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Archive for April, 2010

Dealing with Unknowns

Welcome to our next book, Radical Homemakers!  Let’s read the preface and introduction for next Monday, then we’ll read one chapter each week (they’re pretty long chapters, and there are only 7 of them, so it won’t be too bad).  I’ll be ready to discuss the first assignment with a post on Monday!

—–

I always have been a bit of a know-it-all.  There’s a certain freedom in admitting that, so there you have it.

Accordingly, I have an issue with the unknown.  Frankly, unknowns scare the bleep out of me.

I’ll get over it.

Probably in Heaven.

Anyway.

This whole adoption thing has turned me into a big ol’ stressbag because of all the unknowns:  Will God provide a way?  How will He provide?  WHEN will He provide?  Will the social worker like us?  Will all the details come together?  Who will our daughter be?  What will be her story?  Will we meet her birth family?  What if all sorts of things change in Ethiopia before we can get to her?  If we can get her home, how will our kiddos adjust to having a new sister?   Will she learn to love us?

And that’s just a start.

Sigh.

So I have been pouring my heart out to God for these last several weeks, telling him all about my questions (which He already knows), my insecurities (which He already knows), my issues with not having steps A to Z clearly mapped out before He told us to move forward with our application (which, again…).

I’ve asked Him for billboards:  clear, unmistakable road signs that tell us where to go, when to go, and exactly how long it will take us to complete this journey.  I’ve asked for money to fall out of the sky.

God has instead chosen to give us a treasure map, broken into seemingly thousands of puzzle pieces… and He hands them to us one at a time.  Last week after turning in our agency application, God allowed Bryan to get back some of his lost pay — he’s now up to about 70% instead of the 50% he has been working at for the past two months.  It’s only a tiny piece of the overall puzzle… it doesn’t help us toward the adoption finances, but it helps stop the budget bleeding we’ve been experiencing of late.  So it’s a significant piece for today, and we’ll take it.

At this point, however, we have been given so few of those puzzle pieces that we don’t see the entire path; we don’t often even see the next step we are to take.

Yet…

We know His commands for us to love the orphan:

In you the orphan finds mercy.  -Hosea 14:3

You are the helper of the fatherless. LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.  -Psalms 10:14,17-18

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  -James 1:27

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.  -Psalms 68:5-6

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.  -Isaiah 1:17

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.  -Proverbs 31:8-9

And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.  -Matthew 18:5

And we do know that we are to trust Him; we know He will bring us to the destination He has for us.

Trust.  Why, oh why, is that so difficult?

What about our fallen nature makes it so hard to trust our Father to lead us?

Since the beginning, Satan has goaded our suspicion of God… and again and again, we choose to believe his lies, to live in fear and doubt when faced with the unknown rather than to rest in God’s mercy.  Down deep, just like Adam and Eve, we really don’t believe God is out for our good… yet He reminds us that He is, again and again.   Our good Father is unbelievably patient, understanding beyond measure, and gracious beyond all imagination; He does indeed make straight our paths, even when we can’t see two inches in front of our own faces.  And what blessed assurance of that He provides!

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  -Romans 8:14-16

Yet I struggle.

So all I can do today is fall on my knees and cry out to Him, that He might grace me yet again with that Spirit… so I won’t give in to the fear but instead will have confidence that, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, He will lead me to the treasure that can only be found in Him.

And for money to fall from the sky.  🙂

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“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Did I ever mention that Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite president of all time?

Just ask my middle school girls to whom I teach American history twice a week.  I bet they’ll tell you (without even pausing to think) who my second favorite president is as well.  They might even give you a really good eye roll while they do it.  It’ll be great. 🙂

(and YES, I know Roosevelt — although a Republican — was a champion of the progressive income tax… GASP!  and YES, I know #2 — John Adams, in case you’re wondering — was a Federalist… if this makes me a bad conservative, so be it.)

I digress.

So I’ve blogged ever so briefly about why we’re adopting and how we were led to adopt a baby girl from Ethiopia.  I have infinitely more to say on both items… our roller-coaster of emotions we already have felt in taking this step, etc… but for now we’ll just move on to the third question.

