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Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Confession

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."
-- Romans 7:15


Dan and I might claim to be crazy but here's the truth -- we're struggling just as much (or maybe more?) than everyone else. In my heart, I want to be "crazy," I really do. In practice, it's just so hard. Just when I think I'm making some good progress, my wordliness rears its ugly head and reminds me exactly how much I am a product of the affluent, stuff-loving culture I live in.

Here's a sad but true real life example for me... 

When Dan and I first started down this crazy path, I told him that a couple of things were going to have to be off-limits, especially my hair. Yes, my hair. I am just not ready for homemade hair cuts and do-it-yourself color products and so forth. Sorry.

And then a few weeks ago in a rare moment of inspiration, I decided that maybe I really was ready. A coupon arrived in the mail for the newly opened SuperCuts down the street -- $6.99 for a haircut. I decided to try it out. I just wanted a little trim, nothing fancy and the lady was able to handle that just fine. I even bragged to some girlfriends that night about my bravery and great cost savings.

And then I decided to continue this "craziness" by getting my hair colored at a place way less expensive than my usual salon. And it is way less expensive for a reason -- the stylists are students. I've had several friends use this place with great success. I'd been to SuperCuts. I was ready and even excited. I was envisioning the blog post already... with some catchy little title like "Cutting Costs."

But oh my word, this one did not work out as planned. I walked out of that place looking like a zebra from the neck up. Yep, my hair was stripped. I came home and cried (yes, over my hair!!), my husband tried to comfort me by telling me that he had no idea what I was talking about (I sort of suspect that Dan was truthful in this -- he never sees the stuff going on with my hair) and I lost almost an entire night of sleep worrying about my new look. Seriously.

The student salon, knowing I was not pleased with the new 'do', called and asked me to come back the next Saturday so they could fix it. I agreed. And they did not fix it, I actually think they made it worse the second time. And they still charged me for both appointments. And so when all was said and done I still had to go back to my old salon (and pay them) to have my hair colored/fixed. And ultimately, this ended up being the most expensive hair-experience I have ever had in my life.

Now that the hair crisis has been paid for and averted, we can all get in a good laugh and move on, right? But here's the real confession -- I just feel sick about the whole thing. Happening simultaneously with my so-called hair crisis, there was a very real crisis taking place in Uganda. Not a crisis involving a bunch of foolish, wordly, rich people problems but involving hunger, poverty, death and disease. 

While I cried over my hair, there was a story unfolding in a village in Jinja, Uganda that was really worth crying about. Nabakoza wasn't able to blog about her story -- she doesn't have a computer, has probably never heard of the internet and she was too weak, sick and neglected to even sit up. And meanwhile I'm blogging about and crying over my hair. I am so ashamed.

I do take some comfort in knowing that Paul, a giant of our faith, also struggled with not doing the things he wanted to do and still doing the things he hated. Some days it just seems like a losing battle -- I mean, how much can I really disentangle myself from the things of this world? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that tossing up my hands and giving up is not the answer. I'm also pretty certain that I won't make better choices and live a less wordly life just by committing to "do better."

My only hope is to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus... to immerse myself in the Word, to live a vibrant and active prayer life and to constantly seek His will and direction for my life. One of my favorite hymns goes like this:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

May it be so in my life Lord! Help me to seek You and to want You alone. You are the real and only treasure of this world.




Friday, August 13, 2010

Counting the Costs

Whew, I am thinking the updates to our blog are going to get less and less frequent. This adoption business is not for the faint of heart. Today the kids and I made three seperate trips to the post office and also intended to hang out in the Georgia Office of Vital Records (good times!) while they dug up a certified copy of my marriage license. Alas, the marriage license will have to wait until Monday. Around 1pm I finally admitted defeat and brought the kids home for lunch and naps.

Since we made our big adoption annoucement last week, we've had two main questions:

1. What does it mean to pursue an "independent adoption?" What's the difference between adopting independently and going through an adoption agency? Why did you chose this route?

2. How much does it cost?

Now let me tell you that I am no adoption expert (you can confirm that with my poor friend Amy Levy who I email and call about 8,000 times a day with various random adoption questions) but, for those of you who are curious, I do want to try and answer those questions.

1. Basically, with an independent adoption, you handle the details yourself. You hire your own attorney, you work directly with the parents, orphanage or entity you are adopting from and the paperwork, travel details and all the nitty gritty is up to you.

From what I can tell, there are not a lot of countries that still allow independent international adoption -- but fortunately Uganda is one of them. In fact, it is my understanding that the vast, vast majority of US adoptions from Uganda have been completed independently, rather than through agencies.

You hear pros and cons on both sides and at the end of the day, you just have to do whatever makes your family comfortable. We went independent because it was far less expensive than working with an agency and because we wanted to move the process as quickly as possible.

Whether you go independent or work with an agency, you will gather and complete a mountain (and I do mean MOUNTAIN) of paperwork for the US government and the forgeign courts. You will face risk -- whether you go with agency or not, you will be at the mercy of US and forgein bureaucrats and the courts. And you will be completely dependent on the grace of God to make it all happen.

