Monday, July 31, 2006

Ours At Last

On Saturday we received Meklit's medical file and history from AAI, so today we sent the placement agreement back to them. We had sent Marta's a couple weeks ago, so now it is official. The girls are ours, and we are theirs, and we can tell them that!

I am pretty sure now that Julie Hehn can take our gift bags to them when she and Rich go on the 9th of August, and then they will know that they have a family. There is a gift bag for each of them, and each bag contains a t-shirt, a photo album so they can see what they are getting in to, a couple of small gifts for each of them, and a letter from us to them. Also there are disposable cameras for Julie and Rich (in this case) to take pictures of them when they are seeing us for the first time.

So with the placement agreements in, our dossier in Ethiopia, and our I-600A filed, we are ready to sit back and wait. Atleast they will know who we are now.


Semi-Sweet 16

Tomorrow my oldest turns 16 years old. Wow. It seems like an eternity since we were excitedly expectant in 1990, but at the same time it is surprising how fast this has gone.

I spoke a little about Jeff in an earlier post, so I won't go into his history, other than to say he is an awesome young man, I love him very much, and am thrilled to call him son and watch as he grows and matures into the man God wants him to be.

Jeff is out of town at a friend's house until Wednesday, and then leaves for Oregon and Mexico on Thursday, so we will have to do most of the celebrating without him. His siblings won't mind that too much - more cake for them without his appetite at the table!

So, in honor of the day, here are 16 things that are uniquely Jeff:

  1. He is a lifeguard and swim instructor at our city pool - and is very good at it.
  2. His favorite thing to do is play airsoft with lots of other guys - the more the better.
  3. His favorite food is very authentic Chinese food - although he will eat large quantities of any quality of Chinese food.
  4. He will eat just about anything. In the pursuit of #3, he has eaten duck tongue, goose intestines, tripe, fish eyes, jelly fish, sea cucumber, duck blood and innard soup, and many other not so scary food items from VERY scary locations - just to name a few.
  5. He was born in Bremerton, WA, at the Naval Hospital, and rode in a helicopter on his first day of life.
  6. He is much of the reason we are a Christian family, and why we home school today.
  7. His standard dress is a pair of blue jeans and a black t-shirt.
  8. He loves China, and would like to do missions work and teach ESL there.
  9. He has been to China twice, Romania once, and will be in Mexico late this week. He also wants to go to Ethiopia with me, but we will see. It is our goal to get him out of the country once a year as a teen so he can experience some of the real world.
  10. He plays bass guitar.
  11. His favorite movies are action/spy types like the Bourne movies, and the MI series. Also The Lord Of The Ring series.
  12. He once flicked a flaming marshmallow from the end of the roasting stick straight into his eye - could be a circus act in there somewhere.
  13. He loves Vineyard style churches.
  14. He is a tall (6'1", with a size 14-4E foot), friendly, handsome lad with a great smile.
  15. His nickname is Paco Cheese Nip - and I have no idea...
  16. He has a great personality, and is hard working, mature, responsible and honest, so there are a number of adult friends in our life who think the world of him, including me.

Happy birthday son. Sweet 16 seems too girly, so semi-sweet 16 it is.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My Way Better Half

In my last post, I talked about who I am regarding the relationships I have, and went on to describe my wonderful children. The 7 of them get a post, and Lisa, the love of my life gets a post all to herself.

If you know me, chances are you know her. And if you love us, chances are it is mostly because you know her. Now this isn’t because I am completely unlovable (so I am told), but because she is so completely lovable. I was telling someone the other day that when we were newly married and Lisa was still going to college, she waited tables, and we really relied on the tips she made to get along. You see, she was just a natural. She could and can warm up to people and start to form relationships just that fast. I am more of a crock-pot kind of guy (in many ways), and only begin to appear appealing after hours of slow cooking.

Lisa was my high school sweetheart, and just like many high school sweethearts, we got married young, much to the chagrin of the elders in our lives. Of course, we knew all and they didn’t. Luckily for us, God had plans for us, and He bailed us out after ~8 years of toil, and it has been nothing but bliss since then. Not really, but compared to the first 8 years, the last 12 have been relatively “happily ever after”.

She graduated from Idaho State with a degree in primary education shortly before I got out of the Navy, so she is the educated one in the family. Whenever the kids have a tough question I tell them to talk to her, because of this fact. Now she teaches all of our children as we home school all but our oldest, Jeff, who put in his first year of public school last year as a freshman. I know there are days when she wants to send them all somewhere else to school, but she loves doing this, is passionate about it being what is best for our children, and would have life no other way.