#3:  So doesn’t adoption cost a ton of money?

Short answer:  Depends on who you are, and what “a ton of money” means to you.  To us, the answer is yes, yes indeed.

Long answer:  We’re looking at about $27,000 to get us from the beginning to end of the adoption process.  I guess that’s still a short answer.

Here’s the long part.

Adopting a child from Ethiopia, believe it or not, costs roughly similar to a private domestic adoption, but without the uncertainty of outcome (there is a risk the birthmother could change her mind after the adoptive family is heavily invested in the process).  One of our big draws to the Ethiopia program, in fact, was its relative “lack” of expense compared to other international programs.

But it’s still ridiculously expensive to bring a child home.   Of this fact we are painfully aware.

As some of our Facebook friends may remember, I have noted in recent weeks the changes in the Ethiopian adoption program, specifically the Ethiopian government now requiring two trips instead of one.  This additional trip, while it allows the adopting family to meet their child(ren) sooner than before, adds probably about $4-5K to the overall adoption expenses… which are already steep.  Despite this change, Ethiopia remains one of the least expensive international programs at around $26-28K (this now includes the extra trip).  But the waits keep getting longer, it seems (we’re now looking at likely an 18-24 month process)… and each day that passes without us getting ourselves on the wait list means that we may wait additional weeks/months to reach our daughter.

Thankfully, recent legislation has renewed and increased the adoption tax credit; families who complete adoptions by the end of 2011 are eligible for $13,170, which is now for the first time fully refundable in the first year, even if a family has no tax liability.  Do you know how huge that is?  That makes it much more realistic for us to rely on an interest-free adoption loan from one of many ministries out there, since we can be confident in our repayment ability… and with a loan like that, basically the second half of the process will be completely taken care of.

Which leaves the first half of the process.

Deep breath.

We desperately want to move forward with our adoption.  After many months — years — of prayer and soul-searching, we know now that this is what God has called us to do, to parent another child who desperately needs a mommy and daddy to love and provide for her.  We are willing, eager even, to get the ball rolling to bring her home.  But with Bryan’s work cuts, we simply don’t have the finances to do it.

But God is good.  And He has expressed in more ways than I can describe that He wants us to go “all in”… despite all the financial obstacles.  So we’re going to put the very little money we have where our mouths and hearts are… and jump.  We just filled out the IAN application and dropped it off this morning.  And that alone pretty much exhausts our financial resources right now.

So now that we’ve jumped in… we keep praying, to see just how God will work to make happen what He’s called us to do.

Does that make sense?

Let me be clear — we cannot make this adoption happen on our own. I am beginning to realize this was likely God’s design in cutting Bryan’s pay in the first place, as well as His doing in taking away each and every subsequent attempt by us to use our own means to move forward.  He doesn’t want us to make it happen… plain and simple.

Instead…

God has to make it happen, so He alone will get the glory for it when it does.

And though we’re pretty uncomfortable just handing it over to Him — obviously, given that generally we strive to be very self-supporting, self-reliant folks — we ultimately have no problem with that.  🙂

So where do you, my dear friends, come in?

To paraphrase my favorite president: can you do what you can, with what you have, where you are right now? Specifically, these are our requests:

1.  Can you please commit to pray for us?  We need prayer…

  • That God will bring to fruition His call to us to adopt this sweet child…
  • That He will prepare each member of our family to embrace the child He has set apart for us…
  • That God will be a constant source of strength, comfort, and peace to her birth mother…
  • That He will provide the funds necessary for each and every step of the process, be it through increased work and pay for Bryan, additional paying work for me, our garage sale (June 4!), donations, grants, money dropping out of the sky, etc.

2.  Would you prayerfully consider coming alongside us financially?  You may not feel called to personally adopt a child, but if you feel called to help in some other way, we would be blessed by you helping to bring ours home.  We need to raise at least $7,000 to have the home study completed, pay our agency fee, and get us to dossier submission. Once all that is completed, we should be able to reach out, during our 8-12 months on the wait list, to some of the many grant-making adoption foundations out there for additional assistance to help us bridge the gap.

