Why Adoption is Supposed to be Hard

We have been home from China with Jeremiah for 6 weeks, and when people ask me how we’re all doing I usually say, “We’re alive, and that’s our only goal right now, so good I think.” We could safely say that this has been the most stretching and overwhelming two months of our lives, and tears have been plentiful in the Clements household. While we are still raw in this journey, I wanted to process some things we’ve been learning in the hopes that it would help us and anyone else who may walk this road in the future.

Kristi and I have always been staggered by how clearly adoption is a picture of the gospel. It’s no accident that Paul uses the imagery of adoption multiple times to describe what God did for us–that we were spiritual orphans, completely hopeless and as good as dead, and God adopted us into His family through the costly blood of His Son. He chose to take on immense suffering on our behalf, so that we could be reconciled to Him.

So when we were dating, engaged and first married, we’d talk about adoption all the time. We knew it was in God’s plan for our family. We’d meet families and just marvel at how beautifully we saw the story of the gospel through their adoption, or their willingness to foster kids–to be a literal ministry of reconciliation between a hurting child and a struggling birthparent. We’d watch the tearjerker videos about adoption. I still remember one a while ago that was called I Like Adoption about this family who adopted 9 or 10 kids from all over the world, many with severe special needs. Watching that video cemented in our hearts that we were not supposed to leave this Earth without bringing as many fatherless kids as we can into our family.

We saw the gospel in adoption, yes. That’s what motivated us to do it. But all of the things we talked about and saw, we didn’t know yet–at least not fully. And all of those videos, as wonderful as they are–they don’t show you the really ugly and hard parts. They show you the parts that make you cry, they don’t show the parent weeping on the bathroom floor because they are so overwhelmed they think they might die (I mean, I haven’t done that of course, but I’m sure other people have…)

Fast forward in our journey to Sept 16th of this year. We walk into a very hot government affairs building in China, and with little warning a group of orphanage workers randomly walk in with a bunch of kids. And there, in the arms of one of them, is our son Jeremiah. The one we’d stared at pictures of for months. He has on a green shirt that says “Kitchen Cat,” red Hello Kitty pants, and one pink shoe. He looks like Christmas.

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The first couple of days feel kind of like a honeymoon phase. We’re new and fun to him and he’s new and fun to us. He’s outside of his orphanage for the first time, so he’s just having a blast. Then a couple of days in, he starts wondering “Actually, what is going on here? Who are you people and why are you so white? What is this strange language you are speaking?…”

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This uncertainty happens right about the time that we get on a plane (which he’s obviously never been on) for 24 hours. And at the end of that plane ride–which was so miserable I’ve completely blacked it out of my memory–we’ve stayed up all night 2 nights in a row. And then we get to deal with the evil that is a 12 hour time change. We had never done that before, and let me tell you, evil isn’t a strong enough word for it.

But of course, we couldn’t get over that time change until he did. All 17 months of his life he’d been on the same schedule, and now here we were telling him day was actually nighttime. So after what we thought was the most exhausting and emotionally draining 2 weeks of our lives, we go to bed every night and at midnight Jeremiah’s awake for the day. For about the next two weeks. In this time, we hit depths of exhaustion and instability we didn’t know were a thing.

When he is awake, he consistently freaks out because he has no idea what is happening. He squeals so excruciatingly loud and often that it physically hurts our ears, to the point that I bought earplugs to wear around the house (I don’t know of a better word than squeal—it’s much different than a typical baby cry). This deafening, nonstop siren presses buttons in me that I didn’t even know existed.

He’s afraid of Sully, his 2 year old sister, and she just doesn’t like him at all yet. She can’t fathom why this baby won’t quit squealing like a terrified banshee, or why he bites her and Isla when they get too close to him. Sully has been markedly more obstinate and emotionally unstable since we’ve been home–privy to throw tantrums we’ve never seen her throw over things she used to not bat an eye at–all her way of revolting against a change she doesn’t love and can’t fully understand. In the moment, those self-destructions are really hard to watch.

She’s very protective of her baby sister, and even though Isla is in some ways oblivious as a baby, even she often has a confused look on her face, like she’s thinking “Aren’t I supposed to be the one crying and getting all the attention here?” Which she does, mostly at night (she’s generally an angel during the day). We joke that she’s plotting to get alone time with us, but the joke wears as sleep continues to be assaulted by at least one baby waking up at all hours of the night. We planned for the babies to share a room, and the day we got home we realized, “Oh—that’s not gonna work. They’ll wake each other up all night.” So for now Jeremiah sleeps in a pack’n’play. In our closet.

Add all of this together, and well—that’s the part where weeping on the bathroom floor may have occurred. Once. Or maybe twice. It’s really hard to say at this point. We’ve had some very dark, despairing moments.

