Thursday, December 29, 2016

3, 2, 1...Hannah, Here We Come!

Stuff's about to get real here in the Tegtmeier family. 

Chris and I will be traveling to spend time with our Hannah Joy TOMORROW! As I type, we have less than 24 more hours to wait before boarding our first plane. 

We are feeling all the feels over here this afternoon. Excited, nervous, overwhelmed with all of the preparations that need to be completed before we leave our precious kiddos home for a week to visit our new addition.

Our minds, and even our dreams (I had a weird one two nights ago!) are filled to the brim with questions and wonderings about our girl. Our girl. 

She's really real. And we're really about to see her face to face, kiss her cheeks and feel the warmth of her skin. It doesn't feel real yet, but oh how we cannot even wait for that first look, that first memory with our daughter. 

I've been feeling a little nostalgic these last few days, remembering those crazy, scary, miraculous first moments with Sam and Tony.

My very good friend, Anna, captured my first moments with Samantha on her blog. I love these words the best. 
"The joy was written all over her, she just kept saying over and over again, 'she is perfect, Anna, she is perfect!'  And she is."
I wrote something similar myself,
"I know it doesn’t happen this way for everyone, so I don’t take it for granted that right in that moment, she felt nothing but mine...I was finally feeling that “thing” that parents have, rising up inside of me. I knew in that moment where the gumption to care for her was going to come from. It wasn’t something I was going to have to conjure up. God gave me an unstoppable, unconditional love for Samantha that day."

I recorded my own first moments with Tony immediately upon returning to our hotel after visit number one.
"...I have peace in my heart and a strong confidence that he belongs with us. He fits. He fits in my arms, and he most definitely fits in my heart. As I've been hoping and praying for, there is room for him. There is love enough for he and Sam and I can see now how we all fit together. Little man of my dreams is now real. Living, breathing, precious, perfect little man. Truly, he is perfect."

It has been a beautiful experience for me this last year and a half to be present for Chris's firsts as a dad. Those firsts may have looked different from mine, but they were miraculous, none the less. He took to fatherhood, and our kids took to him in such a way that we have no doubt God was orchestrating it all from Heaven. Especially his relationship with Tony. I do not doubt that Tony knew Chris was his daddy long before we were married. Maybe even before we were dating, as our boy got the first date with Dad, weeks before Mommy finally did the same.

Here's Chris and Tony on their first date to the zoo. I had asked Chris
to snap a few photos for me of their trip and he far exceeded my expectations.
Some of my favorite photos of these two are still from this trip.
See, you can't look at this picture and not see it. He was always his daddy.
Last week, after more than a year of already being Sam and Tony's dad, Chris and I went to court and made it official. Now those birth certificates will read, as they should, that our children have two parents.


Adoption is a crazy, strange, beautiful journey full of twists and turns and unknowns. Of course, we're nervous to meet our new daughter. Nervous because there's no way of knowing how we'll connect with her or how she'll respond to us. We can't fathom the hurts in her heart or her level of understanding. But if there's one thing we do know it's that God has brought us together. He has good plans for us and for her. We, and she, are sitting comfortably right in the center of His will for us. There's no safer place to be.

Actually, I should say there's two things we know for sure. We also know that for better or worse, Hannah is ours. The deal is done, there's no going back. We're choosing her now forever.

We would love for you to join us in prayer over the next week as we travel, and more importantly as we meet our newest daughter. The following are a few things we thought of that we know will need to be covered in prayer, but please also just pray as the Spirit would lead you. He knows best.

  • For Sam and Tony as we're away. Please pray especially that God will protect our attachments to both of them and that they will continue to feel secure in our love for them while we're away. 
  • For Madi and Christina and everyone who will help to care for them while we're away. 
  • For safe and timely travels, both our flights over, and our driving in country.
  • For or marriage, that God will protect and strengthen us through this time together, and especially as we experience adding a child to our family together for the first time.
  • For Hannah Joy. That God would prepare and protect her heart to meet her forever mommy and daddy. And that he would also prepare that mommy and daddy to be what she needs. 
  • For protection over our home, our family, every caregiver, and every aspect of this trip, here at home and in Bulgaria, that the enemy would have not power over us. And that we would look to Jesus in all things. 
Thank you all for your love and support. We are excited to share our journey with you as it happens. Please know you're invited to check back in here for updates all along the way. We can't wait to introduce you to our daughter.