If you want to help us reach that $7,000 milestone by donating to our adoption fund, you can do a couple of things:

  • Contribute directly by writing a check to IAN (International Adoption Net) or by credit card to IAN ($500+ only), noting the Starr family as the intended recipient.  I’ve put the agency’s contact information at the top of the sidebar.  All contributions directed to the agency are completely tax-deductible; you will receive a letter from IAN confirming the gift and its tax status upon receipt.  Per the agency’s request, you can send checks of less than $100 (made out to IAN) to us at our home, and we will forward them in groups to IAN to ease their bookkeeping process.  Please email me at brynikstarr(at)aol(dot)com if you don’t have our address and you would like to contribute this way.
  • If you live nearby and you have some quality items you’d like to part with, we would appreciate any and all donations to our garage sale.  We may even be able to arrange pick-up for larger items.  🙂
  • Although they won’t be needed for awhile, donations of frequent flier miles could help significantly defray our future airfare expenses, which now comprise about $6-9K of our total costs.

We trust God, and we know He will provide.  In this we are fully confident. And frankly, I cannot wait to look back on this process to see clearly how He did just that.

I want to end with something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately…

Many folks call adoption an act of mercy.  And it is, in many ways… but some of those ways are not those most would expect.  You see, us reaching out to a child in need may be considered merciful to that child — an image of what our own Adoptive Father has done for us by giving us salvation through Jesus — but we as parents will also be recipients of an amazing blessing: another child to love with all our hearts, who will enrich us by her presence in our lives.

Our biological children will likewise receive an amazing gift:  a baby sister to grow up with, to share their childhood with, to tell secrets to, to “go camping” in the guest bedroom with, to love.

Our daughter will have a sister to play dolls and have tea parties with, to laugh and giggle and share memories and a bedroom with.

Our second son (Bode), who has an abundance of compassion to share — and who was absolutely convinced when we got in the car this morning to deliver the application that we were all “going to Et-e-o-p-a to get my new sis-ser” — will have yet another baby girl in the family to hug and dote upon.

Our oldest son (Jonah) also will receive his greatest desire:  a brown-eyed sibling (our other two have blue eyes… no idea how that happened… Jonah is convinced he’s been left out… and we have assured him that yes, his new baby sister will almost certainly have brown eyes just like he does).  🙂

Long story short, the entire Starr family — the new and not-so-new members alike — will be blessed through this adoption.  We know that already.

Now we’re asking you not only to follow our journey, but to come alongside us and bless us — and our newest member — through it.

Love to you all… oh, and PRAY.  God is going to do some mighty great things!

-N

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Drum roll please…

We dropped off our application at the adoption agency this morning.  Despite the numerous obstacles in our path, we threw caution to the wind, put aside all the excuses, and told Satan to back off from God’s plan for our family.

What a beautiful day.  🙂

Much more to come on that momentous occasion… hopefully later tonight (assuming hubby gets a chance to take a look at my post draft).

In the meantime, please enjoy a poem posted today… courtesy of our dear and extraordinarily gifted thespian friend Robert.  It’s as if he wrote it for this very occasion.  Go here to check out some more of his real-man, everyman poetry.  It may just rock your world.

—–

Everything Will Conspire
To Stop You

by ROBERT BRUCE

There are
endless reasons
and ways

You’ve got three kids

You’ve got three teeth

The rent is four months past due

You’re a big hit at the office

She left last week

The engine won’t turn over

You just aren’t feeling it

The terrorist pulls the blade

The wine went bad

Fame arrived too fast

You’ll lose their respect

You’re in the cancer game

The bus turning left, one block north

You’ll do it tomorrow

The doubt, just behind your left ear

Thirty three parking tickets

Out of milk

Never went to college

Went to too much college

The step onto a rotting board

Overs*xed

Unders*xed

Et Cetera

Et Cetera

Et Cetera

Everything will
conspire to stop you

There are
endless reasons
and ways

They are all common
to every man

In the end
you’ve got to
sharpen the steel
and do the thing

Then do it again

No matter the payoff

No matter the beating

You are no different
than any before you

Their blood ran
in the gutter

So will yours

If you want
to finish this race

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From the US State Department: The U.S. State Department says there has been no suspension of adoptions of Russian children by Americans.  Reports of a suspension circulated Thursday based on comments in Moscow from a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman. He was reacting to the case of an American woman who sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Russia on a plane by himself.   The U.S. State Department’s consular affairs office, however, says it has confirmed with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the Russian Embassy in Washington that adoptions are still being processed. The office says there has been no suspension. A U.S. delegation plans to meet with Russian officials next week to discuss a possible adoption treaty. Russia says such a treaty must be signed if adoptions to the U.S. are to continue.