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All that to say—here is what we are learning, slowly and fitfully in this process that’s harder than we expected it to be—it’s supposed to feel this way.

It’s supposed to be this hard.

The grief that all of us are sharing in right now is not abnormal, and it doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. In fact, it means we’re doing it right. I think that’s important to acknowledge, because a lot of times in adoption circles all you hear are the positive things, the Instagram-worthy moments. Unless you happen to be close to an adoptive parent and share a quiet conversation over drinks you may never hear some of these things, I think because a lot of people feel like if they talk about how hard it all is that may feel like they are talking bad about their adopted child. While we get that, we’d love to be a voice for realism, because those voices are what has helped us the most.

The one verse that has stuck out to me the most in this process is James 1:27:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

While we are still in the throes of the first few months of our adoption, the word affliction jumps out at me. It pops up from the page and grabs me by the throat, because I see it in my son. When a child does not have a family due to the immense brokenness of the world, that child will be afflicted. He will inherit an enormous, shattering amount of pain. And that affliction–that pain–it will not be contained to him. It will go somewhere. It will be passed along to others in one way or another. It has to.

So where I used to read this verse and know the word affliction–now I read it and I feel it.

And, let me tell you, it hurts.

Because here’s the thing: at two months old, Jeremiah was left on the side of a busy highway in a huge city, just outside a subway station and police headquarters. He was wrapped up in blankets with a note pinned to him that said:

5/18/15

11:53 pm

He weighed 6 pounds, and he was incredibly sick from an infection that he was born with that kills 20% of babies it is passed to. For the next 6 weeks, a time when babies are supposed to be rocked and cuddled and goo’d and gah’d to, he laid in a hospital bed. He was poked with needles, prodded with tubes, taken care of by shift workers with far too much on their plates. For 6 weeks, all alone in a hospital room, with no momma there to soothe his cries. Then he went to an orphanage for the next year + of his life, where he slept in a room with fifty-something cribs lined wall-to-wall and fought for attention and affection every hour that he was awake.

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Jeremiah’s finding spot.

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His crib, with his Ayi (nanny).

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Because of all this, our son, he carries affliction. Deep, yearning, and fierce affliction that comes out with the many tears and tantrums and squeals that are too piercing for words.

And again, that pain—that affliction—will not bottle up inside of him forever. It has to come out, somewhere and somehow. It will either continue to fester in him as he continues his orphan-ness and be unleashed on everyone he meets for the rest of his life, or it can have a source to flow into that will brace for impact and absorb that pain.

Enter the other four members of the Clements family.

What we are learning is that what adoption is, is a family who is willing to step in and say,“We will take your affliction. We will take the very real pain you have from not having a family. We’ll absorb it so you won’t have to bear it anymore… 

We will weep on the bathroom floor, so hopefully one day you don’t have to.”

All of us, even down to the grinning and slightly confused 8 month old. We are all posting up under the weight of his affliction, in one way or another.

Because that’s exactly what Jesus has done for us. This is the refrain we keep repeating to ourselves and to Sully, “Because of Jesus, we do hard things to sacrifice for others.”

And what we are finding is that there is a special joy that comes from sharing in the sufferings of Christ, in sacrificing for the good of another. The reason adoption is so representative of the gospel is because chosen suffering is necessary for it to happen, and chosen suffering is exactly the road Jesus walked for us. He willingly got up on that cross and bore every ounce of our affliction. The gospel is not a painless story, and walking through this process has allowed us to see that more clearly than ever.

Honestly, sometimes I don’t even have words for what this feels like, and I just have tears. Sometimes they aren’t all happy tears, but they are good tears. Out of all this, what I do have is a greater appreciation for the suffering that Jesus chose for us. I can’t think of anything else we could have chosen to do in life that would have this effect on our souls and our appreciation for Jesus.

Adoption hurts all that are involved. The wounds are deep, the grief is real, and the tears are abundant. None of it is easy, and watching Jeremiah grieve or Sully implode with confusion brings out sorrow that feels overwhelming at times.

But just like the gospel, the great irony is that life comes out of sacrifice. It’s not just hard and then it’s over, but joy and depth and relationship and long-term soul formation flow out of sacrifice. A new family is made through the crucible of suffering, and deeper joys grow out of many sacrifices that fade slowly into unimportance.

Jeremiah gets a family. My wife and I get the joy of a new son and a lifelong experience of the gospel. We get to be challenged and stretched and more aware of our sinfulness and need for Jesus than ever before. Sully and Isla get a brother that they will be immeasurably thankful for one day. They get to have their souls formed in sanctifying ways by becoming family with someone who didn’t have one, and their hearts will grow more beautiful because of it.

