Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bringing Zoe Home

Over that past few weeks, I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on the way I approach life and people. I have always been a fairly private person, which I believe is okay to a point. Lately, however, I have had some things in my heart that I find myself not sharing or celebrating with others the way I want to and should be. It’s an interesting thing that is happening to me and it is part of my own personal journey of learning more about myself and continuing to become more like the me that God created me to be. That is, one who lives from his heart and not so much from his head.

Along the way, through our adoption process, (Kristy and I are currently adopting a baby girl – Zoe – from Ethiopia) I have not really expressed my heart for our adoption. So, today, I’d like to share what is and has been going on in my heart over the past few months and years.

Adoption is actually something that Kris and I started discussing at the time of our engagement. At that time, 8 years ago, we both had a heart to possibly one day adopt. For me personally though, it is something that I have had on my heart for most of my adult life. Honestly, I can't explain why except that I always felt blessed growing up, especially in high school, because I had such great parents and a great home life. Growing up, many of my friends did not have this same experience and I can remember thinking that if I could ever give another child who didn't have a family - a family, then I would.

Obviously, Kris and I both desire a large family (we currently have 4 boys) and when we (she) decided that we (she) were/was probably done having biological children, we (we) both still sensed that we weren't actually done 'having' children. I think that God gives us the grace to do the things he asks us to do. I don't think God asks everyone to adopt or have a big family, but I do sense that it is something that he has called us to do.

We chose Ethiopia because we both have a heart for Africa. It is hard to explain heart stuff, but if you’ve ever experienced ‘heart stuff’ then you know what that's like. Throughout our research, we came to realize that there are only a handful of African countries that currently participate in international adoption. We also learned that Ethiopia had become a major player in international adoptions and there were many U.S. adoption agencies working with Ethiopia. At the same time, Ethiopia is one of the few African countries that has infants that may be adopted. There are over 5 million orphans in Ethiopia and most of these are due to poverty.

One of, if not, the biggest hurdle that was standing in our way of actually pulling the trigger and deciding to fully jump in was money. An Ethiopian adoption cost between $25,000 and $28,000. Once we knew that this was God though, we committed to simply figuring it out. We had about $8,000 saved up in our emergency fund, so we knew we could start with that. Then I thought about jumping into my 401k. After more consideration, I decided that we would not jump into the 401k, but instead would pray and ask God to provide the money. Because we wholeheartedly felt God's leading in this endeavor, we believed that he would either provide the money by people giving towards bringing Zoe home or by us borrowing against the equity in our home. (Which is different than going creating new debt.) We determined that we were good with either way he decided to work it out or both ways.

To date we are $12,200 into the adoption. Awesomely enough (perhaps you have not heard the word awesomely used in a sentence before, but let’s face it….it really works here), God has already provided 1/3 of the money from the gifts of beautiful people around us who have simply desired to give financially towards Zoe coming home.

This journey (we are now officially 4 1/2 months into it) has been a lot of fun and pretty stress free so far. Most families take a minimum of 6 months to complete their dossier, but we have been cruising along (Kris is a stud) and we completed our dossier last weekend. As of this writing, our dossier is now in Virginia at our adoption agency, America World and will be sent to Ethiopia on Friday. Once our dossier is in Ethiopia, we will be put in line for receiving our little girl. From the time we are put in line, it should take between 7 and 12 months to bring Zoe home.

Things have been interesting around our home. We are regularly talking to the boys about their baby sister, Zoe. They are incredibly excited about having a brown sister and they love telling people that they’re getting a brown baby from Africa. (These are the words they have chosen on their own.) At the same time, Kristy is incredibly anxious to get started on Zoe's room and it's pretty cool for me too, because we've never had little girl stuff.

One thing that I have realized throughout this journey is that there are a lot of people who simply don't understand why we are adopting. I think this is in part because there is not much adopting going on around N.O. and secondly, because I have not done a good job of expressing myself. Some have thought that we just want another child. Others have thought we just want a girl. The truth is - we don't need any more kids (if you ever visit during dinner time, you’ll understand). Nor we don't need a girl. For us, these things are wonderful, but at the heart of the matter, our desire is to give a child who has everything stacked against them - a chance to live. I know that 1 in 5,000,000 doesn't seem like a lot, but it will mean a lot to that one, so we're starting there.

I write these things here and I invite you into this journey along with Kristy and me because, at the end of the day, I believe that we all play a part in this adoption. I honestly believe that anyone who prays for us and prays for Zoe, anyone who prays for the workers at the orphanage, anyone who gives money towards bringing Zoe home, anyone who educates themselves or asks questions, is playing a part in providing this child with a family and forever changing her life. To all of you, who have already played such an integral part, through your prayers and thoughts – THANK YOU!

