Adoption Update: June 24th

 

I’m currently sipping my coffee on the back deck listening to birdsong and cicadas and my cute rooster (I can say he’s “cute” because he is a silkie and he’s the smallest and fuzziest of the flock. Think: teacup Build-a-Bear rooster with a Napolean complex). It’s a beautiful summer morning. There’s a soft breeze and I can almost smell my tomatoes ripening in the garden. My thoughts are flickering between what I’m going to cook for dinner (I’m making Kerala chicken curry, btw), wondering what Clara is doing with her Lolli right now, and the phone conversation I just had with my husband. I’m also sitting here pondering how to convey an adoption update to you without any actual updates.

From our last update, we organized a yard sale that was very successful thanks to the generous donations of our friends and family. We also had some rockstar friends who came and helped us work the yard sale. Shout-out to the Burns, Propst, and Bounds families!! It was a fun morning under the great oak trees at Mawmaw Medlin’s, and we enjoyed meeting people from the community, raising awareness about the orphan crisis, and having the opportunity to pray with people as they shared their own lives and burdens. Thank you sooooo much to those of you who gave magnanimously and volunteered your precious time. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Transparent moment: This Monday is difficult, as most Mondays have been for the past few months. Each Monday looms ominously over another week of no word from CARA. As you may remember (or may not) Bret and I are awaiting initial approval from CARINGS. CARA is the Indian government agency that processes all adoptions. Once prospective adopting parents receive CARINGS approval, they can then be matched with a child. When our agency submitted our homestudy in January, the approximate wait time for approval was 10-18 weeks. We were so excited to hit the 10 week mark and just knew that we would be getting the good news that we were eligible to match with a child any day. Surely, we wouldn’t be one of the couples that had to wait the full 18 weeks. We gathered up our hope and optimism, stuffed them into a balloon, and held on tightly to the tether. The weeks passed by, but we didn’t hear anything. As the 18 week mark approached, our balloon was on the verge of bursting. We were excited and confident that we would have to hear something by then. We even felt relieved that 18 weeks had come because it meant that we wouldn’t have to wait any longer and we could finally move on in the adoption process. 18 weeks came and went. Some air leaked out. And then 19 weeks. And then 20. And then we came to the stark reality that there is no possible way to know when this waiting period will come to an end. We are now approaching week 22. We are not deflated, but our grip on that hope has become less confident and more desperate.

As we’ve talked with our amazing caseworker, we’ve learned that other families have experienced longer wait times, too. Our agency has been reaching out to CARA and advocating on our behalf and on behalf of the other families. We have no concrete reason why there has been a hiatus on approvals. One theory is the halt is due to the recent elections in India. Maybe the Indian government has put applications on hold as new government officials are sworn in. Since most officials have been sworn in, now, the hope is that the government will pick back up soon and resume processing applications. In the meantime, our agency is using this time to look through the waiting child database and familiarize themselves with our specific special needs list, so that when we receive approval we will hopefully be presented with a child’s file soon after. Our family has also been using this time to design Clara and “her baby brother or sister’s” new bedroom, explore more local Indian markets and restaurants, and apply for Clara’s first passport. Clara is so excited to be traveling out of the country for the first time when we go to meet our child. Her only requests, so far, is that she get to see the Taj Mahal and eat lots of papadum, a thin and crispy Indian flatbread. I’m obsessed with that cutie.

All in all, we trust completely in God’s timing and we know that His plans are perfect and good. Even in the difficulty of waiting. I’m presently studying the book of Romans, and last night, God gave me a beautiful prayer for our current state. Don’t you love when He does that? When He speaks right into the dryness of your spirit and renews your faith with His Word…

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~Romans 15:13

Would you be so kind as to pray this scripture over our family? Will you please join us in petitioning God for CARA approval, approval for other families, for the heart of our unknown child, and for ours as we wait? We love you. And we covet your prayers.

Learning how to make Kerala chicken curry with the most amazing friend and teacher!
Supporting other adoptive parents and their fundraisers. Candle: Farmhouse Candles
Fresh jalebi from Rajbhog Sweets and Snacks

Recipe Roundup: Bread

John 6:32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Listen up Keto followers: God made bread > Jesus calls Himself bread > Jesus says to eat bread. The end. Over the past 6 months I have jumped headlong into the bread baking world. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread permeating through the house. Homemade bread can transform a lackluster sandwich or bowl of soup. When you make it from scratch, you have the ability to control the ingredients. No hidden sugars or preservatives. And there’s just something so nostalgic and heart-warming about homemade bread. I am in no way a master baker, but I wanted to share some of my favorite recipes I’ve found so far.

