Archive for May, 2011

May 30, 2011

So my friend says, “Why DOES it cost so much?”

Yeah, because dude, it is a LOT of money, isn’t it?!

Disclaimer: We are adoption neophytes, and we know it. Here is the extent of our experience, and then my answer about the money side of this equation.

I have always been drawn to the idea of adopting. We’ll chat soon about how that idea became reality for our family.

On the practical side, three years ago we nearly adopted a distant relative through the state but as our second son arrived before we could get all the ducks in a row, we did not end up adopting that child. She was placed with a distant member on the other side of her family. I’m still surprised how painful that whole thing was, and how much it brought me to the cross in the sense that I had to deal with deeper anger and frustration with God for the first time as a believer. (I became a Christian as an adult, about 12 years ago.)

We’re at the infancy stages of adopting now through a private agency. We went to the meetings about state adoption, and realized that there were several things that made it clear it was not for us.

      First: why we don’t just go through the state.
They simply don’t have nearly the need in our state now for adoptive parents of children under 2, and will just about not process the paperwork for a family with that age restriction. The child’s distant, remote and never-even-met-you relations are first approached about placement (remember, that was US a few years back). When a blue moon rises and they do have one arrive with need of a family, there are literally 60 to 80 dossiers waiting and ready. Three are selected and considered by a committee that may include the child’s birth family. So it takes years. It can take years just to get processed if you restrict it to a young child. One other point of concern with us is that they absolutely will not work with families who are not comfortable with a fully open adoption. Keeping in mind the circumstances that bring children to need for families, I find that to be potentially disconcerting. The workers didn’t tell us “do not go with us” but they made it pretty clear we would be unlikely to have a child placed with us through them. They even gave us names of agencies to check out!

I can’t say that “losing” the state option wasn’t a bit of a disappointment. On the bright side, at least on paper, social services must be doing a bang-up job in the Northwest! And the kids are rarely waiting like they used to, so that’s a huge big awesome deal. I hope things continue to be streamlined and reformed in ways that truly benefit those children.

     So, today, off the cuff, here is my answer to “Why DOES it cost so much?”

I assume you’re talking domestic. International costs fund the orphanages, agencies, sometimes social services in the community, and indeed in some cases the bribery involved for the greasing of bureaucratic wheels.

So, domestic, best case scenario: You are funding the highly trained counseling pre- and post- placement for the birthmother and potentially the birthfather as well. This includes (as it should) funding that same counseling for families who in the end choose to parent, thereby garnering no fees for the agency outside of state funding. You are funding the advertising and outreach an agency does, and probably some of their political outreach as well (re: abortions, adoption law, etc). Social workers must have a masters, minimum, and most agencies have their own on retainer. A home study is required to adopt from anywhere in/to the US, and the licensing for the people who visit families to approve them, grilling them and their children, is necessarily extensive as well.

That said, it’s still free to adopt through the state and I’ve heard that some states have more need than ours.

The agency we found finally (through the super-chick who played piano at our wedding), is incredible at first blush and we hope they’ll continue to impress us. They charge $15,000, pretty much one of the lowest fees we’ve seen.

This agency requires adoptive families to sign a Christian statement of faith, which we are all over and glad to see. In the swirl of adoption information, intensity of issues and opinions, it is really a source of comfort that we share that belief. Most of their adoptions are semi-open, meaning the birthmother often meets the family before placing with them, updates are sent from the adoptive family on a regular basis, and the families communicate through the proxy of the agency, but there is not usually direct contact between the birth family and the child. While I understand the affront that is felt by some birth mother advocates at this form of “open” (which they would called closed), I was impressed by the consideration and respect this agency showed to potential birth mothers in answers to several of my questions.

There are agencies whose fees start at twice or more what ours will be. Perhaps they are affected by the region in which they operate. The cynical side of me has other comments, but for now I’m going to focus on where we are in this marathon process and on the things I’ve found to be beautiful therein. Later maybe I’ll dig a bit deeper with sharper claws, and I do pray for the whole system and the kids in need at this point in history. Adoption always begins with loss. You should pray, too, or dig, as needed.

I hope the movement gaining momentum in the Christian church that calls people to support adoption and adoptive families will continue to grow. Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life is a good place to start if you’re interested. The short of it is: it would be great if the church were to be known for supporting its members in adoption. There are programs that start short term loan or small grant programs for church communities to fund, and I heart that concept. The IRS gives us certain tax credits which also helps a LOT, but tax help only comes after you’ve shelled out your clams. So it’s hard and sometimes seems unfair. Bleh.

So, there’s the long of it from our viewpoint. More is likely to come!

May 14, 2011

Mellowship

Today I attended a teacher training for a curriculum for teaching children to read. It’s primarily used for homeschool kids, and my fellow students today were Christian homeschooling parents from all varieties of life.

Huddled around the plastic tables were ten students, including a homeschooling 10 year-old dressed in gingham and braids, a couple who had themselves been homeschooled dressed in flannel and claiming to raise goats for a living and a couple of former teachers with whom I kept getting into trouble for chatting our way out of confusion. Then there was the trainer herself who told me all about her water barrels thoughtfully stockpiled in the backyard by her husband for the coming apocalypse. I found myself, as you can see by the details provided, fighting the urge to stereotype these fine folks as… well, as oh so many things.

It’s a funny thing being part of the family that is the church. People decide they know things about me, and I them, based on our doofy perceptions. We forget not only their status as image-bearers made for the glory of the creator, but our obligation to love them as members of a family. Without this membership, I see no way to reconcile myself to, let alone work with these people for the cause of Christ. I can barely imagine agreeing on a radio station or a take-out order.

