Thursday, May 31, 2012

Zeke Update-We have a Log in Date

Adoption Timeline for Zeke 
(Waiting child from an agency specific list)

Submit LOI (Letter of Intent) to China that identifies a child you'd like to adopt.  (Submitted LOI December 20)

Wait 1-4 weeks for Pre Approval/PA (Received January 3)

Complete homestudy and start assembling dossier (3-4 months)
*Complete homestudy (started mid December, homestudy completed by homestudy agency March 1)
*Send in I800a paperwork (can't apply for the I800a until you have your completed homestudy, application received by USCIS March 8)
*Be fingerprinted  (Received original fingerprint date of April 17, walked in to Omaha USCIS office to be fingerprinted April 5)
*Receive I800a approval  (Received verbal approval April 12, will hopefully have it in hand at the beginning of next week)
*Authenticate documents at the secretary of state's office  (All are done)
*Send documents to the US Department of State and then the Chinese Consulate  (Have to have the I800a approval authenticated by the secretary of state before we can send our documents)

Send dossier to China on May 11 (DTC)  

Wait for LID (log in date) which is China acknowledging that your dossier has been received (LID of May 23)

Wait for LOA (Letter of Approval) which is China formally approving you as parents for your child-52 days is average wait

File I800, I864 (US immigration paperwork)

Wait for I800 approval (3 weeks)

Have I800 approval cabled to US Consulate in China (2 weeks)

Wait for Article 5 (2-3 weeks)

Wait for travel approval (TA), 2-4 weeks

Time frame to homecoming...definitely easier to predict than Haiti.  But there is still some wiggle room in all of this.  Our agency says 5 1/2 months.  Also when I first made my list, 52 days for LOA was being touted in several places as the average wait.  It seems like now the average is a bit longer more in the 60-90 day range.  I've been thinking December at the latest just to try to cushion the wait so I'm hopefully traveling sooner than expected.  5 1/2 months would put us at traveling the beginning of November.  A 60 day LOA wait would be right on track with that.  I would really like to avoid traveling around the holidays simply because the airfare is crazy high.  (And flying to China is already expensive.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Time + place = Say What?

At supper...
D was talking about his recent doctor's visit when Conleigh asked him if he got a sticker.  D answered that he didn't because he was too old for stickers.  Kenson then chimed in "You're not old.  You're skinny!"  I waded into those deep waters and asked what that meant and was told "well, if you're old, then you're fat."

On Saturday morning...
After watching a channel other than the commercial free Nick Junior or PBS kids, Kenson took one look at my laptap and told me it was made of aluminum and would not get broken if a car ran over.  (Aluminum wallet commerical, anyone?)

After a lively discussion between two parents...
I was talking with Conleigh about how being married doesn't mean you always agree, but it does mean that you will argue but love each other anyway.  She looked unimpressed, acted as if she perhaps didn't believe me,  and promptly told me that Mrs. Tranmer (her preschool teacher) didn't tell her that.

After being told someone's whining was hurting D's ears...
Conleigh left the room and quickly returned with a pair of headphones for her papa.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jen Hatmaker's Seven

"With good intentions but misguided theology, the church spends most of our time, energy, resources, prayer, words, programs, sermons, conferences, Bible studies, and attention on the feast, our own feast to be exact."

Truth?  Our churches in American are mostly about serving ourselves.  Yes, we say we are about serving others, about bringing others in to know Jesus.  And I do think we do that.  But I also wonder if we were to create a pie chart of just how much of the church's time was spent meeting the physical needs of others, what we would see?  I'm guessing just a small sliver would represent that, while the largest pieces would be dedicated to Sunday morning worship, Bible studies, kids' programming, etc..  Useful tools to bringing people to Jesus and for discipleship but some how that seems disproportionate to the amount of time we spend meeting the physical needs of the people around us.

I really struggled to read this because I know there has to be a balance.  I think discipleship within the church is huge.  But service should be a hallmark, something that sets us apart.  And too often we eat off of the feast of our church's discipleship programs while there is a famine of service.

"God may we be focused on the least, a people balancing the fasting and the feast."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jen Hatmaker's Seven

A challenge regarding idols...

What are mine?  What steals your affection and attention from God?  I liked Jen's take on Micah 6.  Walk humbly.  Seek God.   Daily.  Simply.  Quietly.  How might my idols fall away if I sought God daily, simply, quietly?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jen Hatmaker's Seven

A challenge regarding wealth, specifically in the context of Matthew 19:23-24.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Who are the rich?  Me?  Am I a rich person?  Am I a camel being kept from the eye of the need because my riches keep me from blessings that God intends for me?  Does my tight grip on my money and my possessions keep me away from those blessings and the real kingdom of God?  What opportunities am I creating for my kids to see us meet real needs in real ways?