Today? Today is hard. We are still in the throes. There is grief all around.

But I keep thinking about 5 years from now. They’ll be running around our backyard, and who knows who will favor and dislike the others at that point, but Lord willing it will be a gracious riot then. They will hate each other, sure, but in the I-love-you-like-crazy sort of way. 

I think about 10 years from now, and all the glorious awkwardness of middle school. I’m hoping they rise to have one another’s backs, to defend their siblings in whatever pointless teenage drama that most certainly will occur. I die for the day that Sully or Isla defiantly say “That’s my brother,” and vice versa.

I think about their wedding days, and how they will feel about one another as they toss bouquets and flip garters. I pray that they will laugh and dance and shed tears that flow out of fierce affection and appreciation for one another. That they will love Jesus with all their might and know from his example that sacrifice makes a soul more beautiful.

I pray that when they look at one another they will know that family is formed by choosing to suffer together, and that the very cores of their being will shine with something that does not come from the core of their being.

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Recently I was talking with a guy about adoption, and he was sharing his hesitation. He feels protective, as most good dads do, and he voiced that he just didn’t know if he was okay bringing that level of damage and heartache into his family. He was afraid that doing so would somehow mess up the people he loves most, and he ended by saying he just didn’t know if they could afford to take that risk.

It’s a concern that I understand as I survey the initial effects this has had on our family. His fear hits me too, if I’m honest. But through all of this, and through my prayers for the mature and shining souls I hope our whole family comes to display, I’m starting to think about it very differently.

I’m starting to think that we can’t afford NOT to take that risk. 

Adoption hurts, yes. It is supposed to.

But it doesn’t hurt forever.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

-Romans 8:18

The glory? I’m starting to see it. Just barely…just a hint. But it is there, and it is real, and it knocks me to the floor.

Already I know that I will never be the same. None of us will, in the best way possible.

@helpbringjeremiahhome

Guys. We are having so much fun running an online auction on Instagram! So many amazing souls have donated items (that are truly wonderful items) and we have so many bids! Go check it out @helpbringjeremiahhome on Instagram! Bid on something and have fun shopping for a great cause (bringing my babe home!)

On Cheering for Your Son from the Other Side of the World

There is a little boy sitting in an orphanage in China, and he is our son.

Two weeks ago we did not know he existed. Now we think about him and pray for him as often as we breathe. We talk about him, wonder what he’s doing, look at pictures more than you’d think possible. Our two-year old Sully scrolls through them and says, “Awww…cute! Jeremiah!”

And yet we cannot go pick him up for 2-3 months because of the endless paperwork adoption is. That feels very soon and insufferably far away at the same time.

THIS IS ALL THE STRANGEST FEELING WE’VE EVER FELT.

We were able to send a list of 10 questions to his orphanage to ask for updates about him. Things like: What comforts him? How does he sleep? What is he eating? What is his personality like?

We were told not to expect much from the update, that sometimes they never even come back, that if it did sometimes the information is less than clear due to passing through many miles and cultures.

Today, the update came back, along with some new pictures of him.

We asked “What upsets him?” Answer: When his nanny leaves him. (Tears)

We asked “Is he beginning to say or understand any words?” Answer: He understands some words, such as come here or let me hold you. (Tears)

We asked “What message would you like him to take from you to remember about his time in the orphanage?” Answer: He is a sweet, smart baby boy. We all adore him. We hope he has a good future. (Tears)

Because of his developmental delays, we asked if he was making progress towards sitting up, standing, or crawling. The answer was that he can sit up now(!), and is working on crawling–but can’t stand up yet.

Then they sent this picture:

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This picture absolutely wrecked us. It’s hard to put into words the feeling that this little human you didn’t know existed two weeks ago now feels like your flesh and blood (though you are months away from meeting him), and on every development chart he should have been sitting up long ago but “OH MY GOSH YOU’RE SITTING UP ON YOUR OWN!!! Good job buddy!”

Then it’s like: Who is this wonderful, smiley nanny sitting in front of you? How did she come about working at this orphanage, and why? Does she have the faintest idea how appreciated she is? How long will it take you to smile at us like you smile at her?

We had never thought that much about the orphanage workers before now, and it brings us unspeakable joy to know that there is someone who is cheering for Jeremiah as he’s learning to sit up–someone he loves enough to cry when they leave.

Watery-eyed, gut-wrenching joy. The look in her eyes in these pictures helps sleep at night.

Then: the other kids. I zoomed in on each of their tiny bodies, on each face I could see in all of the pictures they sent. Doing this makes something burrow down deep inside my soul and refuse to leave.

