Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our Adoption Story Part 10--More bad news from Kuhn Joe

If you are reading this blog for the first time, I am in the midst of retelling our faith journey to adopting Rebekah.  She has been our daughter for two years now (our 2nd Gotcha Day was just a couple days ago!).  Bringing her into our family was truly a work of the Lord and I wanted to share the story with you.  I know many readers are in the pursuit of adoption and my hope is that our journey will encourage you.  Scroll down and start with Part 1 if you want the whole scoop. 

As I mentioned yesterday, I finally spoke with our lawyer, Kuhn Joe, a few months after our initial contact with him.  He shocked me when he told me that Rebekah had already been told about our adoption wishes, when we were only just beginning to determine whether or not we could even pursue it. While that news was in itself hard to bear, his second announcement was even more troubling to me.  He informed me that legally, Deer's grandmother had to give her consent for us to adopt her.

I was truly shocked.  Her grandmother had brought her to the orphanage when she was five years old and Rebekah had not heard from her nor seen her since that time.  The orphanage had told us some things that caused me great anxiety about her grandmother's condition and willingness to consent.  She hadn't been in Rebekah's life for over five years.  Because Rebekah's mom and dad had passed away, and because her grandmother hadn't been involved in her life, I just assumed that her biological family didn't actually have a legal voice in our adoptive pursuit.  Boy was I wrong.

Kuhn Joe told me that he would have to find her and meet with her and begin to explain our wishes to her.  We had no idea where to find her.  The orphanage knew the area of the country in which to look for her, but no one had an address or phone number (did she even have an address and phone number!?).  Similar to wondering how in the world we would find a Thai lawyer, I wondered how we would find her grandma.

And finding her was only the beginning of this hurdle.  She then had to be told news of her granddaughter, news of this random American family wanting to adopt her, and then somehow someone would have to communicate to her what the legal process was like and what role she would be asked to play.  Kuhn Joe was very concerned about extortion, which is exceedingly common in Thailand.

He closed the phone call by saying in broken English that he would go look for her soon and contact me after he found her.  I hung up and burst into tears.  It felt like too much. I couldn't imagine that he would even be able to find her.  And if he did what would he say?  What would she say?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our Adoption Story Part 9--Word from Kuhn Joe

If you'd like to hear our adoption story from Part 1, scroll down to the beginning.  Thanks for tuning in to God's story! 

In early 2008 I had a phone call with Kuhn Joe.  No, our kind lawyer did not call us, I called him.  Several times.  And finally got through.  I was in the early stages of learning that no one would ever actually call me regarding this adoption.  If I wanted progress, I would be doing the calling.

"I got your proposal in the mail.  Did you get our money?  What's the plan?  How are you going to help us adopt Deer?"

He went on to provide me with a surprising and painful explanation of the next steps.  First, Deer had to be told everything.  We had truly hoped to keep our adoptive efforts a secret from her, because we knew it was very possible that our efforts would fail and that we would not ultimately be allowed to adopt her.  We wanted to protect her sweet little ten-year-old heart.  We wanted everything to move forward and then, one day, when our efforts were a success, we would ask her if she wanted to come home with us.  We wanted her to have a say in the end--at her age, we felt like her consent to being adopted was a must.  But we didn't want her to be caught up in the legal battle prior to that decision.

Kuhn Joe informed me, "That's not the Thai way.  The Im Jai staff already told her about the adoption.  She already knows you want to adopt her."

I was crushed.  It felt like someone punched me.  We knew God had called us to walk blindly by faith and try with all our might to bring her into our family.  But we never felt like God had said it was a done deal.  We felt the Spirit saying, "Trust Me.  Follow Me."  But never, "This will be successful."

To know that this child that I loved as my own was now on this faith journey with us was incredibly hard news for my heart to bear.  "But Lord," I cried, "She has already lost so much.  How can we ask her to possibly lose more?"  I felt responsible for dragging her into yet another risky situation where she might yet lose again.  It felt very, very heavy.

Now, not only did we have to trust the Lord to handle our hearts and our emotions and our joys and sorrows, we had to trust Him to handle hers--the risks that we caused and the position that we put her in.  It was a new level of faith for me.

