Third Time is a Charm – B-Sides and Bootlegs

Posted: February 2, 2011 in adoption, broken, children, Ethiopia, Faith, Family, healing, hope, hurt, life, parenting, together, Uncategorized
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NOTE: I apologize for the delay on getting this out, but I am dealing with the death of my mother and have been preparing for her funeral. The last paragraph of this post rings that much stronger with her passing. Please read and remember that it is the choices we make now which ultimately lead to the person we are to become in the future.               

  If you followed along with parts one, two and three, you can take an educated guess and probably be correct in your assumption that I will NOT be dropping a bombshell announcement in this blog that we are expecting our fourth child. You guessed it! We have definitely tucked our baby-making hats away up in the attic and will not be having any more children, at least not through natural means. Over the course of the last eight years, we have experienced too much pain and shed way too many tears of sorrow (even if these tears of sorrow were followed by tears of joy) throughout the days and weeks following the birth of each of our children. We were absolutely certain that things could get much worse should we choose to have a fourth child. We no longer cautiously weigh the odds or sift through the statistics; this is a chance we are adamant on NOT taking. We tight-roped this line one too many times before and our thoughts are that this chance is much too risky to take and there is way too much at stake should something go wrong.

            The flipside to this is that we didn’t necessarily want to stop having children or if we did, we wanted this choice to feel like it was our decision and not a choice we were seemingly forced to make. This made us feel like our decision to have another child was stripped away from us. I know, we always have a choice, but considering the circumstances, the choice was heavily weighted towards not having a fourth child. There was another choice though. We had thought about a second option, discussing it nonchalantly in the past should the opportunity ever arise. We knew this option was a huge commitment and that this experience would both challenge and change our family as we knew it forever, but again, it was a commitment we thought worthy of making. The commitment was and is adoption.

          My wife and I had discussed the idea of adopting in the past, but it was always someday, sometime in the future. Honestly, it was more of a fleeting thought which we often experienced together and one that we would possibly come to consider some day in the future…someday, but not these particular days. The topic of adoption usually came up as a side bar discussion when we became emotionally moved after seeing a commercial or after attending an event where adoption was a point of discussion. This topic also came up when discussing abortion, but like I said, they were always side bar discussions which usually ended with hypothetical maybes.  We weren’t really forced to think about this as a reality until we were seemingly forced to make a choice of not having any more children via natural childbirth.

                We were social networking one day…OK…we were actually stalking old friends on Facebook and the status updates of some friends we used to go to church with caught our attention. It was a brief glance at first and then a double take; we saw that our old friends were adopting not one, but two children from Ethiopia. Did I mention that they already had three children of their own? We seriously thought they were crazy at first, you know, raving lunatics (just kidding here as they may actually read this ;)), but we knew their hearts and crazy only related to the fact that their hearts were crazy for these children. We decided to have our old friends over for dinner so we could reacquaint and discuss both the whys and the hows of their adoption experience. After having mutual heart-pouring discussions about our desires to adopt, my wife and I came to the conclusion that we should adopt internationally. We could have chosen to adopt locally within the United States, but these children would be taken care of one way or another. The children of other countries were literally dying of starvation, along with other treatable medical conditions. We had the available room, we could raise the money and most of all, we had the desire and love to provide an environment which would give life and hope to a child that otherwise would not get to experience this side of life or for that matter, life in general. And most of all, we had the heart.  

                It was an epiphany of sorts, but it wasn’t the statistics which captured our hearts. Don’t get me wrong here; the statistics are indeed staggering as 24,000 children die each day…EACH DAY. These children are boys and girls who could be adopted and placed into the loving homes and arms of parents who can provide them with nourishment, love and hope. This is the equivalent to 60, count them 60 of my oldest son’s elementary schools. Can you imagine losing 60 elementary schools here in America…PER DAY? This was a shocking factor, but it wasn’t the deciding factor for us. We knew that we were only going to be able to help just one of those 24,000 children. Don’t get me wrong here because one child does make a difference, but not necessarily in terms of the overall numbers. We began to see and come to the realization that there was a child out there who was going to be our daughter. Yes, I said daughter, because this was obviously the only way we were going to have the presence of a little princess in the Harris household. We got three the hard way, the boys that is, but back to our daughter, she was out there … somewhere … in some other country…and she was suffering.

