Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lessons From My Son

One of my very favorite things about being a Mama is the way God uses Yikealo to help me understand better just how much He loves me. My love for Yikealo does not change or fade or become less "real" based on his behavior. Can I get annoyed with him at times? Absolutely. Does he need to be corrected when he is disobeying? Undeniably. Do I love him any less when he is misbehaving? Certainly not. He is my son, and I love him with everything that is in me. I will go to great lengths to help him understand just how much he means to me, and I'm realizing in a new way that God does the same thing with me, his adopted daughter, during each and every day.

There have been so many times when I am lecturing Yikealo about some wrongdoing that I hear the echo of my words reflected back onto me. When I'm looking into his sad little face and saying, "Why won't you listen? Don't you know that I know what is best for you? There is a REASON that I told you not to do that!" I can almost hear God saying the same thing to me: "I don't want you to get hurt. I love you so much, and I just want to protect you. Please listen! I am not asking you to let this go because I don't want you to have fun; I am asking you to let it go because it could harm you, and nothing pains me more than to watch you get hurt." When I pick my child up to hold him, comfort him, and assure him that I love him in spite of the bad behavior, I can almost feel my heavenly Father doing the same for me: "Come here, Larisa. Lay your head against my chest and just rest in my promises. I love you so much that I died for you. Do you really think that I am going to stop loving you for some reason? I won't! You are forgiven. Go apologize and move forward! My mercies are new every morning."

Last week, Yikealo came home from pre-school with a colorful paper turkey with five tail feathers. Each feather had something listed for which Yikealo was supposedly thankful. His list was rather random: apples, my toys, food, my race car (he doesn't even have a race car) and "the color green." is the color that he has the most difficulty identifying. That evening, David and I were giggling over his list, and David put on his best pouty face and said, "What about your Daddy? You're not thankful for your daddy?" Yikealo shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Yes, I am, but Dad, sometimes little boys just do not THINK of their Daddy." David snorted laughingly and stated wryly, "Isn't that the truth!" I had to think later, though, how often the same is true of me. There are so many times when I become focused on random, rather unimportant things rather than what is really meaningful. I think about my "stuff" instead of about my Abba, or long for silly things that I don't have instead of giving thanks for the countless good and perfect gifts with which He has already blessed me.

Then there's the way that Yikealo teaches me about forgiveness and grace. There is a reason that the Lord says that we are to become like little children - they understand unconditional love and forgiveness in ways that we adults forget at times. I'll give you an example. A few weeks ago, I was flying around in my typical hurry on Sunday morning, trying to get everything done before we left for church. I had ironed Yikealo's outfit and David's shirt, was cleaning up the breakfast dishes that my husband and son had left on the table, and getting ready to start on my hair. David walked through the kitchen while putting on his cologne and proceeded to drop the bottle onto the floor, splashing cologne everywhere, and making it almost impossible to breathe in the kitchen. Immediately afterward, Yikealo slobbered chocolate from a candy bar (that he was not even supposed to be eating) all down the front of his freshly washed and ironed shirt. Ummm.....let's just say that I did NOT respond with grace. I slammed some dishes down onto the counter, yelled something like "Why do the two of you always have to make such a MESS of everything?" and stormed off to the bedroom, where I sulked. That's also where God began to convict me about the serious attitude problem I was having: "Let's have a little talk, daughter dear, about the fruits of my Spirit, shall we? So your boys made some mistakes - you frequently make mistakes too. Just where were you exhibiting love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness or temperance a few moments ago? You need to apologize." I gave myself a little time to cool off, and then walked into Yikealo's room, where he was attempting to button his re-washed and blow-dried shirt. He gave me a very solemn look and whispered, "Mom, I'm really sorry I made a mistake." I knelt down beside him to look him in the eye, and said "Thank you, honey, but I was wrong to react like that. I'm sorry for yelling at you and Daddy. Can you forgive me?" His whole face brightened and he wrapped his little arms around my neck and squeezed. "Sure, Mom! Actually, I already DID forgive you!" Oh, melt my heart...yet another life lesson from my precious son - the willingness to forgive immediately and fully.

Thank You, Father, for bringing this beautiful child into my life. He is teaching me more about You and Your love every single day...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Waitlisted and Other Ramblings

We finally arrived on our agency's waitlist yesterday, at #90 for a girl and at #63 for a boy. These numbers don't really mean all that much, given our parameters of 0-3 years, but at least we've finally moved to the waiting stage as opposed to the paperwork stage! Our agency is saying that currently most families are waiting 8-9 months for a referral, but that can change at any time. It's just one of the many unknowns in an international adoption. The vast majority of families on the waitlist have specified an infant (0-12 months), so depending on the age range of children that Hannah's Hope receives during any given month, we could get a referral much sooner than that 8-9 months, or we could just keep inching down the waitlist a little at a time.
This much I do know: God has a specific child in mind for us, and He will match up all of the time-lines at just the right moment, so there is absolutely no point in fussing about how long the wait seems. The next step will be to get our fingerprinting done at USCIS - our application has been accepted by them, and we are waiting to hear the date of our fingerprinting appointment. Once our prints have been approved, we will receive our FDL, or Favorable Determination Letter, which will allow us to bring an immigrant into the country. We can't actually get a referral until we have received our FDL, so that's the next big hurdle.

