So, who are we BOYCOTTING this year???

Um...well...no one.

One of my least favorite things about Christmas time are the emails that circulate, describing and ridiculing pagans for acting, well, pagan. (Yes, if you're not a Christian, you are a pagan -- however, it's not meant as a slur. Feel free to look the definition up for yourself.)

Religious people (not necessarily Christ-followers) love to slam retail and food chains who choose to say "Happy Holidays", instead of "Merry Christmas" --- And I could gladly perch myself on a soap box about this for the rest of the evening, but I don't feel that would be a wise use of my time...Needless to say, my blog will be a "slam-free" zone this Christmas season. And if a company or individual does/says something I find deeply offensive, then I will quietly refrain from patronizing them. And not just during the month of December...silly!

So instead of forwarding emails and boycotting merchants, we're investing our energy in other ways this Christmas season. We're getting involved in ministries that God directs us toward, and teaching Micah about our Savior's birth.

Tonight we kicked-off Advent at the Martin house.

Advent is a period of spiritual preparation in which we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Jesus' birth. For many, Advent involves prayer, fasting, and scripture mediation, while anticipating unbelievable hope and joy. Advent not only turns our hearts to Jesus' birth, but also to His return. It's also a time of thanksgiving to God for giving us His Holy spirit to remain with us until the end.

We're reading Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration. Since it's a daily devotion that leads up to Christmas, we've decided to read it to Micah while he's in the bath tub -- his calmest, quietest time of the day. It actually worked very well!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:6-7


Thanksgiving, Bass Pro & Bon-Fires

Micah had a great Thanksgiving at Mimi & Papa's (Vince's parents) in Mississippi -- before long he'll be making his own smores, traipsing through the woods and shooting BB guns with his cousins.
(glad he's still little...mama wasn't ready for all that this year...oh dear...)


One Year Ago, TODAY!!!!!

This sweet baby was in our in-box:
And, here he is today!!!

Blessed be the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen.
Ps. 89:52


ready for HOMES

For those of you considering an adoption from Ethiopia, our agency has children 4-years old and older ready for placement. If you would like more info, please email me at themartins@awaa (dot) org.


Despite the surprises...

...we strive forward in the call of adoption. Eyes wide-open, yet hearts tender. We have witnessed the need--it is now carved into our souls. Yet, instead of closing the blinds, we have flung-wide our doors...Heavenly Father, make Your home with us...and bring whomever you shall.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”


surprising difficulties of international adoption, #4

The final surprise (at least, that I'm sharing in this series) that we experienced with Micah happened during our first several weeks with him.

Again, the best comparison I can make is to that of an engagement. Over the years, Vince and I have had the privilege of counseling engaged couples as they prepare for marriage. And the reality is for most couples, their unfolding marriage is not what they were expecting...sometimes it's better, easier than expected...but, most often it's much more difficult. Difficult doesn't equal bad. Difficult simply reflects the fact that humans are physically, emotionally and spiritually-complex beings -- therefore, marriage is a complex institution. Multi-dimensional.

The same goes for bringing a child into your family through adoption. (NOTE: even though we do not have biological children, families who do have bio children have also experienced this scenario that I am about to describe with their adopted children.)

Prior to meeting your child/ren, you've bonded with their photos...and you've bonded with the child that your imagination has created. It is impossible to predict personality and temperament from pictures, so your mind connects a personality and temperament to the child/ren according to how you brain reads the limited data captured on film.

The real child is much different than the two-dimensional, glossy child. Much more complex.

You've been full-steam ahead...focused intensely on meeting your sweet child. Um, well, your imagined child, that is. But when you're united, the imagined child crashes into the real child -- and you immediately enter what is best described as a fog.

Once you're back to the familiarity of your own home, you do emerge from the fog. But not really as mommy, more like baby-sitter -- because you do not know this child.

I think I read about this phenomenon in adoptive-parenting books. But like the dreamy-eyed lover, I must have ignored all that I read because this stage caught me off-guard. I truly felt like Micah's baby-sitter. Jet-lag and Micah's anxiety about his new surroundings didn't help matters either. I grieved and experienced intense guilt because of what I was feeling: was there something wrong with me because I did not have an instantaneous and deep emotional bond with him??

The answer is: NO!!!

What I was experiencing was completely normal. Social workers affirmed that it was normal. Other adoptive families who were united with their children after us also experienced the very same thing. Now, I know some of you who are reading this are thinking: Nope! Won't be me. I'll just read more books, pray harder. I will instantly bond with my children. None of this "baby-sitter" nonsense for me. All I can say is, keep me posted. Let me know if you do by-pass the baby-sitter season. Well, never mind -- don't bother. I probably won't believe you. I'll probably just attribute your victory to a "referral euphoria" relapse.

