life

next steps, part three

After six months of praying and then celebrating our first anniversary, we had our son in December, just days before Christmas. Atticus sits by me now, gnawing his hands and rocking in his Rock ‘n’ Play as I write. He is a spitty, happy three-month-old who is longer than he is chunky, and other than a surprise mild form of hemophilia, he is healthy. Leif and I pray that in God’s timing we will be given more biological children.

So why adopt? Why now?

It’s tough to answer those questions. We prayed and sought wisdom for almost a year and explored different options. We attended foster care orientations, made adoption consultation phone calls, and had long Skype sessions with friends who had been through the process. Speaking of which: it is complicated and expensive and daunting. We don’t even have a face to put to the “end goal” yet, and that makes it seem like a lot of effort for…we don’t know what.

At this point, we’ve read blog posts urging us forward anyway, because it’s biblical, and God has called Christians to adopt. But if we’re being discerning and honest, not every Christian family is called to do this. Just like not every family is called to spend a lifetime overseas doing international evangelism. That’s why we’ve been waiting and testing and checking that calling on our family. And I can firmly say, despite the obstacles, which testify (at least in Christ’s kingdom’s backwards way of things) to adoption being a great thing, we feel more certain than ever that our family IS called.

So what we know so far is this:

We want to raise any adoptive children in the midst of biological children. So unless the unexpected happens, we intend to adopt our next child.

We plan to wait until later this year to confirm a contract with an organization called Faithful Adoption Consultants, after which, if we are approved, we will begin the home study process. This consulting company is known for matching a family within 12 months, so unless we were held up at one point along the way on our side of things, we believe we could adopt within the year (2019-2020).

In the meantime, we are saving and raising money in several ways. Alongside reconfiguring our monthly budget, we are gonna do the t-shirt thing, have a donated goods yard sale, and sell paintings (check out the beginnings of my work on Instagram at @_artbydori and Facebook Art by Dori). We also pray that you would consider partnering with us in whatever way you feel compelled—to pray, give, or encourage us onto our goal by simply being excited with us.

One of my favorite preachers, Voddie Baucham, once said, “Adoption is about the gospel.” I’m realizing that. I’m realizing too that following the command of Matthew 28, go unto all the world sharing that gospel and making disciples, shapes not only what we do but how we do it. Doing hard things will shake you to the core and make you realize where you’re standing, on shifting sands or on the rock. Just like patience. No matter what, you’re going to have to wait, so you might as well wait well. If we’re going to follow the gospel in our actions, the how of doing it, the heart behind our obedience, is just as vital as the work itself. So our prayer, as we wait and as we continue to pray for next steps, is that our hearts will be trusting. Soft. Moved by His love. And above all, centered in Him.

 

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life

leading questions, part two

We rolled up to the old school style church, one of only two Baptist churches in our small Minnesota city. I was three months pregnant with our first child and constantly making us late due to a combination of fatigue and wardrobe dilemmas, so it was a rare Sunday that we got to watch people go inside for a few minutes before jumping out. A trickle of older folks flowed through the front doors. No one our age, but we weren’t deterred. As we were new in town, we were determined to survey all our options. And I was the rare Baptist up here. Clearly, I needed reinforcements.

Though we didn’t know anyone, we were greeted warmly by some white-haired folks by the sanctuary doors, and they ushered us to a pew near the front. The pastor stood, greeted us, and then sat back down to play his trumpet for worship. I have been told that my face critiques whatever I’m hearing, so I tried to stop my eyebrows from tuning off-key notes and told my heart to simply worship.

“Today,” the pastor afterwards piped up from behind the pulpit, “my son will be sharing a passage from James.” He gestured to a row of people who Leif and I had been trying not to stare at. They were so…different. The church was primarily northwards of fifty years old and Caucasian, but this pew was full of children—white, black, and some in between—and one forty something white woman with a pleasant calmness about her.

The children tittered and giggled as their father stepped up onto the stage. He was a much younger version of the trumpet-playing pastor. When a family photo was projected onto the back wall, the children laughed at some private joke between them.

Then their Dad began to read.

I tried not to choke.

There are occasions in life when I feel followed around by certain verses. Like everywhere I go, they’re there. And this passage in James popped up a third time in the short span of a week:

You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.

I thought of all the times I had blinders on regarding my own sin. And when I realized, how distorted a view I could still hold to, thinking “it’s not so bad” or comparing myself to someone else to feel better about what I was doing.

But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Do what the Law says, I thought, and don’t forget. I paused. What does the Law say?

