Texas Wait No More

A local Dallas church, Watermark, is holding a huge conference this weekend in partnership with Focus on the Family, Dallas CPS and area Adoption Agencies to help focus efforts on finding adoptive families for the children currently in the custody of the state of Texas.

Right now there are over 3500 kids who have legally been declared orphans living here in Texas waiting for families.

Previous efforts like this in the state of Colorado have helped to reduce the number of waiting children in that state by over half. Amazing.

For more information or to register for this event, go HERE.

Navigating the Waters of the Adoption Dossier

We are in the stage of gathering the final documents needed to complete our dossier.  This is very exciting because it means we are near to being officially placed on the waitlist for our little girl! (What will not be exciting is the following explanation of one of the more technical aspects of the whole adoption thing…my apologies in advance for boring the few faithful readers we still have!)

In any international adoption process, there are three  main components to the paper chase:

1-the Application Packet for your adoption agency,

2- the Homestudy, and

3-the Dossier.

The Dossier feels more daunting mostly because some of the documents are more challenging to obtain, and most every document included must be notarized, and then go through an authentication process both at the state and the national level. There are four or five levels of authentication required depending on which state you reside in.  They are:

1. Notary

2. County Clerk (this level is not needed in all states)

3. Secretary of State

4. United States Department of State

5. Ethiopia Embassy

Given the Dossier also requires two sets of official government fingerprints for each parent, you must also wait on approvals, fingerprint dates, responses to applications, etc. Sometimes the wait stretches out so long, that it can seem as if your file got lost in a box somewhere in Gov’t office #547.  (And some of my adopting friends will tell you that their have, poor things!) There are a total of 34 documents needed just for our Dossier, and unfortunately the work of gathering just one document can potentially stretch into weeks due to errors with dates, notarization mess-ups, etc.

This week has had its fill of highs and lows in the Dossier process. We are so very close to the end, and yet little glitches each day have prevented my FedEx’ing the final set of documents off for authentication.

First, this past Monday, November 1st, we were delighted to find an envelope from Homeland Security in our mailbox. YAY! We received our I-600A Customs Approval that I referred to back in this post in record time! Happy Dance! What a wonderful and appropriate way to kick off National Adoption Month!

Then, oops, the joy was short-lived, it appears there was a mix-up with our paperwork from Homeland Security. Yours truly was listed as the main adoptive applicant parent which wouldn’t be a bad thing except that wisdom dictates that the parent with the higher income always be approved as the main applicant. In this case, Jay is the only parent with ANY income, at least for right now, so that was a little bit of an issue. We got that settled…only to run into repeated issues with a medical letter.

A letter from Jay’s personal physician is a mandatory part of the packet, and for whatever reason repeated instructions to the doctor’s office about how the letter is to be dated, notarized, etc, have not been followed. We are currently on our fourth try to get this one little piece of paper correct and I am pretty sure our doctor’s office is rather weary of seeing me in their lobby. Wondering what fault I will find today with their latest draft of the aforementioned letter. Ah well….All other documents are now in order, have been officially notarized, except for one. Like I said, we are so close!

Throughout our dossier process, we have had the blessing of working with a lady who is a pro at dossier preparation. She has been invaluable to us, and because of her, instructions have been laid out very clearly, and so far we have not had to redo documents due to little errors here and there. She is amazingly organized and attentive to details, and knows exactly how to navigate the waters of the process. She is always calm and reassuring, and has answered so many questions for me, and streamlined the process so much for us as we’ve worked together the past few months to put our dossier together.  Jay says the money spent on the fee for her services is the smartest cash we’ve spent thus far on the adoption, and he is right!

Kate at KBS Dossiers already has the endorsement of Gladney as well as so many adoptive parents who testify to what great work she does. In fact, I heard about her way before we began the adoption process because so many adoptive parents give her shout outs on their blogs! But she has been so wonderful to us that I had to mention her.  If you are preparing to work on an international adoption, give her a call!

Truly, we are overjoyed that the process is moving along, and that we are many steps closer to bringing home our little sweetheart from Ethiopia.  I hope to be back before the end of the month to give you the wonderful news that we are officially waitlisted!!!

Article on Ethiopian Adoptions

The Washington Post ran a very encouraging article in October about adoptions from Ethiopia, and I wanted to share it here.

