jamieeppenaueraboyandhisdog

A Boy and His Dog

Oil Painting, 15 x 11

This is my favorite painting from last year. It is about of my son Luke and his dog Strider.

Luke was adopted from Guatemala when he was a small baby. Honestly, I forget that he is adopted until we meet someone new, and they inevitably ask the question about why we adopted and how the process was.

As to the why, the simple answer is that we just felt called to do it. And even more directly, we felt called to adopt a boy of Latin American heritage.

There are so many stories to share of his adoption. One of the most significant is the moment we found out he was actually going to make it home.

Alex and Alyssa are around six and three years old. After a lot of thinking and paperwork, and researching and praying, we are matched with a little boy from Guatemala named Oscar.

We were matched with him when he was only seven days old.

Oscar is three months old at this point, living in an orphanage with about 60 other babies in Antigua. He may have been living in Guatemala, but he was already part of our family.

My husband and I just returned to Seattle after spending a week in Guatemala getting to know our new son.

We came home with the expectation that our new family member would be joining us in Seattle in the next month.

Then the call came; the government of Guatemala enacted the Hague Treaty which changed their international adoption laws. After some stressful days of worrying and praying, we found out that current adoptions would go forward.

Weeks later, well after the time we were expecting Oscar to come home, we got news that there was a problem with the adoption paperwork. The problem was with the record of Oscar’s birth mother. In Guatemala, births are recorded in what is known as the Book of Births. When there is an error in the Book of Births, the information is supposed to be crossed out, the correction written in and then initialed. With Oscar’s mother’s record, it looked like someone had erased some information and re-written it in on top. According to our attorneys, the only way to overcome this error was to get a certificate from the hospital where the birth mother was born. This could not be obtained as she was not born in a hospital.

The case was bleak.

Being the type-A American, a former attorney who was very used to working hard to make things happen, I sprang to action calling on every resource possible. Through family ties I had connections at the United States Department of State; they put me in touch with a person at the US Embassy in Guatemala who tried to do all they could to help us, including conducting a visual inspection of the orphanage. This being a third world country, that was about the extent of their influence.

I contacted different adoption attorneys in Guatemala to look into our case, which angered our attorneys so much they threatened to suspend our adoption.

We contacted a local agency that did not-for-profit work in Guatemala.

We prayed, our friends prayed, everyone prayed.

Nothing worked; no progress was made other than us making our attorneys angry.

The adoption was not going to happen.

We started moving on. We looked into what we could do to support Oscar in a private orphanage in Guatemala. His future as an orphan in Central America was devastating. At home, we took down the nursery, keep praying for Oscar, but started accepting the fact this might not work out.

I cannot express the depth of our sadness.

Seven months later, Alex was about to start Kindergarten. We went camping on the Olympic Peninsula.

During some of the hardest times in our lives, we have found hope, healing, and renewal in the deep woods of a national park.

We went Sol Duc, a favorite camping spot. It is a dense forest on the edge of the Olympic National Park backcountry.

After playing in the hot springs and hiking, we went back to the campsite to cook dinner.

I was standing on a log trying to glimpse a spot of sky through the tall pine trees. I was still so terribly sad about Oscar. I prayed out loud to God to “please bring Oscar home.” I had said this prayer many times before, but it was not until this moment that I felt myself completely let go. I remember the sense of my thoughts going straight up the tall trees. The sense of complete surrender was followed by calmness and overwhelming love.

We returned home from camping.

The next morning at 7:00 am the phone rang. I was still sleeping, so my husband answered the phone. It was our attorney in Guatemala telling us our adoption was approved, and we needed to come and pick up Oscar.

What? How?

I made him repeat it several times. Oscar’s adoption was approved.

There have never been any clear answers as to how this ultimately happened. The night before while I was in the forest surrendering this struggle to a higher being, our attorney was at the courthouse in Guatemala working on another adoption. As he was leaving, he inquired again about our case. The government lawyers told him to wait out front as the courthouse was closing. Moments later they handed out our adoption records, marked approved, without further requirements or explanation. You

Luke turned sixteen this past year. He loves LaCrosse, driving and his buddies. Like I said at the beginning, I still forget he is adopted. But I will always remember that moment.

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