Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas in Texas

We spent Christmas in Texas with John's parents,brother, and sister. They live in the Texas Hill Country, which is so beautiful, definitely one of my favorite parts of Texas.

We drove.

25 hours each way.

We left Tuesday morning Dec 21st and arrived Wednesday evening. We spent 3 days and then left Sunday, returning to DC Monday evening. Thankfully the blizzard hit east of DC and so we didn't run into any trouble on our drive home. I had to be back at work Tuesday morning. I am still exhausted from the drive. I am glad we went and happy we saved money and were able to take Annie, but I am never making that kind of drive again. I am definitely looking forward to recovering over this 3-day holiday weekend.

We did have a good time though. We hadn't spent Christmas with John's parents since 2007 and I know it meant a lot to them to have us there.

I didn't take many pictures, but here are the few I took.

At the Salt Lick in Driftwood, barbecue is a must have on any trip to Texas - love it!
 
This was outside our room at our bed and breakfast - I thought it was funny
  
Our room
 
Along the River Walk in San Antonio. We went to an Irish pub with John's dad.


 The Salt Lick and the River Walk were the first day's activities. Christmas Eve we mostly hung around the house since it was raining and then John and I made dinner to give his mom a break. We were hoping to go to Christmas Eve service, but it would have been very awkward because his brother and sister had just arrived on Christmas Eve and they are not believers and therefore would not have been interested in going with us. I think this is a difficult aspect of spending Christmas with my in-laws; there is not even a mention of the true reason for the season.

Overall, I think I handled Christmas fairly well as far as infertility/childlessness. Since we were not anticipating having Joshua home by this Christmas even under the best of circumstances, I was okay. I actually had a much harder time with missing our baby though. Two years ago, I was pregnant at Christmas. Many friends, including several I have come to know through blogging, are newly pregnant or about to have their babies. While I am thrilled for all of them, it has been hard not to think about pregnancy and remember when I was pregnant. The events of that awful day in January kept replaying in my mind. Christmas Eve night after we got back to our bed and breakfast, I had a good cry and just let it out. I miss our baby. Though I am excited about God's plans for us, I still miss her.

I have been consoled by one thought. Next year should be a very different Christmas for us. It actually didn't occur to me until after Christmas, but by next Christmas, Lord willing, Joshua will be home with us. It is hard for me to wrap my head around the thought of it - a Christmas with our son, a child we have waited for and prayed for for a very long time. I can't wait!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas I have been thinking a lot about those who are hurting, whether because of singleness, joblessness, health concerns, loneliness, lost loved ones, or infertility/childlessness. I think many times those who are hurting feel that Christmas is somehow not for them and many find themselves feeling sad or depressed during this season. Below is an exert from a devotional email I received from Sarah's Laughter (a ministry for couples dealing with infertility or baby loss). I have read it several times this Christmas. For me, it has been a beautiful reminder of what this season is truly about.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

...the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…
 Hopelessness. Darkness. Shattered with the birth of this tiny Savior. Fear and hope collide in a cataclysmic explosion of joy! Every anxiety humanity will ever face is answered in the cry of this newborn King. That night in Bethlehem, love was so strong, so overwhelming that God wrapped Himself in human flesh and became God, Emmanuel, God with us. A love so powerful that God would not stay removed from us anymore. He came and involved Himself in our lives, in our hurts, in our fears. Because of the birth of Jesus Christ, fear lost its stronghold in our hearts. Fear is overwhelmed in the presence of God Almighty. Emmanuel is with us. We have been given hope!

I think many of us envision Christmas being about picture perfect families having picture perfect celebrations. For those facing circumstances that prevent them from living up to this, it often feels like Christmas is not for them. It seems to me that as a result of the way Christmas is often celebrated,  it shines a spotlight on whatever hurt a person is carrying around.

But Christmas really isn't about all the food, shopping, and presents. Even though family celebrations are wonderful, it is important to remember that Christmas really isn't even about the time spent with family. It is about "love so amazing, so divine" that the Lord became Emmanuel, "God with us." And He who took on flesh says to us,

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Christmas is also for those who are weary and heavy laden, it is for those with unfulfilled dreams and unmet hopes, it is for those whose futures are filled with uncertainty, and it is for those who need to know the power of "God with us" to overcome the hurt and pain of this world.

May God, Emmanuel, give you His joy, peace, and hope this Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Worshipful Wednesday #7 - "How Many Kings?"

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliness hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek
Because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you
All for me
All for you

How Many Kings - Song and lyrics by Downhere

 

This is what Christmas is all about - the God who loved us so much that He stepped down from His throne in heaven and took on flesh, giving His life to pay the penalty for our sins.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Update on Joshua

We finally received an update on Joshua this past week (December 14)!!! I was going to wait until we received the pictures to post about it, but I know many people have been praying about this for us, so I didn't want to delay any further. The pictures are being sent via DHL so we should hopefully have them soon. The info we received is from his 7 month checkup, however because Joshua was born at 30 weeks, 2 days, his adjusted age is closer to 5 months old. Developmentally, he appears to be much closer to a 5 month old.