(Click to read)

I do not know the McDurham family personally, but they are friends of friends. I have seen their beautiful little daughter, Ella, featured in another publication recently. Gladney, the agency we are working with, is mentioned in the article as well.

National Adoption Month

If you didn’t already know, November just happens to be National Adoption Month. In honor of the focus on adoption during this month, I have high hopes of trying to catch up on our sad neglected little blog, particularly updating our readers with news pertaining to our own adoption, answering some questions we have been asked by friends and family as we go through the process, and maybe posting a few reviews of books we have read that might be of interest to some of you.

(And while I am aware that we have very few readers left here given the dearth of posts of late, if you have a question you want me to answer, please leave a comment and I will do my best to spend a post – or an email if you prefer – answering your question!)  THANKS!

National Adoption Month seems a good time to say that we are very grateful to our agency, Gladney, for the wonderful work they are doing with us and with so many other families who are pursuing adoption both domestically and internationally. Gladney is also actively championing efforts to provide in-country aid to many of the places in the world where they operate. This is needful, as the reality is that only a very small percent of the 147 million orphans in the world today will actually be adopted into families.


GLADNEY-APPROVED!

Last Tuesday we received an email from our caseworker at Gladney with the opening line….

“Congratulations, you are now Gladney approved!!!….”

This is HUGE progress, and means that our adoption agency and all the power vested therein has officially approved our full adoption application, home study, etc. From what my adoption friends tell me, this approval means we can officially say that we are “paper-pregnant” for our little girl! We are so excited! (Be sure to look for a little counting “Ticker” to show up soon on our web page.)

Currently we are waiting on US Customs to approve our application for our I-600A forms. This the biggest piece of red tape that remains between us and a spot on the waitlist in Ethiopia. What is an I-600A, you ask? Good question!

I found this sweet little explanation on an International Adoption Website which is pretty reader-friendly. I just love the ending note “Keep in mind that processing your I600A may take as long as 90 days – if everything goes smoothly.”

Jay and I are learning that expecting everything to go smoothly really isn’t very realistic in general in the adoption world. Rather, it is best to assume that things will happen when they happen for a reason, and that ultimately no waits, lags, mistakes, or even oversights on anyone’s part is going to thwart our being matched with the little girl chosen for our family.  Which is not to say these lags or delays are going to be easy or pleasant; after all, there is a tiny little girl waiting at the end of all this, and we’d love for her to be with her new family sooner rather than later.

For now, we are thankful for receiving our Gladney approval, and excited about the next steps in our process!

Huge Progress!

WARNING:  Super-Long post to follow!

Please note: this entry should have been posted mid-August. I have been waiting to download a few pictures from Nicolas’ camera that I wanted to include with this post. Jay has a fancy way of tagging various pictures from various family cameras (our kids each have their own) and I cannot begin to understand his system, nor did I want to make a mistake and erase prior photos (as I have done before when I attempted to download any pictures except the ones from our “adult” camera!)

So forgive the delay…this news is truly about 5 weeks old…but I wanted to document it nonetheless!

*******************************************************************

I figured that after I mailed our adoption application and supporting paperwork along with much of our dossier paperwork in mid-July, that there would be a lull in adoption activity and progress for a bit. Well, I was wrong.

Gladney, God bless them, wasted no time in scheduling our homestudy: 10 days after they received and processed all our paperwork, one of their caseworkers, Bethany C was here at our house conducting our home study. By way of aside, this home study just happened to take place in between three separate visits from various out of town guests, so it was a WHIRLWIND of a week for us here at House of Horne!

First, we enjoyed a wonderful weekend spent celebrating our newest family member, Baby Jacob, on the occasion of his baptism, and saw a TON of family:

On Sunday, my folks and the rest of the crew went home, and we changed a few sheets, washed a few towels, and got ready to welcome our dear old friends, the Moores for a few days of catching up after living on opposite sides of the country for 10 years now. Here’s a few of them…

The Charlies’ Angels:

and with the boys added in:

The day after we said goodbye to the Moores, we had our homestudy (more on that in a sec).

And starting the day after our home study, we were blessed by a weekend visit from a fellow “adopting from Ethiopia family”, the very fun crew from It’s Almost Naptime:

Well, back to the home study:

The actual home visit and interview process lasted much of a day, and mainly consisted of a lot of questions and answers about us, our family, both immediate and extended, our parenting, and our own childhood experiences, as well as our views and attitudes about adoption. It was helpful both to Gladney in determining if our family was a good candidate to adopt a child from Ethiopia, as well as to us in giving us a lot of information about the adoption process.

