Friday, July 19, 2013

...a little more of the story

Back in the winter of 2012, in the middle of taking classes for foster parenting certification, the stories told of kids so desperate for help overwhelmed us.  So much in fact that even though we continued on with the classes, we seriously contemplated not accepting any kids.  We shut down because the need was so great - thousands of kids need help and what difference could we possibly make anyway?  It didn't seem like a dent would even be made.  

We prayed about it for a few weeks. I especially was still wavering. One Tuesday night, during a Bible study of Isaiah, our teacher shared details about her childhood.  I don't even remember which part of Isaiah she was covering because I was so moved and convicted by her words.  She began by saying how she had recently met a co- teacher at a seminar.  They got to chatting and figured out that they had lived in the same area when our teacher was an infant.  Upon further narrowing down, they discovered that our teacher lived in an orphanage and this man, her present day co-teacher, actually ran the orphanage she had lived in.  He recounted for her how he and the staff would pray for each child daily and also pray over a child when he knew potential adoptive parents were interested in adopting that child.  40 some years ago he actually prayed over her and prayed for her adoptive parents; praying that she would grow up to love Jesus and spread His grace to those around her.  My jaw dropped and tears came to my eyes as my heart absorbed her words.  This one man prayed and trusted and God is still answering his prayer to this day. And she's just one of the hundreds of children this man prayed over.  

Deeply touched by her testimony of God's faithfulness, I hurried home and couldn't wait for Jon to join me there from work so I could share. We took away from her testimony that it's all right that we can't possibly take in every kid in Cuyahoga County (CC).  God wasn't asking us to do that.  He was simply asking us to be willing to help.  And willing we were.  Our purpose strengthened and renewed, we continued taking the classes and even went shopping for a crib and car seat.  

As the prior post mentioned, Cierra came to live with us about this time last year.  Once a week for the first few months, we would drive to her mom's town and sit in a collaborative house with her mom and Cierra's social worker. After 2 hours of visiting, we would part ways. We learned that many of the towns in Cleveland have these co-lab houses nestled right into a neighborhood so they can collaborate with the neighboring people; helping them with a variety of things like finding counseling, housing, jobs, and parenting classes.  

So, back to the timeline, Cierra came on a Friday night.  The following Monday morning Jon and I discovered that I was 4-5 weeks pregnant.  As you can imagine, we couldn't believe it.  I took multiple tests because I was convinced that either the test was wrong or I was incorrectly interpreting the symbols.

As the fabulous news began to sink in, we marveled at God's timing.  Had we found out about the little baby before Cierra came, we might have said no, simply out of wondering if being prego and taking care of a 5 month old would be too much.  It certainly wasn't too much, it was difficult at times, because life is, but it certainly wasn't too much; it was amazingly wonderful.

Both of our families showed so much love and support when they found out about the plans to foster.  That love and support only amplified when Cierra arrived.  After C had been with us for a week, per our request, the county signed a permission slip authorizing C to leave the state.  We drove her up to MI so the family there could meet her.

Weeks turned into months and before we knew it, fall was almost through. All through this time we were in contact with her mom several times each week via texting.  She loved to receive photos of her daughter. Sadly though, it became apparent that she wasn't working her case plan and hadn't been working it for weeks.  She began to hint that she would like us to adopt Cierra.  We of course were guardedly excited and started allowing ourselves to hope along those lines.

As we continued to be in communication with C's mom it became increasingly difficult to be kind. What helped us get through each interaction with her was remembering that God shows grace to us on a daily basis and He also gives us grace to extend to others.  Thanks to Chelsey for lending us "Families Where  Grace is in Place".  It was and continues to be a powerful message of grace.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Part 1 of  the long over-due update:

August 5th, 2011 we submitted our dossier to Ethiopia.  Shortly thereafter confirmation came that we were officially in line for our child; number 53 in fact.  After several months of being "in the line", our agency began to sense that what had been a relatively short wait for an Ethiopian adoption was turning into a much longer wait, so long that there was no end in sight.  Several more months of no progress lagged by, and then we learned that in an effort to avoid corruption of the adoption section of its government, Ethiopia was revising the adoption process.  In the meantime, minimal adoptions were going to occur. Overall, this is a good thing, as it protects families from being bribed to put their children up for adoption, but the major downside is that countless more children are forced to stay in orphanages for a much longer time while the process is refined.  Heartbreaking.