Kuhn Joe had a second announcement for me that was an equal blow to this one.  Believe me, I was a basket case by the time I got off the phone with him.  I'll share that one tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Gotcha Day!

On February 27, 2010 our family of five flew to Chiang Mai to get Rebekah.  On February 28, 2010 we got her and we became a happy family of six!  Happy Gotcha Day, sweet Rebekah Deer!

We went out for dinner tonight at a new Thai place here in Okinawa.  Rebekah said it was "Aroy" (delicious in Thai).  Gotcha Day is technically tomorrow, but tonight worked better for our celebration.  We sang "Everlasting God" by Chris Tomlin on the way home, as that was our "Deer Song" that we sang while we waited for her to come home.  Lastly, we ate homemade chocolate oreo ice cream, which Mark made for us.  Two years and counting!

Our Adoption Story Part 8--Telling the Family

At Christmastime 2007, we decided to let our families in on the good news.  Anyone who has ever adopted knows what that feels like.  You suspect that some family members will be elated, others will think you're crazy, some just won't get it, and most will say some hurtful things either on accident or on purpose.  We got all of the above.

My encouragement to you, if you are adopting and have not yet shared the news with your friends and family is this: don't take anything they say personally.  Know that they love you more than this child whom they do not yet know.  They want to protect you and keep you from the harm of the ups and downs of adoption and adoptive parenting.  Anything they say that is less than wholly enthusiastic, will likely disappoint you.  Know that their words of caution or discouragement come from a place of naive love.

If you are someone who is told by a friend or a relative that they are adopting, my encouragement to you is this: only say things that are completely encouraging and supportive.  Trust me, the adoptive parents have heard more than their fair share of horror stories and they don't need to be reminded by you that this move may lead to future pain and discomfort.  Cheer for them with all your hearts.  They will need every word of encouragement to get through the process.  And then, when it is indeed hard--because it will be, because parenting anyone is--encourage them some more.

We sent all of our family members photo albums for Christmas.  On the last page we included a picture of each Mark and I with Deer on our trips to Thailand that year.  The caption below the two pictures said, "Last but not least, we believe God has called us to be Deer's forever family.  Please pray for us and rejoice with us in the possibility of having four sweet, brown-eyed girls!"

Hearing the squeals of delight from Colorado was truly fun.  Sifting through the slightly negative feedback was a bit painful, but used by God to drive us into greater dependency on Him.  Like I said, we received the whole spectrum of feedback from our friends and family.  It was a heavy burden to bear and we wanted to share the load and the joy of this faith journey that God had called us on.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Our Adoption Story Part 7

Thank you for tuning in to our adoption story.  This is part seven; if you'd like to read the whole back story, scroll down and start with part one.  I am retelling our story in honor of our second annual Gotcha Day, which is only three days away

In part six, I closed with the news I learned around September of 2007, that we had to either move to Thailand or at least hire a Thai lawyer.  We both felt so certain that the Lord had called us to move forward in faith to do all we could to adopt Deer, that we actually seriously considered both options.  I began right away to research both avenues.

Our friends Dave and Shirley Callahan were, at that time, working at the Im Jai House.  They now run a ministry called Faithful Heart.  They both worked hard to help us from the ground in Thailand.  They had just processed some legal work through a Thai lawyer who was a Christian.  I was thrilled when they emailed me his phone number in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  What a blessing!  We knew a total of three families in Chiang Mai and one of them had a lawyer to refer to us, and not only that, he was a Christian!  I didn't need the yellow pages--God had already provided the perfect contact.  His first name was Thanakorn, but his nickname was Joe.  In Thailand, you say "Kuhn" before names to show respect (like Mr. or Mrs. in English).  So I gave Kuhn Joe a call.

It was a painful conversation, to say the least.  I'm sure I had to call about 378 times before the line actually connected and I reached an English speaker who could put me in touch with Kuhn Joe.

I was really wanting some solid answers.  I had huge questions like:
Is this possible?
Do we need to move to Thailand or can you get the job done with us here in Japan?
How much will this cost?
How long will this take?
This will work, right?
You know what you're doing, right?