So that is where she and I have been, and what she has done, and these things describe some of who she is, from my perspective…

Lisa is a woman of great faith…
She is my bride of 20 years…
She completes me and makes me what I could not be without her…
Her prayers sustain me through the struggles of this life…
She is a loving, praying mom to all of her kids…
She wants them to be healthy, responsible, respectful children who know who made them, and who calls them to be His own…
She doesn’t want them to settle for what they almost could be, but everything they can be…
She prays for our kid’s spouses, wherever they might be…
She is a woman of great depth and character…
Kids love her…
She loves… seafood and rich, dark chocolate…to sleep…flowers and gardens…tropical fish and salt water aquariums…foot massages…eating lots of popcorn while watching movies…to be warm…coffee made by me, served in bed (especially when camping)…to be read to…to have music played for her…a rare quiet bath tub…family time together…did I say chocolate?
She tolerates my sense of humor…
She has a servant’s heart and loves to love on people with food…
She likes classic chick flicks, and “What About Bob?” and “Fletch” …
She likes it when I drive and she sleeps…
She likes being around real people who are positive and loving…
She is not afraid of change or adventure…

…which is a good thing since she and I have lived in 15 homes in 9 states in our 20 years together. If given the chance we would surely do a couple things a little differently, but even the mistakes were used by God to make us into what we are today, one flesh.

I love you Lisa.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Who I Am

I want to be defined not by what I do for a profession, but by the relationships I have, and the way I live my life through those relationships for God. The relationships I want to be identified by are my walk with God, living as part of the one flesh He created that is my wife and I, my time with my kids, my fellowship with others in the kingdom, and my extended family and friends. I work at a power plant, but that is merely the tent-making part of my life that God has gifted me to be able to do, has provided the opportunities for me to succeed, and opened the doors for me to be here doing that. It is a means to an end for me to do what I want to be defined by, which is relationship. During this season of life, much of that definition is my family life, so I thought I would share about the rest of me that is my kids.

When I reflect on our family I am truly amazed. Not at Lisa and I, but at what God has done for, through and in us in the process of building this family - a work that is not yet complete. We are blessed beyond what we could have imagined a few years ago, and beyond what we ever hoped for. Lisa and I always talked about a large family, and on that theme we even discussed running an orphanage as missions work for a time. It seems that is not for us right now, but bringing them home is.

Our son Jeff is nearly 16, and was our only for 8 years. He came into the world 2 months early, and scared me enough to begin looking for God. He went through a rough beginning, marked by nearly losing his life and then his legs, but today he is a big, strong, healthy young man who makes us very proud to claim as our son. He is an excellent student, a hard worker, and he is mature beyond his years. Jeff is intense, and has a heart for missions and travel. He has been to China twice, Romania once, and is headed to Mexico in a couple of weeks. We have always wondered what Jeff would do with his life with his unique blending of gifts, and I am still not certain. It is fun to be part of the pushing off team (like shoving a boat out into the current), and to be part of his support and encouragement team on the home front. I don't think that he is long for this continent, and will have to allow God to make us content with him being far away, which seems to be the only thing we are somewhat certain of.

When Jeff was 7 and we were not supposed to be able to have any more kids, we first began to consider the adoption option. We had no money, so we were seriously looking into foster adoption, when surprise, surprise, Lisa was pregnant.

Josiah was next, and just as foretold, he was pure joy. His beginning was much less exciting than Jeff’s was, but God wasn’t trying to get our attention this time around. Josiah is now 7, and still a delight to have as a son. He is our little prophet, and quite the dreamer, as well as being very caring and a nurturer. It is amazing to me to see how God has gifted Josiah to be able to absorb new family members right in the midst of his age, which means his space, his toys, his age level of interaction with Mom & Dad, etc., and be the guide, playmate, caregiver.....such a delight he is.

Shortly after Josiah was born, we entered our nomadic period, and we traveled around the country and Canada starting up new power plants. In 5 years we were living and working in Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Oregon, British Columbia, Washington, California, Louisiana and finally Washington again, where we have settled. During that time we lived in 8 houses, and were part of 9 churches. It was a great adventure, but we were happy to say it was over a couple years ago when we settled here in Goldendale.

During the last year of our wandering, we felt drawn to adoption again, and to China. We began down this path thinking that we would adopt a healthy infant girl, who would of course grow into a lovely girl who would love us dearly. We began working with an agency in Portland called ASIA, and were well on our way when God began to do a major work in us. In an instant God changed our hearts and we knew that our daughter was not a healthy infant, and that we had to be prepared for significant special needs as He was in control, and not us. This is when we began to come to the conclusion that God had decided long ago what our family was to look like, and we just had to draw near to Him and see who He had for us.

In our drawing near, God revealed to us through a dream of Lisa’s, that our first was a little girl, who had a problem with her leg or legs. Then Jeff had a vision of her and said that she had a limp in her left leg. In October of 1993 ASIA had a new waiting child list come out, which is their list of children who are older or have special needs. I was traveling and called home to get Lisa and Jeff in front of the computer to see the list. Out of the 11 kids on the list, this is who jumped out at them.