What to do now?  Still called to adopt from E, but recognizing a desire and calling to help other children in the meantime, we looked into fostering for Cuyahoga County (CC).

February of 2012 rolled around.  After a nice visit and vacation with Kyle and Tracie and their kiddos,

we attended our first class required by the county in order to become foster parents.  After the first class, we were told that since we had an outstanding adoption with E, we wouldn't be able to foster/foster to adopt for the county. The irony of that caused us laughter and silly could it be that an agency who is constantly pleading for foster parents would turn away a foster family for no other reason than that they were also trying to adopt a child from a different country.  Thankfully, it was just a misunderstanding, and after many hours of  home-study-interviews, paperwork, doctor appointments, fingerprints, assembling nursery furniture, and classes (and lots of vending machine snacks and group projects that involved grape or licorice-smelly-markers and pads of paper the size of dinner tables), we received our licence to foster for CC in May of 2012.

So, we were glued to the phone, not wanting to miss a single call in case one was from the county asking us to take in a child.  After a few days of that nonsense, we realized that God already knew which foster child he wanted us to have and that He would take care of the phone aspect.

The crib and car seat were set and ready to go, but the nursery decor was sparse. A neighbor who actually was adopted herself and grew up in the very house we now live in donated an entire nursery set that had been outgrown by other kids as well as all their bathing gadgets and baby clothes. Also around this time, Jon spotted a cloud that looked like a baby.  We took that as a sign that we would be getting a baby to foster soon, so while we were still free agents, we ventured to Ohio Pyle the first few days of July 2012 for some water sliding and white water rafting.

Gabe and Hope visited for a week shortly after that.  Each day while they were in town we tried to go to Cedar Point, but with temperatures reaching 98+ degrees daily, we opted for the community pool instead.

During the middle of July, a call from county came.  We missed it and found out from listening to the voice-mail that a child was in need of a home.  We called back, but a home had already been found.

The night of July 20th I was expecting a call telling us that our cousin Ben had been born, but instead it was a call from the county.  When the call came, Marian and I were visiting with Grandpa at his house. The social worker asked if we could take in a 5 month old girl named Cierra.  I assured her that we could, and she said "good, we'll be to your house in 2 hours".  I ran to the store to pick up formula, various sizes of diapers and onesies, and then home.  Jon rushed home from work and 2 hours later, Cierra arrived.

That first night, and the next few we hardly slept, instead we kept going in to her room to peak at her and make sure she was all right.

Our hearts melted with love instantly and so began the amazing journey of being her foster mama and daddy. I'd love to post oodles of pics, but it's tricky.  For her protection and privacy, pics of her sweet pumpkin face will remain on our hard drive rather than Blogger. The two pics below were taken within days of her arrival.

There is more to the story, but not finishing it now will motivate me to continue on with the update sooner rather than later (at least one can always hope).

Saturday, October 08, 2011

One year ago today

A year ago one of our cell phones rang at 6am. Getting a call that early was odd on two counts: 1. we typically don't get calls till late morning since most people know Jon works 2nd shift and 2. it was Jon's dad, which was really strange because he rarely calls (those who know the Hockenbergers will smile at this). Immediately we knew something was wrong. Walt (one of Jon's b-i-l's) had suffered an aortic dissection and was being life-flighted to UofM hospital in Ann Arbor. We remember shock running through our bodies. Our families had never experienced trauma before, so we didn't really know what we should do. Should we gather our things together and drive up to MI or stay at home? We were already planning to go up to MI later that day because it was the weekend of the brother-in-law bike trip. What we ended up doing was lay our heads down together on the pillows and pray.