                We jumped in the adoption process head first and began researching adoption agencies so we could make the initial commitment to embark on this lengthy and drawn out process.  There was only one potential setback which might interfere with or prolong our ability to follow through with the adoption.  One of our pasts would literally come back to haunt us. Juvenile delinquencies and misdemeanor crimes of a trouble-filled past just might be a mountain that is too high to climb. This might very well be one mountain which we are not able to crest which also means there would be no summit to reach either. As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t even put our gear on. The journey would end much sooner than we could have ever imagined. In all actuality, this journey would come crashing to an end much, much faster than it began.

                One of the earlier items on the list for international adoptions is finger printing. Obviously, the authorities of both countries involved want to make sure you have not been arrested for, or have any convictions for violent crimes or other crimes against people which may show up on a police record; however, this isn’t the only thing they look at. Your entire record is looked at, both arrest record and convictions, whether you were found guilty or not and regardless of your plea. Even if the arrest was fabricated or a hapless law enforcement mistake had been made, it still shows up on your record during this process. You see, like many people, I made a lot and I mean A LOT of careless and imprudent mistakes when I was between the ages of 17-19 years old and every single one of these mistakes littered the pages of my record. There were 15 events which stringed one after another, page after page, throughout the report and even though some of them showed up as non-convictions or that I was found innocent, the events still showed up as strikes against me, therefore lending evidence and so-called credibility to a pattern of maladaptive behavior, deserved or not. There were certain events within this report which completely evaded my memory, but after a brief period of introspection, my memories soon sailed back to those exact moments in time. The biggest offense turned out to be a resisting arrest charge and disobeying a lawful order from a police officer. I won’t go into details here, but the charges were inflated as I was left with no choice but to try and defend myself from excessive police force. The only witness to this incident was under the influence of alcohol and the two police officers had also arrested this person’s father that same night so it wouldn’t prove to be all that difficult to discredit this individual’s eyewitness testimony. I had to accept the charge or face time in jail should I be found guilty as an officer’s testimony almost always trumps the witness in a court of law, so I hesitantly accepted the prosecution’s plea bargain.

                We still went through with the adoption process, selected an agency and began coordinating our efforts with a social worker at the agency. I was very open and honest with the adoption agency about my past. I didn’t want to come across as if I was hiding anything from them. This type of conniving would surely look worse should something come to the surface much later on in the process. I thought absolute honesty will prevail. I know in my heart it will. I wrote out and then meticulously typed up a six-page report on my past arrest record and provided reasoning as to why I was arrested, an explanation of the events leading up to the arrest and what I had learned from each of these experiences. The adoption agency was gracious enough to accept the report from me at no cost and they hadn’t requested an application fee either up to this point in time. The social worker forwarded the report to the agency’s legal representative in Ethiopia for review, who then forwarded the report to the proper court authority in Ethiopia for review as well. The adoption agency could have lured us deep into the adoption process with application fees, home studies and fingerprinting charges, but they didn’t. They were very helpful and understanding of our circumstances throughout this entire ordeal. We waited … and waited … and waited. I anxiously checked my inbox each and every day in anticipation of an email from the adoption agency. I had an immense amount of hope that the authorities involved would see past my historic transgressions and grant our family the gift of adoption. I quickly grew into a complacent mechanical like state, systematically checking my inbox with very little hopes that I would ever see any sort of response again and then one day, I opened my inbox and there it was; the black bold font jumped out from the screen, indicating a new email and guess what, the email was from the social worker at WACAP which was the adoption agency we chose to work with from the beginning of this process. My heart began racing several beats higher. The anticipation kicked in and I really thought that this was it. We actually have a chance at becoming the adoptive parents of a needy child from Ethiopia and that our daughter was out there somewhere, just waiting and hoping that her parents were seeking her out. This child would not suffer for much longer; a child of God would finally experience the love, warmth and nourishment of a family which she most certainly deserved.

                I paused, just staring at the screen; this was the moment of truth for us and our hopes of adoption. I double-clicked on the email and as the bold, black font faded to a normal font, a new window popped up displaying the contents of the email. Our flat screen monitor non-discriminately displayed the following words;

“Dear Josh and family,

Thank you so much for your honesty and for the time you have taken to present this information.