The Best Crusty Bread (Ego Boosting Bread)

This is my go-to recipe that I found from a New York Times article. I’m a lazy bread maker and hate to knead dough. You literally mix these ingredients and do nothing with it and it makes the most amazing bread. I make it once to twice a week for sandwiches and afternoon bread and butter. It’s also great with an Italian dish or a hearty soup. Now that it is summer, I’ve enjoyed mixing fresh herbs from the garden into the dough. My fave combo so far has been rosemary and lavender. You’ll love this recipe and feel like such a pro baker.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
  •  Cornmeal

PREPARATION

  1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
  2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
  3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
  4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

White Amish Bread (Won’t Last 12 Hours Bread)

This bread requires having a starter, but let me tell you, it is worth the effort. If you don’t know anyone with a friendship bread starter, you can start your own (see link). This recipe is from the Friendship Bread Kitchen. A friend of mine shared her starter with me and I’ve been hooked ever since. Warning: You cannot stop eating this bread. All I need with this bread is butter. You could also bake it for sandwiches, but mine never makes it past the afternoon snack time.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 ¼ ounce package active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
  • ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup warm water 105-110° F
  • 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread starter
  • ½ cup warm milk 105-110° F
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2¾ to 3¼ cups bread flour
PREPARATION
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and ¼ teaspoon sugar in the warm water. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, starter, milk, kosher salt, oil and 2 cups of the bread flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Add flour if needed.
  4. Grease a large bowl and place the dough in it, turning the dough to grease all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen.
  5. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
  6. Gently punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface. Pat the dough into a rectangular shape. Fold one short end (⅓) of the dough toward the center and gently press the seam with the side of your hand. Repeat with the other ⅓ of the dough, bringing it to the center and pressing as before. Fold the dough in half and lightly press the edges together to seal the seam, then press each end of the dough to seal the ends and tuck them under.
  7. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and gently press down the dough with your hand to make it even all the way across. Cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is slightly above the rim of the pan, about 30-45 minutes. Don’t let it rise beyond 1″ of the edge or it will collapse when it bakes.
  8. When the dough is almost to the top edge of the loaf pan, preheat the oven to 350° F (176° C).
  9. Remove plastic wrap and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the bread is light golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
  10. If a soft top crust is desired, lightly brush the top crust with a little melted butter.
  11. Turn the bread out of the pan and place on a wire rack to cool for least 30 minutes before slicing. Makes 1 (9×5-inch) loaf.

Bakery Challah (Spiritually Connected Bread)

Pronounced “holla,” challah is an eggy bread traditionally made by Jews for the Sabbath and holidays. This is probably my favorite bread to make for special occasions. I also make this for communion. This bread requires more effort with kneading and braiding, but it’s the prettiest loaf I’ve ever made. I went through several recipes before finally finding one that has the texture and taste I prefer. I found this recipe in the “Inside the Jewish Bakery” cookbook that is, unfortunately, no longer in print. This is a recipe to keep and pass down to your children.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 2/3 cups Bread flour
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp Instant yeast
  • 7 1/2 large Egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups Warm water
  • 2 large Egg whites, for glazing
  • 2 Tbsp Poppy, sesame, or chernushka seed (optional)

PREPARATION

  1. Measure flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into a stand mixer and beat ingredients at low speed, about 1 minute.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk until blended the egg yolks and vegetable oil. Add the warm water and continue whisking into a smooth emulsion. Add to the dry ingredients and continue mixing until the dough is evenly hydrated and comes together in a shaggy mass, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Switch to the dough hook, if using a stand mixer, and knead at low speed for 10 to 12 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth, glossy ball that leaves the sides of the bowl. If kneading by hand, turn the dough onto a well-floured work surface and knead for 12 to 14 minutes.
  4. Form the dough into a large ball, put into a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel or cling wrap and allow to ferment until double in bulk, 45 to 60 minutes.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down and knead it for 1 minute or so, then divide into two pieces of approximately 24 oz each.
  6. Divide each of these into as many pieces as appropriate for the braid you’re using (YouTube how to braid challah). Roll each piece into a tight ball, cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 20 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten.
  7. Using your hands, roll each ball into a long sausage that is thick in the middle and tapered to a point at the ends. Braid.
  8. Put the braided loaves on a piece of baking parchment, cover them with a damp towel and allow them to proof until the dough doesn’t spring back when a finger is pressed into it.
  9. About 20 to 30 minutes before bake time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees with the baking surface in the middle.
  10. Brush each loaf lightly with beaten egg, wait 1 minute and then give them a second coat. Sprinkle with seeds to taste.
  11. Slide the loaves and parchment onto your baking stone or bake on a sheet pan for 30 to 40 minutes, turning the loaves halfway through so they’ll brown evenly.
  12. Transfer the finished loaves to a rack and let cool for at least an hour before cutting.

