Where we’re at: Adoption

The latest news in our adoption is that we don’t have a lot of news to report. We have learned that the foster timeframe cannot be waived, therefore we won’t be able to return to finalize the adoption until September. We’re pretty heartbroken about this. I’m sure that you can imagine the heartbreak that comes with missing incredible milestones and important bonding time with Ami. We’re trying to leave her in God’s hands but it’s difficult, and at times we do play around with the idea of getting on a plane and going to her. Please continue to keep us in prayer during this time of excruciating wait.

We did get a photo of Aminata last night, which showed that her legs are plump and she has grown so much since Jonathan saw her, which is good news! It means that she has recovered from malaria, typhoid, and amoebiasis, which is what she had when Jonathan visited in March. We are so grateful that her little body was able to fight all three of those things off.  I had malaria two times while I was in Uganda, and I can’t believe that her little body had malaria plus two other sicknesses. Insane. She is the strongest little fighter. And now she’s plumping up and her hair is growing and her little legs are standing on their own! We delight in her thriving even if we can’t be with her today or tomorrow.  Please continue to pray for her to do well over the next four months, and to be spared from any  illnesses. 

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, we were given an amazing opportunity by Lifesong for Orphans. For every dollar donated to our adoption, Lifesong will match up to $3,000. If you would like to give a matching tax deductible donation, visit: https://www.lifesongfororphans.org/give/donate/one-time/?giftchoice=Adoption+Funding&adoptionfunding=Family+Specific

Our family name is “Barker” and our code is “5209”. All donations are tax-deductible. If you’d like a tax-deductible receipt you will automatically be sent one if your donation is 250 or over, if it is under then you will need to request one from Lifesong. Thank you so much for your consideration and amazing support. We are so close to being fully funded.

When we first started this process, looking back, I can’t even believe that we thought that we could make this happen. The financial miracles that have happened, in receiving grants and having generous donors to our auction fundraiser and farm to table fundraiser–those miracles were so unexpected, I wonder: what were we expecting? Who were we to think we could raise $30,000?  What kind of irresponsible human being embarks on this process with absolutely no idea where that much money is going to come from? We’re so grateful to our community and to God for providing with such amazing faithfulness to such a great need. And I just want to encourage anyone out there who wants to adopt but doesn’t feel that they are financially able that miracles do happen.

The next far off miracle is that everything continues to go smoothly for our adoption. There are many, many, many things that need to happen between now and when Aminata comes home. Please continue to pray that those things happen seamlessly and quickly. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

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A Spring of the Soul

As the snow finally melted it was hard to believe that we could actually sink some seeds into the ground. It’s amazing how after the snow melts, things are just as you left them–whatever you neglected to do in the Fall, still needs done. The Corn stalks that we had left standing tall still need yanked up, and the bags of leaves for mulching still gleam in the sunlight in their garbage bags. The enormous rock pile that we made from picking rocks out of the soil all summer still sits and the question, “How will we ever move it?” goes through your mind everytime you pass it, looming like a thundercloud over your happy existence.

The only difference is that, now, the broccoli shoots that we harvested up until the last minute in the Fall are now wilted and squishy, easily yanked up and thrown into a pile. And of course, while the weeds are still dormant, they are threatening to grow–the grass, you can see, will only need a couple more days of sunshine before it sprouts up like razor blades and becomes that which tries to choke out everything that you’re doing. Grass. The grass, the grass, the grass.

It’s an odd feeling, to be out in the field, as cars whizz by you. Sometimes when you’re out there you can pretend for a short time that this is all you’ve ever known, that spreading mulch hay and cover crop seed is what you were raised to do. You can pretend that it didn’t take reading a multitude of books and googling every couple of hours to figure out what to do next. But yes, then that car whizzes by and — poof — you remember that you’re not nearly as bad ass as you imagine yourself to be.

Our proximity to the “city” is something that we love so much about our little farm. But with that comes many beer cans thrown into our vegetable fields. As we walk by them in the Spring, after the thaw has revealed a winter of drunken drive-bys, Clara shakes her head disapprovingly and says, “that makes Jesus sad. Trash doesn’t go on the ground.”