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that our staff in Ethiopia indicated that they did not think that your case would receive a positive approval in an Ethiopian court.

Where it is understood that you have overcome a significant amount of adversity, this many infractions (although justifiable) makes the Ethiopian Federal Court unable to approve an adoption for your family.

Again, I am very sorry to deliver this news…”

I stopped reading as a tear slowly fell from my eye down to the corner of my mouth. I stared off aimlessly; I didn’t need to see any more of the email. The very thing we tried to avoid with having a natural child was cast upon us as potential adoptive parents. My hearts rapid pace almost died as it slowed to a mere idle, a deathly sunken state which landed somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach. I mean, really,” I’m a good person”, I thought. I have changed my life 180 degrees from where it was back then and I meant it. I was frustrated and I saw this as the Ethiopian authorities were willing to let this child die. My sadness and frustration transformed into anger. I thought I can fix this; I can send character reference letters and letters of recommendation from pastors, police officers, college professors, FBI agents, co-workers, church friends and past bosses. I’ll do whatever it takes! I’ll write my congressman! I’ll write the Ethiopian officials; however, none of this would suffice. There would be no international adoption, as a matter of fact; there would be no adoption at all.

                My wife and I are still open to the idea of adoption, but it came and went full circle, from a maybe someday, to a reality, back to one of those maybes; maybe someday…some day in the future. It will require a very unique set of circumstances for us to be able to adopt as we will have to find an individual or couple who either doesn’t want their child before the baby is born or a couple that wishes to give their child up for adoption after the birth or some other stage of life and we happen to somehow be chosen as the desired adoptive parents. This door has been temporarily closed to us for now, so we have decided to continue our focus toward our three boys.

                I guess the worst part of this for me is that when 24,000 children are dying per day, give me and my family a chance. Give me a chance to love this child as my own. If anyone has been proven to be redeemed in this life, it is I, and not through anything I have done, but by the grace of a loving God. I myself was adopted. My parents, like many other parents in the past, made some very poor choices in their lives. I became a ward of the state at just two years old. I first ended up at a grandparent’s house who ultimately couldn’t handle the extra work which came with raising a fourth child living in an already cluttered mobile home. After suffering my way through the foster care system for a very brief period of time, another grandmother took me in when no one else would or could. I presented that exact question to her one day, “Mom (because this is what I called her), Why did you take me in?” She responded in the most calm and monotone manner stating, “Because no one else would”. She saved me from a life of not knowing my family, from a life of being raised by strangers, but not all children are this fortunate. I just wanted the opportunity to save or try to save one, just one of those 24,000 children who are going to die today.

                The foster system is riddled with unworthy parents. There are parents who become part of this process just for the additional income and others for selfish, horrid reasons which not even the foster parents themselves can possibly comprehend. Meanwhile, others take this route with an open heart, willing and waiting to love a desperate child in need. The children of Africa and other countries are literally starving to death and dying from treatable diseases and disorders. The majority aren’t waiting for adoption…they are waiting to die. Me, I am most certainly alive and well, a changed man living for a purpose higher than my own, a man who just wanted to make a difference in this world, in this child’s world. The choices of my past came back to haunt me when I least expected it and now, a child is trapped in poverty, destined to certain death because of my sins.

Honey,

I am sorry. I am sorry that I let you down. I am sorry that you won’t be coming home. I made some very bad choices many years ago and these choices are keeping you from us. Please forgive me. I love you!         

Love Dad

     I know this sounds horrible and it sounds as if I am sensationalizing the event, but I want to really drive the reality of this point home. God doesn’t will this. I made bad choices which had nothing to do with God, and now I have to live within the parameters of these choices which I have made. I want you to know that the choices you make now can and will affect your life in years to come. They won’t ultimately affect your relationship with God should you choose to follow Him, but there are certain consequences for our actions here on earth. Let’s look at a few examples other than my adoption experience or should I say non-adoption experience. Take smoking for example. Should you choose to smoke throughout your life, you will incur much damage to your body’s physiological processes, therefore shortening your life, a life in which you could have been fully engaged in God’s work here on earth, a life that is cut short. I can say the same thing in regards to eating poorly or drinking alcohol, lack of exercise, drug use and criminal behavior among a host of other maladaptive behaviors. PLEASE!!! I beg of you to take this point and this plea, recognizing the potential for disruption and dysfunction in your own life. If you are not caught up in any of these or other maladaptive behaviors, please share this with someone who is struggling in these areas. And if you have the opportunity to change a life, DO IT! DO NOT WAIT!!! A child is waiting to call you mom or dad, just as God once waited for you to call Him Father. The child’s life which needs changing might not even be in Africa or some other remote foreign country; they might very well be under the roof of your own home. This child or person just might be you as you are also a child of God. Did you hear that? Listen! You are a child of God!

