Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pause.

Last night Daniel and I were blessed to attend a concert of the Christian group Selah. It was easily among the best Christian concerts that I have ever attended. I am not a fan of over-produced music. I would much rather hear a sincere soul singing songs of praise from the heart with nothing but a guitar and a piano backup. That is exactly what this was. All three of the members of Selah are incredibly talented. But even more than that, I was blessed to hear their stories of faith and struggle. I found myself praying during the concert, asking God to help me to grow in my faith in the ways that they described. It was a time of clear-headed contemplation for me. A Pause. And that’s what their name means – Pause. “Selah” is a musical term used in the Psalms in between sections. Selah is the thought, the quiet, that comes amidst the praise.

I have been familiar with the music of Selah for several years, but this was the first concert of theirs that I have attended. Two things drew me to go:

1 – The concert was to benefit the Hope Clinic for Women, where I have volunteered for almost six years.

2 – The lead singer’s wife, Angie Smith.

Angie and her husband Todd have a remarkable story that they have shared freely. They have three little girls, and a little over a year ago Angie was pregnant with their fourth. When she went for the anatomy scan ultrasound, they were told that the baby had kidney failure and other significant problems and would not live for more than a few moments after being born. They were heartbroken and determined to make the life of baby Audrey meaningful. Amazingly, they have never wavered in their faith, and they share freely the story of how God worked through the short life of little Audrey. She lived for about two and a half hours after being born last April.

Angie started a blog, Bring the Rain, to keep friends and family updated on what was going on. The popularity of the blog exploded, and she now has thousands and thousands of readers who have been touched and inspired by their story and the strong faith that shines through. Here are a few links to her most moving posts. Make sure you have your kleenex closeby….

The Beginning of the Story
Letter to My Daughter
Carry You – a slideshow of pictures and a recording of the amazing song that Angie and Todd wrote for Audrey

God bless!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Coolest T-shirts Ever

Our website is officially up and running now! We’ve actually had it up for about two weeks now, but it still had some kinks. But in that time we have already sold thirteen T-shirts and five sets of note cards! Many of the T-shirts have been sold to people that we don’t know who have found us on the internet. We have shipped to California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts… It makes us giddy every time we check our e-mail and find that we have had another order. Every one is a gift from God!

I am so proud of Daniel and his work on the website. I’m telling you – the guy can do anything.

Let me give a little explanation regarding the Go. Seek. Love. logo. These action verbs came from three different scriptures that are meaningful to us in our adoption process:

  • Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. (Mark 16:15)
  • Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
  • Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)

We are trying to live out the instructions given to us in these scriptures by our adoption from Africa. But these scriptures describe a calling on all of our lives, each and every day. It’s our hope that all Christians will find meaning and purpose in the message of the shirts, whether it’s in Africa or Tennessee.

Here are a few photos of the Dubois-trio modeling some of the T-shirt options. Check out the website for the rest!

www.duboisadoption.com






Monday, February 23, 2009

Da-Da

Last weekend we went to Daniel’s photo studio to take pictures of our T-shirts for the website. While we were there, we got a few good shots of Miss Madeline with her daddy. Enjoy!






Friday, February 20, 2009

Safe or Brave?

Today I’m asking myself: what is my ultimate goal for my life? Do I want to live in comfort, secure and successful in the eyes of the world? Or do I want to be brave, choosing to lose all of those things in order to truly follow the words of Jesus?

“Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

- Luke 9:24

I am reading Gary Haugen’s book, Just Courage, and he is speaking to my heart of hearts. Gary is the founder of the International Justice Mission (IJM), a non-profit group of Christian lawyers who have chosen to forsake the comfort and security of their profession to use their skills to fight for the freedom of modern-day slaves and child sex workers.

In the last chapter of his book, he says:

Sometimes we have to decide: Are we going to love, or are we going to look smart? Because loving the needy doesn’t look smart. And, sadly, in much of our culture this is one of our deepest fears: looking like a fool, na├»ve, unsophisticated, a little too earnest, a loser.

The fact is, when people choose to be brave instead of smart, their courage is generally so threatening to those who are smart rather than brave that they end up being maligned, not congratulated. That is what the Bible says we can expect.

The will of God is scary because he is asking us to choose between a life that looks successful and a life that is actually significant, between a life that wins the applause of our peers and a life that actually transforms lives through love.

I am all too aware that adopting an African child is not a smart or safe idea in the eyes of many who surround me. There are all kinds of risks: we are going to gather lots of stares; our family will never just “fit in” anymore; we may not be welcome in some places anymore; we don’t know what physical or emotional problems he might be faced with and how that will affect our family; we don’t know if he will reject us someday. And if this all doesn’t work out neatly and tidily, we risk being embarrassed. There were plenty that warned us of all the risks…and now look at what we’ve gone and done to our family.