What will happen to these kids? Do they have families waiting to pick them up? What are their special needs? How long do they just lay there like that? What about the poor little guy underneath the nanny’s face craning for attention–is someone coming for him? Does the smiley nanny take care of all of them? I hope so…but if she has to take care of all of them, how many hours does Jeremiah lay on the floor by himself?

We were not aware of the fact that one picture could bring about so much joy, yet so much sadness and tension and desperation and who knows what else. As I was thinking about this picture and ALL THE EMOTIONS it brings up, my mind kept hearing a vaguely memorized verse: “we ourselves…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons” (Romans 8:23).

I don’t know of two better words to describe how all of this feels than to groan inwardly.

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Here are ways you can be praying for us and Jeremiah:

  • For peace: We are immensely excited…AND simultaneously this is all happening very fast in a season where we already feel overwhelmed with jobs, me writing a book, having a 3 month old, etc. We feel utterly confident that this is God’s perfect timing (we’ve actually told people that it didn’t feel like a decision when we were presented with Jeremiah’s file–it was like “Yeah of course, this is our son”). But this happening months before we expected it to is stretching our capacity (and we’re sure our capacity will continue to be sttrreeeettcchheedd in the coming months when we get him home).
  • For provision: We have already started making some ground on this, but still have a LONG  way to go. We need to raise a little over $16,000 between now and the time we travel (2-3 months from now). This feels very pressing and also very difficult in light of normal hectic life and the mountains of paperwork and training we have to do in the next 2 months. We have created a YouCaring page to keep up with the progress of all of our different fundraisers, so if you’d like to help out with this click here.
  • For the trip: For things to go smoothly (court dates, visas, safety, etc.) Also, we will be there for 2 weeks and are currently planning on leaving Sully and Isla with family. Being away from them (and them not seeing us) for 2 weeks will be quite difficult. (But likely less difficult than dragging them across the globe, flipping their days and nights, and generally causing them to lose their minds.)
  • For Jeremiah’s health & development: Jeremiah was very, very sick for most of his early life. He weighed 6 pounds at 2 months when he was abandoned beside a subway station. He was hospitalized for several weeks to be cured from an infection he’d had since birth. He seems to be doing much better now, and we are praying for it to stay that way (and that any long-term damage the infection may have caused would be minimal). He looks big to us in the pictures, but he’s actually in the 3rd percentile for height and weight for his age and has significant developmental delays. We are praying that as the nannies work with him he will make some progress in crawling or potentially standing by the time we pick him up.

This is all a lot to process and it brings about all the feels, so thanks for your support and prayers and general awesomeness. We feel like we couldn’t have a better community to bring our new son into, and we are beyond grateful for our friends and family. His adoption into our family is only made possible by the wonderful village that surrounds us–people that have already given and will give, people that have already prayed and will pray, people that have already supported and will support–and that is something we will never forget or take lightly.

Meet Our Soon-to-be Son Jeremiah!

World, meet our soon-to-be son Jeremiah! We were officially matched with him last week and should be traveling to China to get him in around 3 months! He is 13 months old and has been in an orphanage almost all of his life.

This happened about 3-6 months earlier than we were told to expect in the process, and that was such a pleasant surprise!

We have a lot of paperwork/preparation to do and a good deal of money to raise (about $17,000 as of June 17th), so we ask for your prayers (and be on the lookout for some upcoming fundraisers). Thanks for rejoicing with us…we can’t wait to meet him!

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An Important (& Long) Clements Family Adoption Update

Update on our Process

 

Hey friends, it’s been WAY too long since we’ve done an update here. Sorry for that. Life is crazy, and unfortunately, we haven’t had a ton to update about until recently. We’ve had all of these conversations with close family and friends, but just haven’t updated this site yet.

To make a long story short, when we started the adoption process with Ethiopia, we felt very sure that this was the exact country we were supposed to adopt from. We raised some initial funds and did, literally, days worth of paperwork. We turned all of our stuff in and sent off our dossier to Ethiopia and officially got our waiting list number from our agency. That was almost two years ago.

At that time, we thought we’d have a child home, or at least have a referral, at this point in time. However, what we thought was far from reality.

Essentially, about the exact same time we got on the waiting list, referrals from Ethiopia slowed to almost a complete halt. There has been a lot of change going on in their in-country process (mostly good changes that will make things better), and that has meant a drastic slow-down in the number of children they refer to international adoption.

To put a number on it (we can’t give out specific wait list numbers)…as of a few months ago we had moved about 10 spots since we got on the wait list. If the process continued to move at this pace, we’d get a referral about 15 years from now. So that shows you a little bit of the chaos of change that is happening in Ethiopia right now.

During this process, we started hearing more and more about why the process is slowing down in Ethiopia. Several years back, tons and tons of kids were adopted from Ethiopia. It made sense, being a very poor, war-torn, and HIV stricken country with a relatively easy adoption process. So many kids were brought over to the US from dire situations and given forever families.

