Friday, July 30, 2010

Another week down.

Since breaking my leg, it seems that the days just crawl by.  I've been reading, watching movies, playing games on our Wii,  and working on a quilt that I started about 3 years ago. 

While we are still waiting to get matched with a child, we have decided on her name.  I want to make something to hang on the wall in here room that has her name on it and some kind of inspirational saying or verse.  Something that conveys she's always been loved and wanted and that God will always be with her.  I've had several bible verses go through my mind, and I've looked through a book of poetry that my mom gave me when I got married.  Nothing has jumped out yet.  Any suggestions?

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Have you ever considered child sponsorship?

There has been a lot more talk in churches these days about adoption, thanks in part to Russell Moore's book, Adopted for Life.  Maybe you have an interest in helping orphans, but you are not at a place in your life when you can adopt.  There are other ways to help children in need.  After we began the adoption process, I began to feel that we needed to sponsor a child as well.  Child sponsorship helps keep families together.  In a number of countries, parents in poverty are faced with the difficult heart-wrenching decision to raise their child or place the child in an orphanage because they cannot afford to raise their child.  I also thought it would be a good way for our adopted child to interact with another child in her native country.  We thought we'd wait until our child was old enough to be included in the process from the start, but we decided to sign up last week.

There are a number of organizations that do child sponsorship, and we decided to sign up with Compassion International.  Each child that Compassion works with will have the opportunity to receive Bible teaching, health education, school supplies, health screenings, clothes, and food.  Each child has only one sponsor, and your child will write to you three times a year. It costs $38 a month to sponsor a child with Compassion International, and sponsorship typically lasts until the child is 18-22 years old.  There are other organizations, such as Bethany Christian Services, where more than one person can sponsor a child and your monthly expense is only about $15.  You get to choose the child you sponsor.  First you decide upon a country, then you choose a child.  It was not easy to choose a child.

After going to Haiti in April, I began to think more and more about what James and I spend our money on.   Americans spend a lot of money each month on things that we do not need, such as cable television, pedicures, manicures, expensive hair treatments, massages, cosmetic surgery, expensive home renovations, and the list could go on and on.  I believe that Christians should take what they spend their money on seriously.  What eternal benefit are those granite countertops going to have?  What eternal benefit are you going get out of a face lift or other cosmetic surgery?  Are those things part of caring out the great commission?  I'm not at all saying that it is sinful to get nice things or spa treatments, and there are cases where cosmetic surgery is truly needed.  (Burn victims for example.)  Sometimes getting a manicure can turn into a ministry opportunity, as you get to converse with your manicurist.  Just think about your motives when you spend your money on something that you don't really need before you do it.  I bet many of us could find a little money in our monthly budgets that could be used to help further the gospel, if we looked.

We just received our first packet of information from Compassion.  We chose a 9 year old Ethiopian boy to sponsor, and we received a photo of him and a little information about where he lives.  There was a DVD about Compassion International in the packet that I'll be happy to pass on to you if you are interested in child sponsorship.  Leave me a comment asking for the DVD and I'll see that you get it.

He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.  Proverbs 28:27 (NIV)
". . .and whoever welcomes a little child like this is My name, welcomes Me."
Matthew 18:5

Monday, July 26, 2010

Her name will be. . .

James and I have finally decided on a name for our daughter.

Samantha Eva

Samantha means "listener of God," and it is our prayer that she will listen for God's voice throughout her life and grow to be a devout follower of Christ.  Eva means "life."

She will named after people who were and are dear to us.  James' grandfather is known as "Sam" to his friends.  His given name is Carl.  So where did the name Sam come from?  Well, here's the story as I know it.  He was born the youngest of five children, and there was quite an age gap between him and his next sibling.  After naming the older four children, his mother was just out of names.  But one thing she knew for sure.  She did not like the name Sam at all.  A few days passed after his birth, and she still had not decided upon a name.  The older children began to bother her about what the baby's name would be.  She replied that she still didn't know, but just didn't want to name him Sam.  So siblings being siblings, they began to call him Sam, and it stuck.  He is dear to both us, and we have both learned valuable lessons from him.  One of the best holiday memories I have with James' family is gathering together at his grandparent's house at Christmas and reading the Nativity story from Luke together.