2. And regarding the "how much does it cost" question... I've found that international agency adoptions cost in the neighborhood of $30,000, give or take a couple of thousand depending on the country. Here are our itemized expenses and keep in mind that we are adopting two children so many of our expenses are double the cost:

$250 Homestudy application fee
$1500 Homestudy
$200 Original copies of birth certificates and marriage license
$3000 Ugandan attorney fees
$670 x 2 = $1340 I600 filed with USCIS
$1000 x 2 = $2000 US attorney fees
$545 x 2 = $1090 immigration forms
$360 Passports and passport photos for our three children
$200 x 2 = $400
$140 fingerprints for homestudy
$160 fingerprints for 171H
$200 x 2 = $400 for passport, visa and medical exams for children in UG

I know I've probably forgotten stuff here and there so let's say roughly $11,000 total.

We still have some unknown expenses related to travel. For example, the tickets from Atlanta to UG cost approximately $1500. If our whole family were to travel to Uganda to complete the adoption, that's 5 plane tickets on the way to UG and 7 of us for the ride home. So we're talking over $10K just for the tickets. For obvious reasons (like, we're not millionaires) we will probably not take the entire family. In addition, everyone who travels needs an extensive round of shots and anti-malaria pills (not covered by insurance) and we'd need to pay for accomodations in UG, a driver and basic travel expenses for the duration of the trip, usually 2-3 weeks. In addition, since we're moving from a 3 child family to a 5 child family we will need to purchase a bigger car, which is another major expense. But at this point, who's really counting?

So all this may have led some of you to question #3 -- how are you planning to pay for all this? Well, we haven't exactly figured that out yet. But oddly enough, we are not worried about it. We'll take what we can out of our savings, we're going to have one heck of a yard sale in early fall and we'll just trust God for the rest. We have full confidence that He who began this work will bring it to completion. We know that $11K, a couple of plane tickets and a big ol' car are nothing in God's economy.

Thanks for joining us on this amazing journey. To God be the glory!

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil 1:6
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We Need To Talk

Alright folks, it's time to talk turkey, as they say where I'm from. We have been talking about being Crazy and all for several months now. We have cut back on spending, we have relieved ourselves of one rather old Audi, and we have harped on "making it do or doing without", or whatever that phrase was. But it's time to check the ol' gut. How much are we really doing and what good is it anyway?

If we are really, truly honest, getting rid of a car just to turn around and buy a scooter is not all that crazy. When the vast majority of the people on this planet don't have a scooter to their name much less even the most basic of cars - when they really and truly need the transportation - how is it crazy for us to have both? If I was really crazy I would have sold the car and walked to work, carrying two or three people on my back. That would get someone's attention. Probably a chiropractor to name just one, but you understand my point.

Earlier this year I started going to Uganda to learn more about what we could possibly do to help some children in a desperate situation and SixtyFeet.org was birthed. Since then I have been back again along with some other fine men, we raised a lot of money through the help of The Cupcake Kids, and we have been urging others to give and support that effort.

Sometime in the past couple of months, we have been fighting off a nagging feeling. It was a feeling something along the lines of 'Is that it?' As in, 'Is that all you guys are going to do? You're going to raise some money to help children in need - Ok, I get that, that's good. But what else?'

Well, we hadn't thought beyond that. That seemed good enough, right? These kids need money; or at least some of the things money can get them like food, clothing, schooling, Bibles... That's all they need, right?

No, that is not all they need. They need a family. They need to be a part of a family with a mother and father that love them and won't abandon them. They need brothers and sisters. They need aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, people, support. Everything that every single person on this planet longs for.

How many verses in the Bible, do you think, deal with orphans, the poor and prisoners (everything that summarizes the children we are working with through SixtyFeet)? Well, I started to try and count and then realized it covers vast swaths of the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, if you think about it, that's sort of the entire thing. Christ came and opened up salvation to everyone. Everyone that was not part of 'God's chosen' were grafted into the family once and for all. We have all, in no uncertain terms, been adopted.

So what does that have to do with us and our crazy selves? In case you haven't figured it out, we are starting the process of adopting from Uganda. To add a little spice of crazy, we're going for it and trying to adopt two - a boy and a girl. They have been together their entire lives and we want them to stay together. Up until a couple of weeks ago when we were in Uganda, they had spent almost their entire lives in what amounts to a prison. During the last SixtyFeet trip, we were able to move them out. They are in a very, very good place right now and we are so happy they are free to play and run around with other children their own age, they have a bed time and a bed, a bath time where they really get cleaned, and food like they have never eaten in their lives. But they don't yet have a home with a family that they can call their own. This is what we want to give them.

We are excited, but nervous. Check that, I'd say we are downright scared. I'm man enough to say it. We have watched several close friends go through the process of adopting this year alone - both domestic and international.  We have prayed for them, cried with them, and done everything we could to help them through very difficult circumstances - (It should not be so cumbersome to adopt a child). And we know what we have in front of us. At least we think we do. We know at least it won't be easy. It will be a major change for our family going from five to seven. Our little house will be bursting at the seems. Not to mention our scooter. Surely it isn't rated for seven. I need to check the manual.

But we know that we also have many, many people standing with us. We are in a church that fully supports us and every week the pastors pray from the pulpit for the children of Uganda and for the work of SixtyFeet. We are blessed to be surrounded by friends who will pray for us every step of the way. We ask that you do the same. We are moving forward in faith that this is what God wants us to do and we dare not back away from that. We will need strength, stamina and a whole lot of grace for the long days ahead. And we fully trust that He who called us will also equip us with all we need.

So there it is, the latest on the Crazies. Little did you know that the Owens are not just crazy, we are actually completely nuts. At least it feels that way now.