Lots of love to all of you. 


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

This One's For Hannah Joy (the whats and whys and how you can helps)

It's been five and a half years since I first read the staggering statistics. And that was after palling around with orphans in three different countries over the course of a dozen years. I had no idea the problem was so big. So devastatingly pervasive. 

Maybe you've heard this statistic before. You might have even heard it from me, or read it here on this blog. 

Here it is again. Today's as good a day as any for me to be reminded. Maybe it is for you, too. 

(I was feeling sorry for myself today. I, who have not a need in the world.)



How does one even begin to understand that kind of number? That's not the kind of math most of us are used to dealing with every day.

How about visualizing it this way?

I read today that if all orphans formed a country it would be the 10th largest country in the world.

There's no way around it. That is a lot of very vulnerable kids.

Now add to that statistic, this one.


Eighty five percent of children who are adopted are under the age of 11. Nearly half are under 6. There is a marked shortage of homes open to taking in older children.

(This illustration shows a 16-18 age group, but children, like Dawn, age out of their chance to be adopted into the United States at age 16.)

Statistics like these can seem so overwhelming that we'd maybe be tempted to try and forget about them. What can we do to change that kind of number, anyway?

Well, we can help one.

Our children very easily could have lost their chance at a family, hidden away in a dark place for many years. They were well past the age of 6 when they were finally listed for adoption. For this reason and so many others, the odds were stacked against them.


If you're new here, this may be hard to read, but you should know that they grew up in a place where they were left to lie in their own filth. They were fed non-nutritious goop from glass bottles propped in their cribs, liquid rushing down their throats and dripping down their necks. The hole in the nipple of their bottles was cut to the size of a dime to make meal times faster for their caretakers. They were abused and neglected, left to lie in cribs for years without being taken out for so much as a walk or a cuddle. Starving for food and for love, they were stunted physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Sam and Tony's only hope for life was adoption. A family to love them back to life and health and humanity.

Hannah grew up in the same building, under the same dark circumstances as Sam and Tony. Abused and neglected, stunted physically, emotionally, and mentally. We have a picture of her from several years back. She was probably 9 years old at the time. She was skin and bones, so weak and frail she almost looked translucent. Her face gathered and wrinkled like the face of an old woman, crying in the arms of a caretaker's less than gentle hold. We know she saw the worst of it.

Hannah's been in that place for so long, she's now lived through the orphanage's transition from darkness to light. In fact, because of the help of many kind folks, like those with the Pleven Project, Hannah's orphanage is drastically different with a much brighter future ahead. We're thankful she has seen some better days. But like orphans the world over, her days are numbered. She can't stay in that baby house forever.  She'll be 15 and a few months when she boards that airplane with us to come home.

Praise the Lord, Hannah will not be another sad statistic. Plucked out of obscurity, her file hidden and gathering dust, she was listed right in the nick of time. (Toni, we are forever thankful to you for finding her.) She will be, as so many children only hope, a daughter.


We view this beautiful child as a gift to our family, straight from the Father's hands to our home. 

That's not cheese rolling off my fingers. It's truth. The simple fact that God chose us of all people, is still beyond me. Our children are our greatest joy and a privilege to parent. 

Our motivation to adopt Hannah is so much more than all of the statistics, although the facts do matter. Orphans need families.

We are also simply drawn to her, and to children like her. We both passionately adore children with special needs. Our kids make sense to us and to our family. We love everything about them, just as they are. 

And we know that we've been called by God. 