Eva was my grandmother's first name.  She passed away when I was 12 years old, but I remember her as being a kind, patient, hardworking woman.  I spent a lot if time at her house as a child, and she was the person who introduced me to coffee.  Whenever we'd go over to her house for dinner, we'd always have coffee with dessert.  I remember as a small child, probably about 5 years old, getting my own special cup of coffee from her.  She'd put extra creamer or milk in it along with some sugar.  Not the best thing for a 5 year old, but I always enjoyed getting my coffee from Grandma.  Isn't part of the fun of going to grandma's house getting special treats that you don't get at home?

Friday, July 23, 2010

A New Book

I've been doing some reading while I recuperate and just started a new called Meaning at the Movies, becoming a Discerning Reader.  It's kind of an interactive book.  The author, Grant Horner, writes about a number of movies and recommends that you watch them first.  He has tried to avoid spoilers, but you will get more out of the book if you watch the movies first.  We added the movies that he writes about to our Netflix cue.

This is not a book that just the do's and don'ts of watching movies for Christians.  Neither is it a list of acceptable movies for Christians.  The author's goal is to provide a biblical perspective on how Christians should interpret what is seen and heard in the movies.  Here's an excerpt from the book where that author explains his intentions:

The purpose of this book is to help us think through these kinds of questions in regard to movies.  Why do we think the way we do about the world?  Is filmmaking an art, in the classical sense?  Is it philosophy is some technological advanced form?  How influential are movies, really?  Can they have a bad effect on us?  Can they promote virtue in any way?  How do we think in a biblical and theologically rich way about film in general and movies in particular?  And why is film so incredibly powerful? 

As a Christian myself I have gone from watching anything I wanted to see, giving little regard to the content, to totally avoiding R rated movies.  It is a tricky balance to be in the world but not of the world.  We must make ourselves available to reach out to an converse with the lost world around us.  Christians surely should not watch every movie that is made, but avoiding movies altogether would be just as bad.  Movies are social events, where we can converse about the movie with other individuals and express our opinions of the film.  Movies also give us a way to engage culture.  They are a way to see the world through the eyes of people who do not share your beliefs.

Here's the web page where I first heard about the book:  Justin Taylor

For more fun reading, head over to  Home Sanctuary.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Toddler Adoption - The Weaver's Craft

Our adoption agency requires adoptive parents-to-be to read a few books about the special needs that adopted children may have.  I am finally finished reading the books that we chose.  The last book that I read was Toddler Adoption, the Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best.  I found this book to be informative and eye-opening.  The author adopted a toddler from Peru, and she writes about her experience with him after he first came home.  She also incorporates the experiences of other families who adopted toddlers.  Some of the topics discussed include bonding and attachment, behavior management, development, and parenting the grieving toddler.

Early in the book Best challenges you to think about what has motivated you to adopt a toddler.  Is it because the wait time for a toddler is shorter than that of an infant?  Is it because there are no infants available for adoption in the country that you are adopting from?  Is it because you think that a toddler will not keep you awake at night like an infant will?  It is because you think that a toddler will already be toilet trained and more independent?  She points out that those are all poor reasons for wanting to adopt a toddler.  A toddler is just as capable as an infant is at keeping you awake at night and they may not be toilet trained.  You should adopt a toddler because you truly love that stage of development and have the resources to meet the emotional needs that a toddler will have.