Instead, while I yelled into the phone trying to overcome the static on the line, he seemingly whispered really unsatisfactory replies.  The whole conversation was murky--I hung up the phone with only a hint of hope that we might possibly have secured a lawyer and that we may perhaps be making progress.

While we waited to hear back from Kuhn Joe--which was a few months between our first murky phone call and his first just as murky mailing to us--we investigated the possibility of moving to Thailand.  We knew God had called us to do all that we could to be Deer's mom and dad and if that meant moving our family of five to Chiang Mai, then we would do it.

We shared this conviction with our closest friends here in Okinawa, our pastor in Denver, and our boss within Cadence.  We were met with what felt like strong opposition.  It was such a tumultuous time for us.  We felt a supernatural conviction and passion to rescue this child and make her our own and yet those whom we confided in said things like, "God may call you to leave Deer in Thailand.  His greatest call on you may be that you have to give her up." Because the Lord had given us an overwhelming drive to go and get her, our poor boss felt blindsided by our strong emotions and asked us to give it some time and allow him a year or so to make such a transition.  In that moment we were only operating out of a momma and papa bear love and any obstacle in our way seemed horribly wrong.  God gave us such a passion for her that any hand held up to slow us down was simply swatted away by our strong words.

I remember vividly us pacing the floor in our living room wrestling with the Lord and our own feelings.  Every fiber in us wanted to go NOW to Thailand and bring her home.  And yet there were some very real obstacles, not the least of which was a lack of blessing from all the people mentioned above.  We labored to come into submission to those in authority over us.  We knew that we had spoken out of turn as we expressed our desires.  We repented to our leaders and asked them to pray for us and to help us submit to them and go get Deer at the same time.  We wanted to do both, but our parental passions were winning.

The holidays hit, which in our world of hospitality ministry means full throttle living and hosting.  We dove into the events of the season and prayed our hearts out for God to make a way to either move us to Thailand or to give us a lawyer who could get the job done.

It wasn't until January that we received a package from Kuhn Joe outlining the work he was willing to do for us.  Allow me to share a paragraph from his cover letter, just so you can get a feel for how uncertain the whole situation felt:

"We will responsibility to investigation and survey the child information for all way.  We can not guarantee or insure the information or evidence will enough for the case or not, but we will try it.  Also the juvenile court is free will and independent of control." 

Mark and I read the pages over and over trying hard to discern what in the world the lawyer was telling us he would do.  After several phone calls we finally figured out that he was basically going to research the situation and see if Deer was even adoptable.  A court case would ultimately decide that question, as her parents had passed away.  The judges had the power to say whether or not anyone else could be her mom and dad. 

After we figured out how to wire our money in America to his bank in Thailand, we held our breath as Kuhn Joe took the first steps in investigating the situation for us.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Back from China

Nihao! I'm back from China (a day late due to fog in Shanghai) and promise to do my best to return to the adoption story tomorrow.  For today, though, I thought I'd share a few pics from Beijing (I would've blogged from there, but "blogger" and many other free speech related sites aren't accessible on the Chinese internet).

The retreat was awesome.  It was provided by a ministry that seeks to help women missionaries thrive on the field.  They did a great job caring for us and sending us back out with new strength.  I loved worshipping with all my sisters who share the love of Christ all over Asia.  Worshipping uninterrupted and without being in charge of the event was a huge gift to me.  It was so nourishing to my soul.  I, of course, loved every second that I spent with my dear friend Jen Rathmell too.  Beijing was, well, let's just say I don't really want to go back.  Ever.  Unless God Himself asks me to.

Jen and Jen (and yes, it was so very cold, and yes, I was so grateful that my friend Kim loaned me a rabbit fur hat, which was totally necessary at all times outside)

Just outside Tiananmen

Guards at Tiananmen

On top of the Great Wall, early in the morning--we were the only ones there!

Jen really climbed it. 

She appreciated this congratulatory sign. 

We tobogganed down the mountain below the wall.  So fun!  The trip highlight by far. 