I wish I could say I was able to encourage and learn from each of the folks at class. The truth is that even with all the break time in the world I’m sure I would have failed. I get busy thinking of my own agenda, my interests, my opinions, my image.

This opportunity to homeschool has already forced me to broaden my perception. I didn’t think of myself as a homeschooler, and had definite ideas about what “those people” were like. I’m excited to see what other developments come our way as we refuse to accept the assumptions we have held.

Here’s to phonograms and faux perceptions. May one take root even as the other dies with one more small layer of my immaturity.

May 10, 2011

Just tell me what you’ll do, then gimme what I want.

I read a good blog today about why it is God doesn’t just let us know what to do clearly at all the crucial junctures in life. Spinning from the thoughts there while the boys have their afternoon naps, I realized deep down I know exactly what I’d do with a God who revealed everything. Despite this post, I confess that I still want that god, just like our toddler still hated getting his immunization today despite our explanation that in the end it’s for the best. Childishness is right up there with my sense of entitlement and worship of personal comfort battling for Mimi’s Top Idol.

Why a transparent god is probably bad for me even though I think I want one:
1. I don’t actually want Him telling me “what to eat for lunch”. I’d like Him to be available, but not too close. If God were a genie, he’d be pretty confused right now as to exactly what part of my life plan he should let slip to me. This highlights the fact that my freedom is ultimately more important to me than my God, which means it is an idol in itself. Submission to an all-powerful creator is a foreign concept, making it appear to be a great internal fight and a struggle when ironically the Bible says again and again that true freedom is in Christ alone.
This pulls my mind back to our lives being lived well only from and not for the cross. More than just a nicely turned bit of Christianese, this phrase reflects the difference between a tiny god who would be manipulated by my mere human actions and a holy God, entirely different in his just-ness. By living every day in light of (love those words… maybe I’ll write more on that later) the way He has shown us His love despite ourselves we focus on the things that make life worthwhile and ultimately good (redemption). If I really believe God did xyz, how should I then go about my everyday life? It’s amazing what matters and what doesn’t when I try to peek through that lens.
So in short: Lunch-Menu God and only-reveal-stuff-just-when-I-need-you God are two sides of a fantasy false god coin. Both ultimately serve me.

2. I would instantly begin to worship the “plan”, the information, its method of conveyance, etc. The God of the Bible asks us to turn, to follow, to do, to work, and a whole raft of other verbs. With a listing of what is to come in my life I’d surely switch off as though at a conference where the speaker is only reading from Powerpoint slides. This knowledge itself would draw me away from rather than to Him. God the creator is no such being, stranger and more able than any analogy I can find.
I see this when my kids get gifts, too. They clamor at the gift itself, obsess about it. One of their grandmas showed the 5 year old a couple of toys she’ll bring him in a few weeks and he had not. stopped. asking for them. As parents we try to instill gratitude and a focus on the giver, but we see clearly that those are most certainly not our native state.

3. Glorifying God forever is a beautiful concept fraught with the concepts of striving and constantly turning back. This constant turning reminds me of the way string players (and any other non-fixed-pitch musicians) work their entire careers to have good intonation, to find just the right inflections of pitch for a phrase. It makes hearing a well-tuned performance that much more thrilling to witness. Did you know that you can improve the way you hear intonation? Training and listening carefully, methodically, regularly (“regular” being key as always) gives the human ear the ability to hear smaller and smaller differences in pitch. I find that amazing. I wonder if it’s the same with close study of color. I bet it is for flavors, judging by the way my palate changes depending on what I give it most often and by the fact that there are people out there who like liver. We ARE wonderfully made!

4. Most of the prophets were at least a little fried by their proximity to the creator and the glimpses he gave them of their future. As proof I give you Isaiah, laying on one side for more than a year, going around nekkid, and getting sawn up inside a tree. See also John the Baptist’s fantastic beard filthy with honey & locusts, and pretty much all the others… and they usually didn’t really get what it meant despite the revelations when it was close to their own lives.

The thing is, the way sickness and death were injected into this world, the fall itself, was played out in such a way that we cannot get back to “good” without fleeing to God’s ultimate strength. This set-up (that the consequence itself draws us in) is beautiful. If we were given the cheat-sheet, the crib notes to our lives, how would we be given the gift of struggle and even pain through which we grasp the depth of this love? We would run from it, or slouch away by inches. This gift of grace, and this alone makes the horror of this world meaningful.

May 9, 2011

Mother’s Day Rocketh

*To see the video below without it being cut in half, click on the title of this post before viewing. Pity me and my WordPress noviceness.*

I have decided to make my first post here a tribute to my evah lovin muthuh. My mom is awesome on so many levels. Having pretty much taught herself to weld with her friends, she makes art out of reclaimed pieces of junk metal. Another group of friends creates huge cement leaves that everyone wants to buy but mom rarely sells hers because it “takes something out of it”. A master gardener, she and Dad meticulously resodded their lawn 4 years ago and yet left a large pile of dirt bare simply because our boys love to play in it.

She mispronounces words in fantastic ways, ruthlessly mixing metaphors and ordering fajitas in such a way it becomes practically scandalous.  Despite having thoroughly proven she can still chase me down and spank me as an adult, she’s even cool when we tease her about these things.

Here’s a video that pretty much explains how great she is. This video was for a contest J entered, was shot in her backyard, and Mom enthusiastically participated as you can see. After we shot the video I believe we roasted hot dogs and drank her favorite Black Butte Porter while hanging out watching the sun go down. Yay, Mom!