At 7 months old,
  • Joshua weighs 18.7 pounds (8.5 kg) and is 24.4 inches (62 cm) long. His weight puts him at almost the 50th percentile. While he is growing steadily, his height isn't even on the 3 percentile curve for Korean boys (we found a chart for Korean boys from the International Adoption Clinic at University of Minnesota). So I would say we have one chubby baby!
  • Joshua eats 180 cc every 3 hours and spits up a little (they actually have a box to be checked for spits up "a little" or spits up "a lot"); he is not yet eating solid food
  • Perhaps this is TMI, but for toilet Joshua is moderate (not sure what this means, the choices on the form were good, moderate, and loose)
  • He gets one bath a day, which he likes
  • Joshua takes naps twice a day. Some of you may remember this post where I mentioned that sleep and nap times may be irregular if at all. I remember she also said that even if the update states that he takes naps, it could only be for 15 minutes.
Developmentally, Joshua is doing the following:
  • He rolls over
  • He turns to his own name (Joon Seo)
  • He babbles double consonants "umma"

The boxes for "reaches out and grasps objects and brings to mouth," "transfers objects from hand to hand," "sits momentarily leaning on hands," "displays stranger anxiety," and "creeps or tries" were not checked off. And just like any mom, I am worrying wondering what this means and if he is doing okay.

Well this is what we know about our boy for now. I will post the pictures as soon as we get them.

Thank you for your prayers!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fear

I written before about my struggle with worry. Lately, it has become clear to me that it goes beyond worry, it is fear. I feel like fear is the last major stronghold remaining in my life (not that I don't have many other areas to work on), but in terms of a major area where I need to see the Lord's deliverance.

This really came into focus for me once we got the referral for Joshua. Suddenly, I was paralyzed by the thought of it all falling apart. When I would hear about the troubles between North and South Korea on the news, I would become fearful that they will shutdown adoptions. For a long time, I was hoping for a miracle pregnancy. Then I made a decision to let go and now I actually worry about getting pregnant. To get pregnant now would mean losing Joshua.

However, I believe the Lord has begun working on me in a number of ways to enable me to overcome fear.

Recently, He led me to the Scriptures below, which I am sure I have read before, but it seemed as if I was reading them for the very first time.

"Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”" Mark 5:36

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." Psalm 56:3

In the Bible, the antidote to fear is trust; it is believing.

After a great conversation with one of the ladies from my Apples of Gold Bible study, she sent me an email with some of her thoughts on fear (she had recently done Beth Moore's Esther Bible study). She said,

Esther moved from self-preservation to brave determination.

Esther had to overcome herself to do what God created her to do (she had a choice).

Courage isn't the absence of fear, but the judgment that there is something more important at stake.

Once we are in Christ, Satan has no authority to destroy us, so he settles on the next best thing, threatening to destroy us.

Prov 23:7 - as a man thinks, so is he.

We don't just trust God to let us avoid what we fear most. We determine to trust Him no matter what, even if our worst nightmare befalls us.
"If ____, then God will take care of me."
"If ____, then God has a plan."
"If ____, then God desires to accomplish something monumental in me."
"If ___, then Gods going to demonstrate His sufficiency to me."

I especially love where she said courage isn't the absence of fear, but the judgment that something more important is at stake.

Finally, I came across something in a Joyce Meyer book that really spoke to me. She writes that every person in the Bible who was ever used by God was told to "fear not." She goes on to say that the Greek word for fear implies flight or running away from something, so it is not that God is telling us to not feel fear, but rather, "when fear comes, don't run away - don't let it stop you from going forward!"

Joyce then said three simple, but for me, very profound words, "Do it afraid." Just because we have fear doesn't mean we can't do the things we are afraid of.

And so I must press on. I must move forward in spite of uncertainty. I sent Joshua a care package in spite of my fears because something more was at stake - we need to begin caring for him now and his foster family needs to know that he is loved. And at Thanksgiving I let my sisters give me some baby stuff.

Yes, there is a stroller in my house and its kinda freaking me out.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Remembering Those Who Gave All at Christmas Time

This past weekend John and I had the honor of laying Christmas wreaths at Arlington ceremony to honor our nation's fallen heroes. This event takes place every year on the second Saturday in December (Congress has declared it Wreaths Across America Day). 


Wreaths Across America™, a non profit 501-c3 organization, was formed as an extension of the Arlington Wreath Project.  The Arlington Wreath program was started by Morrill Worcester (Worcester Wreath) in 1992 with the donation and laying of 5000 Christmas wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery.  This became an annual journey for Mr. Worcester.
It was relatively obscure until 2005 when a photo of the stones adorned with wreaths and covered in snow circulated around the internet.  The project received National attention.  Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to emulate the Arlington project at their National and State cemeteries spurred the creation of “Wreaths Across America™”.  Unable to donate thousands of wreaths to each state, Mr. Worcester conceived the idea of sending 7 wreaths (one for each branch of the military as well as POW/MIA).  In 2006 with the help of the CAP and other civic organizations, over 150 locations held wreath laying ceremonies simultaneously.
The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escort for the wreaths going to Arlington.  This began the annual “Veterans Honor Parade” that travels the east coast in early December.
By 2007 the requests for more wreaths grew.  The Worcester family established the non-profit group Wreaths Across America™ to further promote Veterans remembrance.  The mission Remember, Honor and Teach characterized the projects goals perfectly.
Please consider sponsoring a wreath ($15) or being a part of this event next Christmas to remember those who sacrificed so much.

