AWAA called today with news that we passed court: “They are yours!” We can now share the video and photos we’ve held in the vault for the past few weeks. Enjoy! Please keep praying for a December embassy date. We’ll have more pictures to share soon.
On a typical Thanksgiving holiday, we’ll spend the day with family—whether at our home, my mom’s, or my brother’s—and eat, watch some football, eat some more, maybe play a game, and eat. Just like most of our friends. This year we mixed it up a bit.
The local Salvation Army was serving a Thanksgiving meal at the Knights of Columbus hall for anyone who wanted a meal, no charge. A friend from our church was leading this effort and seeking volunteers so we signed up to help. Suzanne and the kids waited tables and I washed dishes in the kitchen from 12:30 – 2:30 this afternoon. We chose to postpone our own dinner (or “feast” as Maura called it) until after we’d finished, and we all gave up eating a mid-day meal as a way to remember and identify with those who had no food today. This was a good lesson for the kids, especially Liam and Maura since it was the first time they had voluntarily gone without a meal. They were reluctant to join in at first; Maura, who is our resident foodie, wasn’t sure she’d be able to skip a meal—but she did and she did well. Once back home we gave thanks and feasted.
Also less-than-typical is that our family includes two members who are on the other side of the world for this holiday. Brenda Fleming, one of the other AWAA adoptive parents we met while in Ethiopia, was at the transition home with Aidan and Eva today and sent us a few dozen photos of the kids–this was a great gift. Suzanne mentioned the other day that we’re back to a period of waiting in our adoption process. Our paperwork, along with that of three other families, is supposed to go before the judge in Ethiopia again tomorrow and we’re praying that everything is in order so that we’ll pass court. We’d love to be able to share that announcement of thanksgiving this weekend and would appreciate your prayers to that end.
We hope you’ve had a blessed Thanksgiving as well. We truly have much for which to be grateful.
Note on the photo: these creative desserts were designed by Lee Barnes, a retired industrial engineer who resides in Lincoln. He delivered them to the Salvation Army dinner today and took the time to share with Suzanne the loving and painstaking process by which he creates them. The ingredients include chocolate sandwich cookies, candy corns, a Whopper (not the hamburger kind), frosting, and a red hot.
We’ve now completed two full days in our No Complaining Week experiment. Everyone is still wearing their green ribbons. How’s it going?
Monday went pretty well. We remembered that the Lord had made the day and that we would rejoice and be glad in it. We each had a minor violation and had to wear the Cone of Shame for a brief time but, overall, no major complaining fits or meltdowns.
Tuesday, however, was another story. Each of the kids spent time under the Cone of Shame for arguing or complaining. In a couple cases, additional time and/or penalties had to be added.
In summary, then, a couple observations so far:
- The kids do not like wearing the Cone of Shame. I mean, they really don’t like it. When I initially proposed this idea over the weekend, I thought they’d think it was kind of funny: “Ha ha! Look at me with a silly hat on my head, just because I was ungrateful!” Nope. It is truly the Cone of Shame.
- For me personally, I am seeing the ways in which I frequently think negatively and unproductively. Whether I say it aloud or not, I complain more than I’d care to admit. This morning, in fact, I was in conversation with a couple friends at a local shop and found myself complaining about a particularly silly (to me and my friends) government regulation. I stopped but not before I voiced my complaint. I must therefore submit myself to the prescribed penance.
A few folks have wondered what the Cone of Shame looks like. Below, Maura models one of our green reminder ribbons (because green means gratitude) and everyone is shown wearing the Cone of Shame. I was hoping I could get just one kid to wear it (for the purpose of making a photograph to show on the blog) but no one would wear it unless we all wore it. Evidently they were too ashamed. With that, then, I give you the green ribbon and the Cone of Shame:
Do everything without complaining or arguing – Philippians 2.14
This Thursday, like most Americans, we’ll celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. In an effort to help cultivate grateful spirits, we’re undertaking a little exercise this week.