In news of my Dad, it sounds like he will finally be able to go home from the hospital sometime this afternoon. He will have daily appointments with his doctor until they get his Coumadin dosage figured out, but my Mom is THRILLED to be going home. Please continue to pray for Dad's healing and for God's peace to pour out over both of them. Your prayers are so appreciated.

This morning after pre-school, Yikealo ran into the bathroom to go potty, and when he was finished, he came out to find me with a very ornery grin on his face. Here was our conversation:
Y: "Hey Mom, guess what I did to George?"
Me: "What did you do?"
Y: (gleefully) "I flushed him!"
Me: "What?"
Y: "Yeah, I flushed him in the potty!"
Me: "Why did you do that?"
Y: "Cause I wanted to, and it was fun!"
Me: "So are you telling me that George is all gone now? He won't be coming back anymore?"
Y: "No, he will be back, because he knows how to get out."
Me: "Oh really?"
Y: "Yeah. First you turn left, and then right, and then left again, and then he will be back. Then I can flush him again."

So what kind of little kid pretends to flush his imaginary friend down the toilet anyway? Hopefully this is not a sign of future behavior with a little brother or sister!

Monday, November 8, 2010

So, What is a Home Study Anyway?

We should be announcing our entry to the wait-list sometime this week, so I thought I'd back-track a little bit for those of you who are not involved in the adoption world. This should help to explain just what we've been doing over the last few months since we started this process. The first step in an adoption is the "home study." So, just what is a home-study, you ask? Well, it's essentially an extensive report on a family and their lifestyle, and is eventually used to qualify whether or not a family is suited for an adoption. In our case, since our agency has an office in our state, they conducted the "investigation" on us and then submitted a 14 page report that becomes part of the dossier that we send to Ethiopia. These are some of the things that are required in order for a home study to be completed:
  • FBI Criminal Checks (completed for every person in the home over the age of 18)
  • State Criminal Checks (same rules apply)
  • Local Criminal Checks (same rules apply)
  • Child Abuse Checks (completed for every state/country that you've lived in for more than 3 weeks since the age of 18 - this is the one that made us wait so long this time around. It is completed by the State of Ohio, and they had 1 person running all of the checks for the entire state. It took almost 4 months for them to get the "all clear" signal back to our agency.)
  • Fire inspection of your home by the local fire marshall
  • 6 reference letters, one each from the following people: co-worker, neighbor, friend, spiritual leader or other community leader, family member of the adoptive mother, family member of the adoptive father
  • personal profile of each parent (this is basically a 55 page autobiography. You have to answer every type of personal question imaginable, from what you marriage is like, to how you get along with each member of your family, to any drug or alcohol history for each and every member of your immediate family, to your parenting style, to your religious beliefs, to any mental health counseling, and on, and on, and on...)
  • Financial worksheet giving a detailed list of all of your monthly income and expenses, your liabilities and assets
  • a notarized letter from your bank, verifying all of your account standings
  • employment and income confirmation from your employer
  • a guardianship statement by the person(s) who will take care of your child, should anything happen to you. The chosen guardians must also match the agency's rules for eligibility, as far as age, income and health status.
  • Copies of Birth Certificates for each member of the family
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate
  • Copy of driver's licenses for each family member
  • Copy of social security cards for each family member
  • a letter from your veterinarian, stating the health and immunization status for any pets in the home
  • photos of the family and the home
  • proof of life insurance
  • proof of auto insurance
  • proof of health coverage, including pre-existing conditions for the adoptive child
  • copy of Adoption Decree, previous home-studies and post-placement reports for adopted children in the home
  • at least 10 hours of Adoptive Parent Education (our agency actually requires more than this, as they also require a 175 page workbook, that takes a minimum of 20 hours to complete.)
  • Medical reports on each person in the home
  • an application to the state Department of Job and Family Services for a child placement
  • at least 6 hours spent with a social worker, being interviewed about your whole life
  • a home inspection, completed by your social worker
Once all of these steps have been checked off, the report gets written and submitted to your agency for approval. Once it is approved, official copies of it need to be notarized and then submitted as part of your dossier, and also to USCIS (Citizenship and Immigration Services) along with an application to bring an immigrant into the country. We did all of this last week, so we should be hearing of our arrival to the wait-list this week, and over the next several weeks, we should be having an appointment scheduled with USCIS to be fingerprinted. It just feels really good to have our work DONE for a little while! Technically, things are out of our hands until we get a referral for a child.

In other news, my Dad has been really sick with a horrible mix of a Crohn's flare and blood-clots. He's spent a good share of the last two weeks in the hospital, and from what the doctors are saying, we are very blessed that we didn't lose him. Your prayers for his recovery and for my mom's strength would be greatly appreciated.

And just one quick Yikealo story as I close today: he is becoming quite adept at the art of flattery. There have been a few times lately when a request by him has been met by a "maybe" from me. When he hears that, he gives me a very winning smile and says in a soft voice, "I hope that you will say 'yes'!" Then the compliments start flowing. He'll walk up, wrap his arms around me and say things like, "Mom, I really like your pretty face" or "Mom, your pretty hair makes me happy," or "Mom, you make really good food. This is truly scrumptious!" I mean, really, how am I supposed to resist that?