Here are some notes from the book:
  • Children who have been severely neglected learn at an early age to count on no one but themselves.
  • Children can become attached very strongly to a caregiver - even one who provides a poor quality of care.  If a child is not adequately prepared an gradually transitioned to their new adoptive parents, the parents are more likely to be viewed as the enemy rather than potential love objects.  Prospective parents need to consider whether their hearts can handle unreciprocated love. Many adopted toddlers are anything but happy, sometimes for months and months.  
  • Adopted toddlers may little or no experience making decisions or playing.  Some may become alarmed at the presence of their new dad because they have never had a male caregiver before.
  • When your child asks why their birth mother could not raise them, it is important to discuss er inability to care for ANY child, not just them.  (I don't how this applies in cases where the birth mom has older children at home, but chose to part with her toddler.)
  • It may unnecessary to limit a newly adopted toddler's interaction with other adults until he becomes attached to his new family.
  • Some parents reported that their adopted toddler formed a bond with the family pet long before they became comfortable with signs of affection from their family members.  (This makes me wonder if having a pet speeds up the attachment process.)
  • Adopted toddlers may have no sense of ownership.  They may not have ever experienced having their own clothes, toys, or bed.
  • Children adopted before the age of two display similar mental health as birth children during the teen years.
  • Toddlers who have experienced hunger may be fearful of experiencing it again.  They may try to hoard food in their room.  It may be comforting for them to keep a small stash of nonperishable food in their room.
  • Having a routine is comforting for children.  They are reassured by knowing what is expected of them and by counting on their parents to respond in predicable ways.  
  • Many toddlers can be overwhelmed by their new home.  Even having an over abundance of toys can over stimulate them.  Parents can eliminate a number of behavior problems by simplifying the child's environment.
  • A portion of the book is devoted to discipline methods.  The author discourages the use of spanking and time-outs in children who are not firmly attached to their parents.
  • Adoptive parents may experience feelings similar to what is felt in post-partum depression.  This is called post-adoption stress.  Many adults have a hard time adjusting to the life style changes that parenting brings about.  Parents may feel disappointed or stressed over the physical appearance or behavior of their toddler upon meeting them for the first time.
  • The author discusses different types of therapy that might be beneficial and gives advice on choosing a therapist.
The book gave me a lot to think and pray about.  

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    A Tribute to Gibby

    Gibby was my mother and father-in-laws' dog, and they had to say good-bye to her last week on account of her failign health.  Gibby came to them as a foster dog in late 1998.  She had gotten into a fight at the local dog shelter, and she needed a place to recuperate from her injuries.  Her injuries are what inspired her name - she was chewed up like giblets.  Thus the name Gibby (pronounced Jibby).  After some time, she recovered, and she found her way into our hearts.

    Gibby was a lab mix, and she loved to do the things that Labradors like to do.  She chased squirrels, birds, and rabbits.  Much to my mother-in-law's dismay, she even caught a few birds.  Once, after it had rained, Gibby saw her opportunity to catch a live crawfish.  She was successful, and she ate her prize whole.  Unfortunately, that is not how crawfish are meant to be consumed, and she was sick for a day or two. One year when James and and had gone to visit his parents for Easter, his mom, Fay, had made a batch of sugar cookies.  There weren't just regular sugar cookies, though.  The Easter bake sale for the Humane Society was approaching, and these cookies were shaped like bunnies, iced and decorated.  They were adorable.  Fay had placed them on small trays and put them on the dinning room table so the icing could harden just a bit before the bake sale the next day.  Each tray held six cookies.  The next morning when we got up, there were three cookies missing from one of the trays.  Fay assumed James was the culprit - perhaps he had gotten hungry in the night and had the cookies for a snack.  Then she saw crumbs on the floor and realized that it was Gibby who had stolen the cookies!  At least one dog benefited from those cookies, even if they couldn't be sold for the Humane Society.  We all got a good laugh out of Gibby that day.

    Gibby was generally a quite dog for most her life.  She did not bark much.  One night when I was there visiting, I had taken her outside to feed her.  She got so animated knowning she was about to get her Alpo.  I reached for the can to open it, and she barked.  It startled me a little, because I don't think I had ever heard her bark up close like that before.

    We will all miss her.  My dogs will miss her too.  Anytime death shows its painful head, I think of the Narnia Chronicals by Lewis.  In the last book, the world has been renewed and life is as it should be, no sin, no pain, no death.  Man and beast live peacefully together.  We have the promises of God to cling to that the world will be remade and there will be no death someday.

    Isaiah 65:25
    "The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD.  (NASB)

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Reflections on our Adoption Journey

    This is part four of a series of posts about our how we got started on the road to adoption and some things that we've done along the way that I didn't have time to write about at the time because I was swimming in a sea of paperwork.  You can find the other posts here.