I was so glad to learn the level of care before, during and after the actual adoption that Gladney gives to their families. We chose this agency both because they are local, and because they have an excellent reputation and wealth of experience, and so far we are truly happy with our decision and feel they have been amazingly supportive to us. Here is a picture of us with Bethany, our social worker from Gladney, whom we thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with:

Another encouraging part of our homestudy was learning that within a five mile radius of our home live an abundance of families who have adopted or are in process to adopt children from Ethiopia. We already know a few of these families, and look forward to meeting more. How amazing to know that our future daughter will have the blessing of growing up in close proximity to other children from her birth country.

******************************************************************

The one other outstanding piece of our dossier that we had to handle at this stage was our FBI fingerprints. We actually need to be fingerprinted twice for our adoption process. This first set of prints goes to the FBI offices in West Virginia where they conduct a thorough background check for any sort of criminal record. We had been told to expect the processing and return time for these prints to take 12 weeks plus.

It has been on my to-do list to complete these prints since mid-June, but finding a weekday day when Jay and I could show up at the same police station during business hours proved challenging (he works quite a ways from home). And life has just been busy. We finally made the time on August 6th, the day before we left for vacation to get these prints done, since Jay had the day off. Friday afternoon, in the middle of packing for our trip, we dragged all four children down to the police station at SMU and for the first time in our entire lives, got fingerprinted!

Here’s my handsome guy getting ready for his fingerprinting:

The printing process:

And then it was my turn (love the little face peeking through behind us)

I dashed into the FedEx office at 8:57 that evening, just 3 minutes before closing time and popped those prints in the mail to the FBI. Less than 7 hours later, at 3:45 am we hit the rode for Alabama and I figured we wouldn’t hear anything more back on the prints till at least October. None of our friends have great stories to tell about the lag time on their FBI prints. One set of local friends who are in process to adopt from Bulgaria had their prints returned after 10 weeks of waiting this summer, only to learn that the FBI couldn’t read them much less process them, and they had to be redone. They are still waiting to hear back, bless their hearts.

So imagine my shock when a mere three days after arriving home from the beach, FedEx knocked on my door with an important looking envelope. I just knew it was our fingerprints being returned to us with orders to redo them; at least, I told myself, it only took them a few days to let us know they were unreadable.

But no….when I opened the envelope there were two stamped and sealed FBI approvals. Shocker. I literally began shaking, I was so stunned.  It had been less than 12 days since we mailed the prints: and 6 of those days were spent in travel back and forth to West Virginia. I called Jay, still shaking, to tell him we had FBI approval.

Jay is fond of saying that this adoption process is not a race, and that given all the different factors and pieces that need to fall into place, patience will be a blessing throughout. He is so good about just resting in the knowledge that God will orchestrate events such that our paperwork and approvals come through at just the right time for us to be matched with the little girl that God has chosen for our family.

Those prints didn’t need to come back as quickly as they did to prove anything to me, but I cannot begin to communicate what an encouragement it was to have them processed so lightening-fast!

The next big milestone we are waiting on is for Gladney to officially approve us to adopt. Our home study report has been sent for review and revision, and hopefully in a few weeks will be complete. After that, we will be Gladney-approved, and able to move on to the next step of this process! Hooray!

Our Adoption Timeline Thus Far…

“So, Tricia: it’s been a full month since you posted on this here ole’ bloggy. What in the world have you Hornes been up to? ”

Well, my faithful readers (those 3 of you who still visit here on occasion) I am calling these past few weeks the “Month of the Adoption Paperchase”. I spent June 16 till July 16 absolutely obsessed with finishing the bulk of our paperwork for our adoption agency as well as our foreign dossier. On Friday afternoon, July 16 I finally mailed two fat FedEx envelopes and two fat checks. I feel a HUGE sense of accomplishment, for now!

Many of you have asked where we are in the process, and how long we’ve been working on this adoption thing. And….how long will it be till we have our daughter home??