June Book Talk

What a beautiful summer day! I’m currently lounging on my back deck in the sunshine with a glass of iced coffee and it is pure bliss. Hemingway is crowing, there’s a cool breeze and birdsong in the air. There’s also the sound of Elizabeth Bennet, my buff orpington, straining to lay her morning egg. She carries on quite loudly, breaking up the bucolic scene. It’s a wonderful morning for writing, or reading. Today, I’m talking books!!

I keep track of the books I’m reading on the Goodreads app. If you do not have this app, and you are a reader, you are missing out on life. On the app, I keep track of what I want to read, what I’ve read, and what I’m currently reading. It helps me decide if I want to pick a book up or not based on other people’s reviews. This has led me astray a few times… In my experience, I’ve learned that there are two kinds of readers: those who must finish a book no matter what and DNFs (did not finish). I fall into the “must finish” group and longingly glance to the other side of the fence wishing I could be a DNFer, sometimes. There’s nothing I abhor more than plodding through a novel I’m not feeling. My favorite part of the Goodreads app is the Reading Challenge. Every year, I set a reading goal for myself. The app keeps track of the books I’ve read and once I’ve accomplished my goal the screen bursts into confetti. It’s the greatest.

Onto books! This year I’ve been reading a lot more nonfiction than I usually do. I’m doing a lot of searching and that’s evident in my literary choices. Here’s what I’ve read in 2019. Hopefully, it will inspire you to pick up a good read, to learn, to escape, to grow, or spark a conversation with a friend.

  • “The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming” by Sally Clarkson. {My rating: 5 stars} L.o.v.e.d. this book. Every momma or future momma must read this.
  • “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” by J.R.R. Tolkien. {My rating: 5 stars for all three} If you haven’t read this epic classic, you need to. If you want a study on true friendship, this is it.
  • “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan. {My rating: 5 stars} A wake up call for Western Christianity. The book is simplistic and a great introduction to the woes of cultural Christianity in America.
  • “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens {My rating: 4 stars} I really enjoyed the book and the descriptive storytelling. The last chapter lost a star, for me. I despise it when good stories are tied up neatly with a bow in the last chapter. I will continue to pretend I didn’t read the last few pages.
  • “Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches” by Russell Moore. {My rating: 5 stars} This was my second time reading. Highly recommend for prospective adopting parents and their family and friends. Highly recommend for any Christian, period.
  • “The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery” by Ian Morgan Cron. {My rating: 4 stars} If you are new to the Enneagram conversation, this is the book for you. If you don’t know what Enneagram is, allow me to lovingly say: get out from under the pretty rock you’re under and google it.
  • “The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life” by Joshua Becker. {My rating: 4 stars} Are you overwhelmed and don’t know why? Maybe you have too much stuff. This book helps put things in perspective. Even as an avid purger, I was still inspired to get rid of a lot of things in our home. Something to consider: clutter does not just come in material form.
  • “Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green. {My rating: 3 stars} I love John Green books and I’ve had this one on my list since it came out. The topic is important and we need more young adult literature addressing mental health, but this one just didn’t do it for me. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t.
  • “Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living” by Shauna Niequist. {My rating: 3 stars} I resonated with this book in so many ways. But the push to find peace within oneself threw me off from a Christian author. I’d recommend this to a mature Christian who can see the biblical flaws and not be dissuaded by them, but I fear some may be led astray by the New Age thinking prevalent in this book.
  • “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah. {My rating: 4 stars} This is a good read and the story is compelling, but the writing isn’t comparable to “All the Light We Cannot See.”