But I have to ask the question: When I get to the end of my life, what will I wish that I had done? I have two choices.

1 - To take the safer route that will allow us to blend in and maintain the acceptance of our peers.

2 - To be brave and follow with all our hearts what we understand to be the call of Jesus: to minister to the needy, the broken, the orphan.

I can’t bear the thought of reaching 60 years of age, and looking back on my life and thinking, “What if we had done what we were afraid to do? What we felt like God was calling us to do, but we were just a little to nervous about it?” Oh, Lord, may it never be so! We MUST pursue this adoption. I know that if we do it, we will never be the same. And also if we do not do it, we will never be the same. Either way we will be changed, and I am seeking the changes that will come from obedience, not fear.

So there you go. Choosing to be brave means choosing to not be safe. I admit that I am afraid. I have a list of fears. But I don’t let them control me. I am clinging to the promises of Jesus. I want to live a life of faith, adventure, and a deeper knowledge of Him.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Fun Begins

Yesterday we received our dossier packet from America World, our adoption agency. Here we go! Daniel and I sat down last night and went through the fifty or so pages of instructions and guidelines that describe all of the documents we must assemble, the eight hour training we must attend, exactly what has to be notarized, and basically all of the hoops that we must jump through in the next several months.

Let me back up… for the uninitiated, the dictionary.com definition of dossier is: “a collection or file of documents on the same subject, esp. a complete file containing detailed information about a person or topic.” So basically the dossier for our adoption is a huge file of paperwork that will be sent to Ethiopia.

So that you have an appreciation for the enormity of the task, here is a list of everything that must be included in our dossier:

  • Application letter to the Ethiopian government
  • Original certified copies of each of our birth certificates
  • Original certified copies of our marriage certificate
  • Letter’s from both of our doctors stating that they have examined us and we are in good health
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Proof of life insurance
  • Financial statement
  • Employment verification letters
  • Three letters of reference written by friends
  • Police reports stating that we have not committed any crimes
  • Fingerprinting by the FBI
  • A copy of our home study (which we will be starting soon…more on that later…)
  • Photos of our family and of the inside and outside of our home

Honestly, it’s not as bad as I had feared it would be. After reading what people write about the dossier process, I imagined it being worse. I think possibly that it’s the details that are the worst part – things like no staples can be removed from any documents or it will invalidate the document, or that almost everything has to be notarized, etc.

So last night we came up with our game plan: we prioritized everything and divided up tasks between us. I have to admit, I actually like this kind of thing. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to paperwork. It’s just so straightforward, I guess, so black and white. It appeals to the accountant in me. J I am excited to get started with our “paper pregnancy,” as it’s called in the adoption world.

This isn’t Daniel’s thing. I’m the nerd; he’s the creative guy. And speaking of Mr. Creative, I’ve been dying to give my blog readers (both of you) a sneak peak at what he has been working very hard on. Our adoption website! Daniel wanted me to be clear that it is not quite done yet. It’s still in “rough draft” stage. But we would love your feedback! Play around with it and let us know if you see any issues. The T-shirt fundraiser sale will be officially starting soon, but the paypal portion is up and running if you are in the mood to buy.

The website is: www.duboisadoption.com

I have added a link to my sidebar too. There is info on the website about how to add a badge to your blog too, if you want to. Thanks for checking it out!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Well Traveled Barrette

By Daniel:

As a 10 year old boy you spend your days drawing cars with machine guns mounted to the roof, thinking of new things to blow up with firecrackers, and pining for the weekend. Not once do you think to yourself, "I bet one day, when I grow up, I'll be picking through poop looking for a purple barrette." And yet 19 years later, plastic fork and spoon in hand, I found myself doing just that.

On Tuesday, Madeline decided that Cheerios weren't enough of a challenge any more. So, while riding in the car with mommy, she had a go at downing the barrette she was wearing. 48 hours later it reappeared from it's magical journey. It's mostly intact, only it's a bit duller -- gray, really.

Another day in the adventure of parenting.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

11 Month Update

Don’t worry, grandparents. I will still post plenty of Madeline updates on the blog. And speaking of Miss M, she is eleven months old today! Eleven-twelfths of a year old… Wow. Everybody always talks about how fast kids grow. But until you have your own, you have no idea how fast time can really fly.

Here she is this weekend enjoying the warm weather and exploring our backyard.


