Saturday, November 3, 2012

Big News!

Once again, I've sorely neglected updating this blog...for my faithful 10 readers, this post is written for you. :)

Let's bring the past few months of this blog up to speed:
In July, we found out that our agency's sole orphanage had not been sending nearly as many referrals as in the past (with zero referrals most months), so they were looking to start working with 2 additional orphanage systems within the country. They were very optimistic about these additions to their network, and as a waiting family we were excited about it as well. We had our home study updated mid-July and all other necessary documents updated, signed, and notarized as well.

The first week of August, I sent all of our updated paperwork to our case worker to be entered with the Ethiopian courts. When I emailed her to make sure she received it, I got a very unexpected email in response. Our case worker, who had worked with us for the past two years, was no longer with our agency! I was completely confused, angry, and frustrated - I had just spoken to her over the phone the week before! Without going into many details (especially since I don't know all of them), our former case worker is now "exploring new opportunities" and we were given a new case worker (Shaysee)...we were a little skeptical of all the sudden and unexpected changes, but obviously things were completely out of our hands, so we set up a phone conference to "meet" her. Our conversation with her could not have gone more smoothly! Thank you, Lord! She is an adoptive mother herself, and had/has total empathy for our situation and knows how hard waiting can be. This abrupt change in our process has truly been a blessing. She has been extremely available for us, and has been so willing to give us any information she has about our own case or any information about (current) Ethiopian adoptions as a whole...this has been a recognizable difference from our previous experience, and for that we are extremely thankful.

Mid-August, our agency received 4 referrals from of one of the new orphanages! - We were not one of them, but we were told that we were moved up to #2 on the waiting list! We were obviously ecstatic, especially when Shaysee informed us that this new orphanage, Abenezer, would be sending 3 referrals every month to Dove! Finally some anticipated movement in our wait! She couldn't guarantee that we would be one of the next 3 referrals, because of requested age ranges, genders, etc, but we now knew that we were getting close to "the call."

September came and went with NO referrals to Dove...we were a little disheartened, as was Shaysee and Bonnie (a new program director at Dove), so they decided to go to Ethiopia to talk with the orphanage directors at the 2 new orphanages to help their staff streamline the referral process. Let me tell you, JT and I loved this new "let's make a change" attitude our agency had taken on! They left for ET the last week of September and were there for a little over 2 weeks. When friends or family would ask what our case worker was going to do when she was there, we would joke and say "hopefully she's bringing some kids back for us!" :) Little did we know how true this would be!

When they returned, they sent each family a lengthy email documenting their time there. This included information on visits with each orphanage intake center and transition home, as well as their appointment with the US Embassy. During their appointent with the Embassy, they were made more fully aware what the Embassy requires to finalize each adoption so that families may bring their children home in a more timely manner. In their email, they informed us that while there, they received 4 more referrals, but they could not call the matched families yet because they were waiting on some additional (necessary) paperwork for each case. Unbeknownst to us, we were one of those families!!

On Monday (Oct 22) about 8:50 pm, we received "the call" that ended our 20 month wait!! :)

JT had gotten home from work around 8:30, had just gotten out of the shower and I was putting some clothes away in our room when the phone rang. He said, "Maybe it's Dove." - I shook my head and said, "No, it's too late for them to call." SO glad I was wrong! It was Shaysee, telling us that we had finally been matched with our two sons! The moment was incredible, one that I'll replay over and over in my head and in my heart. She asked us to go to a computer, which we GLADLY did, and she sent us the sweetest pictures of our 2 sons! They are so sweet and so handsome - but you'll have to take my word for it, as we can't post any pictures publicly yet...this is killing me!! I'd LOVE to share them, but I have to respect the contract we signed with our agency (& ultimately their birth country). For now, trust me...they are so stinkin cute! :)

We have decided to change their names (there are so many different schools of thought on this, if you want to talk about why we've decided to do this, we'd welcome any private conversations), so from now on we'll be using their adoptive names:

"Carson" turned 1 year old on September 28, and has big beautiful eyes (which also look a little mischievous!)
"Noah" is 10 months old and our case worker said he is such a happy baby, always smiling.