Ah, Spring. Before we started farming, one of the things that I longed for in our children’s lives was that they would feel that there was a rhythm to their year both seasonally and liturgically. That their childhoods would be rich with symbolic reminders of the passage of time, but not just in an abstract way, in a real way that is familiar. At this point, Clara does now know that when the snow melts, it’s time to start planting seeds. While she used to run through the beds haphazardly, she now steps around them carefully. She knows how to enter a chicken tractor herself, find an egg, and bring it inside with no supervision. She runs barefoot through the grass, delighted that it’s “Warm again!” Having achieved what we had set out to achieve, it’s amazing how natural it all is. That even though it’s all new to me–that even though 95% of the time I feel like I’m faking it–this is all Clara has ever known.

The Spring. It’s the one time when you can run outside with no shoes on, but yet the weeds haven’t yet taken over. It’s the perfect in-between when your ideals about farming actually play out.  And for our little family, with that comes a deep appreciation of all that is beautiful about farming. It’s my favorite time.

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Adoption Update!

The last blog entry that we wrote we outlined briefly where we are at in the adoption process. At the time, we were holding pretty close the news that we had been matched with a beautiful little girl named Aminata! I can’t share a photo of her face on the internet for privacy reasons, however, I can tell you that she is absolutely beautiful. More perfect than we ever could have hoped for and imagined.

So, since the last time I wrote, Jonathan has traveled to meet Aminata, signed paperwork to initiate guardianship and gone to court. The next steps of the process are still somewhat unknown–we are part of a pilot program which means that a lot of this is unchartered territory. The country that we are adopting from requires a six month fostering period. Upon completion of the fostering period, we will travel again (both of us) to finalize the adoption in court. We will then likely have to come home yet again while we wait for the US to issue Aminata’s visa. We will then FINALLY be able to go bring her home.

We are hoping that there may be a way for the fostering period to be waived, or that maybe the US will be fast in its response and we can bring her home on the 2nd trip, or that any event may shorten the process even by a couple of months. Because the truth is, at this point, every day that we are not with Aminata is agonizing. It’s very difficult knowing that she is so far away from us.

Please pray that things continue to go smoothly and that we are able to possibly bring her home earlier than this Fall/Winter.

Our online auction is going SO well, we are amazed at people’s outpouring of support both through donation of items and in bidding on the items. Thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the amazing items, it’s available at: http://www.facebook.com/barkerfamilyadoption

Financially, because our adoption is moving so quickly, we are in need of a large sum of money basically right now. We can’t say enough about how timely the auction is. Please pray that God continues to provide as we are unsure of where all of the funds will come from.

We’re so grateful for you, sweet Ami.

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Why are you adopting? And other questions answered.

So, I decided to resurrect this blog. We feel this is a good idea since we are asking people for donations and so many people have been generous with their time, money, and resources. And it’s a way for people to stay connected to our lives (specifically with the adoption) even if we can’t personally contact all of the many people who have helped us. Since we haven’t been blogging up to this point, and we are really far along in the process, I’m going to play a little “catch up” and start from the beginning. The beginning, as always, starts, before the beginning.

We began our adoption journey over a year ago. There are a lot of common questions that we get regarding our adoption, and I would like to try to answer all of those questions, but one of the first and most common ones is: Why?

Since we do have biological children and we are quite busy people (We started an organic vegetable CSA two years ago, Jonathan is an English teacher, we have two rental units attached to our 1875 farmhouse that constantly needs work, our property is insanely time consuming to maintain) and we aren’t exactly “loaded” (financially) so…why?

This is a really difficult question to answer! Which is funny, since we’ve spent so much time thinking about it. The best way that we can explain how difficult is to answer is to compare it to someone asking you “So, why did you decide to have children?” It’s just an impossible question. Not that it offends us, or that we mind attempting to answer it, it’s just that, well, it’s complicated.