However, (and this is the dark side of things that we were so naively unaware of at the beginning of our process…) there is more to the story than what sticks out on the surface. It is a bit more complicated than the seemingly very simple math equation.

Essentially, the beautiful solution of inter-country adoption that provided a loving home to so many orphans also created a significant problem for other vulnerable children and families. An unforeseen effect of pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into a specific area of a third world country’s economy was that all that money, to some degree, seemed to turn inter-country adoption into a profitable business for either desperate or evil people. Ethiopia is not a Hague signatory country, which means their adoption process isn’t afforded the same level of government oversight and checks and balances as Hague signatory countries are.

In short, some twisted people took advantage of opportunities to make money off of vulnerable families and kids. Some adoption workers in country began to be paid per adoption, which obviously incentivizes adoption for them. Instead of being the absolute last resort option for desperate mothers and families, it was offered as the first option. Struggling to raise your baby? Instead of pushing toward (limited) resources available to support a vulnerable family, adoption would be given as the first option. Birthmothers in the past weren’t always fully educated about what adoption was. There are many documented cases where a birthmother’s understanding was that their child was essentially going to a boarding school in the US and would return to Ethiopia after school to get a job and help support their family. You can imagine their despair when they learned that they’d never see their children again.

Some agencies (even many “Christian” ones) operated in highly questionable or unethical ways, furthering the problem. In the past few years, a number of agencies have been shut down, and one agency in South Carolina last year was put under after it was discovered that they were paying bribes to government officials in Ethiopia to sign off on fraudulent paperwork.

Things became a mess, and the Ethiopian government essentially said, “Enough is enough. This has gotten out of hand.” A system designed to help the most vulnerable kids was, at times, actually hurting others through corruption and lack of oversight. They did not completely stop adoptions, they just slowed way, way down in order to get a grip on it all and provide more oversight (not to mention less adoptions means less money, which means less motive for corrupt individuals).

That, in a nutshell, is what has been going on in the past several years. We are honestly embarrassed to say that when we started the process, we were completely unaware of the vast majority of these concerns. It seems like common sense now, but we had never heard anyone talk about it and simply assumed that something as pure and beautiful as adoption would never be suspect to the corruption of sin. Unfortunately that is far from the truth. Because of all these things, the attitude toward international adoption by government officials in Ethiopia is changing. Honestly, this seems mostly for the better, since they are trying their best to advocate for the best solutions possible (in order of importance: 1) family reunification when possible, 2) kinship adoption, 3) domestic adoption, 4) international adoption, 5) institutional care).

Of course, this creates a really tough situation, because as difficult as these things are to do in a wealthy, developed country—they are much harder in a severely under-resourced country like Ethiopia. These are valiant goals to try for, but they will likely delay the placement of many orphans into permanent homes. That is exactly the kind of Catch-22 dilemma that can make you feel sick.

This entire process has been very disorienting for us. We went from standing on a bedrock of what we felt sure was God-inspried certainty to our feet in the air wondering which way was up. We have spent countless hours reading stories, talking to other adoptive families, and doing research on the best way to help vulnerable kids in Ethiopia.

And while we have come to the conclusion that the process, done very carefully and properly with the right agency can produce a necessary and ethical international adoption, we do not feel comfortable at this time moving forward with adoption from Ethiopia. We started thinking about this whenever things slowed down so much anyway because it became apparent that it likely may not be an option regardless in the near future, and everything we have learned in the process has only strengthened that feeling.

By this, we are not saying that anyone else adopting from Ethiopia is wrong—simply that with all things considered, we believe it’s best that we go elsewhere for the time being. Things are very volatile and uncertain right now, for good reason, and we don’t want to wait on a list for years when we can bring home a little kiddo who needs a family much sooner than that elsewhere.

This has been a difficult conclusion to come to that has involved many tears. So certain were we at the beginning of the process that it almost felt like we already had a little Ethiopian toddler sitting at our kitchen table, as we certainly had them in our hearts. So it has felt a little like grieving something that had already become reality in our minds that may never be a reality.

But that is precisely what has been hammered into our hearts during this entire process—adoption is not about getting a child for a family, it’s about providing a family for a child who truly needs one. It is no tragedy that what we felt was our dream or specific adoption calling may never come to fruition, and very dangerous things happen when wealthy, Western families develop a “That’s my baby and I’ll do whatever it takes to get them home!” mentality. Adoption should forever and always be the response to a tragedy, not a contributing factor because of strong parental desires on the part of those with power.

No, the real tragedy is that orphaned kids go without homes because of corrupt, sinful people that corrupt something amazing for many. The real tragedy is that vulnerable kids and families are in a position where poverty and a lack of support cause them to make very difficult, life-altering decisions.