Since we were one of the families matched when she was there, she was able to interact with both of our sons, holding them, rocking them, playing with them (for us). It was really special to hear of her firsthand encounters with both of them. I'm so thankful for her trip to Ethiopia and for the time she spent with our boys on our behalf. Currently they are both at different orphanages, but Noah should be transferred soon to the transition home where Carson is being cared for. This home will be where we will meet them and where they will stay until we bring them home. They are both pretty tiny, so please pray that they will receive the proper nourishment they need to help keep their little bodies strong and healthy. Shaysee comforted us by telling us how impressed she was of the transition home and each intake center facilitated by Abenezer. She said the nannies LOVE the children in each home and are very diligent about meeting their needs. This news was so reassuring to hear, so wonderful to know they are in caring hands until we can bring them home.

Sending our Referral Accteptance letter - I don't think my smile could've been any bigger!

Our acceptance letter was received early this past week and was forwarded on our attorney in ET, who will be working on our behalf to get us a timely court date. According to our agency, courts dates are being assigned pretty quickly and she is hopeful that we will have a date sometime this month! We told her that we'd be ready to leave in a moment's notice if necessary! :) We absolutely cannot wait to see, hold, cuddle, and kiss them! They have been worth the wait and we're already in love.

Over the past 2 weeks, we have not stopped thanking God for these little guys. He has shown that He is faithful, He has never left our side (even when we strayed from His), He deserves all of our trust. As we wait for a Court appointment, and then the subsequent Embassy appointment, we know He is caring for our sons and unbelievably loves them more than we do.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers, support, and encouragement over the past 2 was been worth the wait and we can't wait to share these precious boys with you!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Remembering the joy that's coming

Last Sunday we visited JT's parents' church to worship with them as they celebrated some big (& wonderful) changes that have taken place within their church over the past year. As they continue to celebrate growth both spiritually and numerically (...configuring the addition of yet another nursery is a good problem, right?), it was inspiring to hear snippets of personal stories of lives changed by Christ.  Beyond the inspiration I received through the stories of life and heart healing of many sitting in the pews next to me, I believe I was purposed to be there that day to be reminded of healing within my own heart.

Over the past few months, I truly believe God has given me a such a peace of where we are in our waiting. If you've followed our story over the past year, I've had plenty of ups and downs (at times, many more downs) emotionally as we pray and wait, and wait and pray for our children, but overall, lately I have had this sense of peace within me: calming me, comforting me, echoing reminders of His faithfulness in our lives. So as we wait, I've begun to understand TRUST on a whole new level...until momentary naggings of doubt hit me last Sunday.

The worship team was getting ready to lead us in a few final songs and the children were running back into the sanctuary to join their parents for the remainder of the service. As I stood there and watched numerous, excited children hug their waiting parents and (literally) jump into their arms, I broke. Tears started flowing, and honey, they weren't stopping. The sights before me were so beautiful and yet so heart breaking to me, that I began to question God right there in that pew...

"Why God?"
"Why don't I have any children yet?"
"Why don't I have little ones running eagerly to me??"
"Why haven't we gotten our referral yet?"
"Why does it seem like our path is at a stand still, while we're certain we're following you?"

I have tried SO VERY HARD to not cross into the "Why" world. Plenty of people who I talk with about our adoption inevitably try to take me that direction, but because that world can be so dark, I try my best to steer clear of it. Despite my usual mindset, I found myself there, crying my way through all of my questions, crying so loudly in my head (hopefully not out loud!) that any promises of peace I'd been clinging to simply could not push through my pity-party sobs to reach their way to my heart and mind. I was an ugly, crying mess; the worship team was finishing, I was quickly trying to dry my eyes and wipe off the raccoon-looking mascara mess from my cheeks (I really should know by now to wear water-proof mascara...), and a woman began to sing a solo for their "special music" part of the service.

Thank you, thank you, Maryann for the song that you sang. You have no idea how God used your choice of song to touch and heal my heart last week.