As a family, we’ve designated this No Complaining Week. Beginning Monday morning, we’ll all wear green ribbons as bracelets to remind us to be thankful. Why green? It’s representative of abundance, and “gratitude” and “green” both start with “gr” — it’s a mnemonic thing. The goal will be to make it through to Friday without complaining. If someone does complain, they will don the Cone of Shame (similar to a dunce cap) and will not be allowed to talk for two minutes. We’ve taken the idea for the Cone of Shame from the Pixar movie UP, in which dogs who were guilty of some special offense against the community had to wear a cone.
I expect that we’ll all have to wear the Cone of Shame at some point, perhaps even have to take turns with it. As we discussed No Complaining Week over dinner tonight, six-year-old Maura exclaimed, “I’m gonna die!” Evidently she’s foreseeing herself wearing the Cone of Shame quite a bit.
We’ve never done this before but figured it would be a fun and good experiment to try. Hopefully we’ll all come through it more grateful at the end of the week.
No, we don’t have any new news about our paperwork, but I did want to share some of my personal reflections now so that God can be glorified when all is fulfilled.
To be honest, I haven’t been very worried during most of this journey. I have known that I can trust my God who has led us this far, and I trust His timing and His provision. Until now. It’s actually really bugging me that I am letting a little thing (a very common thing, actually) like not passing court the first time, bother me. But here are my honest worries:
- that we won’t pass in time to get the kids home before Christmas
- if/when we do pass, we will have such a short time to get flights that we won’t be able to sit together with our new kids (plus Erin) on the long flight home (not to mention the 3x cost of airfare at Christmas!)—you know, a mommy needs to keep all her little chickadees safe under her wings!
- that we won’t pass at all—feeling forgotten by the social agency that was supposed to have written the last piece we need to pass court (the same agency that has written numerous other letters since our court date)
I know in my head that God has it all under control, that His timing is best, that He is powerful enough to take care of a piece of paper and some plane tickets, and that this is HIS story to write, not ours. I KNOW it. But I’ve had a hard time letting go of the control (that I don’t have anyway!) and letting my heart be OK with that.
This week God has been impressing some things on me that have helped me to let go.
- Last Sunday we sang a song at church that reminded me that God has “overcome.” He has already “breathed” this story, intended somehow for His glory, and we are simply His ink, writing it down.
- Rom 8:28: An oldie but goodie—“And we know that IN ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
- Gen 22: In faith, Abraham obeyed God and took his only son Isaac, the one through whom God had promised blessing to all subsequent generations, to sacrifice him on the mountain. When Isaac asked where the lamb was for the burnt offering, Abraham answered, “The Lord will provide.” God took Abraham down to the wire before he stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and provided a ram instead. Abraham renamed that place “The Lord Will Provide”—a phrase that later became an important name for God.
- Dan 3 (from church today): Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew they would be thrown into the fiery furnace if they did not worship the statue as the King ordered, but this was their response: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
So it finally sunk in to my heart today. My God WILL rescue and deliver our children to us, in His timing and by His method. But if He does not (worst case scenario), I will still trust in His faithfulness and redemption and will trust Him with my life and my heart. To quote a song from today, whether “the sun is shining down on me” or I’m a “road marked with suffering,” “I will choose to say: Blessed be Your Name!”
In my Beth Moore study of Esther this week, she providentially reminded me, “God’s plan for Israel hadn’t fallen through the cracks between Testaments.” During the time between the OT and the NT when God seemed silent, He was, in fact, doing a major work behind the scenes to prepare the world for His most glorious work—the birth of His Son! Similarly, during this silence between our two trips to Ethiopia, it is easy to wonder if God has forgotten us and our court issues. But I truly now KNOW that even in His silence, I can trust that He is preparing a glorious work for us—the adoption of our son and daughter! Hold on tight, Babes, “God Will Provide” is providing a way!
