Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Rest of the Story...

July 14th I received a message from our agency stating that our Dossier had finally been logged in to China's computer system.  This was the official beginning of The Wait.  (Note: The Wait is capitalized because of its significance- it deserves to be a pronoun... as does Dossier- since the amount of work that went into creating our Dossier merits the respect of a capitalized letter... at least according to me)  For so many adoptive families, the hardest part of the process is not the mounds of paperwork.  Nor is it the travel to an unknown country.  The hardest part is the wait for their referral.  Since our Dossier had taken the slow road to being logged in, I was actually looking forward to The Wait.

Here's the rest of the story.  Our agency also informed us that the same day our Dossier had been logged in, several files of children partnered exclusively with our agency had shown up on the master list as available for adoption.  (Quick explanation because it is confusing: many believe this is the 'new route' of Chinese adoptions.  Agencies make agreements with particular orphanages to find families for children from that orphanage.  The orphanage prepares the files (which takes money and time) sometimes with the assistance of their new partner agency.  Once the files are completed and through the Chinese bureaucracy, they are available only to the partner agency.  The agency then advocates for those kids and attempts to find them all families.  The agency may also provide additional assistance to their partner orphanages- funding, support items, programs for older children, etc.)  The nine files were from a brand new partnership orphanage.  Our agency rep had visited the orphanage last August, made the arrangements, and then had heard nothing from the orphanage.  So they were surprised to see nine children on their list the same day that our Dossier was logged in.  And one of files was a little girl they had not met or anticipated having a file for.

You can see where this is going...

We received this little one's file the night we were logged in.  I was actually at a meeting when I checked my phone and saw our agency director's name in my email with a file attached.  It took everything in me not to immediately walk out the door and drive home to look through it!  When I got home, Austin and I finally began looking through the file.  Two big surprises- the little girl was actually 2 1/2 (would be three by the time we traveled), and she was medically healthy.  We had said all along that we were open to a little girl, ages 0-3.  I knew the youngest most Chinese children are adopted was around 12 months (very rare).  But I was hesitant about going for the top of our age range.  The reality that we would have a 2 year old, 3 year old, and 4 year old in our house was daunting.  And for the first time I realized I had an unspoken desire to have a little baby girl.

It took me two days to acknowledge my feelings, stare at this little one's face over and over again, and grieve the loss of her first (almost) three years of life without a family.  And ultimately I realized that once we had seen her, we couldn't turn away.  (By the way, Austin was on board all along.  He read through the file, saw that she fit our 'criteria,' deemed her 'cute,' and wondering what the heck was taking me so long to figure it all out!... Men!  Engineers!  Arghhhh!)  I filled out the needed paperwork and sent China our Letter of Intent to adopt her.



So without further ado, I'd like to give you a first glimpse of our daughter.


We are hoping to bring her home to her forever family- where she will be sandwiched in by two rambunctious brothers on either side- this November or December.  I hope that twinkle I see in her eyes means she likes trucks and rowdy little boys!  We are waiting for more information from her orphanage before deciding on a name- most likely we will be giving her a name that fits into our family but still keeping part of her Chinese name in some capacity.  (And if anyone has followed our family through my two pregnancies, you will recall that naming children is DIFFICULT for the two of us!!)  

Thank you for praying for our little girl- now there's a face to put those thoughts and words to, though we have been comforted that our Heavenly Father has known this little one all along.  We are waiting for China to complete translation and review of our Dossier and then will begin working with the US side to arrange immigration approval, visas, etc.  We will have a better idea on travel dates after we receive the next official paperwork from China.

She can't come home soon enough- though there is plenty to do to prepare for her arrival now!  Thank you for your continued prayers and support.  We will be continuing to fundraise but God's got this! If you'd like to be a part of the story, our youcaring page is still up and running.  Stay tuned for more updates!




You are already so loved little one!



Friday, July 17, 2015

July Update

We're just skipping over June- kay?  No, a lot happened between my last blog post and today so I'll try to fill in some of the gaps to keep everyone up to date and happy :)

In May we were waiting for our provisional immigration approval from the US government.  The wait was averaging 45-60 days and it seemed we still had a long way to go. Our family was blessed with the opportunity to take a beach vacation- which was amazing- but also a fantastic way to pass the time waiting for paperwork that is completely out of your hands.  Upon our arrival home, I discovered our I 800a approval in our mailbox and we were very happy- 37 days total wait time!