"Before the Morning" by Josh Wilson was a song that I had on repeat when JT and I first started researching adoption agencies in the summer of 2010. It came out at a time when I was struggling through the realization that I may never be able to have children biologically, yet we were beginning to feel this incredible excitement that came with acknowledging and following God's call for us to begin the adoption process. I hadn't heard the song in a while and forgot how poignant and true the lyrics were. I couldn't believe just how perfect this message was for me to hear:

Do you wonder why you have to,
feel the things that hurt you,
if there's a God who loves you,
where is He now?

Maybe, there are things you can't see
and all those things are happening
to bring a better ending
some day, some how, you'll see, you'll see

Would you dare, would you dare, to believe,
that you still have a reason to sing,
'cause the pain you've been feeling,
can't compare to the joy that's coming

so hold on, you got to wait for the light
press on, just fight the good fight
because the pain you've been feeling,
it's just the dark before the morning

I used to love the line " 'cause the pain you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming." And I still love it (side note: every time I sing that line I picture myself spinning circles with two, giggling babies on my hips!), but the bridge has taken on new significance to me as our wait has lengthen substantially. I honestly can say in all of my times listening to and singing along with this song, the bridge never caught my attention like it did last Sunday:

Once you feel the way of glory,
all your pain will fade to memory

I've read so many blogs and talked with so many adoptive families who voice this very thing. As their adoption is carried to completion, the paperwork, the red tape, the long wait become a distant memory. While in it, the glory seems distant, sometimes unattainable, sometimes downright questionable, but that's just the dark before the morning. I am so thankful for God's faithful reminder to me through that song. His love is incredible, His grace sufficient, He forgives me when I doubt Him, and He's continually teaching me that I still have a reason to sing.... the joy that's coming.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

13+ Months DTE


Am I glad that neglected blog pages don't collect dust and cobwebs, otherwise I would've had plenty of cleaning to do before starting this post! I can't believe it's been 3 months since my bathtub dream, but days turn into weeks and now we're a few months further into our waiting.

It's been a little over 13 months since our dossier was submitted to our adoption agency's office in Ethiopia and added to the list of waiting families within the SOSEE orphanage system. We're now at the place in our wait where things need to be updated and resubmitted through the United States Immigration offices. A few weeks ago, we went to have our FBI fingerprinting completed again for our home study agency. Last week, we visited our physicians' offices to have our physicals completed and medical paperwork filled out again...we also optimistically chose to have our travel vaccinations Typhoid vaccine is good for 2 years and I'm praying we have our boys home before that "expires." (2 more years of waiting...yikes!) Last Friday, we travelled to have our official "immigration" fingerprints taken again. Thankfully it didn't snow this year (remember that little fiasco?). Within the next couple months, our home study will need to be updated to submit to USCIS for an extension to our file.

There are so many things that we would've never anticipated at the start of this journey, but we're trying to view them as minor inconveniences along the way to meeting our children. After talking to our case worker last week, she encouraged me that after a few months of little or no movement with referrals in their Ethiopia program, this past month they have received several referrals for families who have been waiting around the same amount of time that we have been waiting. She has reassured me that nothing in our file is cause for any type of hold on our case. Every case across the board is just moving slowly at this point because of so many changes to the Ethiopian adoption filing, investigations, and approval processes over the past year.

So we press on. Day by day, we continue to put our wait, our emotions, our journey, our boys' lives in the hands of Our Lord. Daily we pray for His will in all of this, especially the stuff we don't understand (or at least don't understand yet). Daily we pray for His provision for our little babies. Some days our prayers are the same, other days we find ourselves asking Him for specific things as they are laid on our hearts: full bellies, physical heath/adequate medical care as it's needed, someone to play with them, someone to give them an extra long hug, someone sent to sing to them, a restful night's sleep. My list goes on and on some days, at times sounding more like a child's Christmas list than a prayer, but I know the Maker of the Stars wants His love to be conveyed to these children (His children) even before I can demonstrate it toward them. I'm convinced He is able to send someone into the orphanage to sing a soft lullaby and hold them close in the moments when those requests burn deep within me.

