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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Guatemala

So, after my trip to Honduras, Mark and I looked into international adoption. The only Spanish country open was Guatemala. When Mark got orders to Iraq, we both thought it would be a good idea for me and Tate to head down to Guatemala and get our feet wet there. I would attend Spanish school and do some research to see which agency was the best, and when Mark got home the plan was to start the adoption process.

You can imagine my surprise when I got down to Guatemala and everything fell apart. I would meet someone and get very excited about the possibility of adoption, they would email me the name of their agency, and when I sent the agency an email, nothing would happen. I would get no response. This happened multiple times. I was so discouraged! Mark would call my cell every morning and we would pray together, and often times I would cry because I was so confused. I really felt like my passion and desire was from the Lord, but why was nothing working out? What was I supposed to be doing? I prayed that if I wasn't supposed to be adopting, that the Lord take the desire away. I fully expected that to be the case. To my surprise, the desire didn't go away, it just got stronger. I didn't know what to do. I felt like everything was unraveling all at once.

During this time, Mark started to do some research on adoption on his own. About a month after I got to Guatemala, Mark called me and shared with me the State Department's statement about Guatemalan adoptions. They were recommending that people stop, and they were going to shut the program down December 31st due to Guatemala not ratifying the Hague Convention. I felt a little bit better about that, because then at least maybe the Lord was trying to save us from heartache, but I still didn't know what to do. Mark then shared what he had read about domestic adoptions. While the wait is typically long for a white infant, if you are open to an infant of a different race, the average wait time (according to the US Census Bureau) is three months. There is a great need for families to adopt these babies because if they aren't adopted, they go into foster care. I was floored! Of course we would be open to another race! We began praying about this option, and felt like the door was being blown open. Mark found an agency in Seattle that is nation wide, and when we emailed them for information, they responded the very same day! They do domestic and international adoptions, so we can go through them for international when we are ready to do so.

The agency we are working with, Bethany, has been great. They work with birth moms to make the right choice for the baby, they aren't trying to talk anyone into adoption. Only about 20% of birth moms decide to adopt, and the rest choose to parent. Bethany works with the moms regardless of their choice. I think that is so awesome. The most important thing isn't that Mark and I are able to adopt: it is that the baby that is being born is raised in a stable, loving home. I have so much respect for the women that come to Bethany, regardless of their decision. The fact that they are trying to do what is best for their baby is so refreshing. In some cases, what is best is that the baby be adopted. Other times, it's best that the mom parent the child herself. Neither choice is better than the other. Both options provide the baby a loving home. Babies change your life, no matter if you parent them yourself or not. I think the women that work with Bethany are making the most educated decision they possibly can, and I admire that.

So, in a nutshell, this is how we got where we are today. We are working on our home study, and I will fill you in on that next time.

Merry Christmas!

Love,
Mark, Jenni and Tate

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How we got here pt. 2

We've gotten a lot of questions as to why we want to adopt when we can have biological children. I think it's a very valid question, so I'm going to try to answer it in a round about way.

Neither of us were born with an innate desire to adopt. I didn't even want to have kids ever when I was in high school, or even when Mark and I were dating did I think we would have kids. My how time changes people.

Shortly after Mark and I got engaged I went on a mission trip to Honduras. We worked with Diaconia to provide water to a village that had none. We dug ditches every morning from about five until noon or so. In the afternoons we did various programs for the children, women and men in the village. At night we would do a teen outreach. It was really something. I enjoyed the digging most of all because I could just get to work and dig without having to make a committee decision on how to go about it. I hated that part. Plus, the digging wasn't relational, so I wasn't stretched to practice Spanish or get to know anyone better. It was just easier.

On our third day of digging we were in some family's "backyard". The house was just a shack, and most of it didn't have a roof. There were no other houses around, so they were very glad to have people to talk to. The woman, who was probably no older than I was (19) asked me if I would come into her house and talk with her for a bit. I wasn't sure what to do, after all, the mission was to provide water, and I was accomplishing that. My wise leader, Geoff, knowing that I needed more relational stuff, told me to go ahead and that they would send someone up to get me if we moved on. Nervously I followed her up to her house. I wasn't worried about conversing because I could speak her language. I was worried about what we would talk about because our lives were so vastly different.

As I entered the house I saw chickens running around inside and two little girls; probably ages 1 and 2, were chasing them. There were pigs in the 'bedroom', and a plastic lawn chair was the only piece of furniture in the entire house. I stood there awkwardly, and she asked me to sit on the chair. The little girls were staring intently at me. As soon as I sat down they ran up and sat on my lap. The woman proceeded to pour me a glass of mild and gave me some sort of pastry. It was obviously that she was giving me the best she had, and I was completely humbled. We talked of her girls and the chickens as I sat there and ate the pastry and drank the milk. She asked me if I liked her daughters, and I said yes, I thought they were beautiful and very fun.

After about 20 minutes of small talk the woman cut to the chase. She had seen me working, and thought that I would make a good mother for her children. She explained that she could never give them a chance at anything more than what they had surrounding them. Would I consider taking one home with me and adopting her? The older one would be able to help out around the house sooner, but I could take either one I wanted. She asked me to pick the one I liked the best.