This is a place near our hotel in the heart of Beijing called Stick Street.  It's several blocks of vendors selling food on sticks.  It's all super gross stuff, perfect for "Fear Factor." I dare you to squint and read the signs on the picture above.  

snakes, worms, frogs

This is me politely saying "no" to all those sweet and meek street vendors. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pause the Story--Going to China

I'm leaving in the morning for Beijing!  I'm going to women's conference for missionaries there.  Knowing that China is a gospel-restircted nation (depending on one's nationality and location in the country) I'm a wee bit nervous about convening with dozens of missionaries there.  After I booked my tickets and signed the dotted line, this reality struck me.  I was on the phone with my BFF Jen, who is meeting me in Beijing from her home and mission field in Thailand.  When it dawned on us, we kind of chuckled in nervous laughter and said something like, "Um, we're going to a conference right?  Not prison, right?  Right?  RIGHT?!"

I'm hoping to see the Great Wall on Saturday and also walk around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City (confession: I don't even know what the Forbidden City is...sounds hard to get into.  I'll wikipedia that later.).  The average temp in Beijing right now is about 12 degrees.  Yes, TWELVE.  That will be painful.  I'll do my best to post news and photos (of me in a borrowed rabbit fur hat) while I'm there.  If my freedom on the internet is, ahem, hindered, I'll be back here at the blog in a week.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm Learning--Our Adoption Story Part 6

If you're new to this blog and you'd like to read about our adoption, I am re-capping the whole story.  Scroll down and start with Part 1.  For all of you interested in this adoption story--don't worry, if it seems boring now, just keep reading--it'll get intense.  There are even bombs and riot gear involved...

I have so much to learn about being an adoptive mom.  I am in process, which makes blogging risky and my regrets public.  I am significantly changing the content of our adoption story.  

As I set out to share our story a couple weeks ago I was excited about telling all of the details of Rebekah's past because I wanted to humanize some of the statistics that easily desensitize us.  I wanted to give God the glory for protecting her and caring for her.  I wanted to paint a picture of what many young girls live through daily and how we who are far away and have little seemingly in common with them can actually enter their world and make a difference.  

I am convinced now, though, that less is best. The details of Rebekah's past are hers and hers alone.  She can share them herself when she is ready.  Her story is not mine.  I believe I was naive to start out that way and I deeply regret it.  So from here on out, I'll share the details from our perspective only of the arduous journey that our family took to be united with our fourth daughter.  

As I said yesterday, I began by writing the Thai government.  I had learned by emailing several agencies in the States that we could not use their services because Rebekah did not live in an orphanage with which they worked.  So I basically Googled a ton and finally found the address of the government bureau that approves every adoption in Thailand.  

The letter was kind of awkward.  It basically said, "Dear Mr. So and So, I want to adopt this girl in Chiang Mai.  How do I do that?  Please write me back or call me.  Thanks."  As I stuck it in the mail I had zero expectation that anyone would actually call me or write me.  Then what? 

After not hearing back by about September 2007, I began Googling more and digging for the phone number for the bureau.  After digging for the country codes to call from Japan to Thailand I dialed and prayed for an answer and also an English speaker.  I began to learn that day that phone calls rarely connect in Thailand.  Calling no less than 15 times for one successful answer is not uncommon.  

Finally there was an answer.  "Sawadee Kah....blah blah blah...."  Uh-Oh.  Thai only.  If I remember correctly, I dealt with that by pressing zero a lot.  Finally, someone answered and said "Ah-lo?"  I explained our desire and was put on hold.  "It's a Small World After All" played over and over.  I was disconnected more than once.  More dialing.  More zeros.  More sawadee kahs.  Another "Ah-lo?"  

Uh, "Me again.  Can I adopt that girl in Chiang Mai?  Um great, could you tell me how to do that?" 

"Miss, you have to move to Thailand."

"What?  I'm not moving to Thailand." 

"Yes, you have to."

"Uh, no.  No, I can't.  Isn't there another way?"

"Ok.  You have to come to Thailand and hire a lawyer. You need Thai lawyer." 

"Ok.  Thanks."  And I cried.  Where exactly does one find a Thai lawyer?  Flip open the Yellow Pages?  So we prayed and I started emailing everyone I knew in Thailand, which at that time, was very few.   