When I came across this grave, I knew I would place my first wreath on it - a military spouse and her infant son.


I believe this is her husband on the other side of the headstone.


All the wreaths had to be placed on the same side of each headstone, so I placed it on his side.


John placed his first wreath on the grave of a soldier who fought in the Korean War.



After our first wreaths were placed we went back and got several more.


What a beautiful and moving event to have been part of.



Freedom isn't free.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

1st Care Package

When I followed up with our adoption agency about an update on Joshua, I also verified receipt of the care package we sent. I was informed that it had arrived and was being sent to Korea via DHL at the end of this past week. So hopefully it is on its way to Korea as I write this!

The care package had to fit in a 1 gallon size Ziploc bag. This is what I ended up sending:

soft blanket, knit hat, teether, 2 wrist rattles, soft photo 
album with pictures of us (and Annie), disposable camera

I bought two of the blankets so he will have a familiar object if the one we sent him doesn't come home with him. I also bought two of the photo albums. I will put pictures of his foster family in it for him to look at once he is home. I bought the hat at my church's craft bazaar; I think Joshua will look so cute in the yellow. I hope it fits him.

The coolest thing happened as I was picking out the teether. I should back up a bit though and explain that I was really scared of going out to buy items for this package. I haven't been to a baby section or Babies 'r' us in years. I have bought baby items for friends, but I have done so either online, at a Hallmark store (for a baby album), or at the base exchange (similar to a department store). I tried to go to the baby section at Target a couple of weeks before this outing and while I did manage to walk through it, I was too afraid to buy anything. However, I knew I had to push past these fears. I read something about faith in the Apples of Gold Bible study I recently took part in that stuck with me; faith is "seeing what God intends to do in a situation and acting in harmony with it." I couldn't wait until I stopped feeling afraid to start putting together a care package for Joshua. Even though there is no absolute guarantee in this adoption, I had to begin to act in harmony with what God had already shown me and what He had already brought about. I have no reason to doubt that we will bring Joshua home next year. So I decided to "do it afraid" (something I read in a Joyce Meyer book) and go shopping. As I was heading in to Toys 'r' us (one with a good sized baby section), I kept repeating to myself, "You have every right to be here." I felt like a fraud. I expected at any moment to be told I didn't belong and needed to leave. I know these feelings probably sound crazy, but I think they are fairly common to those who have dealt with infertility for many years. However, I pressed on and asked the Lord to give me strength to be able to do this and for His help and guidance. 

Then I began to look around the store, still feeling completely overwhelmed. I found a recordable book called "Guess How Much I Miss You" that a friend had told me about and put it in my basket (this book was the reason I went to Toys 'r' us in the first place). I started to look around some more and found a section with lots of teethers. I started to reach for one when a lady reached past me and grabbed a teether like the one above. I asked her if she thought it was a better one than the one I was going to get. She says, "Well, who are you buying it for?" I pause and then manage to tell her (stumbling) that it is for our son in Korea who we are adopting. "Oh," she says pointing to her 16 month old son, "he's adopted!" Of all the people in the store, I could have asked, I ended up asking another adoptive mom! It was as if the Lord had sent me an angel. She then preceded to take me around the story suggesting items that her son had liked. God is so good!!! After this I really felt emboldened to finish the task. I ended up buying the teether she suggested, the wrist rattles, and the photo album for this care package and the recordable book and some stackable cups she suggested for a future care package. I even ended up going to the baby section at Target, where I bought the blanket, and Babies 'r' us later that evening.

I am so thankful; the Lord truly is my "ever present help" (Psalm 46:1) in times of trouble. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Waiting for an Update and Next Steps

One month ago yesterday I requested an update on Joshua from our adoption agency. They said they would request one from Eastern. I have been checking my email every day hoping it would be there, but unfortunately there has been nothing. I followed up yesterday and all I heard back from them was that there was no update yet. It has been agonizing. I was hoping we would receive one after he turned 6 months old, but nothing came. He turned 7 months old. Still nothing. I feel like a dog begging for even a scrap of information about our son. In a way I wish I hadn't even asked for the update. Maybe it would have been better to just not think about it. Every morning I stand in front of our refrigerator looking at his picture, running my fingers along his face, and praying for God to watch over him. I want so badly to hear how he is doing. I want so badly to see an updated picture of him.

I am asking for your prayers for us to receive an update on Joshua soon.

I have heard a well intentioned comment about how our wait is just like "waiting" to meet your child when you are pregnant. Except it is not at all. When you are pregnant you are experiencing every moment with your child from conception until you bring them into the world. Your child is not already living while you miss their first smile, their first time rolling over, their first time sitting up, their first bite of food, their first word, their first time crawling, their first time standing up, and their first steps. We will miss every one of these moments with Joshua. So no, it is not at all like the nine month wait to meet your child when you are pregnant. Don't worry if you have said this, I promise you are not the only one, and I understand the sentiment behind the statement.