In the interests of keeping a record for ourselves too, I am going to chronicle what we see as significant adoption milestones throughout our journey. Many adoption blogs keep their timeline on their front page for readers who want to follow along. While this is not an adoption blog, per se, hopefully, my Techie Dude of a husband can paste a link to our Timeline on the front page of our website so that this information is easily accessible to visitors long after this entry has vanished from our front page. Though, if I keep blogging with the frequency of this past month, it’ll still be here for some time to come!

Please note: I do not mean to offend anyone by adding in notes about our expenses along the way. When we were researching adoption, we were very curious about what it would require financially, and I receive plenty of inquiries about how much this is all going to cost us when it is all said and done. To be perfectly honest, in US dollars, it will be about $30,000. I will blog at a later time about why adoption costs what it does.

But yes, that is a lot of money. And no, our family is not wealthy, in fact we spent most of last year unemployed, without the benefit of “unemployment”, and had to dip into much of our savings in order to pay our living expenses.

Just as last year was an exercise in living by faith (and with a much tighter belt!), so is this adoption process. We are already seeing God’s provision for our steps so far, and we look forward to seeing how the story unfolds from here.

With all that in mind, I give you a rough timeline (with added-in verbiage, aren’t you shocked?) of the events that led us to where we are today.

January, 2010: Jay and I are shocked to realize we have each been feeling “pulled” to adopt for some time.

My heart has been feeling heavy since early in the year 2009, even while we were ourselves unemployed and in no place to consider something like adoption. I could not shake the realization that there are millions of children in this world who need a family, and here we sit in our fairly comfortable middle class life, okay sure, definitely a busy and full life, but one that absolutely renders us able and happy to welcome another child into our family!! Whereas I had felt “complete” with our 4th child, I also began to desire a 5th very much. This was a key change in my own attitude, as I had previously thought 4 kiddos were “plenty”!!

Jay’s experience began in the fall as he began to feel very compelled that he was to become a father to someone fatherless. This after 10 months of unemployment, which I find almost uncanny, given the stresses he had been under for the previous entire year. For him, the guy who was quite happy and content with 3 kids a few years ago, to now be Daddy to 4, and to further realize he was yearning for a 5th was pretty shocking. More and more he felt there was a hole in our family that ached to be filled.

We never shared our thoughts/feelings with the other, so we never realized before January what the other was experiencing. I assumed Jay would tell me I was crazy if I admitted to him that I thought we ought to pray about adopting an orphan. Jay figured the feeling might pass with time, and kept his thoughts to himself on the matter.

In January, when we were praying for the people of Haiti and talking about the tragedy that had befallen this country, we began speaking more openly about the huge problem in our world that so many children are without families and face lives of hunger, oppression, crime, prostitution, or worse, death at a very young age. While we did not have any desire (or ability) to “save the world” we wondered if perhaps God might use us to save “just one”. One is a start.

February 5, 2010: I write to my friend, Jana Fundy asking her a million questions.

Michael and Jana Funderburk, friends from New St Peters, and part of our church home group, adopted their precious daughter Ruthie from Ethiopia in 2008. They moved to Ethiopia in 2009 to work with the Gladney Center For Adoption as part of their in-country staff. Having Jana there in Ethiopia, living and working among the children who were in need of families, and being able to ask her hard, honest questions about so many aspects of adoption was really helpful as we ourselves contemplated adoption.

Over the next few weeks and months I emailed and/or talked to anyone I knew who had adopted children themselves to just learn anything I could about personal experiences. During this time I also read ferociously and consumed quite a few books and adoption blogs.

We have friends in our community who have adopted internationally, so we know kids from China, Russia, Guatemala, Bulgaria, and Ethiopia. Given we see international adoption somewhat regularly, contemplating the idea wasn’t completely foreign (hehehe) to us. Though admittedly, PERSONALLY considering the idea felt very weighty. It helped in these months to have good friends to talk openly with about their own experiences in becoming parents to children from around the world. It helped to see that these children were well-adjusted and thriving in loving homes. It helped to see families who already had several biological children adding to their families through adoption too.

Concurrently, our family prayed together and talked alot about what it might look like to add to our household by adoption. Tons of soul-searching and honest, rich conversations about what felt like a huge decision. Once we told our children that we were considering adoption, they were very excited and supportive of the idea. They prayed along with us, and we were able to dialogue with them about their own feelings and questions. This was a precious time and one for which I am very grateful.

We approached very close friends and family asking for their input/prayer as well, in helping us to look at this decision from several different perspectives. People close to us gave us honest and open input and also prayed for us and supported us so kindly.