Here’s what’s new with Madeline:

  • She is finally crawling! And she is enjoying her freedom immensely. She has such fun racing down the hall or chasing after a toy, usually with a smile on her face. She is developing callouses on her sweet little knees. When she was first born I remember noticing how perfectly soft and smooth she was all over. Her knees were just as soft as her cheeks. No more perfectly soft little baby.
  • She has gotten more clingy since learning to crawl. I have wondered if it is because she needs more reassurance from mom now that she has more independence. She wants to be held more than she used to. It is often difficult to cook dinner now because she grabs onto my pant leg and fusses until I pick her up. I’ve been carrying her around in our kiddie backpack a lot while I cook, vacuum, etc.
  • She is pulling up to her knees all the time, and occasionally she makes it all the way to the standing position. No cruising yet.
  • We’ve been having napping issues in the last week. She likes to play in her crib now, crawling around, pulling up, and sitting up. She has learned that she doesn’t have to go to sleep if she doesn’t want to. Until now it has always been really easy to put her down for a nap. When she is sleepy, I would just lay her down and walk away. It’s not so easy anymore. It has been taking her 30-45 minutes lately to fall asleep, and there are usually tears. Then when she wakes up, she sits up immediately and doesn’t go back to sleep. This is no fun for mom…
  • We’ve been working on a few signs. She can now sign “more” and “water,” and she can show you where her nose is. We’ve been working on “milk” too, but I haven’t gotten her to do that one back yet.
  • Her current favorite foods are strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges, cheese, and broccoli. She resists anything that I try to spoon feed her now. She likes to feed herself. She is rejecting some foods that she used to love – particularly bananas and applesauce. Weird.
  • Looking in the mirror is endlessly amusing to her. She smiles and dances and laughs and waves. Sometimes I put my full length mirror on the floor and let her crawl on top of it. She thinks it's the most fun thing imaginable.
  • She loves to ride around in the stroller. We’ve been going for walks outside everyday for the last week while the weather has been nice, and she is content for amazingly long periods of time to watch the scenery, taking it all in. She especially likes seeing dogs. When we are out in public someplace, she leans way forward in the stroller, almost standing up, because she is so excited to see the world and wave to everyone she sees. What a flirt.

And here she is, the crawling champ!


video

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Awakening

There’s a reason I haven’t been blogging much lately. Thoughts and feelings surrounding our adoption have been all that I’ve had on my mind. Now that we’ve “gone public” with the adoption, I have a lot of catching up to do.

I just finished an excellent book by Josh and Amy Bottomly called From Ashes to Africa. Josh and Amy struggled with infertility and eventually their faith. But God led them to adopt from Ethiopia and it changed their lives in a remarkable and way.




I so resonate with the Bottomly family’s description of the awakening they experienced as they entered the adoption process. They began to read and watch movies, learning about Africa, about poverty, about AIDS. They were initially motivated by a responsibility to learn about the country that their child would be born in. But they more they learned, the more they were moved, and the more they hungered to learn more.

They realized that this place called Africa wasn't just a mythical place full of lions and zebras. Africa is real. And It is hurting. It is filled with more suffering than we can fathom. So much that we have a tendency to just shut down when we hear about it. The statistics are mind-numbing and incomprehensible. Today there are 143 million orphans in our world. The child that will soon live in my home will daily tell me and others the story of this tragedy. The story of the mothers, forced to abandon children that they love dearly because of unspeakable poverty. The story of fathers who died without seeing their children grow and blossom because of the horrors of AIDS. The story of parents whose lives could have been saved by drugs that we Americans like to hoard so that we can get richer, pretending that none of these stories of suffering and dying are happening. Meanwhile we spend our energy debating what movie we will see on Friday night and what restaurant we will spend $50 at to eat food that our bodies don’t even need.

Josh writes about how he felt when he first saw the movie Hotel Rwanda:

The movie tells the story of one man’s courage in the face of the Rwandan genocides, where members of the Hutu tribe killed over 800,000 from their rival tribe, the Tutsi tribe. After the movie ended, I felt disemboweled and sat in stunned silence with Amy for a long time. The Rwandan genocides had occurred when we were seniors in high school, and yet no one had ever brought it up. Neither Amy nor I could recall one prayer request for the Rwandan peoples, let alone a prayer vigil at our churches or schools. Instead, we attended Bible class each day, and after the daily devotion, we prayed for Aunt Maud’s sore toe, along with the smattering of “unspoken” prayer requests. All the while, nearly a million innocent men, women, and children were being butchered to death by Hutu machetes.

Just how ignorant I was began to hit me, and specifically, how insular my life had been up to this point. I also began to realize that for Amy and me, God was not only moving us toward each other and into each others hearts, but he was moving us outward into a bigger world, a world ravished by stupid poverty.

All the problems just seem so huge. So unbelievably and terribly overwhelming. What in the world am I supposed to do about 143 million orphans? About all the suffering because of poverty, famine, AIDS? I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do – nothing. I choose to not be overwhelmed and guilty. I am doing something. I choose to give life, love, and hope to one child, and it gives me just that – life, love, and hope. Life, love, and hope. That’s what I want my legacy to be.