There was one bit of good news yesterday - we received our I600A approval! I was actually praying about it that very morning and on my way home from work, I asked the Lord for something, anything, to help me know we are moving forward. And then our approval letter was there in the mail. Thank you Lord! This is the visa approval that allows Joshua to come to the U.S. Basically, all processing with the U.S. government is now complete.

Yesterday, I was asked what was the next step as far as bringing Joshua home. Now that we have received our I600 approval, it will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). They will process the visa and send it to the U.S. Embassy in Korea. There is something else I have seen called P3 (not sure what this means, but I think it happens fairly quickly). Then we wait. We have to wait for Joshua's exit permit to be submitted and granted, then his visa will be issued. This is where the delay happened (the one I wrote about in April) due to the emigration permission quota. South Korea issues a certain number of emigration permissions each year which they divide up among the 4 adoption  agencies in Korea. The agency our U.S. agency is affiliated with used up all their EPs and now every one whose referral acceptance paperwork went to Korea after April 1st has to wait until the 2011 EPs are issued to travel. They will begin processing them in the order the referral paperwork arrived in Korea. Since there are many families waiting ahead of us, Joshua most likely won't receive exit permission until July, which means we won't travel until at least August. This is my best guess at this point (hopefully it is a conservative one).

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Catching Up

This past month has been a busy one. I think my coping mechanism as of late has been trying to keep busy, hence my lack of blogging. Plus, I was just not feeling motivated to write anything. I think it was in large part due to my job which involves a lot of writing for journal manuscripts and research study protocols. Almost all my time is spent at my desk on the computer. And so sometimes the last thing I want to do when I get home is get on the computer. Often I will manage to check out the blogs I follow, but I am just unable to muster the strength to write anything or even to comment. This has been especially true this past couple of months because I didn't have our laptop which at least allows me to sit on the couch rather than at the desk on our home computer. The reason I didn't have the laptop was because it was with John in Florida. I didn't want to mention this on the blog for safety reasons, but John was in Florida for clinical training for his school program for 10 weeks. He left September 11th and didn't finish until just before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I am thrilled to finally have him home! The trip to Florida I took in October was to visit him at the halfway point. The fact that John was gone definitely added to the stress of preparing our referral paperwork. However, I was so grateful that we got the referral call before he left. It was also the Lord's blessing that John went to Eglin AFB in Florida where we were previously stationed and so I was able to ship all the paperwork for John to sign to my friend Joia's house (Thanks again Joia!).

Here is some of what I have been up to (I want to write this to remember what I have done during this waiting time):

1. Ran the Army 10-miler at the end of October (my 4th time). I love this race!

2. Celebrated our 7 year anniversary (we actually celebrated together when I was in Florida since we couldn't be together on our actual anniversary). I love John more every year and I truly think he is the greatest blessing I have received after my relationship with Jesus.

3. Met up with Grace, Jen, Kala and Matthew, and Sandra and Ben. So much fun - good food and great conversation. It was such an encouragement to be with others who understand and to ask Kala and Sandra questions about what to expect (they have both brought home their sons fairly recently).


4. Hiked the infamous Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls with my friends Sarah, Cindy, and Stephanie. I snagged these pictures off the internet because I didn't have my camera that day, probably a good thing considering all the rocks and boulders to scramble over. This was probably one of the best hikes
I have been on, well worth the sore behind in the days that followed.




 
5. Saw the movie "For Colored Girls" on the Veteran's Day holiday with a friend from work. I can't say I would recommend this movie, it was probably one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen in my life.

6. Hosted a fall dinner for friends of pork, sauteed apples, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.


7. Shopped for a care package for Joshua (more on this later)

8. Had a fabulous birthday weekend - I turned 36 :-(  It began Thursday evening at my weekly NK prayer group where my friend Kate made my friend Stephanie and I (her birthday is the day after mine) Miyuk Gook (미역국), Seaweed Soup, also known as Birthday soup. It is traditionally eaten every year on your birthday. Then on Friday my boss took me out to lunch at my favorite restaurant Mrs. K's Toll House and later that evening I met up with Grace and Jen for dinner (not for my birthday, just to support each other). On Saturday I went to my church's annual craft show and found lots of good stuff including a knit hat for Joshua's care package. Saturday evening I went to an NK prayer meeting and got to hear the founder of North Korea Freedom Coalition give her testimony. On Sunday (my actual birthday) I went to brunch at Mrs. K's with my friends - yes, I went there twice in the same weekend :-)

9. Met John at my parent's house in Florida and spent Thanksgiving with my family. So many things to be thankful for this year, I actually started a post but never had the chance to finish it. One of the things that was most evident to me this past year was God's faithfulness:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100: 4-5

Above all, I am thankful for my Savior who redeemed my life from the pit (Job 33:28).
Secondly, I am thankful for my husband.
Third I am thankful for our son Joshua.I can't wait to be his mom.

10. Continued taking Korean language classes at the embassy and took part in a 6 week woman's Bible study called Apples of Gold. I have learned quite a bit of Korean, but I am not ready to go on to Beginner 2 next semester - I need way more practice. My last class is this Wednesday. We will be learning to make kimbap so I am looking forward to it. My Bible study was wonderful - it was great to be in the Word on a more regular basis again and have fellowship with other ladies.