I think my jaw dropped. I know my eyes welled up with tears. I didn't know what to say. When I could look at her again her eyes were teary as well. "Yo quiero que ellas tengan una vida mejor que yo puedo darles." I want them to have a better life then I can give. I cried as I explained that this was not possible, but if it was, I would bring the whole family to live with me. I told her that her girls were beautiful, and with a mother that loves them as much as she does, even if they don't have all of the opportunities that they would in the US, they will have a solid identity and home life, and that is irreplaceable. I told her that I would pray for her and her girls always. At that time, one of the other ladies from our team came to get me. I said a prayer with the woman, gave her and the girls a hug, and left.

The rest of the trip was great, but what happened in that house was the most important moment for me. When I got home, I called Mark and told him the story. I had been praying about it since it happened, and I felt that God was opening my heart up for adopting after we were married. Mark said that it didn't matter to him if we had biological children or adopted children, he would love them the same. From then on, we both knew that we would be adopting one day.

So, here we are. I went to Guatemala while Mark was in Iraq and the door kept closing on that option, but that's the subject for another blog. We are now in the midst of a domestic adoption, and are so excited about it. I'll explain this all tomorrow....

Writing my story down has emotionally drained me for the moment, so I'm going to go and get a cup of chai tea.

Have a great day all!

Love,
Jenni

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How we got here...

So, this is the first post of our new adoption blog. I guess it's not just adoption, but that is one of the main purposes. So, if you don't know us, let me tell you a little bit about how we came to be the Stearns family!

Mark and I met at a high school camp when I was 16 and he was 21. He was counseling and I was a camper (scandalous)! Not really, though, we were just friends until we both graduated (college for him, high school for me) and then we started dating. We were married in December of 2003, and moved to Virginia soon after.

We bought our first house in Virginia, and learned a lot about each other while we fixed it up. We have a ton of great stories, but this one takes the cake. We signed on the house the Thursday before Memorial Day. Mark had duty, so I went right over to the house to start working on our bedroom. It was a horrible fluorescent green with hot pink trim (really!). Being the newlyweds we were, we hadn't even fought over which room to start with. We both agreed that having a finished master bedroom would be best so that we would have a safe haven from the rest of the projects going on around us. I knew that the walls were covered in wallpaper and painted over, so I had bought wallpaper removal supplies at the Home Depot before signing papers.

All day long I dutifully scraped off paint covered wallpaper. It was an arduously slow project, and after 7 hours, I only had a 2 foot square section completed. I could tell it was going to take hours, but I didn't mind. I went to bed that night exhausted, and woke up the next morning and continued with the scraping. After two full days of work, I had a 3 foot square section completed. I was exhausted! I knew, though, with Mark's help we could have this thing knocked out in about a week. It would be worth it, I thought, to have a great bedroom.

The next day I was scheduled to work. I left for work around 8:00 am and Mark was getting getting ready to head into the master bedroom to get to work. I was excited because if he worked all day, and we both worked the next day I thought it would be possible to get a whole wall and possibly half of another completed!

I was excited at work thinking about all that was getting done at home. I got off a little early, so I decided not to call on my way home and surprise him! I couldn't wait to see how much he had accomplished. Surely, I thought, a big guy with muscles his size would be able to get so much more done than I did.

I unlocked the door with anticipation. I ran up the stairs quietly. Oddly enough, I didn't hear the sounds of scraping off wallpaper, I heard rustling and some pounding. Confused but still excited, I threw open the door to our future bedroom.

And there was my handsome husband. Knee deep in lath and plaster. And my wall, my precious wall that I had worked so hard on? Demolished. Completely gone. I was furious.

"What have you done, Mark? We were going to repaint, not tear the entire thing down!" His reply, in a voice mirroring his shock that I wasn't thrilled with the new developments, was "well, honey, scraping that wallpaper is hard work. I got tired of it after about 45 minutes and decided there had to be a better way. Then I thought that if we just tear down the walls, then we can drywall, texture and repaint, and it will look great. Plus, we didn't have much insulation, so this will just be better all around. It won't take that much longer."

I was in shock. "We are married now! We are supposed to talk about big decisions like this! How could you think this is OK? When did we talk about this?"

He stood there in disbelief. "Jenni, why are you so angry about this? We did talk about it. I called your cell phone while you were at work and left you a message!"

I don't remember exactly how the conversation ended, but the story didn't finish for another 18 months, when finally our bedroom was finished. In the end, we rewired, put in new windows, did new floor and crown moulding, refinished the hardwood floors, put in new light fixtures, and put in a new door. It was a lot of work. We are still married, though.

Anyway, sorry for that side note. It really is a great story though. We laugh about it now as we reminisce on the last four years.

BUT

To bring you up to speed, we are now living in Kingston, Washington. We have a very busy 16 month old son named Tate, who is the apple of our eyes. Mark just got back from Iraq in November, and we are so glad to be a family again. And, we are in the midst of adoption. This is a huge adventure we're on, and I hope that you stay tuned for regular updates on the process. We thank you for stopping by!

Love,
Jenni, Mark and Tate