So that’s the list, thus far. I’ll update next month on what I’ve read since then. I’m in the middle of two that I’m learning so much from and I can’t wait to share my final thoughts with you once I’ve finished. Do you have any books you’re loving? Please share them in the comments. I’m always looking for another literary treasure. Happy reading!!

Presence

Presence. To be present. It’s something I’ve always struggled with. In each calendar season, I’m always yearning for the next one. When it’s summer, I long for autumn leaves, campfires, and hot spiced coffees. In each day, I’m always thinking about tomorrow. I make lists for the next day’s grocery trip and clean up for tomorrow’s company. In each moment, I’m always planning out the following ones. I rush through a book with my daughter because if I don’t get dinner started on time, then we won’t eat on time, then Clara’s bath will be late, and she will go to bed late, and my husband and I won’t have thirty minutes alone together before we have to go to bed. As a teacher, my favorite part of my job was planning out units. My career celebrated and encouraged my love of planning. I’ve come to realize that “love” is the wrong word. Addiction is more accurate. I am addicted to planning my life.

What’s made it so difficult for me to see this glaring problem for so many years, is that this addiction comes from a “good” place. I don’t want to miss a single moment of this beautiful life. I want to suck the marrow out of it. I want to live each second to its full capacity. I want to live a life that serves my family and others and is glorifying to God, and being efficient with my time is how I do that. Right? I have recently realized that I’ve been missing it. Now, I don’t want to say that I have completely missed out on my life. I’ve done a lot of work and come very far in being cognizant of what really matters. I’ve worked to tame that voice inside that wants to critique everything and everyone and never lets me rest or just enjoy spontaneity or the ones I love. But it’s taken this really hard season in my life for me to finally see what God is lovingly breaking me of: my need for control. In my attempt to plan moments so that they would be efficient or perfect (as I thought they should be), I lost being present. This is one of the reasons I had to part ways with social media. Too much of my time was spent thinking about a picture, taking said picture, editing the picture, perfectly captioning the picture, and reading responses to the picture than simply relishing what was in the picture. Social media appealed too much to my weakness to craft perfection at the price of presence. And I decided I couldn’t sacrifice that any longer.

I am currently in a season of life where I have absolutely no clue what I am doing. And that scares the crap out of me. I am an intrinsically motivated person. I never leave things unfinished and I accomplish whatever I set out to do. I always have a crystal clear direction in what I am doing and why I am doing it. But not this year. This past year, I  intentionally put myself into a position of vulnerability and waiting. It has been the most uncomfortable twelve months.  I often terrify my husband with bouts of emotion and statements of, “I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.” And I don’t. I don’t know when I’ll go back to teaching or if I ever will. I don’t know if that’s a career I was called to for a season or my lifetime. I don’t know what I am going to do when Clara goes to kindergarten in three months and I have a house to myself. I don’t know when we will receive approval from India or when we will get to bring our baby home. I don’t know what is happening with our church and what our future looks like there. I don’t know when I’ll stop hurting over the fear of losing my mother to cancer, the deception of a loved one, the death of my grandparents. I literally have no direction on some of the biggest life things, right now. And I’m uncomfortable and I’m confused and I’m weepy and I’m exhausted.

But here’s what I’ve learned so far: This time on earth that has been given to me is so so precious and I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want to waste my moments on planning my life and end up missing it. I don’t want to long for autumn’s leaves so much that I miss the bubbly laughter of my five-year old running through the sprinkler. I don’t want to be so focused on making a list that I forget to watch the trees dance in the breeze while I have my morning coffee. I don’t want to finish that picture book with my little girl as quickly as I can because in just a few more moments, she’ll be too big to sit in my lap. This year, God has called me to rest, to trust Him and to let go of my plan for my life. And I have fought Him the entire time. He’s shown me that I have some places that need healing and He has gently torn down wall after fortified wall that I had erected around my heart. I feel exposed and I do not like it. But I know He has good plans for me and my family. He has always been faithful. My ideas of womanhood and friendship and what it means to be a Follower of Christ have been completely crushed and are being rebuilt. I still don’t know what all He is teaching me; I know that I have been stubborn and slow to learn. I’m thankful for his kindness. I hope that I will have direction, soon, but not at the price of healing. I hope that this season will come to an end and bloom into one that is beautiful and full of joy. I hope sunshine and laughter and giddy excitement is just around the corner. But I don’t want that hope to cloud the deep work God is doing in my life right now. Lord, help me to be present, even now… when I don’t know.