I don't share this (or surprises #1-3) to scare you, or deter you. It's just the way it is. You will over-come each surprise that you experience in your adoption...some later than sooner. But you will be stronger, more informed because of each surprise you encounter. So don't dread them, or even worse, deny them...embrace them. You are human -- your child/ren is human. All human relationships develop in a linear fashion -- and include the linear elements of time and experience. And this will hold true for your adoption...it will hold true for you, and your child. So give yourself, and your child, time and space to grow.

That's what adoption is: the process of fulfilling a life-long commitment. Through your obedience to your commitment, life-long blessing will follow.

Indescribable blessing.


surprising difficulties of international adoption, #3

In-Country Experience:

This was another one that caught me off-guard. From the first moment we arrived in Ethiopia, I felt totally conspicuous. Of course, for obvious reasons: two white faces in a sea of brown ones. I had experienced this before during our travels to China and Central America. But this time my self-awareness was a little harder to brush-off.

Much of what I wrestled with was probably my own imagination. However, I simply couldn't keep from thinking that every set of chocolate eyes which glanced our direction pegged us as an adoptive family. No, "adoptive family" isn't a bad word -- but it is probably a painful reminder.

I wanted to paint a sign, and hang it around my neck, saying:
...We're not rich Americans who are adopting because it's the cool thing to do!!
...We love Ethiopia, and we will teach our son his culture and traditions!!
...We are doing more than adopting, but in ways you cannot see! We are supporting projects in Ethiopia to promote spiritual and social improvements!
...We value the people of Ethiopia, and want to see your nation conquer poverty, famine and disease!!

The glances that most often sent my own eyes toward the ground were the ones from women...especially, young women. Some of them probably weren't married, so not having children of their own. Or, maybe they did have children...but unable to care for them. And here I am with this beautiful Ethiopian child...
The whole experience just made my heart ache...in ways that I am unable to put into words.

And then came time to board our flight...to the US...on the other side of the world. It was all I could do to remain composed as we stood in line to check our luggage...more heavy glances. I grieved for the people of Ethiopia...I grieved for my son. Sin is a wicked thing -- no one is beyond its devastation. Except Jesus, and oh, how I praise God for that!!

The people of Ethiopia are most gracious. And I do know they understood what we were doing, and why it was so. But the fact that it was so...that's what ripped my heart.

But even in our own lives, it's often hard to perceive how God is redeeming the devastation that sin has left us with. But, one-child by one-child...whether through adoption, sponsorship, or able-biological families...I believe God is redeeming the devastation that has swept Africa. I believe that He is using His Own Adopted Children to "repay" this beautiful, precious continent for "the years that the locust have eaten." It may be generations before we see the effects. Or like Abraham, we as adoptive parents my not live to see the effects...but I still trust that salvation has come to Africa -- and as arrows in a quiver, God will release His Children...our children...to proclaim freedom to the captives!

Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,

the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
Joel 2:23-27


surprising difficulties of international adoption, #2

Court (this one may be Ethiopia-specific):

When you finally submit your dossier (application and documentation) to the country you wish to adopt from, you become increasingly obsessed with receiving a referral (ie- matched with a child/ren). It's practically all you can think about -- kind of like a bride anticipating her wedding day. (And we've all known an obnoxious bride, or two.) And to intensify matters, family and friends are constantly asking, "any news yet?" So, really, there are very few moments when you're not actively anticipating the call from your agency.

You begin to tell yourself (and even begin to tell God): if we could just get our referral I'll be able to handle anything that follows. Ohhhh, waiting for our referral is the hard part...once I finally see that face, my referral-day euphoria will enable me to patiently wait for months before I hold him/her.

(Hang on -- I need to laugh out loud for a moment before I continue -- hahahahahahahahahaha -- OK, I'm composed now)

Referral-day euphoria? Unfortunately, it's not long-lived. You kick into high-gear preparing for you child. All the while, realizing -yes- this is really happening. Kind of like the first week back from your honeymoon: your sweet hubby really does expect dinner on the table every night.
Day-dreamin' is over.
Although you're more than happy to have dinner ready by 5pm every night, it's still a good dose of reality! And same goes for adoption. There is an ebb-and-flow of this is really happening!

And then in the midst of frantically getting ready for your trip and your child, another reality sets in: court. What?? You mean our adoption is not down-hill from here...didn't accepting our child's referral finalize the adoption?? uh...NO! You've thought little about court before the referral; it wasn't a major source of anxiety. At least not until now. Isn't funny how we always default to: yeah, x-y-z may have been a nightmare for that family, but it won't be for us. No worries.

Well, you're assigned a court date, and as that day approaches, you do begin to fret!!
Oh no, maybe we will be that family with the nightmare story.

