations.  i was constantly told in red slashing marks to condense and cut and curtail.  when i finally stood in front of my own english students, i formed a new appreciation for the direct writer.  it took only grading my first batch of essays from my 125 students before i realized that words were perhaps a bit overrated. as my weekends were filled with piles of papers and containers of red pens, i secretly began to dread those students who suffered from my own disease: excessive-wordiness.  they were inadvertently keeping me buried in piles of paperwork.   in my years as a high school teacher i had countless opportunities to write in bold red letters the authoritative phrases, "be more concise"...."get to the point"...."too wordy!"  recently, i even had a former student of mine remind me of this fact on facebook.  but perhaps i've been out of the classroom too long,  because here we are in the ninth month of our adoption journey and though i have expelled thousands of words on the subject of bella and her adoption i realize it is not always clear where exactly we are in the process. if you are a person who prefers bullet points to paragraphs then you will appreciate this admission and my renewed effort to every once in a while produce only the facts (mam).  

 the facts, definitions and timeline:
* DOSSIER - (a large and comprehensive file that contains everything possible about our adoption and our family...i am certain they have included the fact that the mcnatt family prefers jif to skippy...seriously.) the dossier was sent at the end of february to the CCAA (children's center for adoption affairs) in china.

* LID - (Log in Date):  march 17, 2010 - this is the date that the dossier was officially logged into china's adoption system.

* LOA - (Letter of Approval):  we are waiting for this date when we will be officially approved by china and officially matched to bella grace.  as of today, april 13, we were told that we are still probably 3 weeks away. we were "pre-approved" last july...but that has little to do with our actual approval.

* Final Immigration - once that LOA arrives we will apply once more to the CIS for immigration with the US government.  this time around we are applying for bella grace to be granted approval to come to the US.  that process typically takes 2-3 months for approval.

* TA (Travel Approval) - once final immigration is finished we will receive our TA.  at this point we will have a specific timeframe of when we will be heading to china to get our bella.
though these dates seem to add up to an early fall travel time....we are praying earnestly and expectantly that summer is a possibility.  our adoption agent still believes that a late july or early august timeframe is within reach. 

we know God has this all figured out.  we trust that He knows the very date... the very hour that rick and i will walk into that orphanage and hold bella in our arms for the very first time.  He planned it long ago.  He planned it before we even knew about bella...before we even knew we were going to adopt.  isn't that amazing?
but...because i am human and struggle a bit with issues of control...   i have made sure He knows how strongly i believe summer to be our best option.   i have explained countless times to Him that the fall would be a little more challenging.  i have pointed out how crazy our august could be with emily starting high school and volleyball and the other children preparing for a new school year, not to mention this is our child and each day apart feels stolen.   i have made it pretty clear what i think is perfect timing.   i have done my very best to be persuasive.   i know...pathetic.  i am just being honest here. will i ever learn to walk fully behind Him with arms wide open and the plans and schemes of my own heart put aside.   i don't know.  i am trying.  i am really trying.  but even my trying amounts to nothing much without Him.   

okay, so that's it.  that was the best i can do.  i realize that i probably have still exceeded the word limit and that those bullet points are surrounded with lengthy paragraphs...
but...well...i tried.   what can i say?

Monday, April 12, 2010

smooshed squirrels and sunday afternoons

 it was a sunday afternoon and we were heading home from church.  instead of bickering about who sat in which seat...instead of debating who would eat the last slice of pizza for lunch....instead of poking our sibling or sassing our mother....we were actually having a nice, calm, and even tender, conversation about our adoption of bella.  but then it happened. we were speeding along the quiet road just minutes from our street when that poor, unfortunate squirrel froze a few feet ahead of our suv.  we all screamed. we all winced.  we all cringed.   we all looked behind our car to see nothing more than a wisp of fluffy tail fluttering in the breeze of our yukon.   rick, the guilty driver, quickly pleaded his case.  "he zigged when he should have zagged!" was the best he could come up with.  not good enough for our car load of children.  actually, our 12 year old son was very much on his dad's side, agreeing that the squirrel, lacking poor judgment, was clearly the one at fault.  connor, age 7, though, was not to be easily consoled.  he immediately listed all dad's other atrocities against small animals in the road which he has apparently had opportunity to witness - some of which i wasn't even aware.   so much for our sweet and tender conversation.  this was real life:  running over squirrels and arguing over the last slices of pizza.  these are some of the things that just make our family normal and real.  these are things that remind us of who we are even in the sweet story of our adoption.
      you see, it is particularly amusing to me because just that very morning at church a video was shown during the sermon. this video portrayed a family which seemed to be fully relying on God...fully in pursuit of His will for their lives....fully trusting...fully faithful...fully together.   funny what a little bit of editing can do.  the children were smiling brightly as the video began.  the parents seemed somewhat poised and spoke calmly and with conviction.  this family told the story of God's calling them to the adoption of a two year old girl in China.  but what the video didn't show was that just prior to filming the children were aruging over breakfast cereals...the mother was barking orders while in a cleaning frenzy (you just never know what corners they might catch on tape)...the father was attempting to keep peace and wondering when he might be able to get to his saturday "to do" list.  the video didn't show how i pondered deeply over the great issues of my hairstyle and outfit.  the video didn't show how just a few nights prior i was up in the early hours of morning asking...begging... God for greater peace. it didn't mention that sometimes i find myself wondering how in the world we will add one more child into an already ridiculously bustling household.  the video didn't show the moments when i can't catch my breath or feel that icy grip of panic run down my arms.   that family in the video was us. sitting in the balcony at church it was sort of strange watching the six of us up on the screen...larger than life. to be honest, it was a bit unsettling.  i recognized us, but, somehow, it all looked very polished. we are not a polished kind of family.  just like that smooshed squirrel behind us on the road, we have these intensely messy moments in our lives and in this story.  there was not one word we spoke in that taped video which wasn't true.  we meant everything we said.   but we would be remiss if we didn't share how much struggle and challenge and chaos also plays along behind the scenes.  doing a video was easy (well, sort of).   just before they started filming on that saturday morning a month ago, i remember thinking, they will just edit out anything i mess up on...any place i stumble or stutter.  i knew that with just the touch of a button they could easily gloss over any mistakes made or words misspoken.  even as the camera crew was packing up and saying goodbye, matthew, the producer reminded me that he would edit it down to only about 4 to 6 minutes.  they had taken about 25 minutes of tape...certainly there had to be something they could use.
      so in comparison to real life,  video stories are pretty easy.  i'm glad we did it.  we were honored to have a small part in such a powerful message given that morning. we are thrilled God might use our story to bring awareness to the epidemic issues of the lonely.  we did a video and will do whatever it takes to help spread this message of great need.  and because there are always squirrels crossing in front of us, we will be reminded that this is a messy business.  raising our biological children or adopting from china...all of it comes with struggle and challenge and panic.  we can't always press a button and erase the times we blunder terribly. we cannot gloss over much of it.  but, regardless of our mess, God continues to write the story and He continues to walk with us.  He isn't asking us to be perfectly poised or calm or even ready.  He doesn't care one bit about which hairstyle or outfit we choose. He isn't asking for all our ducks (or children, for that matter) to be lined up in straight and strategic rows.  He is only asking us to be willing.  just willing. only willing.