Jen once spoke at a women's retreat and asked the women there to take off their shoes and leave them at the foot of the cross in order to share their blessings (their shoes) with those who do not have any.  I loved this story because it was about thinking outside of the box.  It's easy for me to be so narrow minded that I miss the need right in front of me.  I tithe each month or I think about going on a mission trip but I don't stop to see how God might be wanting to use me or my resources today, in THIS moment.  How often do I have something extra that I really don't need, that I desire to get rid of, but instead of giving it away, I sell it?  How often do I only donate my cast offs (ie my still have life in them but really not my best stuff) rather than giving away something that was really like new?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jen Hatmaker's Seven

Thoughts from Seven:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

What things represent excess in my own life?

Jen focused on clothing, shopping, waste, food, possessions, media, and stress as areas she feels prone to excess.

It is easy for me to pat myself on the back and say "I don't have a huge DVD collection.  I weed through my closet often.  I don't hoard books or kitchen gadgets or knick knacks."

But the reality is I know there is excess.  My shoes?  (I have maybe 30 pairs which to some sounds like a lot but to others sounds like a reasonable amount.)

My clothes?

The stuff that's stored in my basement?

And mostly I wonder about money.  Does a cash stockpile honor God?  Does retirement planning honor God?  (I know the theory behind retirement planning for Christians.  Save not just to provide for your own needs but so you can give a generous gift later.  Or save so you are in the position to give freely instead of being unable to give because you have spent it all.)  But does amassing a hefty savings account eliminate an element of trust in God?  And does it become hoarding as you watch others go down in flames around you, while you sit on comfortably on your nest egg?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Jen Hatmaker's Seven

More thoughts on Seven:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

One of the threads that runs through almost every chapter of this book is the question "What if I believed every dollar spent is vital, a potential soldier in a war on inequality?"

How would this impact my wardrobe?

How would this impact what I eat?

How would this impact the house I live in, the car I drive, where I buy my kid's school clothes, what things I invest in?

And most importantly, what am I worshipping with my money?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jen Hatmaker's Seven

I've been reading Seven:  An Experminental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker for my quiet times.  Maybe not your normal quiet time reading but I have definitely enjoyed the book.  It's along the lines of Crazy Love and Radical (which I have not read but have a pretty good idea about) except it's more practical.  It is the author saying "I have been challenged to love in crazy ways, to live in radical ways and here's what I did."  She is not saying everyone should do the things she did.  She is not saying it makes her a better Christian because she did certain things.  She is just telling her story, what she did, how it made her feel, how it affected her relationship with God and others.

It is a very conversational, "here I am, take me or leave me" read.  (I have enjoyed her writing style; it's very light  and has an easy pace to it.  Plus her sense of humor pokes its way out every now and again.)

This book is also honest.   For seven months, the author "fasted" from one area of excess.  For one month, she tried to fast from her usual diet and tried to eat only seven foods.  For one month, she pared down her spending and committed to only spend money (large bills like mortgage and electric aside) at seven place.  For one month, she chose seven pieces of clothing from her overflowing closet and wore those items alone. She is willing to say "I broke my rules by buying my kids' new shoes."  Or "I hate spinach!" because she was eating it so often.

It has intrigued me.  And made me think in a lot of ways about what excess is in my life.  Which has been very hard as we are building a new house which seems like complete excess to me in a lot of ways.   This house building stuff?  Prior to building our house, I struggled with balancing my wants with what is good stewardship with how the rest of the world lives.  I was struggling with it before but building a house has really stretched me, hoping I had not let my own desire for something shiny and new override the guiding principles in my life regarding stewardship.   How do you know when you are justifying something?  Is it wrong to say "well, it's not like we're installing granite countertops and an in ground pool?  We're going with laminate and the blow up variety of water based fun."

Regardless of my own personal conflicts, here's a few things I thought I would share, inspired by Jen's seven months of considering how might God have her live.  I've got a handful of things so I'll break them up over this week.

Here's the first one:

Jen starts the book with Isaiah 58:3, "Why have I fasted and You have not seen it?" She uses this verse to frame her writing, to say this book is not my attempt to get God's attention by pointing out how pious I am.  I really liked this because "fasted" is easily interchangeable with "good deeds" or "suffered" or "loved".  We are like a horde of little kids, clamoring to have God notice what we've been up to so that we can get the attention we feel we deserve.  It quickly becomes about us and not about the needs of those whom we may serve.   This book, in Jen's words, is about simplifying for God's glory.  I love that idea:  simplifying for God's glory.  Not so others will see and think highly of me.  Not so God will see and think better of me.  For His glory.