There are so many reasons why we’ve chosen to grow our family through both adoption and biological pregnancy, but perhaps if I had to choose just one reason it would be this: When you’ve lost a child– when Joseph died– something about our understanding of the brevity, fragility, and miracle of life was grown exponentially. When Joseph died, we were made acutely aware of the fact that children really are God’s gifts to us, to the world. Well, we already knew that. But until you’ve held your own child without a breath in them, there’s nothing that can prepare you for the intense understanding that you are granted in your time of grief of how miraculous life truly is. And while we were always interested in adopting, his death brought us to this place of realization that our family was the most important thing, and to not pursue bringing an orphan into our family might mean never bringing an orphan into our family. Life–it just happens so quickly. And if you don’t make decisions, decisions will be made for you. Once we started looking into it, we also realized that adoption is an extremely long process with extremely serious requirements. For instance, our income level needs to be a certain amount based on the number of children we have in order to be approved by immigration to adopt. Therefore, if we were to have any more biological children, we might not be able to adopt: that door might close. If we didn’t plan for adoption, we may never adopt. And it is a priority for us.

And furthermore, the idea that there was any child in the world who needed a family that didn’t have one, it just seemed ludicrous.

In my experience, when your child is born, your heart is grown in all of these joyful ways. You realize that you can love more than you ever thought possible. But when your child dies, your heart is grown in a different way. You realize you can hurt more than you ever thought possible. Your ability to understand the depths of another’s pain–your empathy–is increased exponentially. This love, it functions as energy. Energy that you have nowhere to put because your physical child is in Heaven where you can’t take care of him. And we needed a way to harness that energy and focus it on a dream: the dream of adoption.

Our dream is to adopt a child into our family. We want more children, and a child needs a family. Adoption, it’s an awesome concept. When people ask me, why do you want to adopt? Why would we not want to adopt? This isn’t to say that it’s wrong to not choose this as your path for your family, but for us it truly is for our family a natural step. Just like other people decide to get pregnant, we have decided to adopt.

To answer the second most common question, although it may not be asked outright is that, yes indeed, we have thought long and hard about the fact that we are white parents living in Vermont adopting a child from Africa. Adopting internationally and transracially is something that we do not take lightly. We are white. We do live in Northern Vermont (a predominantly white community). We’ve agonized over a great many things, had hard conversations, read every last bit of literature that there is on transracial adoption, looked very honestly at our motivations, and tried our best to predict how we can navigate the future in the best possible way for our child. All we can say is that we are going into this humbly and openly, with our eyes as wide open as we could manage to pull them open.

I’ve become strangely comfortable with approaching anyone who is Black in my community and asking them, “So, what’s it like to live here?” and “Do you think it’s irresponsible to adopt a Black child into this community?” It took me a bit of effort to get to that place, but, oh, how we’ve grown. And oh how we know we will grow through all of this. And we pray that we can miraculously have the wisdom to handle the upcoming challenges as wisely and lovingly as possible. To be able to teach our child to be courageous and love themselves, to be able to provide them with enough role models and mentors that look like them, and to build a culture of love and openness in our home that allows for hard questions. Pray for us.

And then there’s the financial piece. The other question. Yes. It’s expensive. Adoption is about $30-35,000. We’ve used our own money, we’ve fundraised through selling necklaces and putting on a farm to table adoption fundraiser. We need to raise about $15,000 more, pretty quickly.

The biggest upcoming thing we’ve got going on fundraising wise is that we’re putting on an adoption auction fundraiser on Facebook on the third week of March. Any donations are so helpful. Example donations include: theater tickets, handmade soap, giftcards, artwork, a service such as housecleaning, babysitting, a mini photo shoot, filing  taxes..anything at all! And if you can’t think of anything, the next business you pop into, ask them! We’re so grateful for all of the support we’ve received and continue to receive.

And finally, as for the specifics of our adoption, we are adopting a child age 0-3 years old of either gender. We are open to some special needs which we have identified. We decided it was important to allow Clara to remain the eldest, and it will probably work out that Felicity will have a sibling that is very close in her age. We’re hoping this works out smoothly. A little nervous about it. Again, pray for us.