    How we shared the news with our families. . .
    We had told our parents that we had though about adoption, but we waited until our application had been approved with our agency before telling them that we were adopting.  We decided to send them a letter in the mail.  I found this paper at Office Depot, and that is what we printed our letter on. 

    Here's a portion of the letter:
    "We have some exciting news to share with you.  We have been talking about starting a family for well over a year. . . We realize that God has blessed us with so much – God fearing families, a stable marriage, good jobs, a home in a safe neighborhood.  We hope to use what God has blessed us with to make a difference in a child’s life.  Through adoption, we hope to be the hands of feet of Christ to a child.  The Bible has a lot to say about caring for orphans.  Here are a couple of examples.

    James 1:27 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 being polluted by the world.

    Deuteronomy 10:18 He (God) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

    We have not written off having a biological child one day, but we hope our first child will be adopted.  We have applied with Bethany Christian Services to adopt from Ethiopia, and we just found out that our application has been accepted."

    Along with the letter, we sent a small Ethiopian flag - to serve as a reminder to pray for the child that would one day be a part of our family.  We also sent our parents a copy of Adopted for Life, by Russell Moore.  We had read the book, and we were touched by it.

    We packed up the letters and flags and sent them to our close family - aunts, uncles, grandparents, James' bother, and some of our cousins.  We mailed our parent's packages a day or two before everyone else's because we wanted for them to receive the news first.  We told them to expect something in the mail from us, and we asked them to call us when they open it.

    My parents got their package first, and James' got theirs the next day with the rest of the family soon following.  Everyone was thrilled.  Our parents did share some of the same concerns about having an interracial family that we had ourselves, but they were delighted to know that a grandbaby was finally on the way.  It felt great to share our news and it felt even better to have the support of our family.  We had been praying for several months about adopting from Ethiopia, and we had been praying for God to give our families the same convictions that He had given us.  It was so encouraging to see Him at work in the hearts of our loved ones.

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    What we've been up to

    It has been several weeks since I've linked up for Company Girl Coffee.  These past several weeks have been busy, and we had to deal with un unexpected turn of events. My husband and I celebrated our night wedding anniversary.  I have a couple of posts about it here.  Then we went on vacation.  I thought it would be nice to have one last trip together before we had kids.  We took a road trip out west.  Our destination was Yellowstone, and we had planned to spend the night in Rapid City, South Dakota on the way there and then in Denver on the way home.  Our first full day in Yellowstone, we had scheduled a full day of horseback riding.  That is when things went south.  The first 2/3 of the day was fine, except that James' horse was not in a great mood.  He wanted to get off the trail and turn around and go the other way.  We stopped for lunch mid-day and then we rode for another hour or two.  Then something spooked James' horse and it took off running.  James fell off, but he was not injured too badly. All that commotion spooked my horse and he took off too.  I pulled the reins back as hard as I could, to no avail.  I fell off and hit the ground hard.  James came running.  I was pretty sure my left ankle was broken, but before I could to a hospital, we had to get back to the road-on horseback.  Riding a horse for three hours with a broken leg and broken ankle was miserable.  I was terrified to even get back on the horse, but there was no other option.  I did switch horses with our guide, which made me feel a little better.  Our guide also tied my horse to hers, so I would not have to steer the horse.  I prayed throughout the ride for God to keep the horses calm, and I was so thankful when we made it back to our car.  I had surgery the next morning and then we got to go back to the park the day after that.  We made the best of it, and we still had the chance to see some breathtaking scenery.

    I've been spending my time at home.  I had to take short-term disability leave at work.  Last week, my parents and grandmother came and stayed with us for several days.  They were a big help.  They did the laundry, cooked, cleaned, and my dad helped James with the yard work.  I've been working a project that I started several years ago.  I thought this would be a nice time to finish it.  Here's an old post about it:  a quilt in the making.

    We're going to try to go see a movie tonight.  I've felt good today, so I hope I can make it.  I haven't left the house since Sunday, and I'm ready for an outing.