As we talked to friends who had adopted, or were in process, it became overwhelmingly apparent that aside from one family who used a different agency, every single family we knew had used The Gladney Center for Adoption, located here in Fort Worth, to adopt, no matter where they had adopted from. B/c of Gladney’s excellent reputation in the adoption world, their wealth of experience (been around for over 120 years) and the fact that they were local, we truly never shopped around for another agency to work with. We were absolutely comfortable with the references and experiences of so many families whom we knew and trusted.

March 5, 2010: I request Gladney’s Adoption Information Packet which is a whole lot of information about all the different domestic and international adoption programs Gladney runs. Jay and I pore over this information, wanting to learn as much as we can.

March 15, 2010: We learn that the new adoption laws in Ethiopia are going to mean that families who are adopting will now be required to make two trips instead of just one to complete the process. First time to meet their child and pass court, then a second visit about 6 weeks later to bring their child home. We are discouraged by this development, because it raises the costs quite significantly (an additional $6000 for the second trip’s travel expenses) and means that families have to meet their child without the ability to bring them home right away as their own. Very hard.

April 15, 2010: Tax Day!! Instead of paying our income tax (just kidding, it was already taken care of in March!) we sent $50 and our Initial Information Sheet into Gladney Adoption Agency saying we are interested in starting the adoption process.

April 16, 2010: Announced to our Church Home Group that we have decided to pursue adoption from Ethiopia. (One of our home group families adopted their 5th child, a little boy from Guatemala through Gladney 6 years before!)

April 28, 2010 Hour-long phone orientation with Judy Hayes in the International Department at Gladney.

May 3, 2010:  Jay’s absolutely beautiful “Expecting” post on our blog; see

http://www.hornes.org/2010/05/expecting/

May 7, 2010: Long phone chat in the evening with Jen Morgan of http://morganleapoffaith.blogspot.com/ about her family’s adoption of little Bella. I learned that families who have taken this journey, are in general very passionate about adoption, and are so happy to share with those of us just beginning. I did not know Jen before this, but found her blog through a friend’, and emailed her asking if I could talk to her about toddler adoption, specifically. She visited with me for over two hours, and answered many questions, and shared a lot of their own experiences as Bella joined their family.  I was very grateful for her time.

May 15, 2010:   Friends of ours who are also adopting approach us with a generous gift to apply toward the first of our adoption fees. We are shocked and humbled and so grateful for this provision before we even begin the official application process!

June 3, 2010: Mail request for Application plus $300 to Gladney

June 9, 2010: Receive Gladney Application via email (it went to spam, thankfully I saw it and pulled it out a couple days later!)

June 16, 2010: I visit on the phone with Judy Wadsworth, one of the international adoption Program Assistants at Gladney, complete the “Intake and Service Plan” document with her, and get the green light to begin the “paperchase” for the first part of the process.

June 17, 2010: I contact Kate Sawyer of KBS Dossiers to contract her help in assembling and authenticating our foreign dossier for the adoption. This will cost us an additional $400, but we have been told the experienced oversight while preparing documents for a foreign government is well worth every penny, and that Kate is the best.

*For the month from 6/16–7/16 we do EVERYTHING required for our Gladney Application, plus most of our Dossier Paperwork too: Supporting information regarding our family history, educational history, employment histories, our household income/expenses, doctor’s appointments and letters for the entire family including pets, requests for birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports, Employer letters, Bank Letters, Insurance Letters, Sketch of our home’s floor plan, Child Preference Profile, Reference Letter requests, and more. (Miscellaneous fees for birth certificates, marriage licenses, passports and photos around $250 total)

During this month, I made good friends with the notaries at our local bank here on the corner; I figure by the end of this process we will all be on a first name basis and sending each other Christmas cards during the holidays.

July 2, 2010: Fedex’d contract and first pieces of information plus Service Fee payment ($400) and expense deposit ($200) to Kate Sawyer at KBS.

July 12, 2010: Jay’s passport renewal application is returned to me via mail b/c I forgot to include the old passport in the envelope for renewal. Duh!

July 16, 2010: FedEx’d entire Gladney Application plus 3 groups of supporting paperwork including CIS I-600A application and fee ($670) + fingerprints fee ($160) and docs to Gladney. Pay our $2000 Home Study Fee and our $2250 Ethiopia Program Fee deposit.