11. Put up the Christmas tree and decorations this past weekend and just enjoyed having my hubby home again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 International Day of Prayer

Today is the 2010 International Day of Prayer for the persecuted Church.

For the past year I have had the privilege of being part of a weekly prayer meeting to pray for North Korean refugees here in the United States and for the people of North Korea.

North Korea tops Open Doors' World Watch List again in 2010, as it has every year since 2002 as the country where Christians are most persecuted. According to Open Doors, 
"There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and systematic manner," says Carl Moeller, President/CEO of Open Doors USA.

One expert on North Korea stated: "Christians are the target of fierce government action, and once caught, are not regarded as human. Last year we had evidence that some [of those captured] were used as guinea pigs to test chemical and biological weapons." 
 This video gives a brief overview of the humans rights crisis in North Korea.



The following is from Open Doors:

"North Korea is a country close to my heart. Nowhere in the world are Christians persecuted with such hatred and violence. Nowhere are people so misled by the 'father of lies' than in North Korea. I love every North Korean. I pray desperately that they will know that it is not 'father' Kim Il-Sung who is taking care of them, but Jesus Christ." – Brother John

Brother John supervises the work of Open Doors in North Korea, and his words are a reminder of the importance of praying for North Korean believers. "What North Korean Christians know is that thousands of people pray every day for them," he explains. "We told them that. It encourages them in a way that is indescribable."

As Christians around the globe unite in prayer, we know that our combined prayers are powerful and effective. North Korean defectors who have escaped to South Korea have specifically asked that Christians pray during North Korea Freedom Week because prayer is the most important way we can support those who suffer.

As Open Doors' founder Brother Andrew says, "If we want to leave an indelible mark on the world, there is no more powerful way to do it than by joining in God's purposes through prayer. Our prayers can go where we cannot. While many things may seem impossible from a human standpoint, in the realm of prayer there are no impossibilities."

Beyond all the talk about nuclear weapons, there are people. People who are suffering. People who are imprisoned. People who are starving. People who are publicly executed. Will you join me in praying for North Korea?

The following prayer guide is also from Open Doors:

Prayer for North Korea

DAY 1. Pray for the prisoners

"However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed but praise God that you bear that name." - 1 Peter 4:16
It is estimated that there are 200,000 people in prison camps in North Korea. Between 50–70,000 are Christians. Prisoners are exposed to severe violations of human rights, such as torture, execution, use of humans for weapons testing. Many die from starvation and overwork.
  1. Pray for the closure of the prison camps and the release of the captives
  2. Ask God to sustain the 50–70,000 Christians in prison camps
  3. Pray that they would be a witness to their fellow-prisoners.

DAY 2. Pray for the hungry

"They were hungry and thirsty and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress." - Psalm 107:5,6
In 2008, food production dropped for the third year in a row. In the coming year, 40% of the population will be dependent on food aid. Between 2 and 4 million people have starved to death since 1995.
  1. Pray that the harvest will be large this year. Pray for a miraculous multiplication of food for the hungry
  2. Give thanks that in 2009 Open Doors was able to help more people
  3. Ask God to bless Open Doors' food distribution project. Pray for safety for those who deliver the food.

DAY 3. Pray for the church

"Therefore stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord" - 1 Corinthians 15:58
The proclamation of the Gospel is strictly forbidden. A few 'show churches' are used to convince outsiders there is 'freedom of religion' in the country. Despite the dangers, an underground church has developed. Christians meet together in secret for Bible studies and training courses.
  1. Give thanks for the courage and perseverance of Christians who continue to meet together to teach and encourage one another
  2. Pray for the safe delivery of Bibles and Christian literature
  3. Pray that those attending state churches will gain insight into the truth.

DAY 4. Pray for a breakthrough

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." - Ephesians 6:12
Kim Jong-Il is holding fast to his idea that North Korea is 'paradise on earth'. He recently demonstrated his 'goodwill' by releasing two American journalists and opening the border with South Korea so that Korean family members can be reunited. Despite these attempts at rapprochement, political negotiations with North Korea remain a challenge.
  1. Pray that the Lord will change Kim Jong-Il's heart and bring him to repentance
  2. Pray that people will see through the lie of idolatry and turn to the living God
  3. Pray for revival in North Korea.

DAY 5. Pray for families

"You will be secure because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety." - Job 11:18
Many parents in North Korea cannot provide the basic resources of food and shelter that their families need. Many children have been abandoned. Families where one or more parents have been imprisoned have enormous difficulty surviving.
  1. Pray for Christian families who share the little they have with others. Pray for God's abundant provision in their lives
  2. Pray that God will comfort and provide for the families of Christians who have been imprisoned
  3. Pray that Christian families in prison will have opportunities for fellowship and will feel the love of Jesus in spite of their situation.

DAY 6. Pray for justice

"But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" - Amos 5:24
When Christian escapees are caught they are often publicly executed as an example to others. Strict control over all aspects of people's lives means that no one can speak out for justice without severe retribution.
  1. Pray for an end to the barbaric practice of public and private executions
  2. Pray for Christian lawyers, journalists and civil activists to speak out boldly for freedom of religion in North Korea
  3. Pray for those without rights and resources, that they would know the love of Jesus and see justice restored.