Friday, May 11, 2012

We are DTC!

DTC=Dossier to China

Now, what everyone will ask much longer?  I would say we are anywhere from 5-7 months from travel.  That would be with average time frames.

Please don't sigh.  Just please don't.  I know it sounds long to you.  After waiting for literally years for my other two, 5-7 months sounds like heaven.  I don't love that I'm missing out.  But I do believe it will go crazy fast.  If you consider that we committed to Zeke at the end of December which is basically 5 months ago, that time has just flown by.  It's hard to wait; I'm not minimizing it.  I'm just saying I'm okay with it because there isn't any other way for things to happen.

For those of you keeping score at home, here's the China adoption timeline:

Submit LOI (Letter of Intent) to China that identifies a child you'd like to adopt.  (Submitted LOI December 20)

Wait 1-4 weeks for Pre Approval/PA (Received January 3)

Complete homestudy and start assembling dossier (3-4 months)
*Complete homestudy (started mid December, homestudy completed by homestudy agency March 1)
*Send in I800a paperwork (can't apply for the I800a until you have your completed homestudy, application received by USCIS March 8)
*Be fingerprinted  (Received original fingerprint date of April 17, walked in to Omaha USCIS office to be fingerprinted April 5)
*Receive I800a approval  (Received verbal approval April 12, actual approval the following Monday.)
*Authenticate documents at the secretary of state's office
*Send documents to the US Department of State and then the Chinese Consulate  
Send dossier to China (DTC)

Wait for LID (log in date) which is China acknowledging that your dossier has been received (1-4 weeks)

Wait for LOA (Letter of Approval) which is China formally approving you as parents for your child-52 days is average wait

File I800, I864 (US immigration paperwork)

Wait for I800 approval (3 weeks)

Have I800 approval cabled to US Consulate in China (2 weeks)

Wait for Article 5 (2-3 weeks)

Wait for travel approval (TA), 2-4 weeks

Friday, May 4, 2012

Winners and Losers

Sometimes you just can't win.

Like yesterday.

Kenson and Conleigh had been upstairs running around and came down with their shirts off, complaining about sweating.  I noticed Conleigh wiping something in her hair and decided it must be milk because that was the only liquid nearby.  I asked her if she just put milk in her hair and she quickly answered yes.  When I told her that didn't seem like a very good idea, she quickly told me that the soccer boys squeezed stuff out of their drink bottles and put into their hair when they were hot and sweaty so she should be able to do the same.

Then at the end of the day, Kenson loudly shouted something about wanting to kill Zeke.  No malice intended; I honestly think he just says stuff to hear himself talk.  I reprimanded him, telling him that we don't talk like that even if we are kidding or if we think it's funny.  I told him that we are supposed to be showing others about God by the things we say and I asked him if God or Jesus would talk like that.  He nodded his head yes and then told me that God would of course talk like that because God made a flood that covered the whole earth and killed everyone.

So yes, they win.  They are right.  I am, well, not wrong but not right either.   I will not argue I'll just shake my head and exit stage left.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Video of Zeke

Look what I got in my email today..a video of Zeke.  We sent a package which had a photo album of our family and a gift of candy or tea for his foster family so I think this is him enjoying the candy from the package.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

God and Me-Good

This last week, a college student from a local college died as a result of an alcohol involved accident.  Tragic in so many ways.  But also a good reminder for me of what has been going on with God and me.  As I sat down with our church's college age group last week during Sunday school, I found myself having to talk about some of the things that have been going on in my own heart over the last 2-3 years.  Heavy stuff that we as Christians often don't talk about.  Because it's uncomfortable.  Because it might make us appear un Christian.  Because it's hard to put into words things that we can't explain.  Heavy stuff about God's Sovereignty, our own free will, and the bad things that happen in our lives.  I've actually avoided writing about the topic because if I had spent my time really sharing my thoughts, it would have just been a convilutated mess that would have left your head spinning.   (One spinning head-mine-is probably enough.)

Fast forward to today on the way into work, where I happened to hear a story on Christian radio that brought some of those feelings up once again.  In the real life story, an inexperienced pilot tried to land his personal plane in a strong tail wind and crashed.  As he came in for the crash landing, the plane went in between two trees and managed to avoid a head on collision with the trees.  Of course, Christian radio described this as a miracle and the pilot was ever so thankful that God rescued him.