Through good times, hard times, and traumatic times "Lord, bless us and keep us. Make your face to shine upon us and give us peace!" We've got a Father that holds the world in His hands and nothing can happen unless he wills.

Walt has been recovering for the past year. There are new restrictions that he is getting used to, but his faith has been strengthened and God is using this experience in his life to help others walk with Him.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

(A little less) scary basement

I've been in several scary basements before. Most notorious is my Grandma Butcher's. To access the only shower in her house, you have to navigate down rickety stairs next to a damp Ohio sandstone wall. If you  safely make it that far, you have to search in the dark with your head down (because it is just over 5ft high) to find the single light bulb string located in the rear of the basement. As a child, even seeing the lincoln logs at the bottom of the stairs didn't entice me to walk down her stairs on my own.

Our house is pretty old and the rotting, tilting basement stairs show it. So this weekend we got out the sawzall and started to remedy the problem. After removing the stairs and pouring a concrete pad, we added a special touch with the stones we collected along Lake Superior. Hopefully it will make it a little less scary to walk down there...once the stairs get built back up. The missing stairs did cause a little excitement though. About ten minutes after we were all done with the concrete Winston slipped through the kitty door and committed to running down the stairs before he realized they were missing. I flipped the light on just in time to see him sprawled with his front paws on the wall, back paws on the top ledge, and tummy drooping between them. It would have been a great picture to capture and then add quarter size goggle eyes to emphasize his surprise. He was past the point of recovering so he jumped down and permanently added his prints to the wet concrete...oh well, it added character to the design.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

No cell phones, internet, or TV allowed!

We have a yearly backpacking tradition with Jon's sister and b-i-l (Jim & Lydia). We've been to several destinations in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the past few years. This year we hiked along Pictured Rocks in Michigan's upper peninsula.  Here's a glimpse of several days in awe of God's creation!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Embracing families picnic

Our church's adoption support group had a late summer picnic last Sunday afternoon. It's was great getting together with these friends again. We started attending last November when we heard the group was getting together for lunch after church. It was really intimidating to walk through the doors and start introducing ourselves that day. We thought, "ya know, we can just take these brownies home and just eat them there". Jon was secretly hoping someone would lend him a kid for the time so it would be less awkward ("...yea, we just looking to add to the crew"). But like many things in life, after the initial doubts we were glad we did it once we walked into the room. Simply knowing there are other families who have adopted, are in the process, or maybe are just interested in the idea is really encouraging.

We're thankful that our church takes a proactive approach in promoting adoption, from establishing family support groups to just including "adoption" alongside "birth" in the everyday language. And why shouldn't they? It's an awesome picture of our placement into God's family.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Entering the waiting period

It's been over a month since we shipped our dossier to Ethiopia (sorry for the long delay in posting). It was exciting getting it sent off. We celebrated pretty mildly that day by going to our favorite Mexican restaurant before work. They didn't have a mariachi band, but we didn't need one. A whole lot of work was wrapped up in that paperwork and by God's grace we didn't have to redo anything. So now we enter the hardest part -  the waiting period.

This wait is going to be longer than we initially thought. We are number 53, which represents our number for just America World. Keeping in mind that there are many other agencies with their own waiting lists, we don't know our ultimate number of all people waiting for adoptions. What we do know is that there have been no referrals in the America World infant boy/girl lines since May, so number 53 sounds very high. When we started the adoption process at the  beginning of the year the typical wait was 7 months. Now it may take 18months. This shows how process modifications in the Ethiopia government affect the families waiting for their adoptions at the ground level. This is also partly the cause of the delay in posting as many times the things I do think of writing about only sound like an Eeyore monologue ("53?! That's more than the number of states in the union and I can't even name them all off the top of my head!").

Looking at a long wait will inevitably raise questions for us so we have to remain focused on the fact that God led us here and will lead us through. He wants our focus through the great times, good times, mundane times, and difficult times. He certainly uses all those at His disposal to align our hearts to Him.