What We’ve Learned

 

A few things that we’ve learned in this process are:

1. Orphan care is so much bigger than adoption.

Mentoring at-risk kids or birthmothers, sponsoring kids through Compassion International or other ministries…those are orphan prevention. Community development, clean water projects, education and medical care…those are orphan prevention. As Christians, we need to be doing as much prevention work as we do in responding to tragedies that have already occurred. Genuinely, a sponsorship through something like Compassion can keep a child with his birth family for good and give them the education and skills they need to help lift his family out of poverty one day. I’ve seen it with my own eyes in El Salvador.

2. International adoption is more complicated than we thought.

It sounds so simple, but it’s harder than it seems. There are a lot of things at play and a lot of things at risk. For many kids, international adoption is the absolute best option for them and it needs to remain a feasible and ethical option. For many others, it is not and should not be advertised as such. The reality is, we need the church across the globe to rise up and care for orphans, because even if international adoption to the US & Europe spiked drastically it would not even put a sizable dent in the number of orphans worldwide. We need bigger solutions.

3. Even the most beautiful things can be tainted by sin.

We should have known this, but it’s hard to see sometimes. Even a picture of the gospel like adoption can be marred and corrupted because we live in a busted world.

4. Orphans are worth fighting for. And there are many different ways to fight.

We have developed such a heart for Ethiopia and are looking into how we can best serve vulnerable kids there. Sponsoring through Compassion is a huge way, and we also love what the folks at Kidmia are doing…empowering Christians in Ethiopia to adopt.

5. God is still in control.

As we said, this has been a very disorienting process, especially since we felt so much certainty in the beginning. It’s been tempting to ask, “God why did you give us so much certainty, only to end up here in this place?” However, we trust that God has brought us on this journey to mature, challenge, and change us. We are SO much more aware of the complexity of the orphan crisis all over the world now than we were before we started. We are much more aware of the many and desperate needs, and that only God is big enough to do something about them. We are more aware that we are not in control of our lives, and that our wants and even felt callings are not the center of the universe.

So in conclusion, after waiting on the waiting list for a long period of time and wading through all of these issues and accepting the reality of the current situation, we prayerfully decided to withdraw from the Ethiopia program a few months ago.

A New Direction

 

So, what’s next? (Hint: a very large country in Asia.)

Our agency, LifeLine, has many different country programs. Many programs are much more stable and secure, with much less room for potential corruption (this is especially true about Hague signatory countries). We are allowed to switch programs with our agency and lose only minimal fees that we’ve already paid in (we’ve already paid in over $12,000, a majority of that fundraised, so this is a BIG plus to be able to transfer those funds), so for the past few months we have been praying about which program the Lord would have us switch to.

After much prayer, a month or so ago we applied to the special needs program in China and have been provisionally accepted! We don’t officially qualify until we both turn 30, and it will still be a somewhat lengthy process after that happens. But we have a new direction and a peace about where the Lord has us. Hopefully by God’s grace in less than 2 years from now we will be traveling to bring our child home. China has one of the most stable and ethical international adoption programs in the world with a lot of government oversight and accountability, which we are grateful for.

For those curious, we will likely be adopting a child with minor to moderate special needs (some possible scenarios could be cleft lip, cleft palate, heart defects, club foot, etc.). China has an unfortunate and tragic cultural stigma regarding special needs children that contributes to a lot of parents giving them up for adoption. This sounds strange, but it is actually illegal to relinquish your child for adoption in China, so the only way to do so is to abandon them. When an abandonment happens, the government goes through appropriate steps to identify the biological family and tries to reunite them, and when those attempts fail the children are placed for adoption. The child will likely be around 2-3 when we get them, so there’s potential they will be almost exactly the same age as Sully, which we are excited about.

If you’ve read all of this you are quite a trooper. Thanks for following our journey and most importantly for your prayers. Thanks to those of you who have already given to support our adoption. We are very excited to progress in this process and we are very thankful for you all!

Two Different Kinds of Magic | An Update on the Clements Family

So…it’s been too long since we’ve posted here. Life! What can you do?

We posted this on Facebook a while ago, but we are adding a new member of the Clements tribe to our family this coming February. A beautiful little girl named Sully Jones is growing in Kristi’s belly and she has already stolen our hearts!

In light of this news, some people have asked us, “So, are you still adopting?”

And our answer is, “Of course!” We have never viewed adoption as Option B for our family, and we are pursuing it as much as ever. We are overwhelmed with gratitude that God chose to bless us with a biological child during the adoption process, and even more so by the fact that the timing of this pregnancy does not slow down our adoption process at all.