I’d like to invite you over to our adoption blog also to check out Kristy’s heart for this adoption. You can check out her blog: Life and Heart Change here. (Warning: you might need Kleenex).

For those who are interested in keeping up with Zoe’s journey home, Kristy updates our adoption blog fairly regularly and you can reach that blog here.

If you have any questions about our adoption journey, please ask!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Love Always Wins

It was a crisp, warm, sunny morning in New Orleans, Louisiana. The events of that day are forever branded in our minds and the images of that fateful day will be recalled in our memories every year on September 11 until the day that we depart. The whirlwind of emotions that we felt on that day and even today, looking back are just that….a whirlwind. Depression. Anger. Bitter sorrow. Fear. Feelings of superiority, pride, humility. If you are anything like me, you probably experienced all of these emotions, feelings and more.

I have often wondered, what God was thinking and feeling on that awful day in history. For a short time, I thought for sure that God was angry that someone would attack his homeland. That people who didn’t even believe in him would destroy his chosen people. I thought that God would surely execute judgment on those who hurt him, on those who hurt his people. And I believed that the instrument that he would choose to bring about justice would be the ones who were attacked. I believed that he would want us to find those who were responsible track them down and destroy them. I would not have said any of these things with my mouth, but I believe my thoughts and actions said them loud and clear.

Today, as I sit and reflect upon that day, my life and the Creator God, I am embarrassed and humbled.

I am embarrassed because over these past few years, I have begun to realize how much I did not know this God that I had committed to following with my life. I was following a god who was confused. I was following a god who was a contradiction. I was following a god who I thought was on my side because I live in America. It turned out that I was actually following a god who hated the same people that I hated. A god who had murder and revenge in his heart, just like I did – which in turn was also what the men who flew the planes into the towers had in their hearts. I was following a god who was full of wrath and anger, disappointment and hate.

Nine years later, I am humbled and happy to say that I do not follow that god anymore. For the last 9 years, I have been on a journey towards the God of the Bible and his son, Jesus. The more I come to know this God, the more I am convinced of what he was doing on the 11th day of September in 2001. Some might say that it is naïve to know what God was doing on that day, but in the New Testament, Jesus says that those who have seen him, have seen God. So, all I really have to do, is look to Jesus to get an idea.

And when I look at Jesus, I see love.

One of my favorite authors writes, “The Kingdom of God always looks like Jesus dying on the cross for the ones who were nailing him to it.” On the day of the crucifixion, as Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth, he cried out to his father, God and asked him to forgive the men who were torturing and killing him. Have you ever wondered if God did forgive them? I believe the more we know Jesus, the more convinced we will be that indeed, in that moment, God did extend forgiveness.

Jesus never fought violence with violence. He told Peter to put down his sword when the armed guards came to arrest him in the garden and Jesus willingly handed over his life and laid down his rights, power and will and allowed evil, violent men to execute him. And then, he took upon himself all of the evil and injustice of the world, took their best shot – death – and in the most unbelievable act in the history of forever, he snickered in the face of his enemy, in the face of violence in the face of injustice and said, “Is that all you’ve got?” and he came back from the dead.

It is because he came back from the dead that we can now be filled with his life. It is because he came back from the dead that we are set free from fighting violence with more violence – which only continues the vicious cycle – and we can be people of love and forgiveness, mercy and peace.

On the day that those planes were headed for those towers, I believe that Jesus was praying. I believe that he was praying for those on the airplanes who were filled with terror. I believe he was praying for those in the towers who had no idea what was coming. I believe he was praying for families and loved ones. I believe he was praying for those misguided men who were guiding their missiles towards the towers. I believe he was praying for you and me.

I wish Jesus would have stopped those attacks on that day. I don’t know why he didn’t. I wish he had.

But since he didn’t, that means he watched it unfold just as I did and I have to believe that he wept bitterly as he watched it, just as I did.

As I orient my life around this Jesus, today is a day that I remember and I pray. I remember those lost and the loved ones they left behind. I pray for those who lost so much on that day.

I also pray for love and peace and more people who will turn towards these things. As I wrote earlier, fighting violence with violence only leads to more violence. But Jesus taught us a way to fight violence that ultimately brings about heart and life change. To fight violence with love is no easy task, but it is the way of Jesus and he has already proven that it works and in the end – love always wins.

Today – may love rule in your family, your relationships, your life and in your heart.

More 9/11 Reflections:

Remember 9/11 - Chad Estes