Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hair Hacky, Cellulitis and Delays

{Correction: For the record...and very important to Jason...He slid into third. My details were off and my softball knowledge is practically non-existent.}


Last Wednesday we should have dropped paperwork off at DHL and by this time it should be in process. But, last week we got a call from the Department of State that the document we were requesting would not suffice. Only an official clearance from Azerbaijan's Child Abuse Registry will be accepted. The problem is that, while Azerbaijan has reported they have a registry, no one can confirm they actually do. We have been working with the AZ consulate in D.C., U.S. Immigration, the Department of State, our agency, other agencies and the U.S. Embassy in AZ. No one has a clear answer. It's past the point of frustration and now is entering the slightly comical/bewilderment stage. How can it take so long to get an answer to what should be a simple question? We just shake our heads and check our emails hoping we have new word.


Immigration did email on Monday saying all indications are there is not a registry but that we must wait on official word from an AZ authority. So, we're waiting. And reading a few books to finish our last home study requirements.


In the waiting, Jason played a final game in this season's church softball league. When he slid into first third base, we earned a memento that has had him in terrible pain the last week. Yesterday, we finally decided the pain warranted a doctor visit and found out he's developed a case of cellulitis. The medicine is working and for the first time in a week the pain has diminished.


Also, we purchased a simple pool this week and just in time for the India-like weather that's on the way. Levi's loving the water, finally, after last year refusing to go near it. Today he learned the word burn when he kept sticking his nose in and sucking up water. "Bun," he'd say. But by the end he'd mastered maneuvering around in his knee-deep water.




And finally, it's been over a month since being back from India. I looked through pictures and videos today and even got to hang out with one of my girls. Remembering what a great group we had, I laughed hard at this video. We were a loud, crazy bunch in India. And although I tried to keep us conscious of our volume in public, I often felt like it was a no win battle with eight girls. :) So sometimes I joined them. 





Enjoy the craziness! Laughter is some of the best medicine...and we're trying to laugh a lot these days during the waiting!




Pretty sure she may kill me for posting this...



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vacation

We talked for weeks about a little family vacation but wanted to keep it simple, inexpensive and adventurous. Saturday night Jason began researching and found a deal online for a hotel. So we packed our bags and after pancakes with some friends early Sunday morning, we headed for the mountains. Here's how we kept our vacation under budget.


1. Hotwire.com. We checked last minute deals and found a hotel online in the mountains for half the price of normal. So, we booked a one night stay.


2. Old Toys. While this would not work for older kids, it totally did for a two year old. We wrapped old toys in foil and gave them to him during the trip. It was like new toys all over again. For older kids, destination clues could be wrapped or homemade games or even puzzle pieces. The possibilities are endless.


3. Free Amusement Parks. There's one place for a young kid that's just like a free theme park- Bass Pro Shop. It's an aquarium, zoo, and carnival all in one.   We explored the whole place for free and even came away with a free wooden snake Levi got to decorate in-store. O.P. Taylor's was our amusement park for day two. 






4. Meals on the cheap. We enjoyed some meals that we pre-packed. Pictured is us enjoying PB & J's in the back of the minivan. :)


Levi just discovered our Thomas Craigslist find




4. Outdoor Exploration. We stayed across from an old church with a garden out back so we spent an early morning taking pictures and discovering animals. 
















5. Sharing. Every time we did eat out, we made it count. Like the BEST pancake house in the Smoky's and some awesome Mexican! When possible, we shared and that included toothbrushes when we discovered we forgot Levi's. 






































We'll be honest. There were splurges. 






















































But we were pretty proud of our memorable, two day mountain vacation for under $200 including gas! 

An Update

Tonight instead of sharing pictures of vacation we've been making copies and writing a letter in a language we barely remember.


We got the go ahead today to send everything out. Tomorrow our request for clearance documents head off to Azerbaijan in the care of a friend's cousin who will take them to the police department. If all goes according to plan and budget, the papers should be in Baku on Friday via DHL.


Thanks for walking with us. Pictures are still to come from the weekend. Here's a sneak peek. 





Monday, June 18, 2012

Climbing the Mountain: An Adoption Update

The last month dealing with this Azerbaijani clearance has been a pickle. And that is so mildly put.

Last week we went through a roller coaster of emotions when NO ONE could tell us exactly what type of clearance we need to get or if it even exists. We realize in adoption there is a lot of waiting. We just never thought we'd be waiting this early with no paperwork on the ground in India.

Our eyes are being opened wide by the Hague training we're doing and the reality of institutionalization and neglect on children are overwhelming. We are realizing more daily that this is not an easy calling or one to be entered into flippantly.

As of today emails are waiting in the inboxes of our immigration worker at USCIS, our home study worker, our Azeri friends who have SO AMAZINGLY translated formal document requests into Azeri (and given us in-country contacts), the Azeri consulate in Washington D.C. and another social worker with another agency who has Azeri contacts too.

