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


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.