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

Ah, yes. I talk too much. I’ve heard that before. Definitely could use some work. Got it.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

A chord struck somewhere in my heart. Elsewhere, as in the gospel of John, the “work of God” was said to be simply belief. But James was expounding on the fruit of belief: if you really believe, won’t you work? And if you work, here is the work that He would have you do…care for the orphans and widows and fight the corrupting influence of culture and people apart from Christ.

The pastor’s son then shared about his family’s journey of obedience to this command, by an unexpected serial adoption through foster care. They had had one child on the way when a social worker had asked if they would accept a sibling group of four under four…for good. It was a flurry of diapers and excitement as well as an equal measure of trepidation, as his wife was eight months pregnant at the time and what would they do with so many babies?! But God had comforted them, and the church had rallied around them to provide and encourage.

“It’s been the hardest thing we’ve ever done.” His voice caught, but it was without added theatrics, the truth of the statement resonating in the quiet church room. “But it’s been absolutely worth it.”

He looked around the room.

“Today, I challenge you. If you don’t have any idea where to start, go to adoptuskids.org and pray. Ask God how He would use your family to serve orphans in your community. Will you do that? Will you let your life be poured out for the sake of His little ones?”

Leif and I sat quietly in the car on the way home. I didn’t want to be the first to speak. Often in the past, I would rush to comment on whatever had transpired and ask leading questions that scribbled over what Leif’s original thoughts were.

When words finally came, Leif said that he wanted to rethink adoption. He wanted to learn more about the Christian organization that my friends had recently adopted through, and he wanted us to pray.

I felt lightheaded. Was this the man I had married? Were we really considering this?

(Italics drawn from James‬ ‭1:24-27‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

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life

a new journey, part one

When my husband Leif and I first started dating, he was studying architectural design at a tech school in Wisconsin, and I was overseas, teaching English and sharing about my Christian faith among Asian Deaf communities. We were active type people. I loved hiking and running, and he was into basketball and slacklining in parks. Before I flew eight thousand miles away for two years, we would sit by campfires with our friends and play baseball in my backyard. Needless to say, we ran out of things to talk about on Skype. Often.

The benefit to this problem is that we were forced to dig deep. We took notes throughout the week about things that crossed our mind to tell the other, and we’d flip through our notes when we got back on Skype. We went through favorite everythings (though he complicated it often with his routine answer, “It depends…”) and childhood memories. We covered dreams and dreams and more dreams.

And that’s perhaps when this first came up. Adoption, that is.

Adoption is one of those things that it seems every Christian has considered at some point. I’ve been accused of being a bleeding heart, and growing up, I jumped on all the save-the-world trains there were. Even after I decided that childhood education and family therapy weren’t for me, I could not wait to start my own family, and holding anyone’s baby was the automatic highlight of the day. I remember holding my friend’s Dora and S’s baby during church time in the sweltering heat of a Thai house, and I could not get over how snuggly he was, how badly I wanted one of my own, and how surprised I was by the force of my feelings.

It turned out to be one of the first things we disagreed about. Not in a “spittle-flecked anger festival” but in a quiet, “that’s not for me” kind of way. I figured it was just another one of my save-the-world hopes, meant for another person and another place. Not me. Not our future family.

Jump forward two years, we got married on a crisp December morning in 2017. The room smelled of sage and evergreen, and we promised to love and honor and commit to one another until death parted us. Candles flickered around the room, and our favorite people smiled and cried with us. He was the family I had always wanted, and I was his.

…and I thought, “Everything is perfect.”

Little did I know what work the Lord would do in our hearts, only months into our marriage, and how much Leif’s faith would lead me, when I faltered looking at the obstacles ahead.

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life

the new year should start in march

Having tagged along for my husband’s conference, I now sit in a casino-hotel called “Mystic Lake” run by the Mdewakanton Nation of Minnesota Native Americans, and it smells like cigarette smoke and old coffee. Likely because the casino is across the way and there’s a Caribou Coffee right behind me (cue the squeal of steaming milk). The combination of smells is mildly inspiring, if only for the old song. And I realize in a jolt I’ve not written here for a good six months.

Let me give you a brief photo update:

After I left Thailand in July 2017, my street rescue Jet got a new home and a new best friend, a little chihuahua named Tinkerbell. They’re pretty close, close enough Jet feels she can push Tink around a little…

In late October, I got to see my best friend in her new home in Kansas City, where she’s working like a BOSS at Hallmark. We then roadtripped back to my house in Kentucky in time for Halloween. She even wore a witch hat for me (dress-up is SO uncool). I was Mavis, the vampgal from Hotel Transylvania, and somewhere mid-transformation, used way too much Hard Candy concealer. People kept walking up to the antique shop booth where I was working and jumping when I moved. “Wow! I thought you were fake!”