Stories like that have become increasingly hard for me to hear.  Maybe because my own life stories have not seemed to have a miraculous redemption.  (At least not the ones that I like to feel sorry for myself about.)  And maybe because the cynic in me thinks "So the logical conclusion is that God loves him and is present in his life so God rescued him.  What then does it say when people aren't rescued, when God seems awfully absent?"

It also reminded me a bit of the hype that surrounds NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.  Much has been said about his faith and much has been said about the idea of God being on Tebow's team, that Tebow's faith somehow means God orchestrates success in Tebow's life.

I think when it comes to the sports comparison most of us think that is a bit ridiculous.  We are pretty sure God is not at work to make one team victorious.  But when it come to the pilot and his survival, we might be quick to nod our heads that God indeed intervened.

The reality is I am not so sure we know what we are talking about when it comes to weighty spiritual matters.  We are quick to find God's presence and goodness when the miracles occur, when someone is healed, when someone is rescued.  But this leaves us with a strange silence when the miracle doesn't come, when someone dies, when deliverance seems to be 2 days to late.

I think what it really boils down to is that we do not know what a good God really is.  We assume we know.  A good God helps us win a game.  A good God prevents our plane from careening into a tree.  A good God removes the cancer.  A good God has our dog bark at the just the right time to save us from the house fire.

But what if a good God also is present as we watch someone grieve?  As we see a young man die too soon?  As someone is consumed by addiction? Where is God in that and where is the miracle, the deliverence, the healing?  Sure sometimes it doesn't come because of choices someone has made but many times, it simply seems to be a chance occurrence.  Where is the goodness?  And why does God's sovereignty seem limited?

I think in some ways adopting Zeke brings this full circle.  At some point in time, I am assuming we will be having hard conversations about why his hands are like they are.  Was God not good when He created Zeke?  Was God absent when his hands were formed?  Doesn't God desire for us to be whole and perfect and if so, why didn't He intervene to do just that?

In my mind, perfect means two hands with ten fingers.  But what if God's idea of perfect and goodness have nothing to do with two hands and ten fingers?

There is often the idea put forth that God allows bad things to come into our life for a reason, that He will use it to bring glory to Himself.  The flip side of this is that it turns God into a bit of a cosmic puppet master who selfishly afflicts us with tragedy in order to turn hearts and eyes to Himself.  (As a disclaimer, I certainly believe God will use whatever event are in our lives and that one of the greatest acts of worship we can have is to worship in the hard stuff, to bring God a sacrifice of worship that comes at great cost to our own personal comfort.)  But I can't help but think that it is our vision that is skewed.  I want to believe in the two hands and ten fingers version of life.  Where I see God's goodness and His powerful Sovereignty because life around me seems to have been arranged just so.  A version of life where everyone lives to be 110 and the other heartaches of life are minimized.

What if all along, I have been viewing life with a warped perspective?  What if what I thought was good was really just an illusion, where having one hand and two fingers is just as good as having two hands and ten fingers?  I mean, what if God's good is more about our souls than what is going on around us?  Could it be that God is able to see goodness juxtaposed with tragedy in a way that we will never be able to grasp?  Sure, we say the churchy words about everything working for the good and we often have some nice ideas about why certain events play out the way they do.  (And might I add, we often have those nice ideas about the tragedies that befall others.  It is often a completely different story when those tragedies are our own.)    Could it be that in God's mind the worst thing of all, the essence of the absence of His goodness, is simply not living in relationship with the One who made you?  That the rest of it, the things that we attribute as signs of God's goodness, are perhaps signs of God's goodness...or perhaps figments of our minds where we are still stuck on how ten fingers is good but two is not.

I think I just find myself wishing that the church was not so quick to attribute the good things in our life to God's goodness.  I do believe that the things in life we enjoy are gifts from God.  But what if those things are taken away?  When the things we value disappear, are we left clinging to a faith that is just a shell with no real substance?

It's not that I don't want people to recognize God's hand in those joys.  In fact, I knew I was struggling with joy so I purposely spent some time on joy with God.  I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp which is an interesting read on finding joy in our lives, especially in the mundane or the hard.  I took the challenge of finding one thousands joys, things that were connected to joy not necessarily happiness.  It has been hard work for me.  I think I am just reaching 100 and I've been doing it for almost 9 months.  That said, what I have seen is that by being so purposeful and deliberate about what I put on my list, I have ended up with a list that is not about "things" at all.  It is a list that someone might market as the eau de joie.  Joy in a bottle...not tangible and touchable but a fragrance that does permeate my life.

I just wish we could also counterbalance our beliefs on the ways God is good to us with the idea that we may be playing the goodness game while only holding half the deck, that until we see Jesus face to face, we may really have not idea of what God's goodness really is about.