The short version of the story is that no child abuse registry exists in Azerbaijan even though they were taken off of the official list of countries with no child abuse registry in April...making it appear they do have a registry. Severe cases of child abuse are documented through the police department so we wait for our contact at USCIS and our home study worker to confer and decide if we do or do not need a police clearance or if documentation of the above information from Azerbaijan will suffice. And then to get said documents....

I've prayed often for God to completely move this mountain that's in the way and I've cried wondering how He could be so clear about this little girl only to seem silent when we come to such a huge obstacle. I'm such a fickle human being. Today I was reminded that we walk by faith and not by sight. Three and a half years of clarity cannot be undermined by one month of silence. He has made it clear and we are praying as we climb this mountain.

We are hopeful we will hear something back tomorrow and will keep the blog updated as things progress. Also, we're excited to share some pictures from our budgeted, adoption-friendly vacation we just arrived back from tonight. We had just as much fun as an all-out trip at a fraction of the price. Tomorrow night we'll share how. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Here Lately

Our phones are filled with pictures of life lately. Some are too fun not to share.


Azeri feast. A few weeks ago a few friends pitched in with us during Eurovision to celebrate, pray for Azerbaijan and enjoy their delicious cuisine. One of Jason's favorites is dolma, pictured at the bottom left. Add garlic yogurt sauce and he's a happy man. Also pictured, counterclockwise, is the national dish of plov, tandeer bread and Russian salad (stolichny). For dessert we enjoyed homemade baklava and piping hot tea!


Play group. Sometimes we actually make it to play group and this day Levi was elated. He LOVES all things trains and this family was overrun with train paraphernalia.




Our sunshine. Levi seems to be a morning person sometimes rising as early as 6:30 am. This was one Sunday morning getting ready for church.




Demolition. Last week work started cleaning up the apartments where we moved. The projects include major landscaping changes, grills and a fire pit out back, power washing, sealant and stray cat removal. :)



The Conference. Last week Jason attended a conference with Student Life staff from our university. They enjoyed cooler Indiana weather and came back with new perspective and renewed vision.




   
Friends. While Jason was away we spent lots of time with friends and shared many meals. I once nannied for Everett when he was Levi's age so it was fun to have him and his brother Lukas come hang out. 


We also enjoyed breakfast at the park with friends and playing in the sandbox. There are so many great parks in our area.








Da Da. It was great to welcome Jason back after his week away in Indiana. There's nothing like a dad and his boy reunited.




Celebrations. Sometimes in life we get to celebrate others. Yesterday was one of those days when we got to celebrate the work God is doing in a friend's life. Together Jason and his former youth pastor had the honor of baptizing a dear friend and former student. We celebrate the good work God is doing in Tara.


Big projects. And finally, this is birthday season for the extended Tegen family. Jason, his mom and brother decided to surprise their dad with a shed built from scratch. After hours and hours of intense labor, this was the incredible finished product before painting.






Hope you enjoyed a glimpse of life here lately. We are spending lots of time too online training for our adoption. By Wednesday we should know how we will proceed with Azeri documentation. Prayers are appreciated as we hope to find the swiftest route to the needed paperwork. We'll keep you posted. Thanks for grabbing shovels and talking to The Great Mountain Mover to see this huge mountain gone.







Sunday, June 10, 2012

India, Part IV: The Lessons

It's been a month and five days since we left for India. I feel like I've aged at least a year since that day.

To some leadership is a natural ability (e.g. Jason Tegen). Others cultivate and develop the skills over time. Others prefer to stay behind the scenes. I would classify myself in this latter category though I've sometimes wished I was in the first. With a shaky, short leadership resume, I took comfort in this trip knowing I was following God's leading and not the reverse. I was SURE He told me to take this trip. So all would be absolutely awesome and over the top amazing. The end.

I did not anticipate almost missing planes, being called back off of buses with luggage issues, being terrified on a flight by some men acting very strangely, riding with a crazy driver, standing outside the airport with no welcome committee, our credit card being cancelled, visibly seeing the spiritual realm, scoldings from some nationals and our flights home being cancelled. I didn't think I signed up to lead that trip. I signed up for the over-the-top, everything-goes-perfect one.

And many things did go perfectly. God sent great, teachable girls. They engaged and LOVED the kids. They embraced everything {except the spicy food}. I could not have asked for a better group. We heard incredible stories of God's power on display and saw it a few times up close. We saw what the joy of the Lord looked like through Shampa and her sisters as we laughed hard at their crazy stories. Like Shampa's stories of riding on motorized carts in Walmart chasing her embarrassed husband yelling, "Everyone, that man is my husband." He was truly embarrassed when she ran into a display and knocked EVERY piece of fruit on the floor and all she could do was laugh uncontrollably. Those women have deep joy with a good bit of silliness mixed in. Obstacles and all, the trip was filled with rich lessons.