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Adoption Story Part 5

If you're new to this blog and you'd like to read about our adoption, I am re-capping the whole story.  Scroll down and start with Part 1.  For all of you interested in this adoption story--don't worry, if it seems boring now, just keep reading--it'll get intense.  There are even bombs and riot gear involved...

When Mark returned from his trip to Thailand in June 2007, we both knew in our hearts that God was calling us to adopt Rebekah.  It's hard to explain--but it was the same feeling in my spirit that I had when I knew God called me to marry Mark and when God called me to the mission field.  The feeling was like a rushing river current that couldn't be fought.  It carried us along in spite of some of the doubts we had and general freaked-outness we felt whenever we paused to consider how in the world to get it done. 

We did indeed seek wisdom.  We first asked the staff at her orphanage what they thought.  "Is it in Deer's best interest to uproot her from her country and her friends at the age of 10 to be brought into an American family who lives in Japan and already has three younger daughters?  Is it better for her if she stays there and we visit a lot and do our best to maintain a relationship over the miles?"  

Their resounding, firm, unanimous, and unhesitating answer was, "All these children need a mom and dad.  No matter what the difficulties, a mom and dad is far better than an orphanage."

The American staff said it and the Thai staff said it.  And we believe that is true. 

Zoe was four years old that summer; the same age as Rebekah was when she lost her mommy and daddy.  Mark and I wept as we thought about what it would be like for Zoe to watch us both waste away to a horrible sickness.  Our stomachs hurt as we considered her being an orphan.  

Mark often said, "What would we want Christians to do if that happened to us?  We would want a Christian family to take Zoe and make her their own.  Deer should not receive anything less than what we want for Zoe."

Christ in us caused us to believe Him and trust Him.  By God's grace and God's doing, He called us to pursue Deer with all we had, just like He pursued us with all He had. 

The next few months and years were really messy.  I cannot briefly convey how difficult it was to begin the process of adopting a child who has been classified as "un-adoptable" and is not in an orphanage that adopts out kids while you are an American living in Japan and hoping to do all this in Thailand.  

The faith journey started with a letter to the Thai government.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fast forward with Photos: Our Adoption Story Part 4

If you're new to this blog and you'd like to read about our adoption, I am re-capping the whole story.  Scroll down and start with Part 1.  For all of you interested in this adoption story--don't worry, if it seems boring now, just keep reading--it'll get intense.  There are even bombs and riot gear involved...

 I thought it would be good to fast forward through the next couple years with photos.  Enjoy!

Here is Deer with Ravi Zacharias.  He visited Im Jai House sometime in 2005.  How cute is Rebekah/Deer on the right side!

Also in 2005, Abby Grace was born.  I thought I would include this picture to encourage anyone who may be pregnant right now.  You can rest assured you are not as large as I was at this time.  That is Zoe and me swimming 2 days before Abby Grace was born in August 2005.

The Lord tested our faith in Him when Abby Grace was born with a seemingly terrible heart problem. She was whisked away to the NICU and we weren't sure she would make it.  Praise God, she did.  Her heart issues were healed within a couple weeks.

Here we are: the happy family of four and still ministering to the military in Okinawa in 2005.

In November of 2005, Mark took a second mission team to the Im Jai House.  Here he is with Rebekah at a waterfall the Im Jai kids loved to visit and swim in. 

Each time Mark visited Deer he bright her gifts from our family.  And out of her poverty she always sent gifts back.  She sent Zoe a stuffed dog, which still sits on Zoe's bed to this day.  She also sent hair bows and plenty of art work and cards for us.  

In 2006, Hannah came on the scene. 

But, before Hannah made her entrance into the world, I led a women's mission trip to Im Jai.  In January 2007, about 13 other women and I went to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  It was my second ever visit to Thailand and we were a little concerned about me going pregnant.  I committed to not riding any tuk-tuks, drinking only bottled water, and hoping for the best.