July 16, 2010: FedEx’d most of the Dossier docs Kate requested in her “Document Summary”.

July 19, 2010: Mail Jay’s passport application again, this time including the old passport as stipulated, and paying a higher fee of $110 for the renewal (whadya’ know: costs increased in the two weeks’ intervening!).

I have been asked, since we mailed off all that paperwork, “Are you close now? How much longer till you bring her home?”.

The answer is, we are closer, hooray! But, in actuality, we are still a long ways from bringing our girl home.  Like 12-18 months away, most likely. The next steps in the process will be:

Gladney schedules and performs our home study and then puts it into written document form. This entire process will take approximately 6-8 weeks.

Kate Sawyer will continue work on authenticating our legal documents which we have sent to her, and assemble our dossier. Again, several weeks to a couple months for this step.

We need to get our FBI fingerprints done here at the local police office to be submitted with our dossier.  Once we FedEx these prints to the FBI office in West Virginia, it will take up to 13 weeks to get the results back.

After the homestudy is complete, that document is sent along to Foreign Immigration along with the CIS I-600A document mentioned above, where we request permission to bring an internationally adopted child into this country as our adopted daughter. They say that processing time for this step takes about 30 days, but lately it is taking longer because they are revamping how they do the whole thing.

CIS (Immigration) sends us approval and a date for a second set of fingerprints, which we will do locally.

Our completed foreign dossier is sent to Ethiopia, where it is translated and presented for approval to the government there. Gladney in Ethiopia will continue to oversee and advocate for our family throughout this process. I do not know how long from the time the dossier is sent till it is translated and finally approved by the Ethiopian Government. But it’ll take some time….

Once the dossier is approved in Ethiopia, we are officially put on the waitlist for a child, and anxiously await our child referral.

The referral process can take anywhere from about 5 to 11 months, depending on several different things, including number of other waiting families and children available in the age range we have requested.

We are given a referral, accept the referral, and wait for Ethiopia to schedule our date in their courts to legally adopt our daughter.

We travel to Ethiopia for the first trip, meet our daughter, appear in court to legalize the adoption, spend time in the country for a few days.

We return home for about six weeks, unpack, get over jet lag, and repack in anticipation of our second trip.

We receive travel dates for our second and final trip.

We fly to Ethiopia again for several days, this time to pick up our daughter and bring her home to Dallas as part of our family!!

Expecting

Tricia and I are expecting. We are expecting a child to be part of our family soon, a little girl who is already born, whom we don’t know yet and is living a world away. We are expecting God to provide us the means to wrap our crazy family life around this little girl and surround her with love. We are expecting God to provide us with the finances necessary to make it all happen. We’re expecting a whole lot.

I don’t think we are presuming, in the pejorative sense of making demands of God, that he would align his will with ours. More on that in a moment.

In the fall of 2009, as I soaked up portions of Isaiah over and over, I came to an overwhelming conviction that I was to become a father to someone fatherless. This built up over months, and I did what any normal guy would do who has four children and a hectic life: I kept my mouth shut and hoped the building pressure of conviction would go away. It didn’t.

It turns out Tricia was experiencing her own version of this same conviction. For her, the sense of calling began building several months before I experienced it, but she too kept quiet, rightfully believing I would think she was crazy if she brought it up with me. A few days after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, as we contemplated the carnage and our family prayed nightly for the Haitians, we finally broke our silence.

It was a bizarre conversation. “I feel like I should tell you something.” “Well, I need to tell you something as well.” “Oh, you go first.” “No, you.” “I have this crazy idea that…” “Wait, for real?!? That’s what I was going to say!” “You’re kidding!” (Long, quiet pause.) “Huh. Does that mean we actually have to do it?”

Jesus commands us to seek first his kingdom and leave the minor stuff like food, clothing, and shelter to him. As we came face to face with a call to adopt, we discovered we don’t have a clue what its like to actually trust Jesus and obey him in this way. There is so much wisdom that says we should count the cost, be a good steward, etc. Yet we realized that in the face of a clear calling, all of that stuff was simply applied to how we obeyed, not if we obeyed.