Not everyone is called to the same things. We know that more and more. In our close friend group we have folks who are caring for children right from our own community, folks who have families living with them, to help them through hard times, folks who serve the Lord through a feeding ministry that they founded, folks who are passionate about Christian marriage and sexual purity who have helped many people through the destructive ramifications of pornography and infidelity, and folks who are called to support all of the above. God is in it all. We seen Him moving with our own eyes.

We, though, have been called to adoption. Particularly to children with special needs from hard places. It's our little piece of the Kingdom. We know God is in this. We see Him moving here. 

Adoption is costly. Especially international adoption. 

When all is said and done it will cost somewhere near $36,000 to bring Hannah home. 

This money covers everything from the cost of a home study, plane tickets and hotels, to lawyers, adoption agency fees here and in Hannah's country and immigration. 

I am happy to report that by God's grace, we're halfway there.

Through lots of hard work, and also some help from our friends, we've got our cost down to $18,000.

With close to $18,000 already paid, I'd say our glass is half full!

God has most definitely been exceedingly generous with us throughout our journey toward Hannah Joy.

He turned two large church garage sales into $5,000. He's surprised us on multiple occasions with checks from friends and even from people we've never met. And He's stretched our work income, helping us to carefully budget and cut our expenses, making small sacrifices that add up over time, enabling us to pay each large bill that's come our way.

We can tell God is working when things like this happen...

We had a payment coming due to our agency in the amount of 2,937.50. Leading up to the day when Chris would write the check, our garage sale brought in exactly $2,460.72 Which we thought was a gracious provision.

Until...the next day when we received a check for $500.

I'm sure you can do the math, but I'll go ahead and spell it our for you anyway.

God gave us $23.22 to spare!

That just seems to be the way he deals with us. He loves adoption. He LOVES Hannah Joy. And He even loves us.

Now to see how He'll provide the rest!

We will be traveling to visit Hannah VERY soon. We received our official referral a little over a week ago and expect our travel dates any day now. Things are moving right along. 

This means that we'll soon be booking plane tickets and hotel rooms, and paying our largest fee yet to our Bulgarian placing agency. 

It also means that, as with every other stage of this adoption, we will need to be vigilant in prayer. The enemy does not like seeing children rescued from darkness. Adoption is the very undoing of his work. Hannah has been trapped in darkness for 14 years, right where he wants her. As God enables us to pull her out of his grip, we'll need your prayers as well. Prayers for protection, endurance, positivity, energy, persistence, patience...the list goes on. 

We would humbly invite you to join us on our journey toward Hannah.

If God would ever put us on your heart, would you lift us up in prayer? Especially Hannah.

And if God is calling you, we would invite you to minister to Hannah Joy by helping to fund the cost of her ransom. 

You can make a tax deductible contribution to Hannah's adoption through Reece's Rainbow. We have an account through their Family Sponsorship Program. Donations can be made on the right hand side of this blog, or you can go to our sponsorship page on the Reece's Rainbow website and donate there. If you would like to avoid any fees being taken out of your donation, you can send a check:
Reece’s Rainbow
PO Box 277
Monrovia, MD 21770
Please include a note telling them that your donation is intended for our family, the Tegtmeiers, adopting "Belinda" (Hannah's name on Reece's Rainbow).
Thank you. Really and truly, thank you for you support. Adoption can be a hard, sometimes lonely road for many families. It blesses us that we are surrounded by so much love.
Lots of love to all of you.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

We Are a Force to be Reckoned With--Don't stop.

One thousand three hundred and thirty four sets of eyes read about her need, likely seeing her deep dimples and squinty brown eyes for the first time.


I lost track of how many times the post was shared on social media.

Many folks reached out to say their hearts had been moved or that they were praying.

One young couple even hurriedly contacted me to ask about the process because they had begun to pray about adopting her. (Sadly they were not old enough to fulfill Bulgaria's rule that adoptive parents must be 15 years older than the child.)

My church has added her to our prayers. Maybe yours has, too.

No, we have not yet found a family for Dawn.