DAY 7. Pray for evangelism

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message." - John 17:20
Pyongyang was once called the 'Jerusalem of the East'. Nowadays the watchful eyes of the government
ensure that any known Christians are persecuted with more cruelty, hatred and violence than anywhere
else in the world.
  1. Pray for Christians to find supernatural strength to reach out to their neighbours with Christ's love
  2. Pray that Christians who travel into North Korea to conduct business would have opportunities and boldness to share the hope of the Gospel
  3. Pray that the work of mission groups and individuals serving North Korean Christians will be Christ-centred and glorifying to God.

A prayer for persecuted believers

Almighty God, ruler of nations, We bring before you the people of North Korea.
You are the God who provides: give food to those who are hungry.
You are the God who rescues: bring freedom to the captives.
You are the Father to the fatherless: protect those who are vulnerable.
We remember especially those who are paying a high price for following Jesus.
Give strength to those who are in prison.
May they know your grace sustaining them.
Give courage to those who continue to meet to worship you despite the dangers.
May they find hope in your Word.
Living Lord, we pray that your kingdom would come in North Korea.
Let its citizens be governed with justice: may your people worship you in freedom.
We ask this for the glory of your name,
Amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blessed by "Waiting with Grace"

I am so excited today!

First, I won a giveaway held by Grace at Chois-R-Us. I think this might be the first time I have won something in my entire life! Grace is a fellow adoptive mom-to-be (they will be bringing home their little boy very soon!). She began crafting beautiful hand painted name plaques like the ones below during her wait.



Recently, she held a giveaway on her blog to announce the opening of her new etsy shop "waiting with grace". Please head over to her shop and see all the other great designs she has made. I can't wait to have one with Joshua's name on it! I am still deciding on my design.

The other reason I am excited today is that Joshua's legals were sent from Korea (basically this is his birth certificate and other legal documents). Our agency can now file the paperwork to get his VISA approved by USCIS. One step closer......

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't Be Tricked


Don't Be Tricked from PaulAnn on Vimeo.

Happy Halloween! I can't wait to dress Joshua up and go trick or treating!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

6 Months Old

Joshua turns six months old today.

I never realized how hard it would be to miss out on parenting him from birth, especially since I have always had more of an affinity for toddlers than babies. But now that it is no longer the idea of missing out on a child's first year, but the actuality of missing out on our son's first year, it is hard. Sometimes I look at this picture and think about the fact that I am never going to get to hold him while he is still a little baby as he is here with his foster mother. I cropped out her face not to diminish her role in his life in any way, but to respect her privacy in case she would not want her picture on my blog. And since I can't ask her if it would be okay until I meet her when we go to Korea, I decided to crop the picture for the purpose of posting it here.


Joshua has already taken his place in our hearts and we can't wait to have him home with us. This wait is definitely not going to be easy.

What really helped ease the pain of today was meeting up with Jen (I met her through our adoption agency). We met up at Panera Bread and then walked around the mall. What a blessing to meet another sister in Christ traveling the same road and to be able to support, encourage, and pray for one another. She also blessed me with the book "A Mother for Choco" to celebrate our referral. I can't wait to read it to Joshua!


Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Referral Acceptance Paperwork Sent to Korea

I am a little behind on posting this, but our referral acceptance paperwork was sent to Korea on October 5th! She said everything looked great, so as usual I had nothing to worry about.

That same day I got to go to a Korea Program Support Meeting at our adoption agency. The highlight of which was definitely getting to talk with Jen and her husband John whom I met at the last meeting, and getting to meet Grace and Peter. It was wonderful to have a chance to talk to others who understand all the emotions we are experiencing right now.

We also got to learn a bit more about the increase in wait time for travel. Basically, there is an Emigration Permission quota that is set for each year, which is usually reduced each year as S.Korea continues to work toward its goal of ending international adoption. The quota is divided up among the 4 agencies in Korea based on their success with domestic adoptions in Korea. Basically, the more success the agency has with domestic adoption (which is still stigmatized in Korea), the more emigration permissions the agency will be given for that upcoming year. The agency in Korea that our agency is partnered with has been less successful in their efforts with domestic adoption and therefore reached their quota for 2010 at the end of March. So any family that received a referral after April 1st would not be able to travel in 2010. This has the effect of pushing everyone's travel time back and increasing the wait until we can travel. They are still telling us up to 11 months at this point.

The good news is that our agency is pushing for more updates about our children and is allowing us to send more that one care package. They have said we can send two, but at the meeting they said they aren't really counting at this point. I got some ideas of things to include in our care package so that is something I will start working on soon.