Referral-day euphoria? What's that?

OK, I realize I'm sounding really dramatic at this point, but this was completely what I experienced. Anticipating court was terrifying for me. There were so many variables that had to be in place. I just couldn't imagine how they could all come together like they needed to.

And do you know what? They didn't.

Let me deflate the drama. Our adoption was finally granted on our 4th court appearance (actually, our agency's 4th appearance, with our POA). It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. Yes, we had signed our acceptance letter -- but the Ethiopian judge had the final decision. There was a chance our adoption request could have been denied. Albeit a slim one, but still... Ethiopian courts don't arbitrarily grant or deny adoptions -- they make their decision based on the facts. Is there sufficient evident to prove this child/ren is an orphan? And, in our case, it took several weeks to gather sufficient evidence.

In hind-sight, we are thankful for how Micah's story unfolded. The court delays and evidence gathered will help Micah process his story. And, oh how did God stretch, deepen our faith. We would not trade the journey through court with our Heavenly Father for any other senario. But needless to say, the whole court thing was surprisingly difficult.

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’
For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”’
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.
And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Luke 18:1-8


surprising difficulties of international adoption, #1

Age and Gender :

Since our first adoption would also be our first experience parenting, it made sense that we would request to adopt an infant (~0-12mos). Even our social worker and agency encouraged us in this decision. I believe most social workers/adoption agencies recommend families to adopt children within age-ranges that they've had previous experience with -- however, there are always exceptions to this recommendation.

Vince and I were confident that adopting an infant was the right decision for us. That said, our firm decision still did not shelter us from sadness. Sadness that our narrow age-range EXCLUDED SO MANY CHILDREN. There was a hint of consolation because we did not specify a gender, but the age-range request still left a sinking feeling in my stomach.

We had to put this request in writing with China, Ethiopia, and once again with our 2nd Ethiopia adoption. The third-time around, it was even harder. Probably because we've seen first-hand the children whose chances of being adopted grow slimmer and slimmer every morning that they rise...because they are one day older.

Vince and I had a serious discussion about this very heart-ache just last week. Vince feels that at this point, that it's important to establish a birth-order for our children. And I agree. At least I think I do?? For for some reason, I continue to be haunted by that "check here for infant". I suppose my struggle is really more of a spiritual one: how can we trust God to sovereignly place an infant into our family, but not trust Him to be sovereign over an older child joining our family. Somehow, that our adopting an older child is beyond His realm of expertise?? I know. That's ridiculous! Birth order is not sovereign...God is sovereign.

But, that said, we continue to move ahead, establishing a birth order. At least for now. We do trust God's discernment and wisdom, and we do believe His discernment and wisdom have led us to our decision. We also trust...anticipate...our concern for older children is a seed He has planted. And when the time is right, He will cause that seed to bloom. We have no idea what the blossom will look like. But for now He has left us with an aching, a longing for older children without families -- and we fully expect that our Heavenly Father will graciously put this aching into action according to His perfect will!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isa 55:8-11


it's time : ORPHAN SUNDAY!!!

Today :
Pray for orphans

Today :
Commit to financially support orphans (www.my2999.blogspot.com)

Today :
Commit to support emotionally, prayerfully, financially someone you know who is adopting/fostering


Cut Loose

Before I dive into the difficulties of international adoption (as promised), I thought I'd start off by describing as least one of the joys. FYI, they do out-number the difficulties.
One of the most amazing experiences (as least for me--every journey is different) I am actually finding very hard putting into words.

Cut-loose. Freed.

There's a part of me that's always been very driven toward materialism/consumerism/what-do people-think-about-me-ism. It's not that I've cared so much about keeping up with The Jones--again, finding it hard to put what was into words. I've just always liked stuff and it's cheap thrills.

But through our adoption and our trip to Ethiopia (and even prior mission trips) this shallowness has gradually been replaced with more a enduring and meaningful pursuit.

I guess another way to describe it is like a leaving-and-cleaving from secular culture...in the world, but no longer of the world. Guess it's what Scripture calls "death to self". And this experience hasn't been painful at all! It's been liberating!! My thoughts and desires have been liberated...no longer concerned...consumed...with the American Dream (whatever that is). God is giving my existence more and more fully to His work. Decisions that once were difficult are now becoming no-brainers. Living is just becoming more simple--not always easier--just more simple. I don't have as many options suffocating me.

Oh, I hope I am making a grain of sense. Yes, bringing Micah home has been an experience beyond words, but he has been the floor of my experience...the ceiling is still out of sight! Everyday, my moments with Micah God uses to redeem and refocus my thoughts, desires, pursuits...it's all been just the beginning of a much bigger picture!!

But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”––
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them
because they are spiritually discerned.
The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
2 Cor 2: 9-13


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