We wanted to make the cost (financial and emotional) the criteria by which we decided if we would adopt. But how can one claim to seek first the kingdom, if concerns about food, clothing, and shelter (and college, and retirement, and comfort, and vacations, and…) are the reason you don’t obey the call of God? We’ve had offers of advice regarding the pros versus the cons of adoption, but we honestly don’t need help in that regard. We can easily make a spreadsheet that has a far larger “cons” column. But none of the items in that overwhelming list are the kingdom of God. It gets hidden behind the noise of our concerns and comfort.

We have decided to try to obey, plain and simple. It has been a staggering effort, yet we are already seeing the fruit of God blessing us. For myself, I have seen my own heart change from simply desiring to have a heart like God’s that cares for orphans in their distress, to feeling like my family has a hole in it, waiting to be filled by my daughter who is not yet with us. I did not expect this… it has blown me away. I’m the guy who was content with three children, who deals with lots of chronic pain and fatigue, and who wasn’t looking for more complexity in life. Somehow the Lord is taking that weak vessel and filling it with love for a child I don’t even know yet.

Some friends from our church home group moved to Ethiopia last year to manage the in-country side of Gladney adoptions, so we have decided to follow where the Lord has provided. We have initiated the process to adopt through Gladney from Ethiopia. We are in the very early stages, so it could be a year or more before we bring home the newest Horne.

So for the time being, we are expecting.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
~~ Isaiah 58:6-12

Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop

Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head of late.

I’m tired most of the time and, for now, have decided that’s okay. I’m not planning to shake my fist at the world and yell “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”, but I do find myself ever more content with a full life that leaves me wondering if I’ll have the energy to make it through tomorrow.

I love coffee, and think it is just amazing that my wife takes the time to make it for us each day. There’s a real joy in service offered day in and day out without the burden of expectation, and I do strive to feel a surprised gratefulness each and every day that lovely aroma embraces me in the morning.

For a time, I find myself working too much, driving a commute I swore I would never have, and not seeing my family as much as I’d like, yet I feel like I’m enjoying both my work and family more than ever. My guess is that after months of unemployment, there is a certainty, an emancipating clarity, of what I need to do, and that helps the doing of it not be a burden.

There is an upside to commutes, particularly with modern gadgets. I recently finished a large lecture series on the Byzantine Empire, and have now begun a much larger series on the Roman Empire, all freely available as podcasts. By the way, though the Byzantines have more or less been trod upon in our histories in the west, particularly since the publication of Edward Gibbon’s work around the time our nation was born, their influence on the course of history in the west cannot be overstated (that’s an overstatement… but you get the point). Here’s a quote from the podcast author to whet your appetite:

Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage.

Chronic pain is a real bummer, and very different than pain (minus the chronic part). After all my major reconstructive foot surgeries a decade ago, not to mention the spinal fusion of my childhood, I’m in pain most of the time. And being unable to run, jump, etc. is a real drag on my competitive spirit. I’m missing out on huge chunks of the good life, both for myself, and my kids. Most days, that hurts worse than my feet.

I seem to experience God’s grace, his kindness to me, more and more as a calmness in the face of what is hard, or embittering, or intensely frustrating. Chronic pain is… it just sort of fades to the background. I can’t play soccer with my kids… like that’s my real failing as a dad, versus the anger I put on display, or the fights I start with their mom. I don’t think I’m able to struggle for contentment, yet God in his goodness seems to give me more and more each day.

I’m not sure I want the good life anymore. There’s one pernicious flavor of the good life that is defined in terms of what you don’t have. The good life is keeping up with your neighbors. I’m not talking about that one. I still hunger for that one as much as anyone, in spite of my hatred of it. I mean a neat, orderly, successful life. I’ve always enjoyed quoting Proverbs 14:4, particularly to tired mothers of young children. I was content when we had three children, and let me tell you, our fourth does not contribute to neatness and orderliness. Yet life without Josiah… no thanks.

I’ve grown weary of spiritualizing issues of the heart that sure sound like they should involve actions. Over and over God says things like:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here’s something strange. For months, I felt more and more burdened by such statements, and secretly concluded a few months back I wanted to consider adopting an orphan. I say secretly because I never spoke a word of it to Tricia, hoping the burden would pass with time. It didn’t, but I kept my mouth shut. Something about the Haiti earthquake forced me to speak of it to Tricia, and wouldn’t you know it, she had been experiencing the same burden for an even longer time.

We have no idea where this is going, but find ourselves preparing for a possible adoption. Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop to God’s story, and his story is all goodness and grace.