Now, where are we at in the process? Well, we are pretty far. We are expecting to bring home a child within the next 9-12 months. Some people post timelines on their adoption blogs but ours would be INSANE because we’ve been in three different agencies and four different countries before finally staying in one program. And that has added a ton of extra steps. International adoption is messy. In adoption terms we are “paper pregnant”.

So what does adoption look like? I’ve pretty much run around like a chicken with my head cut off for the past six months asking people to sign, print, notarize. Sign, print, notarize. To-do list. And it’s an extraordinary crazy to-do list when that list includes: start onion seeds. Order compost. Send out CSA member notifications. Apply for adoption grant. Apply for farm grant. Build a Root cellar. Learn how to cure squash. Send immigration letter to adopt an orphan. Pay phone bill. Research growing grains. Order flooring for Unit 2. Budget. Check the budget.

Are we crazy? Yep. Our to do list proves it.

If you have any more questions please feel free to contact me. And thanks again to everyone for your sweet words of encouragement, unwavering prayers, and giving hearts.

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Stretch Marks and Motherhood

I’m embarrassed to admit, because I wish that I could say I was less vain than this. But when I was pregnant, I was absolutely neurotic about stretch marks. I know not all women get like this, but I felt utterly prepared for all of the changes that my life would undergo when having a child: just not stretch marks.

I slathered coconut oil on my stomach every time I went to the bathroom, every time my skin itched, every time I felt remotely insecure about my rapidly changing body, and for the most part, every time the fear of stretch marks crossed my mind.

Of all of the things to be fearful of, why stretch marks? There’s a lot of reasons, I think, to explain this delusional fear, which I know from speaking with other mothers and mothers-to-be, infects us like a disease. Media which pounds smooth skin and 20 inch waists into our brains from the time that we are little girls, insecurities, fear about the changes that a child brings, and stretch marks represent those changes.

I think that these are all valid reasons, worthy of being dissected, but the one that I want to propose is this: We fear losing our “identities” as women in the drudgery of motherhood. We fear aging. We fear dying. We fear waking up one day and just being another fuddy duddy middle aged woman with a mini van and no individuality or spark. Ultimately, we fear selflessness. We fear being forced out of our selfish lives and into a life that is inherently selfless, whether we like it or not.

As you can see, this vein of thinking implies that any sort of bodily change and sacrifice of one’s own vanity should not be at the cost of another human being. It puts “I” first, and not just “I” as in career goals, relationships, material possessions, but I as in, something so silly as: the texture of your abdominal skin.

About halfway through my pregnancy, I had a change of heart. My husband and I went to a theatrical version of “The Velveteen Rabbit”, the well loved children’s story by Margery Williams. I will never forget hearing the dialogue between the Skin Horse and the Velveteen Rabbit:

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

When I was sitting in the audience and heard these lines, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I am becoming real. This doesn’t mean that the wear and tear doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth grieving over, it doesn’t mean that it won’t take time to accept. It doesn’t mean that the rest of the world won’t actually see me as being a little less sparkly, as the Skin Horse had come to accept. But it does mean that your physical body becomes less important than your Love. Moreover, your physical body becomes a reminder of that love.

Just as Jesus’ body was resurrected three days after his crucifixion and walked around with physical holes in his hands, a mother bears the marks of love. The story of a birth that is marked with incredible strength and endurance, enormous courage, and the hand of a force greater than yourself which pulls the child out of you in a way that you had no inkling that you had the capability to do. Love pulls the baby out of you, just as Love pulled Jesus from the tomb, and left marks and scars on his body as a testimony to God’s love for us.

So my message is this: do not fear stretch marks, wrinkles, balding, saggy thighs, or a drooping butt. These things are all going to happen someday, regardless of how many children you have. Rather, fear the life which does not speak to the Love of Jesus, the Love of people, the Love that multiplies itself in relationships with the Other. Fear the life which you are kept insulated from the trials of the body, the life which does not bleed, stretch, bend, or wrinkle. Embrace all that which gives way to the kind of life which stretches both your skin and your heart. Embrace the cross.

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“I’ve got highways for stretch marks

See how I’ve grown.”

-ani difranco

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