Our oldest daughter, Erin, is in fifth grade this year. Her class has been studying Native American tribes the last few weeks and working in project groups to prepare a report on their findings. Erin’s group was assigned the Eastern Woodland tribes. As part of their project, Erin built a model of a wigwam with authentic materials: toothpicks, hot glue, bendy straws, and pieces of felt. She worked hard for several evenings and did a terrific job with it.
David DuChemin, a photographer and writer whose work I admire, reflected yesterday on the brevity of life and choosing what’s important. This is a theme that’s been coming up frequently for me in the last several weeks. Francis Chan discusses it in his book Crazy Love (which I’ve mentioned recently) and it’s an idea that comes up repeatedly in the Bible:
As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more. (Psalm 103.15-16)
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4.13-14)
It’s a thought that arose while we were in Ethiopia last week as well. Much of the time I’m oblivious to the reality that my time here is short. Being uprooted from normal routines in a vastly different culture on the other side of the world, however, affords one some opportunities for reflection and focus.
To be honest, the past 15 months of the adoption process have been hard on me. Adding two children to our family—at once—brings with it some significant uncertainties. How will they fit in with our family? Will they bond with us? Do we have enough space for them? Can we afford the expenses of adoption, much less the food, clothes, vehicles, home maintenance, and the thousand other attendant things that go along with a household of seven? What will our family and friends think of us and our decision? Do I have what it takes to be a father to five children? What if…? I could fill a dump truck with the “what ifs” and doubts that have crossed my mind in the last year and a half.
All of these doubts have a common origin: fear and unbelief. I’m afraid that I don’t have what it takes to get things done and I don’t believe that God will come through. Why? Maybe because I live in a setting that requires so little faith. Jesus told his followers to ask God for daily bread; I have a kitchen full of food, an adequate salary with which to buy more, and a grocery store a few miles from my house. Jesus said that birds have nests and foxes have holes but he had no place to lie down for a nap; I have a very nice home. If I get sick, I have access to hospitals and doctors. If I die, a life insurance policy will provide for my family’s financial needs for years after I’m gone. I’m grateful for all of these things but where is there room for me to depend on God? Where has God had opportunity to work his strength in my weakness? Billions of people in the world live without these safety nets; I’m not one of them and neither are most of the people who live in America, Canada, or Europe.
While the adoption process has been hard, it has stretched me and helped me grow. It has taken me past what I know and forced me to do things I wouldn’t do. I like my life and family here in central Illinois just fine, thank you, but now I’m seeing beyond the corn and bean fields that surround us. I’m not a huge fan of travel but I had to fly over land and sea to attend court and meet our children in Ethiopia. Each day in Ethiopia put me on someone else’s agenda, not my own. This has been good and is helping me to learn trust and faith. These are lessons I’m not sure I’d have learned another way.
We don’t get many opportunities to do life-changing things for others. Or maybe we do but we don’t do them or fail to see them. Either way, if our time here is truly short then what we do or don’t do matters all the more.
I’ve dragged my feet through the past several months, to my own shame. Having been in-country, though, and having spent time with the children—and not just ours, but those of the other adoptive families as well as dozens upon dozens of children waiting for families of their own—God has opened my eyes and my heart. We are doing something that matters to these two children and to their mom who so wishes she could support and raise them but loves them enough to let them go. It is an incredible trust she is placing in us and I want to honor that trust.
So we, the Gowins, walk into the unfamiliar, into uncertainty, leaving behind a portion of the life we’ve known, a life that is comfortable and befits us. But we walk in faith in a way that we have not known, and with that has come an unusual peace as well. I’m looking forward to having our children, all of our children, here with us at home.
Fear and uncertainty have held me back but I’m moving forward. If we are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, what’s holding you back? What are you waiting for?
(*note from Suzanne: Now, please also go back up and click on that David DuChemin link that you passed over. It’s worth your time. )
Just a quick note to say that Suz and I are back home in the States. Looking forward to picking up our first three children from school in a few minutes. Long day of travel, bittersweet goodbyes yesterday but a good and blessed week overall. More to come. Thanks to all for your faithful love and prayers.