We also learned a little bit about what our child's life is like with their foster family (Elaine, I am thinking of you because this is definitely not Babywise!):
  •  For several hours a day Joshua is most likely held by his foster mother (his umma 엄마, which means mom), he is carried around on her back while she cooks, cleans, etc., it is the tightness/compactness of the carrier that is comforting as it is very similar to swaddling
  • Joshua most likely co-sleeps with his umma on a futon cushion, with patting/soothing while sleeping
  • Sleep and nap times may be irregular if at all, no pattern
  • His needs are met immediately, she would not ever want him to cry, and she wants everything to be easy for him
  • Opportunities for self-soothing are pretty much non-existent
  • All his food will most likely be mashed up and therefore he won't be challenged to chew (as an example she will scrape a pear or an apple with a spoon and then feed it to him)
  • Jook (죽) which is a rice porridge will most likely be the first food he is given
  • No set time for meals
  • Opportunities for socialization are abundant - S. Korea is a very child friendly society so there will be lots of people touching and talking to Joshua
  • Lots of outdoor time
  • He will be dressed in many layers of clothing 
I loved learning about what Joshua's life is like with his foster family. While much of the above is different (not wrong, just different) than what I think I would have done, I believe it will be best for Joshua if we replicate much of this at least initially until he attaches and bonds to us. I am a big believer that kids thrive on routines so I hope we will be able to establish a routine for our days, but I think that can wait until after he is feeling comfortable with us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trip to Florida

Sorry for my blogging absence. I was hoping to have a few posts finished that I could schedule to post while I was gone, but the week leading up to my trip to Florida was pretty busy. I am trying to be a little more cautious regarding posting information about times when we will be gone. That may be silly or unnecessary, but it doesn't seem wise to me to announce to the world that I will be gone for a week, considering this blog is not anonymous. Anyway, I spent last week in Florida!!! It was a wonderful trip and I had such a great time. I went down to Eglin AFB which is located on the panhandle of Florida near Destin, an area I affectionately call "southern Alabama" because in truth it is more like Alabama than Florida. This is where we lived prior to moving to DC and we still have many friends in the area. In many ways, being there felt like going home. I love the warmth of the people there.

On my first night there, we had dinner at the Back Porch so we could watch the sunset.


I will never get sick of the beautiful white sandy beaches in Destin or the sunsets.



On Sunday, we got to attend our previous church and then have lunch afterward with some friends from our old small group.

At lunch, we received our first gift for Joshua! This beautiful quilt, done in a pattern called "Take Five" was made by our friends:



Later that evening we got to have dinner at their house and hear all about Tim's trip to the Congo.

On Monday, I got to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with Joia. She gave us this super cute outfit for Joshua. It says "Daddy's #1 Draft Pick." I love that it is the same style pullover that John likes to wear.


Later that evening, John and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary a few weeks early at Fleming's Steakhouse - so good!


The rest of the week involved dinners with friends, Wednesday night dinner at church, and attending the ladies Bible study I use to go to. 

At the ladies Bible study, they are doing a Beth Moore study on Psalms and the discussion ended up being on Psalm 127. I have previously written about my thoughts on that Psalm here and here. It was kind of a difficult discussion for me because Beth Moore makes the point that you can "mother" other children in your life even if you don't have children. Frankly, that whole idea just does not ring true to me and I find the words hollow and of no comfort whatsoever. The whole thing about being a spiritual mother is probably a whole post in itself, but how can anyone really compare the experience of parenting children and ACTUALLY being a mom to some vague notion of "mothering" other children (like in Sunday school class for example). Sorry, they don't even compare. There ended up being somebody who was dealing with secondary infertility in my discussion group and so I am glad I was there because I think it would have been even more difficult for her if there had not been someone else there who understood what she is experiencing.

The day after the discussion, I was actually feeling pretty down, so much so that I chickened out on going to see my friend Joia at the Cash in the Nursery sale. It just felt like it might be too much. I think I might need to get over my fear of the baby section at Target before taking on such an large scale event.

And last, but certainly not least, I got to meet Lisa of While I'm Waiting! We met at Beef 'O' Brady's and I think we must have talked for almost four hours. It was so wonderful to meet her and have a chance to get to know each other better. She has such a beautiful heart and such amazing faith in the Lord. I feel so blessed that through blogging, I would have a chance to come to know her as a friend. I was so excited to meet her though that I think I talked way too much : )

 

I was definitely sad to leave Florida again and say good-bye once again to our friends there. Good-byes are so hard. I was happy to say hello to our pup when I got back though - I missed her a lot!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"A Permanent Part of our Family"

I have finished getting all our paperwork together and will be shipping it off on Monday! It really wasn't too bad, just a bunch of forms to sign and have notarized, and then getting together copies of our W-2's, taxes, and recent pay stubs. We also both had to get employment letters. I am not sure why I need one since I won't be working, but oh well. I don't bother questioning why we have to do certain things - I think it is best just to do what is asked. Questioning everything can only allow bitterness to creep into your heart in my opinion. The trickiest part for me was getting quality pictures of the rooms in our homes. My camera doesn't take great indoor photos, so that was the first issue. I uploaded the pictures to CVS online to have them printed and first they weren't  ready when they said they would be and then  they came out horribly - dark and they had cropped off way too much from the bottom of each photo. So disappointing! I will never use CVS's online photo service again. I finally managed to retake some photos after playing around with my camera and then I printed them myself on our printer at home with photo paper. Hopefully, they are good enough. Our bank also left out an apostrophe and a "s" at the end of our adoption agencies name when they issued the check. I am just hoping and praying it will be okay and everything else is in order.

