Now that I've shared with you stories of what has led us to this point in our lives, you may be wondering where we are actually at in our journey.
About 3 or 4 years ago, we decided to attend an informational meeting on international adoption at a local adoption agency. We knew we weren't ready to adopt at that point, but we knew it was often a very long process and wanted to learn more so that we could be sure to begin the journey a few years before we thought we'd be ready for children rather than find ourselves ready, and then get trapped in the waiting game.
After planning for many years to grow a family via international adoption, it was surprising to me that the meeting we attended actually pushed our hearts away from that path. We left the meeting wondering whether international adoption was right for us -- not just at that current time, but ever.
I'm so thankful for the truths that were addressed in the meeting -- they were very transparent about the costs, the trauma that is often experienced by the child in being uprooted from everything they've ever known, and the "red tape" that surrounds the process.
At that time, we decided to step back from adoption planning, and instead focus the next few years on growing our careers and getting where we wanted to be with our house. Since that time, I have done more research and focused more thought towards both domestic infant adoption, and domestic foster care adoption. For a while, we were fairly certain we would pursue the foster-to-adopt program.
However, time and time again, my heart kept pulling me towards international adoption. I often have people ask me "Why don't you just help a child here (meaning the U.S.)?... There are SO MANY that need good homes." And I could spend a whole lot of time attempting to answer that, but what I really want to say is:
1. If you have a heart for those children, why aren't YOU helping them?
2. Why does it matter where a child comes from? A child is a child, and if one is U.S. born and one isn't, but neither of them have parents to love and care for them, does it really matter who we help?
I won't spend much time going into this "debate" here - just know that I've done my research, and I've done my homework. I know that domestic adoption is "cheaper", and I know there are plenty of DESERVING children who need homes right here in Grand Rapids/Michigan/the U.S. But God has placed China on our hearts, and however I try to push it aside, that calling keeps getting louder and louder. I will follow where He leads us, and right now I am fairly certain he is leading us towards China. This doesn't mean we have closed our minds to other options, or that we will never pursue a domestic adoption, but for right now, the plan is to adopt from China.
China's rule is that you have to be 29 1/2 years old to apply to adopt a child. So, while we wait for me to meet that requirement (1 month from today!), we have been doing as much research as possible on Chinese adoptions, culture, their one child policy, their orphanage situation, and so forth. And the more we learn, the more confident we are that our child is in China.
We decided that before we started a family, we wanted to be intentional about getting back into the habit of attending church on a regular basis, so that we were getting fed with solid teaching, and also that we would be part of a church community during what is sure to be the most trying time of our lives. I was hoping to find a church community close to where we are currently living, but we were having a hard time finding what we were looking for.
Throughout and shortly after college, I (and James once we began dating) attended a church we LOVED called Madison Square Church. We were married by a pastor there, and did our marriage counseling with her. Last Saturday night, feeling discouraged by the options we were finding near our home, I went to Madison's website and learned that the pastor who had married us had become head pastor of a new campus. I knew right away I wanted to check it out, as I had really wanted to find a smaller congregation to join. The next morning, we made the 25 minute drive across town to visit "Madison North" for the first time, and as soon as I walked in the door I knew we were "home." It's exactly the type of community, worship, and message delivery we have been looking for, and what a blessing to have the person who helped us begin our marriage journey is in a place of leadership.
Another change I knew I needed to make before beginning this journey involved my career. I had taken a position as a CSR with Chemical Bank in March 2012, and quickly grew my career under the leadership of a wonderful boss. I was able to learn so much and really grow my professional skill-set, along with form many friendships that I know will last for years to come. Last summer, I was made Assistant Branch Manager, and while this was a huge honor, when I accepted the promotion I did so with hesitation, because I was already starting to feel a little burnt out. What people don't always realize about me, is that even though I'm a very sociable person, and find it very easy to connect with others, being a social setting all day is absolutely draining to me. My job involved wearing about 10 different hats on a daily basis, a lot of interruptions, switching gears from one task to the next, and a large amount of customer service. At age 29, I was finding myself suffering from high cholesterol, frequent heart palpitations, and even sudden short-term memory loss. I knew that there was just no way I could go through such a stressful life situation, let alone become a parent while I was working in a job that was so mentally and physically draining of my energy. It was so hard for me to decide to leave, because I felt in many ways that I was "failing"; that I should be able to handle it all. However, I knew I had to be fair to myself (and my future child) and admit that I just couldn't handle all of that stress. I felt like I was letting everyone down, including my boss, who had been so encouraging to me the past few years. I hated to say goodbye to some of my customers, my work team, and a role I had become so confident in. For the first time in my life, I had found myself becoming confident, assertive, and sure of myself- the thought of trading that in for a new role in which I would be the new person, the trainee, the one who asked questions instead of answer them was all very intimidating.