The trip was memorable for so many reasons.  One reason is that my deer friend Shannon met Jesus while there.  Before the trip she was most certainly on a journey to the end of her rope and God met her in Thailand and swept her off her feet.  She has been fully devoted to Jesus ever since.  She's now an adoptive mom too!  Sadly, another sweet friend of mine, Rachel, who was on the trip and was also pregnant, lost her baby while we were there.  It was one of the saddest days of my life.  By God's grace, she clung to Him and she was such a bright light to our team and to the orphanage staff and children.  Her constant testimony to the goodness of God was a authentic and pure.  Both Shannon and Rachel continue to honor God in all they do and I truly look up to them both as they walk closely with God.

Of course, the most memorable event of the trip for me was meeting Deer.  What a joyous moment it was.  After hearing about her through cards and Mark's stories, I could hardly wait to hug her myself.  She was just as cute as I had imagined.  We spent the week glued to each other and she was oh so affectionate.  That smile is still amazing.

 After a tearful goodbye, I returned to Okinawa and waited for Hannah.  Here I am with Abby Grace about a month before Hannah was born.

I just had to include the next two pics, because they are sort of hilarious.  Here is our family of four on Zoe's first day of preschool.  Why did we send her to Japanese preschool?  I don't know. She was our first kid and we didn't really know what we were doing.  I was wooed by the opportunity for her to become fluent, appreciate the culture, and obviously the Madeline uniform.  Below, I am super duper prego, Abby Grace is two and mad, Mark is looking at me like I am crazy, and I'm pretty sire I am lecturing everyone within hearing.

Zoe was such a good sport.  She pretty much hated every minute of Japanese preschool.  She cried everyday.  Let's just say that their approach to preschool is not exactly like our American approach.  It was kind of a free-for-all with glue and scissors everyday with only guidance and limitations whenever someone was already injured.  Zoe, who loves structure and calm, didn't really like it.  She'd come home and tell me everyday "All Japanese kids are naughty."  Oops--cultural appreciation backfire.  We finally relented and took her out after about 6 months.

Hannah joined us in April 2007.  Yes, I am still in my clothes in the picture below.  She came really fast.

This photo just makes me tired.  Life with three children ages 3 and under.  Whew.  I don't remember any of it.  Seriously.  I don't.

Mark took another team back to Im Jai in June 2007.  I had just been there 6 months prior and we were so glad one of us would be with Rebekah again so quickly.

 Rebekah was turning 10 during this same month.  What a pretty girl!  

Just before Mark's trip in June 2007 we both began to feel like the Lord was asking us to be more than Deer's sponsors.  We aren't sure now who said it first because the Lord truly planted the idea in both of our minds at the same time: we were called to be Deer's mommy and daddy.  This family of five was not complete.  We were about to be in for the faith journey of our lives.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Our Adoption Story Part 3

Rebekah arrived at the Im Jai House on May 12, 2003.  At that time, I was one month away from birthing our first child, Zoe Anna.  Rebekah/Deer would be turning six shortly after that.

We first heard about Deer at our home church in Denver--Colorado Community Church.  The Director of the Im Jai House, a woman named Ladda, had traveled to the US to visit friends and churches in order to raise money and awareness for her orphanage.  She took the stage of our church and told her remarkable story.  She herself was orphaned by leprosy and grew up in an orphanage.  As an adult she felt called to care for the fatherless in Thailand.  She opened up Im Jai with a ton of faith and only $40.  By the time Deer arrived, there were just over 50 children there and she became their youngest resident.  Following her arrival, the facility and staff were at their max, so only a couple more children trickled in over the years.

After Ladda had made her plea on stage, Mark and I visited her table in the church foyer.  We told her we'd like to sponsor a child.  She asked us if we would sponsor Im Jai's newest addition--a little girl named Deer.  We saw her cute picture in a black and white photo copy in a binder that Ladda had with her.  We began that day to send money monthly to Im Jai's stateside foundation in order to pay for Deer's food, housing, schooling, medical care, extracurricular activities and savings account.

Our first mail from Im Jai described Deer and her arrival.  It included this photo and said that her favorite food was fried rice and her favorite subject was drawing (those two things have not changed!).