Most of the paperwork was pretty basic stuff (at least for adoption), post placement, vaccines, acceptance, etc. But the form below made my heart soar when I read the words "Adoptive parent(s) intend to legally adopt the Child and have him/her become a permanent part of their family."


I actually started crying when I read those words, I was so overcome by them. This is really happening isn't it?! We have a son who will become a permanent part of our family! It is still hard for me to believe sometimes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We have a Referral!!!!!!!

Introducing.......

Our son Joshua JoonSeo




Joshua - Means "YAHWEH is salvation" or "The LORD saves"

JoonSeo - Means "Bright" and "Benevolent"

Psalm 113
Praise the LORD.
       Praise, O servants of the LORD,
       praise the name of the LORD.
Let the name of the LORD be praised,
       both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
       the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
       his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
       the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
       on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
       and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
       with the princes of their people.
He settles the barren woman in her home
       as a happy mother of children.


Praise the LORD.

We got the call on August 30th after waiting only 5 months. After getting the information medically reviewed (required by our agency) and then waiting for some missing test results, we officially accepted the referral last Friday September 17th! I was able to share the news with my family that evening. This past week has been super busy as I have prepared the acceptance paperwork and took photos of our house to send to our agency. Everything should be sent off by the end of this week!
 
We are so excited!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I600A Approval Received!

We finally got our approval notice from US CIS! Thank you so much for your prayers.

Tomorrow I am taking my first Korean language class! The class is offered by the Korean Embassy in Washington, DC at the KORUS House (pictured below). Opportunities like this are definitely one of the benefits of living in this area. We had a family come to our waiting families meeting at our adoption agency that had taken the classes. They highly recommended the classes and felt that learning the language really helped their transition. So I am excited to start learning. I probably only know about 10 words in Korean, and half of those are food words : )

So I definitely have lots of learning to do!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

First Half Marathon

Sorry it has taken so long for me to post some pics from the race. I forgot my camera so I had to wait to get some pictures off of my teammate's Facebook page. The race went great and was so much fun! I was able to meet my goal of jogging the whole way without stopping to walk. I finished in just under 2 hours and 45 minutes, so not fast at all, but I was happy with it. Here are a few pics:

Our hotel
With my teammate Rya at the hotel on race morning
With Rya and our mentor Laurie
The Maryland R 'n' R TNT team
The Start Line! It took over 30 minutes to reach it from my starting gate.
I ran in honor of my sister Debbie and our honored teammate Al, and in memory of my teammate's son Ben
For Debbie
Showing off our purple nails
Had to get a picture with Elvis
My teammate Ann - notice she also wrote my sister's name on her visor
Somewhere during mile 13 - almost done!



Showing off our medals (everybody gets one!)
Proof I really did it!!!
 I am planning on signing up for other races in the future. At this point, I don't have any plans of trying to tackle a marathon - half was perfect for me! My next event is the Army 10-miler in October.

I want to say thank you again for all the support and generosity. The National Capital Area Fall Team in Training team has raised over a million dollars towards life saving research and patient services! Thank you for being a part of it! Go Team!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Race Day!

Well the day has finally arrived. I will be running 13.1 miles today in Virginia Beach!

I want to express my thanks for all the love and support I have received on this journey. I have been amazed by the generosity of so many who have donated. I exceeded my minimum fundraising requirement and have reached 85% of my personal goal. I know those who have been affected by cancer are especially appreciative of the support. I have gotten to hear a number of stories from survivors, in addition to my sister, who have all expressed how much the support means to them. I think more than anything, it helps them know people care.

I have also been just as appreciative of the words of encouragement I have received as they have given me strength to continue onward.

John was able to find a last minute hotel room at a military base fairly nearby so he is going to be able to come and cheer me on. We are planning on heading back to DC after the race today since we couldn't get a hotel room in Virginia Beach for both of us (Team in Training took care of my room for Saturday night and I stayed there since I had to be up early today).

I will be running in honor of my sister Debbie and in memory of my teammate's son Ben who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 12 one year ago this weekend.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hawaii and other Happenings

John and I had a wonderful time in Hawaii. Some of the highlights:

The luau at the Hale Koa Hotel (Hale Koa means House of the Warrior in Hawaiian)


Seeing a full rainbow for the first time in my life (rainbows always make me think of God's faithfulness)

Watching sunsets on Waikiki Beach

Hiking to Makapuu Point, Koko Crater, Diamond Head, and Manoa Falls

Snorkeling in Hanuama Bay

Seeing all the beautiful scenery

We have recovered from our jet lag (much worse coming back) and I am back into my regular routine at work. I must say it is getting more and more difficult to focus on work. Thoughts of our little one and adoption in general occur often.

John is back at school as of this past Monday. This second year shouldn't be as bad as the first year in terms of the amount of work, but unfortunately he has to go to Florida for 10 weeks for his clinical training :(

We receive an answer to our prayers regarding our I600a application, so thank you for your prayers! John got an appointment for this past Monday for new fingerprints. Then they sent both of us new appointments for this past Tuesday so I went again for a second set of fingerprints. Since John was there on Monday, he didn't have to go again Tuesday. I am really not sure what is going on. I think we have at least two I600a applications pending at this point. I am just hoping and praying we get one of them processed and approved!