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Bestie pulled an illegal U-ee in Lee’s Summit, Missouri for me to snap this. She knows me so well.

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Mid-November, about two weeks before my wedding, I visited my in-laws in Wisconsin…and realized just how cold my new home was going to be. Proceeded to search Amazon for appropriate clothing:

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Speaking of weddings, my best guy and I were engaged in August! After two years of long-distance, a story I will have to share another time, he proposed to me at my family’s favorite beach in South Carolina and even used sign language to ask me to marry him.

I mostly worked the ANTI-wedding planning game, because when I had to sit too long and think about details, the mental atmosphere ran something like this:

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There’s a reason I work at a café now.

Our wedding was December 2, a mid-morning ceremony with twinkle lights, Southern breakfast foods, and the best cake any of us have every tasted (thanks to my best friend’s aunt!).

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It’s amazing how fast the wedding flew by. I think here, standing with my new brother-in-law and his gorgeous wife, who got married only a few months before us, I was in such a daze that the only thing I could think to be grateful for was that we were no longer standing in front everyone, getting stared at. The week before, I had started to Google searches like “how to not get sick on your wedding day” or “INFJ marriage terrified too many eyeballs.” While I was still nauseated and could barely eat all the way up to the ceremony, I calmed down as soon as I saw L. And then, surprisingly, he cried before I did!

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It’s still just as cold as I worried it would be, and most days my clothes are so puffy, I cannot even detect myself in them. Observe, how I wear the coat I bought for Nepal and Turkey, thinking I would never have to wear it again…

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But after some time learning how to dress, get around in piles of snow, and I don’t know, cook food*, I’m starting to get the hang of married life and am getting back to writing. (*In Thailand, I just walked down the soi to our neighborhood restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall joint with the most delicious yellow curry–served best with a plateful of rice and a fried egg on top. What was the point of cooking when I could get all that and a coconut water for under two dollars?)

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On another note, after hearing about my sadness in leaving my Thai kitty behind, L’s family gave us one of their cats, Millicent. Black like my street sass but with a tuxedo pattern of white fur and “gloves,” she is the bully granddaughter of the family’s first two cats, who like true barn cats just kept having herds of kittens until they were taken in for preventative measures.

Millicent apparently did not like people or other cats or anything really and so would hang out under the stairs in the basement like a troll. Seeing how unfriendly she was, I was at first resistant to taking her in. I like my cats to be mostly like dogs except able to properly employ a sand box. But after a few weeks of hermit life under the bed, she decided she could stand us. She’s especially affectionate in the morning, when her food bowl is empty. It’s a good thing we don’t have stairs nearby. I’m sure one of us would go tumbling, how she winds around our legs.IMG_0937

So life has settled in, green things are reemerging from their solace in the deep earth, and I too sift through the things I’ve collected in the winter and turn to my journals and keyboard to discover what I think again.

Stay tuned. Many words in the works. And thanks, as always, for reading.

❤ , dori.png

 

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on writing

Story 101 Ep. V: Your Very Important Person

Your personal doubt-killer is whoever you want it to be.

The critic inside all of us lives a cushy existence. She doesn’t create. She doesn’t contribute. She doesn’t have anything nice to say. We each have one, unless you’re so doped up on something–be it caffeine or alcohol–that she’s having a lie-down in the back. In which case she’ll probably be snotty about what you wrote later, particularly since she didn’t get to have a go at it the first time.

We all have one. Mine looks like a girl from my college years, and yours may look like your varsity soccer coach.

But perhaps the best part of writing creatively is that it reminds us that we have imaginations. And just as our brains are bent on inventing us some spiteful opinionated backseat driver, it can produce us a Most Valuable Player–our favorite, most prized, most gold-star-giving, A-for-awesome reader.

Real or imaginary, this person is your Audience. Write for him. If something doesn’t make sense, clarify so he understands. If you find yourself explaining too much, think from his perspective and see if you’re talking down to him. If you hate this scene, imagine what would grab his attention. If you think the dialogue sounds forced, picture how he would hear it, as if playing in the background on TV.

Charming critics is for the academics. Unless you love them. Then charm them to death.

As for me, I will not kill myself to avoid entertainment style noveling, the popular sort from which Rilke discouraged his young poet friend, i.e., at all costs remain in the mountains and let the organ by which you create–your life–atrophy into disuse; go on making art, the highest of its kind, since life is a support system for art, and art is for the smart kids; blah blah blah. On the contrary, one) it’s no fun being stuck-up and two) my Favorite Person would enjoy reading an entertaining high fantasy novel. So I will write them one.

Who is this for? Whoever you choose.

Get creating, doubt-crushers.

❤ , dori.png

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