Back to 2003: at that time, Mark was finishing up his Masters of Divinity at Denver Seminary and we were raising support to be missionaries with Cadence International.  It was a sweet time with our newborn daughter, as we crammed in time with our families in Denver and packed a huge shipping container full of our earthly goods and ministry supplies in order to move to the other side of the planet.  We moved to Okinawa, Japan in January of 2004 and began our career running the Harbor, with a vision to exalt Christ in the nations through the lives of transformed military people.

A year into our lives in Japan, Mark felt called by God to lead a small mission team of active duty men to the Im Jai House.   On March 10, 2005 he left for Thailand with 4 men who he was discipling.  I was four months pregnant with Abby Grace and Zoe and I stayed behind.

The team preparing to leave. 

On their way!  The guys were there during the Im Jai kids' spring break in school.  They basically took the kids all over Chiang Mai on field trips: to the snake farm, to ride water buffalo (who knew you could do that!?), the kids' first train ride, swimming in a huge river waterfall, and more.  

Mark's first time meeting Deer.  She was 7 and so precious.  He brought this picture home in a wooden frame that has sat next to my kitchen sink ever since that trip.  Hence, it's water damaged and stuck in the frame, but it's still sitting next to my kitchen sink right now.  On this trip Mark bought Rebekah a green bike and a barbie (she reminded us of that this evening). 

This is sweet Zoe during the week her daddy was gone meeting her big sister (of course none of us knew that at the time!). 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Our Adoption Story Part 2

Thanks so much for tuning in.  Writing about our adoption is nourishing for me personally, as I recount every detail orchestrated and mountain moved by God Himself in order to bring Rebekah into the Oshman family.  Being reminded of the seemingly closed doors during our three-year ordeal still takes my breath away and makes my heart beat rapidly.

After the loss of her parents, Rebekah's grandmother brought her to the Im Jai House.  Here is one of her first photos taken there.

Deer, age 5, upon her arrival at Im Jai
"God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"
Hebrews 13:5

Monday, February 6, 2012

Our Adoption Story Part 1

In three weeks we Oshmans will be celebrating Rebekah's 2nd Gotcha Day.  In adoption lingo a "Gotcha Day" is the day parents get to bring their waiting child into their family.   On February 27, 2010 Rebekah became our forever daughter.  In honor of that day, for the next three weeks I am going to retell our adoption story.  It is one filled with both grief and joy, waiting and hurrying, love and sorrow.  It is, above all, a story that God Himself wrote and continues to write.

As I recount these memories I have the added blessing of asking Rebekah about her heart and thoughts during each milestone.  I pray that our conversations and the resulting blog posts will draw us closer to one another as mother and daughter, will draw us both closer to the heart of God, and perhaps bring you closer to our family as we share these memories with you.

Part 1

Rebekah was born in 1997 in Bangkok, Thailand.  That was the same summer I went on a mission trip to Kenya and Mark returned from a semester of college in Europe.  We were married in 1999.  We had no idea our fourth child was already in the world.  God did.  On our wedding day she was probably entering the terrible twos.  As we baked in the sun on our honeymoon she probably clung to her momma's back while she made and sold fried bananas, a trade her birth family still maintains.

As is the custom in Thailand, Rebekah was given the nickname Deer.  She was the fourth daughter of her mother. Her mother and father moved from Bangkok to Nan--their birthplace--in northern Thailand sometime before Rebakah was four.  As a four-year-old Rebekah was orphaned when she lost her both her mother and her father.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

Last weekend the kids and I took the dog for a walk at the nearby marina, found some treasures there, climbed some trees, and then went to the grocery store where I treated them to chocolate fish.  I thought I would share some of the photos of our neighborhood with you.

Gorgeous day!  The girls found some walking sticks. 

Here's a dead squid next to Zoe's foot (she wears a woman's size 5 1/2, so that's a big squid!)  These guys can be seen freshly dead in my grocery store, as well as the local sushi shops. 

Behind the marina is a monument and tomb for the man who brought sweet potatoes to Okinawa in the 1650s.  He's a local hero.  The sweet potatoes here are purple, by the way, and they are in everything from donuts to chips to tempura to ice cream. 

The girls in front of the tomb.  Amazing tree roots!

One of my local grocery stores.  This is the nicer one--pricier but not as hectic and disorganized as my cheaper place. 