A friend recently warned me – adoption is risky – what if our child wants to return to his own country someday? My reaction? Praise God! That is my heartfelt prayer! What joy it would give me if our son returns to Ethiopia someday to minister to his own people and help to be a part of the solution. Oh Lord, help us to raise him so that will be the desire of his heart. Thank you, Lord, for the awakening that is taking place in our hearts.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Announcement

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from becoming polluted by the world.”
- James 1:27

“Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name, welcomes me.”
- Matthew 18:5


For several months God has been growing us, teaching us, and leading us down a very unexpected path. Now Daniel, Madeline, and I have an announcement to make:

We are adopting a child from Ethiopia.

We have applied for a boy aged 12 months or younger using America World Adoption Agency, and we expect that in approximately eighteen months, we will be traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to bring home our son.

Adopting a child (and especially a child from Ethiopia!) is not something that I ever imagined us doing. For many years I had thought that maybe someday we would be foster parents. But adoption was nowhere in my future plans. You see, I have learned that this is often how God works. We make plans for our life based on what sounds logical to us. We keep God in mind, of course, but we also give a lot of thought to what seems fulfilling to us. That’s when God steps in and says, “No, my child. Your life is not for your own fulfillment. It is a sacrifice to me. Follow me and I will show you how to have abundant life. I know that this wasn’t what you expected, and it doesn’t make sense to you right now. Trust me. Obey me, and you will never be sorry that you did.”

And so here we are. We believe with all our hearts that God is leading us to do this. We know that we will be faced with many difficulties as a multi-racial family; we know that we will encounter many stares and questions; we are unsure where the money will come from to cover the overwhelming cost of an international adoption. But we know for sure that the Lord will go before us in this. He will provide for us at every stage. He will grow us in ways that we can’t even imagine right now. I believe that and want that with all of my heart.

***

When Madeline was about two months old, I asked Daniel the question: “If the hospital called and said that they had mistakenly sent us home with the wrong child, would you want to trade Madeline in for the child that was actually ours biologically?” We both realized that, without a doubt, the answer would be no. It was then that adoption first entered our minds. I realized that I do not love Madeline because she has my genes. I love her because I spend day and night with her, investing my all in her and constantly praying for her. That is what makes me her mommy.

Suddenly it seemed that everywhere I turned I was learning more about adoption. I encountered articles about adoption. I met people who had adopted. The speaker of my weekly Bible study shared a touching story of a family who adopted. I began to think about adoption more and more.

I searched the Word for every scripture that I could find about adoption, and I encountered passage after passage in the Old Testament describing the special love and protection that God gives to the fatherless. He commanded his people to provide for them through benevolence and tithes, and he promises judgment if they ever mistreat them. He promises to be a Father to the fatherless, and he makes it clear that it is his will to set the lonely in families. (Psalm 68:5-6) He holds close those that are abandoned by their father and mother. (Psalm 27:10)

It has been my prayer for a long time now to have a heart more like HIS. To love who HE loves and to desire what HE desires. God has a special love for the orphan, and he desires that they be set in families. In what better way can we love those that he loves and be hurt by the injustice that hurts him than to adopt a precious child?

As soon as we said “yes” to God by deciding to adopt, we found that so many things in our lives began to make sense. We have long questioned why we have been given such abundance spiritually, materially, and familial-ly, when so many in the world don’t have the food, shelter, or medical care they need just to survive. We have felt restless, knowing that we were certainly made for more than quietly living out our average American lives of abundance, going to work, going to church, and raising our 2.5 kids. How are we making a difference? We have been reading a lot of eye-opening books lately. In one of them, Red Letters, Tom Davis writes about what he believes would happen in the world if the church began to actually live out the words of Christ (written in red in many Bibles). We want to obey Jesus with all our hearts when he says to go to all the world with the gospel and to feed the hungry and clothe the needy.

And so here we go. Please, please pray for us. We have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. Some days I wake up giddy with excitement, and some days I wake up terrified, wondering if we are making a huge mistake. I realize that in this blog entry I have neatly and tidily written an explanation of what we are doing and why. I don’t want to make it seem like it has been an easy, clear cut decision for us when that is not at all the case. Questions, doubts, and fears have threatened to overwhelm me many times. (I may find the courage to post a personal journal entry sharing the deep struggles of my heart in the future….) What I know is that this decision is going to affect every aspect of our lives. I want it to. I want this to be a time of awakening. A turning point. I want to look back someday and say – yeah, I think that’s when our lives really began, when we woke up and started really living the lives we were called to live, living out the words of Jesus.

Again I ask – pray for us. We need courage, we need wisdom, and we need funds. God will give freely to all who ask.