But we, friends, are a force to be reckoned with.

Can you just see it? Close your eyes for a moment right now to really picture it.

1,334 of us loving her. Praying for her. Sharing her need with our friends and families and churches.

I'd have a hard time believing there wasn't a family out there for her somewhere. A family to love her imperfectly, but unconditionally and forever. A family with room at their table, and food to spare. A family with big hearts and lots of questions who could hold her close and teach her about love and about Jesus.

I know they're out there.

Maybe, there's someone out there like me, several years ago. Single and unwilling to sit around waiting any longer for her life to begin.

Maybe there's a family with older children who would love to teach her how to throw a ball and run through the sprinkler, who could make her laugh big belly laughs.

Maybe there's a mama who can look past the orphanage clothes and hair to see a beautiful princess of a child who would be beyond darling in a Christmas dress with a bow in her hair, and her very own church shoes.


Maybe there's a daddy who would love nothing more than to throw her up on his shoulders or spin her around wildly until the both of them lose their breath from the hilarity. A daddy who could speak love and life back into her eyes.

It's still possible.

With this many of us praying for her and sharing her need, it is really and truly still possible.

But it won't be possible for long. Her time is very nearly up. Two months. That's all she's got left until her future is sealed.

For those who have asked and for others who are wondering, here's what needs to happen.

A family would need to complete a home study (or update a recent one) and have their 800 A approved before her birthday. Two months is not a lot of time to make that happen, but it is possible!

Our adoption agency, who we love has offered that they would be willing to walk a family through expediting these processes. They have experience with this kind of situation and have assured us that it can, in fact, be done. But it needs to happen quickly. You can email me at grayc77@gmail.com and I'll go about quickly introducing you to our case workers at Lifeline Children's Services.

If you are willing, please keep sharing, praying, and prayerfully considering. I know we can't "save them all", but by God's grace, we'll save this one.

Lots of love to all of you.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Because We All Know I Know How to Pick'em

There's no doubt about it. Sam and Tony have a lot of fans. And why wouldn't they? They're ADORABLE! 



And not to mention funny.


They're sensitive and affectionate.

Here is Sam with her friend, Simon, also adopted from Pleven.
She brought him one of her favorite toys and then sat in his lap for a chat. 

They're smart, talented and determined.

video


Basically, they're all around incredible little people.


What can I say? I know how to pick'em! (Grin)

But seriously, our kids are everything we could have never known they would be from first reading their files and seeing their photos.

**************************************

There's a little girl on the other side of the world, not too far from the place our two grew up, who urgently needs a family. Like Sam and Tony, she has Down Syndrome.

Also like Sam and Tony, she's a uniquely sweet, smart, loveable baby in a big kid's body. And she's been living in an institution for far too long...almost 16 years.

This little girl deserves to swim with a mommy and daddy, to feel grass between her fingers and toes and sunshine on her face. To have her own bed and her own family. To be loved, finally and forever.

The reality, though, is that within a few months, Dawn will age out. She will permanently lose her chance to be adopted. Statistics are clear that children won't live long past Dawn's age in an institution. They'll lose the light from their eyes. They will die. That's the terrible truth. I know, it's uncomfortable to hear. It's extremely uncomfortable for me to say! But, again, its the truth.

This photo was taken of Dawn several years ago.


This is Dawn now.


We're praying, praying, praying in our house for God's hand of intervention in her little life. We believe her chance has not passed. It's not too late for her. A family would have to work quickly to get to her in time, but it is possible.

And, precious Dawn is eligible to receive a $10,000 older child grant from Reece's Rainbow.

Read more about Dawn here.


For additional questions, contact childinquiry@reecesrainbow.org.


**************************************

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to parent a child with special needs? Particularly a child like Dawn, Tony or Sam- older children with Down Syndrome who've been institutionalized for many years? 

In case it should be helpful to anyone considering this type of adoption, or even considering Dawn in particular, here are a few thoughts from Chris and I on parenting our kids.