This vendor was selling taiyaki outside the store.  He's only there for holidays and I'm guessing right now it's for the cherry blossoms.  Taiyaki is a sort of fish-shaped waffle stuffed with goodness like chocolate or caramel (or red bean paste, but we do our best to steer clear of that). 

Taiyaki in our table. 

Where does the American population stand, anyway?

In the 24 hours following Komen's announcement that it would stop making grants to Planned Parenthood, Komen received $1,000,000 in donations and PP received $400,000.  Clearly, pro-lifers were thrilled with the cut ties and they made that clear with cash.

We pro-lifers read and watched in horror as prominent people and foundations made huge gifts and promises to PP expressing their outrage that Komen would seek to end funding for cancer screening for the underserved.  Why didn't those donors give to medical clinics that actually do provide mammograms to women in poor neighborhoods?  Why PP?  Because it's all about abortion and keeping it legal and celebrated.  Komen dared to choose to stop funding PP and they and abortion advocates across the nation chose to do their best to smother Komen.  Don't mess with the in crowd.

As John Piper said on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, "Demons are willing to send millions of babies to heaven, if they can make millions of murderers on earth.  Psalm 106:37-39."

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood," Ephesians 6:12.  Pray.

Summary of 2011 U.S. Abortion Views -- by Gender and Age

Friday, February 3, 2012

Put the pink back in the closet

Komen folded under pressure and has reinstated funding to Planned Parenthood.  If PP is so concerned over the health of women, then why did they bully one of our nation's loudest voices for women's healthcare, into giving them back a few million dollars (which PP had already re-raised after sounding the alarm over Komen)--a mere drop in their billion dollar budget? Seriously, PP had a temper tantrum and like a toddler in the candy aisle, it worked.

What's striking to me is that No Planned Parenthood Clinics actually provide mammograms.  Low income women seeking mammograms are referred to other clinics by PP staff.  Women may receive breast palpations, which is substandard care for low-income women, especially Black women, whose breast cancer rate is higher than any other demographic.  What, then, is Komen so interested in funding?  If PP only provides pass-thourgh funding for breast health why isn't Komen simply funding those other clinics, which are more aligned with their own mission?

In the midst of the political struggle between Komen and PP over the last few days, Komen had a chance to rise above the mediocre preventive so-called healthcare provided by PP and create excellent low-income mammogram clinics in underserved neighborhoods.  These could have been clinics championing health and life.  Instead, Komen caved to the two-year-old screaming her head off over the lollipop and has returned to funding an organization that does not truly care about women's health.

Here's what Planned Parenthood does do: 
97.6% of pregnant women who go to PP receive abortions
2.4% pregnant women receive non-abortive services
PP provides 27.5% of America's abortions every year
PP performed over 5,300,000 abortions between 1970 and 2009

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The dentist and sushi

Our family went to the dentist last week and we all had our teeth cleaned.  In a country with an average birth rate of 1.4 children per woman, whenever our family of six does something all at one time, we get lots of stares, gasps, and giggles.  In fact it usually takes me three or four phone calls to schedule such appointments because the person on the other end rarely believes that I truly want to bring six people in at one time.  They often say, "Huh?  What did you say, Mrs. Ossman?  Six? Roku?  Roku people?  Together?  Wow.  I do not know..."

After we were all pearly white, we went to sushi-go-round to celebrate.  For those of you who live in the States, these photos will be fun.

Hannah's ready

This says, "Let's Brushing!  I am a tooth brush."

At a brand new sushi-go-round.  You order by touching the screen (thankfully there are pictures because we can't read it).

You can see to the left of Zoe there are two levels of conveyor belts.  On the bottom, there are dishes that constantly travel around the restaurant and you just grab one if you want it. 

Instant hot water for green tea at every table. 

The upper conveyor belt brings you the specific item you ordered on a tray that looks like a train being driven by a rubber duck.  The red light shines, you grab your food, push a button, and off goes the train back to the sushi chef to be loaded with more food for the next customer.

At the end, the waitress in a kimono comes around with this big calculator and counts your plates.  She types up a bill right on that thing and then prints it out of a printer located on her belt above her rear.  Seriously. Very high tech.