DOB: October 1999
SPECIAL NEED: Limp in Left Leg
Dongqun was brought to the institute on October 10, 1999. Since November 20, 1999, she has been living with a foster family. She is smart and loves to go to school. She counts and speaks in whole sentences. She likes to read books, watch TV and listen to music. Dongqun is introverted and sometimes stubborn. She can dress, put on her shoes and take a bath by herself. She is very independent. Dongqun is healthy although she walks with a limp with her left leg. She is a good eater and has a good appetite.

Both of them immediately said this is her. We were the first ones to see the list posted, and were first to respond and let ASIA know that she was ours. As it turned out, the “limp with her left leg” was congenital hip displacia, and her description was just as Lisa and Jeff had expected.

Not long after we had chosen Joy, we also had discussions about “what if they will let us bring home 2 of these kids?” That led to a second pick by every one, and even questions to ASIA about whether or not it could be done. They told us it was not allowed in China, but our discussions kept on. I was taken by an older girl (who we later met, and become friends with her new family in Portland) but the boys had another pick. There was a little boy on the list who looked sweeter than you can imagine, and the boys kept telling us “there is nothing wrong with him, he is just blind in both eyes”. That was the description about Song on the Waiting Child list, and they couldn’t see why that should hold us back from adopting him.

DOB: June 1997
SPECIAL NEED: Blindness in Both Eyes
Song is an active child who loves to smile. He has been at the institute since January 1998. He is introverted and gets along well with his friends. Song dances when he hears music. He can dress and undress himself and goes up and down the stairs by himself holding onto the rail. Song's health is very good and he is seldom sick. He has a good appetite and his favorite food is chicken legs.

We kept our eye on him on the list while we waited to go get Joy, and while all of the other kids on the list were marked as “on hold”, Song was soon the only one left.

In late June of 2004 the 4 of us flew to China to bring home Joy ChiGi Downen. We had a grand adventure, and our home has been full of Joy ever since. She was aptly named. We moved to Goldendale shortly before going to get her, and she fit in with us in our new home immediately. Today if you meet her you would think that she was born and raised here, and she is known by nearly everyone in town. I am referred to as Joy’s Dad, as she is so much more remarkable than me. She is becoming a ballet dancing, piano playing, swimming socialite, who God has seen fit to gift with such a tender and caring heart for other people. What a wonder it is to see Him transforming a little bud into a beautiful flower to be a blessing to so many people.

After we were home for a bit we contacted ASIA to ask about Song. We were afraid that they would send his file back to China and we would lose track of him. There is a one year waiting period before you can begin the process again from China, and we knew they couldn’t hold his file that long. Since we were the only ones who had shown an interest in Song, they held his file longer than normal, and then sought permission from China to waive the one year wait for us. We got approval from China, and were off and running on adoption #2.

In December of 2004 we had plans of traveling during the summer of 2005, but it seems God had other ideas. Fitting our timetable of every 7 to 8 years, Lisa was pregnant. This was such a wonderful surprise for us, but also a concern as China requires you to wait one year after giving birth to adopt. We were so sure that Song was ours at this point, that we couldn’t bear not bringing him home before then. Through the efforts of All God’s Children International and ASIA, the decision was made to try to bring him home 4 months after the baby came, and we got approval to do that.

In August of 2005 Jeremiah Gustaf came into the world, and he was such a blessing to us. He was and still is such a sweet little guy. It is amazing to think that anyone can go through the process from conception, to birth, through the first year of life and not believe that there is a creator out there who has such a deep love for us. Young Jer is just walking, loves to get in the water, and has such a sweet disposition. From his mid-shin view I wonder what this family looks like. We think that he is going to be the anchorman on this ????? person relay team, but who knows what God has in store for us down the road a little farther. I do know better than to say "no more".

After the initial pace of one son in the first 8 years, 2 in 6 months was quite a shock. In January, Jeff, Jan Ogden and I went to China to bring Song home. He was just as sweet as his initial picture, and to our surprise and delight he could see through a narrow field of view with his left eye. His vision we found out later is about 20/1000 through that narrow field of view, and cannot be corrected, but he does so well with what he has been given. In the few months Song has been home he taught himself to ride a bike, he is learning to swim, to read and write, and to play the piano. Again, it is such a blessing to see the hand of God move so dramatically, and so near to us. I think it is like people who saw Mt. St. Helens blow from a couple hundred miles away. They were amazed. But the people who were REALLY close were REALLY amazed. That is how Lisa and I feel to be so close to such a wonderful thing.

So, here we are - a family of 7, who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our next 2 members, Mary & Marta. God has done an amazing work in our family, and He is still moving. We have found (and are still finding out) that when we submit to Him, and are willing to obey, that there is always enough of any resource necessary to do what He asks us to. That part of the deal is His job - we just have to hear and obey.