I put my trust in God that He would open the right door for me, and sure enough, one June 8th I began my new position in our mortgage department. I am now working in the "back of the house", processing files for mortgage lenders. I have no customer interaction, and rather than wearing 20 different hats on any given day, I just wear one. I am not responsible for anyone else, and I have no team to help manage, no sales goals to meet, track, and measure, and no office to help manage. The new job is still of course very busy- but it's doing one thing all day, with very little interruptions. I have been so much less stressed since starting the job, and have so much more energy each night when I get home. I miss my customers and my co-workers, and I miss being part of a great network of branches and teammates, but I know that this change was exactly what I needed for this period of my life.
We are also focusing on our budget, and how to find ways to save money, as we know that the expense of this journey is going to be tremendous. It is almost certain we will be undertaking in a few different fundraising efforts, but will not begin any of those until we hear back on our application process.
The last major change James and I are making in our lives is the way that we take care of our bodies. As we leave our 20s, we were finding ourselves gaining weight, feeling more tired, and just realizing we can't keep eating bagel bites and french fries and keep our bodies going strong. We would never want to raise a child on the kind of diet we had gotten so used to eating, so it was time to get healthy and start fueling our bodies with real nutrition. We have been exercising more, and trying to avoid processed food, while eliminating as much added sugar and carbs from our diet as we can. My husband has been a champion at this- while I have been researching "all things adoption", he has been researching nutrition, health, and recipes, and also doing most of the cooking for us. We feel better than we ever have in our lives, and I'm so thankful to have him as my coach in those times I feel like giving up and eating a whole pack of Oreos. My circulation has improved, I find myself more alert and clear-minded, and even just feeling happier and less lethargic.
The other big step will be completing soon is what's called a "Medical Conditions Checklist", commonly referred to as an MCC. This is the part of your application file that actually seals your place in line for placement with a child. This document gives you the opportunity to make requests for any specific age group or gender, and also has you say yes or no to each individual medical condition that a waiting child might have. This does not commit you to accepting any particular child or condition, but just gives the agency an idea of what you are looking for in terms of a match so that they can best match you with a child in need. We will be completing this document with the advice of a few medical professionals, along with a lot of prayerful consideration. If you are wondering how you can help us during this time, I will say that this is it- please pray for wisdom and guidance for us as we complete this particular part of the process. We want to remain as open as possible, but it's also important to keep in consideration what we would be able to deal with financially as well as emotionally. If you would like to learn more about the MCC, here is some information: http://www.ccaifamily.org/WaitingChild/Med-Checklist/Default.aspx
So, as you can see, we are in a state of "preparation".And that is what what we've been up to: changing my job, changing our diets, doing our research, finding a Church family, and trying to make a financial plan. So while we haven't exactly "began" the process, we are certainly in the mode of preparing our lives, our hearts, and our bodies for the big journey that lays ahead of us.
Our hope is that we will be submitting our formal application to adopt within the next two months.
My next blog post will focus more on China's adoption program, what I have learned so far about the current orphan situation in China, and a little about the agency we have chosen to work with and why we selected them.
I will leave you with an excerpt from the book that tells the story of the couple who started that agency, "Bound by Love." This passage really touched my heart and affirmed my calling to pursue an adoption from China.
"I'm working as fast as I can to get them out [of the dark, dirty orphanage]. There's no time left to help those left behind. But who else will help? They have no family, no power, no authority. Yet someone must speak for them."