So in the time period (the next 2-ish years) where we thought we’d be welcoming one child into our family, we’ll be welcoming two.

He is gracious indeed.

Things have been super busy as we prepare for a rapidly expanding family. We’ve been doing TONS of paperwork to finish up our adoption dossier & proceed to the next step, while at the same time working to prepare a nursery (did you realize just how close we are to February?).

In the past we’ve talked about how pregnancy and adoption are two different kinds of magic. People talk frequently about the miracle of pregnancy, the awe of a growing belly, and it is magical indeed. It is breathtaking how our Creator has fashioned us.

And while talked about less, adoption is just as breathtaking, just as beautiful–a miracle in itself and a moving picture of how Jesus has adopted us. Every time we get to hang out with our friends Travis & Ashley and their adorable new daughter Lottie, we leave almost in tears because of how good and faithful God is.

Kids are always a gift and life is always a miracle. Every smile, giggle, tear, and even every poopy diaper. It’s all a gift and it’s all magic and we could not be more grateful to be walking both of these roads, accepting both of these gifts. We don’t deserve any of the gifts that our Father gives, but He loves to give them nonetheless.

We covet your continued prayers for our family. For:

  • The remainder of the pregnancy to be healthy, for Sully to meet the world as a healthy baby in February.
  • For the adoption process (estimated 2 years out before finalization) to move quickly.
  • For our either unborn or very young child in Ethiopia whom we do not yet know.
  • For the salvation of both children on the way.
  • For adoption fundraising as we continue the process.

Thanks, we love you all and are beyond thankful for your support and prayers.

 

Grace Upon Grace: A Benefit Show Reflection

Saturday night we had our first fundraiser, a benefit show with music by some incredibly talented friends. It was an amazing night and we walked away genuinely overwhelmed by the support and generosity of our family and friends.

It is grace to have the people surrounding us that we do. Pure grace. From biological family to our adopted church family, we have some of the best in the world fighting, praying, encouraging and supporting us. People who rejoice when we rejoice, weep when we weep, who emotionally and financially say “Your burden will be my burden because we are family.”

The generosity and support of God’s people is a breathtaking thing. Seeing believers rally around a need has always screamed Jesus at me, because that’s the church and she is beautiful beyond belief.

Last night we got the chance to be on the receiving end of that as people gave financially, gathered around us physically, laid life-giving hands on us and prayed for our adoption, our peace, our child–for Jesus to be lifted up in the midst of this process.

“Grace upon grace” is the only way I know how to describe the support we felt last night. With many difficulties behind and many more ahead in this journey, we felt God piling His grace upon us and we are so very grateful.

On a practical note, we raised just over $8,000 last night! (The refrain continues…grace upon grace). With what we’ve already received, that puts us right at 1/3rd of the way there financially and covers some big upcoming costs in the near future. From very large checks to seeing little Zoe Tipping dump her “give” piggybank into the basket, we had a front row seat to seeing the church be the church.

We are overwhelmed, grateful, blessed beyond our ability to comprehend.

To everyone who helped make last night happen: thank you.

To everyone who came, gave financially, and prayed for us: thank you.

We love you guys and are so grateful to call you family.

 

My deep gladness.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Frederick Buechner

I’m not very brave. There, I said it. I second-guess a lot of what I do; I don’t make rash decisions; I barely do anything on a whim and I think through every major decision like it will kill me if I get it wrong.  With adoption, I’ve felt a sense of peace and a knowledge that did not cause me to act like my normal wishy-washy self. Sure, I second-guessed timing and asked God to be so clear about 1 million times. But, there was this deep sense that I just knew this was it for our little family. 

Last November, we gave our closest friends a card to share the news that we were adopting.  The card read something along the lines of: “Somewhere in a far away land, there is a birthmom who will carry a baby. Through adoption, that Little One will find his/her family here, with us. That Little One will be our Little One. We are adopting from Ethiopia!” As I wrote that to each of my closest friends, I knew the Lord was saying, “This is true, Kristi, this is a part of your story. Your love for kids, especially orphans, meets here with a need in Ethiopia. These two worlds collide in a redemption story.” 

Yes, I needed to be brave and do what the Lord called us to do. But, the Lord gave me a calling that I dearly love.  So many people have already said things along the lines of “what a great thing you guys are doing!” and yes, adoption is a great thing.  I echo the thankfulness to adoptive families around the world, because it’s tough stuff.  But, it’s not a great thing or just a brave thing that adoptive parents do.  I don’t feel like I just “have to do this because God told me to.”  We aren’t rescuers; we, in fact, have been rescued by a great God that allows us to live the dream as we grow in Him. My deep gladness will be found in becoming a mother to our child. God gifts me my deep gladness! 