Whether suspended now, later, or ever… this one horrible instance brings to light where our priorities should lie.  Martha Osborne at Rainbow Kids speaks loving truth into the situation:

“Sad, sad news over the last week. There has been great outrage, anger, blame and finger pointing over the disrupted adoption of a 7-year-old Russian child and his abrupt return to Russia over this last week… During this time, I have wondered, “where is the outrage for the thousands of children who are housed in hopeless institutions with minimal care and daily abuse from the other children?”  The exact conditions that may have traumatized this young child and greatly contributed to this situation, are barely mentioned.  No one absolves the mother.  She had options and chose to do something outrageous and selfish. But her actions are only one part of this. The unspoken rule is that those of us who work to find homes for these children must never, never criticize the governments that allow these wretched institutions to continue. Adoptive parents must be grateful…and silent, to insure that international adoption continues, and a few lucky children find peace in a family of their own. Volunteers must quietly work to make changes in the orphanages, for fear of offending those in power. Yes, this story makes me very upset, and sad for all of the children who (may) now continue to suffer. And for the families who have waited, longingly, to give their love to these children.  And now we wait, with our only hope once again in the hands of government policy makers. I suggest that the meeting scheduled for the 20th take place in the largest, most rural orphanage that can be found in Russia. Let our governments meet, and come to their decision, surrounded by the children’s lives and futures that hang in the balance.”

Amen.  We have friends who met their new son in Russia just a few short weeks ago, and they are anxiously waiting to bring him home.  Please pray that this suspension will not become official and they will be able to finalize their adoption quickly.


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That sounds strange, perhaps a bit like an AA meeting… let me try that again:

“Attention all blogging mommies who embrace Reformed Theology!”

Better.

I have asked to be a part of Everyday Mommy’s Solamom blogroll (thanks, Mis!).  If you love Jesus, embrace the doctrines of grace, and want to meet and fellowship with other mommas who do, I want to encourage you to join in as well.  This gal has to be cool… after all, she has a Monergism Books button on her site.  🙂  (We know the owners of that store personally… they are beautiful people who helped start our church back in Portland… John is the one who actually initiated Bryan’s “second conversion” to Reformed thinking!)

I am so excited about this new online community!

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(a little note: Please pardon me if I seem a wee bit self-conscious in this entry.  My dear bloggy friend Missy, as well as a couple of new bloggy acquaintances, sent many hundreds of folks to my site over the weekend because of this post, and I feel somewhat overwhelmed by it all… so bear with me whilst I adjust to the new reality.  It’s a little weird.  Good, but weird.)

The Well-Educated Mind and Don Quixote, anyone?

Bueller?

That’s what I thought.

I suspected the enthusiasm of our first several weeks would wane once reality set in and Cervantes’ little ditty was staring directly at us, taunting us, double-dog-daring us to put aside our busyness and dive in to its ancient pages.  (That’s SO like Cervantes, I know… that arrogant self-centered jerk.)  And believe me, I wanted to take him on… I tried to take him on… and then life happened.  Annie was sick; Bryan was suddenly working only part-time; our adoption plans were postponed; Jonah was fighting school; Bode was being, well, three; and me… well, I was quite busy throwing myself a little stress-bag pity party in the midst of it all.  Pretty productive, eh?  🙂

All this to say:  I failed.  Miserably.  But I will persevere, be it ever so slowly.  I will continue to read through the classics, and I’m coming to the realization that it’s okay if it takes me a lifetime to do so.  Life, that thing that happens to disrupt all our best-laid plans, is by far superior to frantic literary study.