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Adoption Update

     The last time I wrote about news from our agency, we had just found out that we'd have to travel to Ethiopia twice.  You can find that post here.  That was back in March, and we'd been waiting for a while for answers to some of the questions that news had raised for us.  It was hard not knowing, and we still know that this information that we've been may change.  We wanted know what we would and would not be able to do with our child during our first trip for the court appearance.  We finally got most of those questions answered.  Here's the information our agency has given us:

    Families will have 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the afternoon at their child's orphanage to visit/play/interact with their child daily while they are in-country for their court date.

    Families will not be allowed to take children outside of the orphanage during this visit.

    Families will not be able to meet/visit their child's birth family during their court trip. This meeting/visit will need to take place during the family's trip for the Embassy interview.

    There is no guarantee that we will be able to meet our child's birth family.  If there are any birth relatives alive, they will be present in court at the same time we are, but we will not be allowed to interact with them at that time.  We will have the option to travel to see them when we travel to Ethiopia to pick up our child.   I've heard from other families who have already been down this road, that it was not feasible to make the trip even then, because it was too far from the city the orphanage was located in. . .there just was not enough time.  I cases where children have been abandoned, it is typically not known who the birth family is.  We hope we will get the chance to meet our child's birth family, because it will help us answer questions that our child we will have about them as she gets older.

    Other news that we've recieved lately . . .
    • the courts in Ethiopia close every year during the rainy season.  This year they will be closed from August 6 - September 27.
    • The court now requires birth certificates issued by districts/kebeles (local areas of government in cities/villages around the country) when the cases are submitted to court. This was not a requirement until now (previously birth certificates were not required until after the court approved the case, in preparation for the Embassy interview). The districts/kebeles are not used to issuing birth certificates.  Hence, this is something new that they have started to practice, and therefore will take them some time to "ramp up" to get things moving along at a quicker pace.
    • A photo of birth parents or guardians is required to be attached along with the child's photo to the document that has the life history of the child when the files are opened at court. Formerly, only the child’s photo was required to be attached. This is not a requirement for abandonment cases. Thus getting the birth parents/guardians photos is another step in the process that will take time - getting these photos may (or may not) be easy, convenient, financially difficult - there are many possible barriers that could impede families from being able to do this quickly. 

    We do not feel discouraged by any of this news, even though these changes might make the process take a little longer.  We know that we will be home with our child in God's time, and we were happy to learn that we will be able to visit with our child for 3 hours each day of our first trip to Ethiopia.

    By they way, we have finally chosen a name. . .that announcement will be coming soon!

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Springs

    We entered the park at the North Entrance, where we got to drive through the Roosevelt Arch.  The cornerstone of the arch was laid bu President Teddy Roosevelt.  At the top of the arch, it reads "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people."  That is me standing in front of it, just to give you an idea of how tall it is.

    We drove to our hotel and got checked in.  That first night there we stayed at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.  One wing of the hotel was constructed in 1911 and the rest of it was built in 1937.  It had been renovated in 1997, but many of the original fixtures had been kept - including the sink on our room.It took me a minute to figure out how to use it!  It had two faucets on it - one for hot water and one for cold water, and they were not close enough to each other so that the water would form one stream.

    After checking in, we decided to do some sightseeing before sunset.  The scenery was amazing.  Our first stop was the Hymen Terrace.

    The tall conical structure, "Liberty Cap" is named after the conical hats that we given to freed Roman slaves.  It is an extinct (no longer active) hot spring cone. It is estimated to be 2500 years old.

    The colors and patterns of the terraces are caused by microorganisms and to a lesser extent, mineral deposits.  Thermophilic bacteria thrive in the hot water of the springs.

    Devil's thumb and Palette Hot Spring
    Once the travertine surrounds a tree, the tree begins to die. 

    When the spring at a terrace becomes inactive, the terrace turns white.  With no hot water, there is no bacteria to provide the color.