We are just rejoicing over here in the Clements’ household.  We celebrated my brother’s wedding this weekend and I can’t wait to see my Little One cutting a rug with my family at future weddings.  We are almost finished with our Homestudy process (just one more appointment!) and we are a day closer to knowing and loving on our little peanut!  We thank you for your love, support, emails, prayers, cards, financial help, and spreading the word to others to pray for us, as well.  We can’t describe our gratitude to you all.  We’ll keep you updated!

Benefit Show: June 8th

Hi, everyone! Kristi here. I first want to thank you for the messages, comments & texts congratulating us. We had so much fun last week watching people get excited with us! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Encouraging words are like gold to us in this season. Thank you.

We have our first fundraiser coming up in June! I wanted to go ahead and get everyone to mark their calendars! We are going to have a Benefit Show at Midtown’s Devine Street campus on June 8th. Musical guests will be: Ashley and Travis Wright, Tom Walsh & soon-to-be Kimberly (Baston) Walsh, and Jay Hendricks.

The Wright’s are some of our closest friends who just happen to be in the waiting season to adopt a little one! Tom, Kim and Jay all lead worship at our church and every, single person that will be on stage that night are all amazingly talented. We will also have a family that has adopted from Ethiopia tell their “gotcha day!” story. (The Gotcha Day is the day that you meet your kiddo for the first time in person.) We’d love to have you all…it will be such a good show!

When: June 8th
What: Benefit Show (music + refreshments + a little “gotcha day” story)
Where: Midtown Devine St Campus @ 2925 Devine St Columbia, SC 29205
Who: You, your friends, your family, your co-workers…invite anyone that likes good music!

We will take donations at the door and 100% of those proceeds will go toward adoption fees to bring our little one home!

Here’s the Facebook event page. It’s public and anyone can join, invite others, and share.

THANK YOU again for all you’ve done so far to encourage us, support us, and pray for us. I am so stinkin’ excited!

 

Some Big News for the Clements Family

Hello there friends, Kristi & Brandon here.

We are really excited to share some news with you.

We both love kids tremendously and have a strong desire to fill our family with as many as we can. Ever since our first mission trips to Mexico and Guatemala during high school and college, God has put adoption on our hearts very heavily. When we think about the fact that kids all over the world (approximately 147 million of them) are growing up in an institution or on a street, it breaks our hearts. We want those kids in our family! As many of them as we can gather. We have an extra bedroom and a whole lot of love to lavish on some cute little munchkin that needs a family. We’ve been thinking and praying about adoption for years now, both feeling certain that it would play a big part of our future. But late in 2012, we felt the Lord was giving us the green light to move ahead.

So we started praying. A lot.

It’s pretty overwhelming when you think about it. 147 million orphans? Where do we start? There is need here in the US, there is need all over the world…there are so many factors and variables that almost make your head spin.

So we kept praying. A lot.

Through a lot of research and a lot of prayer, we narrowed the list down to a couple of options that were the best fits for our family in our current stage.And then we prayed and we fasted and God answered. Clearly and overwhelmingly, lining up our hearts & desires with His and revealing the path He has for us in the near future.

We are adopting from Ethiopia!

God has broken our hearts for this little (big) country across the world. We’ve been able to meet several families and kiddos who have been adopted from Ethiopia and it was almost as if God was jumping up and down at us through them. It is estimated that there are over 4.3 million orphans in Ethiopia. It is a country that has been decimated by generational poverty, famine, disease, and HIV. One in six Ethiopian children will die before their fifth birthday.

One in six.

That crushes us. Our hearts break over that statistic and every other valuable human life represented by 147 million orphans around the globe. We wish adoption wasn’t even a necessary thing–that every parent or community was able to take care of their children. But that is not the world we live in unfortunately, and we believe that adoption is one of the major callings and desires that God has placed on our hearts. We are thrilled to be able to reduce that number by one (and hopefully more in the future). We tear up at the thought that by God’s grace the child we bring into our family will have a fifth birthday party surrounded by family and friends who adore them.

Again, we are, to say the least, thrilled.

Excited. Anxious. Scared.

We have a long journey ahead of us, and this is why we have started this blog. You’ve heard the popular saying that “It takes a village to raise a child”? We’ll go one further with that: “It will take a village to bring home this child.” We need your prayers, your support, your help. We need you and we want to keep you updated on the journey. So if you want to stay in the loop with us, please take a moment and subscribe via email in the box on the right-hand side of the page (or at the bottom of this post). We promise that we won’t blow up your inbox everyday and will only post occasionally.

And if you have more questions about the adoption, you can check out our FAQ page.

Thanks for reading this far. Thanks in advance for your prayers and support. Thanks for loving us and being awesome.

Until next time…

-Kristi & Brandon

 

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