It took another week or so for me to rush the last few parts of our Dossier through the authentication process.  Despite a misinformed notary requiring me to meet a courier on the side of the freeway with part of our adoption paperwork, we made it- compiled and copied multiple times- a complete Dossier! And then I fedexed it to our agency's office in New York after praying over the fedex man and threatening bodily harm if anything should happen to it (j/k... kind of).

June 16th we were officially DTC- Dossier To China.  Fancy adoption world talk for saying all of our paperwork was on its way to China.


We were told to anticipate about 10 days for China to 'log in' our Dossier- the next acronym milestone in the adoption community (LID).  Ten days came and went.... but there was a Chinese holiday in there so I wasn't worried.  We enjoyed mail from our agency.


Twenty days passed.  From adoption Facebook groups, I 'met' another family who was on our same timeline.  We lamented the wait together.  Misery loves company-right?

After a month of waiting for China to recognize our Dossier, I started to get nervous.  The doubts crept in- "What if China doesn't approve us to adopt at all?" "What if our Dossier was lost?"

I went a little crazy.  Mostly depressed crazy.  I knew- KNEW- that there were long wait times involved in adoption.  I just didn't think we were at the 'long wait time part' and so I began to question if God really wanted us to pursue this crazy endeavor.  "Did I miss something God?"

After a lot of hand- wringing and soul- wrestling I came to the conclusion that if this was the end of our adoption journey- if for some crazy reason we had committed to giving a child a family and a home, implored our friends and family to support us through prayers and finances, employed major discipline in living on a budget and cutting out lots of the extras- and then it all ended here, that God would still be glorified and our lives made better by choosing His way.  It would be awful.  Absolutely.  Because while we are adopting out of obedience to our Lord, we are discovering the true joy and desire of our heart is to love a lost child.  So we would grieve that loss.  But God would still be God in the end.  

The night before the beginning of our fourth week waiting for LID, I felt an urgency to pray for our paperwork.  I don't like making too many public, emotional appeals but the need was too great to keep silent.  I posted a photo of the ginormous crafty mess I had made to keep my mind of the 'what ifs' and asked our friends and family to join us in prayer.  I also added praying for our Facebook adoption friends and their Dossier to my personal prayers.  The outpouring of love was overwhelming.


More overwhelming was the next morning I received a message from our friends that they were finally logged in and that I needed to check my email.  I quickly checked but there was no news.  I was disappointed.  But strangely at peace about it too.  I was thankful that God answered my prayers- for our friends who are working so hard to bring their son home.  I went about my morning- busy driving Corbin to VBS, running errands with Leo, and then waiting until I needed to pick Corbin up.  I had a chance to chat with our adoption friends and they urged me to call our agency.  I had been holding off, not wanting to convey that they weren't doing their jobs but I finally agreed.  I sent a message asking about our Dossier- as politely as possible.  In response:


"Anna, you are logged in.  Call me ASAP!"




We were indeed logged in to the Chinese computer system. Four weeks of waiting, LID on July 14th. The best part was hearing the cheers of our family and friends when I posted thanking them for storming the gates of heaven with their prayers and the awesome way our God answered- the very next day.  

Every step of this process has taught me something about God.  Waiting has taken my desires and held them under a magnifying glass and looked for selfishness and pride.  Its looked into my motivations and made me scrutinize my actions in a whole new light.  Waiting has brought others into my life who are on the same journey and share the same passion for putting children into families.  And it has given me a deeper appreciation for God's heart for the orphan.  As my own heart has ached for an unknown daughter, I am comforted that God's heart has held her since before she was woven together and longed for her.  My yearning is small in comparison- but instead of feeling insignificant, I am awed by the greatness of our God.  

So many more steps ahead on this journey.  So many more opportunities for God to continue to show up and remind us that He had really been there all along.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

May- where we're at...

Happy May!  Not too much new to report but would like to continue to highlight our fundraising efforts and give an adoption update.

We are still awaiting our I 800a approval from Immigration (US).  We are 23 days into our wait and the most recent and quickest turn around time I've seen has been 48 days... so half way there? (this is my "trying to be excited" face) We continue to pray for speedy processing.  