Links

http://savetheorphan.blogspot.com/?spref=fb

http://itcouldnotbebetter.blogspot.com/2011/01/snapshots-of-sweeties.html?spref=fb

http://www.kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

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Comments
  1. Wendy Rust says:

    We have only the highest respect and admiration for the Harris family. God knows your heart, Josh. I’m guessing that you will be a life-changer with this blog post. I pray that the right eyes read it and that they will think about the choices they make. You have a powerful testimony, and I’m inspired that you share it so openly.

    • Gosh, thanks for including us on this post. As we had been pondering adoption for almost a year now and Dennis and I could never get on the same page… this is what Jason rust said to me … “maybe you are not suppose to adopt a child. Maybe you are suppose to sponsor a child, build a relationship, eventually send that child to college, take a mission trip and go visit that child.”

      While we were in africa I met a girl whos name was Rugiatu (12), and Dennis met a boy named Joseph (10). Dennis bonded very well with Joseph and throghout the week we pondered/prayed about adopting him. Our conclusion was not that we adopt him along with our 2 girls, but that we keep a relationship with him, help with sponsorships, and support him spiritually as best as we could. The girl, Rugiatu, was said to be causing problems in the center in a sexual manor. At that point i felt a connection with her due to my own past. All I wanted to do was get her couseling, shower her with unconditional love, and show her how much God values her body as a temple for His Holy Spirit. Since our trip I have been pondering how to get a child therapist, Laura,….. my sister in law who is a doctor, Brad Garstang, Candace , and other medical professionals to go on an organized medical trip to help the chilren at the center and the city of Freetown.

      YOu see, I know and I know you know that you and you past has sooooo much to offer hurting little ones! AND let me tell you….there are lots of hurting, abused, sexually abused, and trafficed children in Africa and here in America. I encourage you and Heather to go on a mission trip with TRS or another group to meet these children one on one. There is a June team in the works I think….looks like you know the information through save the orphan blog. http://www.therainingseason.org

      • I think you might be on to something Mendy. We are patiently waiting right now to figure out exactly where and what we should do next. Thanks for reading the post and commenting. We have been trying to follow your experience in Sierra Leone and hope to actually attend the group when you guys decide to share about what went on during your trip.

    • Wendy,

      Thank you for the kind words and you so nailed the spot with what i was trying to accomplish with this blog post. Thanks for reading and know that we are praying for you and Jason.

  2. Jenny Rodgers says:

    Thank you for so openly sharing your heart. I pray that your story touches a heart in a way that no other story could. We continue to pray for your family in this time of loss and reflection.

  3. Alan Stolfus says:

    Love your family bro! I believe in God’s eyes, who knows your heart, He has attributed honor to you and your family for pouring yourselves into an act of love that is likened to Jesus. (Matt 25) I realize this doesn’t directly impact the child you hoped to have adopted, but I believe that God still loves that child and will account for his/her life. The great thing about your family is that you don’t give up. Because if that, this seemingly closed door will cause you to find new creative ways to love Jesus by loving others in your neighborhood or in Ethiopia.

  4. I hope things work out in the end. I also know the pain of losing a loved one…my mom died about 1 1/2 years ago. I still think about her all the time and realize that it was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with in my life.

    There are blue skies ahead. I know, because I’m now seeing them.

    BTW, I arrived here via Single Dad Laughing.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time out to come over here and read my blog. And thank you for the uplifting attitude of your comment and sharing of your own personal grief to try and help out a person you dont even know. Your words speak as to what is in your heart and I greatly appreciate you pouring out that love to me. Thank you and God Bless!

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