1. Worship
We learned through stories and first-hand experience that there is power in worshipping God. When His presence comes, the enemy doesn't stay. We met children who had been cursed and couldn't speak who were healed during worship. During a time of apparent spiritual warfare for our group, one of our girls saw the enemy driven back and the rest of us felt it. Worshipping the true God is essential and powerful.

2. Obedience and Trouble-free Living
I arrived home sick in body and disappointed in spirit from all of the trials. I really questioned if I had totally misheard God or somehow finagled a trip out of a growing love for India. As my day and night started matching reality, I started to think clearly and process all that happened. Several times I thought of Jesus warning that in the world we will have trouble and tried to make sense of the mishaps in light of His words. One morning I woke up with the scripture reference John 16:33 ringing in my head. I had no clue what scripture it was and hadn't cracked my Bible in days. When I finally looked, this is what it said: 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

God did call me to lead the trip. I took my cues from Him. And just as Jesus promised, there were troubles. I, unfortunately, allowed it to rob me of peace {and fingernails}. Obedience is not a get-out-of-trouble card. In some ways, it attracts it to us. Obedience is costly. And although my hair will probably gray a year earlier than it would have, I have learned that circumstances are never meant to be our peace. Jesus is.


3. The Love Well 
When we arrived at Mother Teresa's home and read all about her life, I was convicted. Almost everyone knows Mother around the world as a women who lived and loved selflessly. Truly, the way she lived was remarkable. She lived so radically as to draw worldwide attention. Should not every Christ follower live and love like Jesus did? Instead of being a Christian anomaly, shouldn't Mother be the epitome of the Christian life?

I saved this lesson for last because I've been confronted with the difficulty of this challenge so clearly since being home. Loving others is a favorite thing for Christians to sing about. It sounds all glamorous. 

We will go
Live to feed the hungry 
Stand beside the broken 
We will go

But doing those things, loving those people is NOT glamorous. It's extremely costly of our time, our resources, our wants. If ever I've seen it, it has been since being home. It's easy to love Indian children. At least, for me it is. What is difficult is loving my neighbor two doors away back in America.

When I was in church Sunday crossing my arms and not singing the song, God gave me a picture of my hand scooping water out of a pot that was empty.  My well was dry because I have not been going daily for fresh water from Him.

And before this gets too preachy, I'll just say that I'm being reminded again how God desires a daily invitation to be my leader. For me to take the cues from Him just like I took the cues for this trip. For Him to be the source of all good things flowing out of my life. Even when trouble comes--it will--or when loving is so hard.

He's the leader who has the pressure of leading this thing. And His track record of getting people home is perfect!  


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Shout-outs and an Adoption Update

With so much to share, we'll start here with our latest adoption update. A fourth India post is on it's way this week as well. In the meantime, if you have any extra time and would like to check out some pictures of our former home, check out Azerbaijan's latest accomplishment hosting Europe's 2012 Eurovision. We lived there for one year from 2006-2007 where Jason and I taught and learned to love another culture apart from our own. The year living there is weaving it's way into our adoption story as we are PRAYING and researching ways to get the fastest clearance from the government saying we did not abuse children while we lived there. It is proving quite the challenge and an unexpected hold-up in our process.


While we are getting paperwork ready, a friend of ours is in China learning and competing in a huge competition in Beijing. She needs votes and comments so anyone interested can check Tina out here and do the following:


1. Subscribe to the Official Channel: TheForeignersinChina
2. Find the video with her name: 柯依娜 ke yi na
3. Comment on the Video




And now for our update and latest God moment!


Faithful friends and family, 
We are making good progress toward gathering everything we need (documents, doctors appointments, online training hours, etc...) for our home study to be officially approved and sent on for final approval. Since last time we wrote we have had our 2nd of 3 total home study visits, completed the required doctor's appointments/lab tests and begun the ten hours of online training that is required as part of this process. 
The one thing we are still in very urgent need of is the document from Azerbaijan clearing us from any criminal record while we lived there. Please pray very specifically that we will receive this document very soon as it is the only remaining piece of this part of the home study that is out of our hands. 
God is due much praise for again providing financially for our doctor's appointments and lab work. For the three of us the total cost of our appointments and the required lab tests came to approximately $600. Our appointments were scheduled for Wednesday, May 30. On Tuesday, May 29 we received $600 completely unexpectedly from someone who is walking with us through this adoption process! God is so good to take care of the details of His plans!

Thanks for your prayers and praises to God with us! There is much more to come this week. Look forward to hearing from some of you, meeting with some of you and meeting back here more regularly.