    We could feel the heat of the hot springs if we were close enough.  The average temperature of the hot springs is 163 F.  This was one of my favorite parts of the park because the landscape was almost alien.  It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
    Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    South Dakota (part two)

    After we left Mount Rushmore, we visited the Crazy Horse Monument.  Work began on the monument in 1948, and it is no where near completion.  Here is a model of what it will look like when it is finished:
    We watched a short film about the history of the monument and sculptor who began the work.  The work today is carried on my his children.  There was an interesting museum of Native American artifacts.  I could have spent more time there, but we had more on the agenda that day, so we couldn't stay long.  Here are a few pictures from the museum. 

    After we left Crazy Horse, we had lunch in Hill City and the Bumpin' Buffalo.
    Next stop was the Badlands.  We just drove through the park and stopped here and there for pictures.

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    South Dakota (part one)

    Our first stop on our trip out west was in South Dakota.  We drove from St. Louis to Rapid City, SD in one day.  The drive was over 900 miles.  We stopped for dinner at in Wall, SD at Wall Drug.  I had never heard of the place, but James had - and we passed hundreds of billboards for it while driving across South Dakota.  It was incredible.  The area was like a small village.  The place began in the 1930's when a pharmacist opened a drug store, and it has grown.  There are places to shop, eat, and play.  I bought a couple of souvenirs there.

     The little house heads lined the parking area.  There were posts to to tie a horse up to, but there was no horses.

    We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast outside of Rapid City called Coyote Blues for two nights.  The couple that owned it moved there from Switzerland, and they were very nice.  Our room was one of the smaller ones, but that was fine with us.  I don't think the house had air conditioning.  We had a ceiling fan in our room and we slept that the fan an of the window open.  Both mornings we were there, breakfast was very good.  We had fruit, granola, and yogurt mixed together along with something hot.  One morning it was an egg casserole and the next we had baked custard with fruit.  We had a day to see the sights, and we packed a lot into that one day.

    We saw a number of these signs, but we didn't see any bighorn sheep.
    We passed this lovely lake.  There were a few people here fishing and there places to have a picnic.
     We visited Mount Rushmore. We spent about an hour there, but there was a museum that we didn't visit.

    On the way from the entrance to the lookout pavilion, we walked through this area.  Each state's flag is displayed with the state's name and date it entered the union inscribed on the column.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010

    Our 9th Anniversary

    This post is a little late, but better late than never.  Our anniversary was in the middle of the week this year, which meant that we both had to work.  We exchanged gifts and went out for dinner at Lorenzo's Trattoria.  The past three years for our anniversary we've had dinner at one the the restaurants in St.Louis' Italian district.  There are so many good restaurants there!

    I gave James a new leather briefcase to carry to and from work.  He received a black canvas bag from Ameren when he started working there, and it was starting to look worn.  I found this one at Overstock.  The white that you see in the photo is just paper that was wrapped around the buckles to protect them during shipment. 

    After traveling to Haiti and having to leave my wedding ring at home for fear of losing it, I wanted a wedding band that was not costly that I could wear places I didn't want to wear my original ring.  James gave me this band.  It is made out of tungsten.  I really like it.  James also gave me a bouquet of flowers.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Arriving in Yellowstone

    Last Friday evening we arrived at Yellowstone. We stayed at Mammoth Springs Hotel that night. James went inside the hotel to check in & I waited in the car. I spotted a female elk while I was waiting & I got out to take some photos. James joined me when he got finished inside. We had about an hour before sunset, so we decided to do some sightseeing at the Mammoth terraces.

    It was amazing. I had never seen anything like it. The landscape had almost an alien appearance. These areas are travertine terraces. The ground in these areas is underlaino by limestone. Hot water from deep below disolves the limestone and carries it throug large cracks to the surface. As the water rises, the pressure decreases. That causes the water to cool & hot gas - mostly carbon dioxide. The water become supersaturated with calcium carbonate which becomes travertine at the surface.

    The air had a strange smell caused by hydrogen sulfide gas. I thought it smelled like rotten eggs.
    In the picture above, you see gray rock that has not been covered with travertine yet. The orange area is travertine.

    The trees die after the ground surrouding them becomes covered with travertine. In the photo below, there is a tree that is dying because the terrace is starting to form around it.

    We had a fun evening, but things took a turn for the worse on Saturday.