Corbin has been very good at praying for all the details.  One night at bedtime, I explained how this important stack of papers was making its way across the country via fedex truck.  It was then delivered to an office where people would send our paperwork to an officer to review everything.  The officer would approve our paperwork and send it all back to us, and then we'd send it to China, and then we could start searching for his little sister.  Nearly every night, he prays for the FedEx driver and truck, the officer who looks at our papers, the airplanes that will take things to China.... and of course for his little sister to know that we are coming to bring her home soon.  I get anxious in the waiting, my mind wanders to the unknowns and the what ifs, and I easily become frustrated in the whole process.  But each night I'm reminded to remember the little details- like the FedEx driver- by my almost 4 year old and his heartfelt prayers (and over-the-top love for all things truck).

My etsy site is up and all proceeds go to our adoption.  I'm focusing on sweet little necklaces and love to make custom orders.  If there's a favorite Bible verse, quote, or personal saying that you'd love to have, contact me!



And if you'd like to visit our youcaring site and see our fundraising progress (and contribute to it if you are led to do so!) check it out below.  We appreciate all of your prayers and support- join us in saying a pray for our paperwork... and for Mr. FedEx as it makes its way back to us hopefully very soon!





Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Adoption Update

April is nearly over.  Typing those words is actually kind of difficult.  DOn't get me wrong- its been a fantastic month- we had a wonderful 31 Purse Party fundraiser, lots of movement on the adoption paperwork front, a great Easter, my birthday- but in my naive thinking from a month ago, I had hoped our Dossier would be on its way to China by now and in reality, its still a few months off.  Austin is fond of saying 'it takes as long as it takes.'  But let me back up first.

(our fundraiser brunch- so fun to spend a morning with these ladies!)

I had been diligently working on compiling all of the paperwork needed for our Dossier and having everything authenticated (notarized, verified at the county, state, and Chinese consulate level).  All of our documents were ready- we had no hang ups or re-dos- praise God!

After Easter we received our finalized Home Study.  We reviewed it, emailed back and forth with our social worker and the China director for our agency, and a few days later, received the home study in the mail.  That evening, I took it and our I 800a and FedExed them to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).  A few days later I received confirmation of delivery and our official receipt date from USCIS.


(yes, the government texted me... I had to fill out another form for this to happen, but it was still kind of novel to receive this news via text)

This is the US's part of determining if we are eligible to adopt a child from a certain country.  They review our Home Study and based on China's country requirements, our tax info, and basically a lot of personal info, USCIS approves or denies our application to bring a child into the country.  This part of the process also involved us being fingerprinted (again) and having a specific officer assigned to our case.  In year's past this I 800a process took 2-3 weeks to complete.  At the beginning of the year, USCIS was processing I 800a's within a month.  The currently wait time for I 800a approval is running around 60 days.

Sixty days.  Two months.  I know- 'it takes as long as it takes.'  A lot can happen in 2 months (learning to crawl, first steps, first words).  A lot COULD be happening in two months (like our Dossier could be sent to China, translated, logged in, and we could potentially start searching for our little girl!).  Thus my difficulty and discouragement at reaching the end of April without another late night trip to FedEx.

Even though this is difficult, we are choosing not to stay in that place of discouragement.  There is very little we can physically do to speed up USCIS.  But we can pray (for more officers, faster officers, computers that don't crash, paperwork that doesn't get lost, mail trucks that don't break down).  And we are and if you'd like to add that to your prayer list, please, please! And we can trust in the timing of God- knowing that He makes all things work together for our good... even the waiting times, and slow paperwork processing times, and mail delivery times.


I am enjoying connecting to the online China adoption community.  I've learned more from a few facebook groups than countless books, 13 hours of adoption training, and months of research!  The BTDT (been there, done that) experience goes a long ways in my book.

Still selling necklaces- I've done lots of custom orders and would love to do more if you're looking for a unique gift idea.  Check out ideas on my etsy page.

Also, our youcaring page is still up and running- check it out!



Thank you for following along with our journey.  We really appreciate your prayers and support!



Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Thoughts



Happy Lego! Easter! He is risen! This morning our boys awoke to two fabric bags filled with second hand legos and a small chocolate bunny. They. Were. Thrilled. And I don't think they realized they could eat the bunny yet. I love holidays, celebrations, gift-giving. This scaled back Easter is hard on me but so so good for my heart. Because while part of me longingly imagines Easter baskets overflowing with trendy new clothes, favorite toys, and environmentally sustainable art supplies (I know- that one's just me!) the other part recognizes that we are one Easter basket short this year. There will be other years of color coordinated Easter clothes and baskets with special treats but this year we scaled back, as we have in every other area in anticipation of bringing an orphaned little girl into our home and telling her "you are accepted. You are family. You are loved." And isn't that what Easter is really about? Jesus paid our penalty and now welcomes us into His home and says "You are accepted. You are family. You are loved." 

"How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be. How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior's love for me."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Update

What a month!  February held lots of paperchasing, more necklace making, and one big ol' garage sale.  Austin and I continued to check things off of our dossier list- birth certificates authenticated at the state level, check; background check clearances, check; employment verification letters, check; medical exams, check; appointment made to have medical exams notarized (what?!?), check; first home study visit, check!  That's right- we met with our social worker for the first time this weekend and the visit went great!  We anticiapte one more meeting with him in two weeks.

We still have more paperwork (!!) to track down, fill out, mail in, wait for it to be returned, mail somewhere else, notarize,hand deliver, notarize again, etc.  I'm absolutely resonating with the term 'paperchasing' now- its a wild chase!

One of the documents is a letter that will be sent to Chinese authorities basically stating our intentions and asking permission to adopt a child from China and in sweeping general terms, describe how we will care for that child.  Its a 'form letter' that doesn't allow for flowery prose and yet as I was retyping it, I was struck by its duel meaning.  We state that she will become our daughter, as if she had been born to us.  We will not harm or abuse her.  We will provide the best education to her and give her everything she needs to succeed in life.  And our child will inherit from us as if she had been born to us.  

And that's absolutely what we'll do. But even more than our physical provision for her educational, emotional, etc needs, we pray that she'll come to know the provision from her heavenly Father- who has adopted each of His children.  

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." 1 John3:1

"And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." Galations 3:29


That is our prayer for each of our children, that they will come to love God and partake in this very royal inheritance.  Because God will provide everything they need to succeed in life- so much more so than anything we can do here on earth.

We look forward to sharing this inheritance with our daughter.  Every dollar raised represents one step closer to bringing her home.  Yes, we have paperwork and wait times, but this financial hurdle is significant.  And yet, its shrinking before our eyes, each and every day.

Thank you for being a part of this journey.  For caring about bringing one more beloved daughter home.
If you'd like to support us further, here are some current and upcoming fundraisers:

"Love Makes a Family" jewelry fundraiser- check out these handmade necklaces!  Custom orders welcome- contact me for details.

www.etsy.com/shop/christmastreeface


Garage Sale on March 7th.  Utah Way, Escondido, CA
7am- come and get a great deal!


And as always, we will gladly accept donations through this fundraising page.

Thank you!

love,

Austin and Anna

Sunday, February 22, 2015

hope

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19



It's funny what things give us hope. Now a days, that list is rather long for me. Reading an adoption story online of a child receiving life-saving heart surgery upon arriving home; hearing news of quick paperwork turn around time from a Facebook post; being introduced to an adopted grandson while running an adoption fundraiser; watching a huge pile of quarters turn into dollars- and then hundreds of dollars; getting the nicest person answering the dr's office appointment line and working way above her pay grade to make my appointments happen. And so many other things. 
By deciding to adopt, we've stumbled into an amazing community fueled by that four letter word- HOPE. Hope for families for thrown away children. Hope for medical miracles- and financial miracles. Hope for safe travels and quick paperwork processing. Hope for strangers that have also signed on the dotted line and said,"yes, we'll do this paperchase nonesense, and heart breaking waiting if it means hope for one small child. 
Our ultimate hope is in God's promise of a homecoming greater than any earthly gotcha day or airport welcoming committee. We've already lived through this adoption process once- perhaps without agonizing over the waiting but with even more refining fire. Our adoption is secure- finalized- and our hope is without fear of failure. I am His child, for now and forever. My prayer is that someday our sweet daughter will have this same secure hope. 
So today I am enjoying those small things that give me a glimmer of hope on this earth, knowing my true hope is secure an unchangeable. 
One more appointment closer, one more dollar closer, one more day closer to having her in our arms.