That being said, I’d love to encourage all of us to continue growing our minds even while we are in the throws of this blessed thing called “life with many small children.”  So I have a proposal:  Anyone up for reading another book together?  I promise it’s infinitely lighter than ol’ Don, and I also promise you’ll likely be able to relate to it much more easily.

Here it is:  Radical Homemakers.

Can I tell you I’m a bit jealous that I didn’t think to write this book first?  After all, I am one… a radical homemaker, that is.  At least, I’m trying to be one.  I’m not a super-cool, make-my-own-yarn-and-raise-chickens-in-the-backyard kind of one like my friend back in Oregon (mostly because our HOA wouldn’t allow it), but I’m trying to check out of the uber-consumer mindset a little more each day.  Wanna see my latest efforts?  You can laugh at me… that’s totally okay… especially if we grew up together and you know that this is so NOT what I saw myself doing in my mid-thirties.

Ahem.

First things first:  I learned how to knit.  I’m by no means an accomplished knitter, but I can make scarves so far.  Check it out:

My second effort (this one was for me)

Hot model, I know! Sorry ladies, he's taken. 🙂

This year, I also started gardening from seed.  Because – if you do it right – it’s cheap (seeds are like $1.50, even for organic ones) and you can control what goes into your food from its beginning.  Note the big “if”.  I’m working and praying, people… working and praying that at least some of it takes root and gives us a little harvest.  We also limited what we could grow to the pots we already had in the house/garage; maybe I can pick up some more at garage sales this summer or start saving more plastic containers, but for now we’re just using what we have.  And the boys love helping Mommy water and care for all the little seedlings… they make sure to tell me whenever they see a new “friend” popping up out of the soil.

Here’s our wee greenhouse, also known as the southwest corner of our dining room:

(Note the several inches of snow just outside.  This pic was taken was in late March.  Yep, spring in Colorado… gotta love it!)

My hubby is building a second small raised bed in the backyard for me to transplant these little buggers when the weather outside is a bit less frightful.  He has made both beds out of wood reclaimed from the old patio we tore down shortly after our move here four years ago.  How frugal and environmentally-friendly are we?!  😉

Now, I know that some of my Midwest friends and family are likely laughing their heads off looking at pics of my meager little garden.  Yep, I know… it’s tiny.  But we live in the city, we have a relatively small yard, and we have an extremely short and dry growing season out here in the Rockies.  I discovered quickly that I couldn’t just throw something at the ground and it would grow like my mom’s garden does or like I did back in Portland; even small crops take big effort out here.  So we’ll see how it works!

So… how about you, friends?  Do you want to join me to learn more about radical homemaking?  If you’re interested, we’ll start in two Mondays (April 26)… so we have some time to track down a copy of the book.  In the meantime, I would love to hear about what you’re doing in your own households to revolt against consumerism.  We can all learn from each other… heck, perhaps one day we can all live happily ever after off the grid, far away from the reach of The Man…

Ah, one can dream.  🙂

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In case you don’t read the magazine “The Economist”, this week it brought to light yet another reason for us to adopt a baby girl internationally.  Please take a moment to read this article about it.  Here’s an excerpt:

In its lead editorial, the magazine gets right to the essential point: “It is no exaggeration to call this gendercide. Women are missing in the millions–aborted, killed, neglected to death.”

In its detailed and extensive investigative report, the magazine opens its article with chilling force. A baby girl is born in China’s Shandong province. Chinese writer Xinran Xue, present for the birth, then hears a man’s voice respond to the sight of the newborn baby girl. “Useless thing,” he cried in disappointment. The witness then heard a plop in the slops pail. “To my absolute horror, I saw a tiny foot poking out of the pail. The midwife must have dropped that tiny baby alive into the slops pail!”  When she tried to intervene she was restrained by police. An older woman simply explained to her, “Doing a baby girl is not a big thing around here.”

I know it’s difficult to imagine, but this IS happening… all around the world, to millions of babies.  Please, please, please pray for the preservation and rescue of these precious little ones… including the one God set aside to be our daughter.  Pray that God will give her birth mother courage to persevere, as well as the inner strength and physical ability to bring her child to a place where she can be cared for until we can get there to safely bring her home.

And please come quickly, Lord Jesus!

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