I should mention here that my incredible husband volunteered his help with this section because this is a topic very near to his heart. As a new dad to a family of kids with special needs, he has a perspective that I no longer do.

In general, what are some of the primary needs an older child with Down Syndrome would have upon joining a family?

We have found that, above all, our children need consistency, safety and security. They continually need to be reminded that we love them and that we will never leave them. We do this in a number of ways. (And trust me, we've learned this slowly, over time.) The first is by providing a consistent routine. This helps our kiddos to feel confident that their needs will be met, especially that they will never go hungry again.

We also work hard to meet this need by loving more than we discipline. Of course, we have to correct our children. We do this a lot actually, as all parents do. But, it is done quickly and calmly and followed up with large doses of encouragement and love.

Our attachment with both children is very strong, but we also consider it a work in progress. We don't take their love for granted. We spend intentional face to face time with both kids, giving hugs and kisses, singing, reading, holding them, dancing - things any parent would do with their children. But, for our children, this is medicine, or therapy, if you will. It brings healing, and strengthens our relationships.

Are kids like Dawn, Sam and Tony still capable of growing or learning new things after joining a family at such an older age?

The answer to this question is a resounding YES! To varying degrees. A lack of food, love, security and stimulation is extremely harmful to a child's brain. BUT, our kids are growing and learning daily. Neither of them will ever speak fluently (or maybe at all, in Sam's case). But both kids are excellent communicators, showing us daily that they have not yet reached their threshold for learning.

One thing our kids are absolutely capable of learning, and that they continue to learn, is appropriate boundaries and behavior. They are improving in this area all the time. The more comfortable they become in our home and family, the more responsive they become to our teaching.

Without a doubt, our kids have also learned that they are a son and daughter, and that we are their forever parents. I really and truly believe this. We have to work to maintain this, but it is there. This may not be the case with every adopted child, but it is the case with ours.

(As a side note, you should know that I took a break after that last paragraph to tend to the kids and get a few things done around the house, and in that time, Sam snuck into the bathtub fully clothed. Twice. So, there you have it.)

Do kids like Dawn, Sam and Tony need supervision during all of their waking hours?

Our kids are actually able to play independently at times. Or at least hang out independently without too much help or supervision. And each day, they both take a nap or rest time, safely in their beds. So, Chris and I do have periods of free time within our routine. You will often find Chris or I reading or doing household chores while the kids are busy doing their own thing. Especially Samantha, who has a knack for finding creative things to do around the house. You might be curious to know that at certain times of day our house is, in fact, surprisingly quiet. 

What resources are available to help me parent a child like Dawn? 

I'm sure Chris and I haven't even begun to plumb the depths of all that is available, but I can tell you that resources are many. Our kids have received physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy from a private provider as well as through the public school system. They have one on one help at school as well as teams 10 people strong each to teach and resource them. I've also received A LOT of help and support from the online adoption community as well as other special needs parents and friends who work with students with special needs in our area. Not to mention medical personnel! Oh! And, in our city, there are at least two churches who provide respite nights for families with kids with special needs. We take advantage of these every time they are offered.

I could go on and on, but I won't. Suffice it to say, if you are willing to look and ask around, resources are everywhere.

What qualifies a person or couple to adopt an older child with special needs. Do I have what it takes?

I'll let Chris answer this one. His answer is short and succinct, but it says it all.

"Patience. Resiliency. Daily Dependence on God."

Chris and I are in many ways inadequate. But aren't all parents? Do any of us have all of the answers all at once?

I work at a church, so I meet new people and train new volunteers often. Whenever I speak to someone who is nervous or scared about a ministry task, I tell them this is the perfect place for them to be. I'll say, "If you were overly confident right now, that's when I'd be worried. God can best help those who know their need for him."

Patience.

Resiliency.

Daily dependence on God.

That's at least the goal.

Praying tonight that this girl will be in a family very soon. God can do that. Please help me spread the word about Dawn.

Lots of love to all of you.