During this past year of uncertainty, God has shown me several verses of promise and encouragement to keep my eyes fixed on Him and His glory in my waiting. Two passages have become particularly special reminders for me, and daily I find myself repeating them out loud to give voice to the truth He has shown me.

"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise." Hebrews 10:23 NLT (emphasis mine)

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14 NIV (emphasis mine)

Please join me in believing these promises, whatever journey you're on right now. God is faithful, He will make a way for you. He is able to provide a way out of the darkness and into His light.

Trust Him. Hold Tightly to Him.
Be Strong, take heart and Wait for Him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Babies and Bathtubs

This past weekend, JT had to go out of town for work and I got to tag-a-long. :)  We spent the (very cold) weekend snuggled up in a cabin at Rough Cut Lodge near Wellsboro, PA.  We had a really wonderful time together and were so thankful for this last minute getaway. **JT's family deserves a special "thank-you" for dog sitting Cooper on such short notice!

Okay, so we went out of town and had a nice time, but you're probably wondering about the title of this post, right? I'm getting there...

While sleeping soundly in our cabin Friday night,  I had the most vivid dream that we had our 2 Ethiopian babies home...except the little loves were girls, not boys like we've requested.  Despite the obvious gender difference, which didn't seem to phase me in dreamland,  my interactions with them were as real as me typing these words.

It was beautiful. It felt completely right (again, with the exception of these little babes being girls instead of boys). It felt like love.

Their faces were, and still are, crystal clear to me. They were both breath-takingly gorgeous, one with lighter skin and a teeny, tiny, petite nose, the other with a darker complexion and huge, dark, dancing eyes. They appeared to be about 1 year old and 3 years old, but (unfortunately) were nameless in my dream.

Bits of the dream are blurry, but I can clearly remember a portion when I was giving them both a bath. These two beautiful babies were playing together in a bathtub and I (their momma) was laughing with them as I washed their sweet little fingers and toes. While bathing them, I realized they each were covered in sand, so I washed water over them multiple times until their perfect brown skin was smooth once more. 

My entire dream sequence may have been longer, but my mind can only vividly recall this particular part. Although a small scene, it was enough to bring joy to my morning when I remembered it. I have no idea if any, or all, of it is/was prophetic in any way, or if the sand was symbolic for anything, but I'm thankful for the thought that my babies are in my mind even when my body is asleep.

After waking and remembering my dream, I couldn't fall back asleep, so I let my handsome hubby sleep in while I went downstairs to curl up with a book beside the fireplace.  I've been reading Kisses from Katie and was (sadly) nearing the end. What a book! It's an autobiography by Katie Davis, an amazing young woman who gave up her comfortable life in America to follow God's call to move to Uganda to serve "the least of these" and is in the process of adopting thirteen (yes, I said 13!!) Ugandan girls.  She has an INCREDIBLE story of what following God at all costs actually looks like, and challenges me constantly through her writing. I'd strongly encourage you to put this book at the top of your "2012 Must-Read" list! Anyway, back to my story (although Katie's is usually much more interesting!): I settled down by the warmth of the fire, my blanket wrapped around me, with only a few chapters left in my book. Chapter 18 was where my reading was to begin...and it was about Katie bathing her youngest daughter Grace...I couldn't believe I had just woken up from a dream about bathing my babies to pick up a book to begin reading about another woman bathing her child. But her bathtub story wasn't just a story reminiscing about a cute time in the tub, instead it was about her nightly battle to get Grace into the tub. Night after night, it's a struggle that goes from bad to worse right up until she's put in the bathtub against her will...then once in the water she realizes she likes the bath! Night after Night.

Katie says:
"The bath time struggle never is about the bath at all.  It is about obedience. Grace is three years old and she simply does not want to obey. She thinks she should be the one to decide whether she gets in the tub or not. She is three years old, and she is trying to figure out just how much control she has in her little life. At this point, not much." (page 226)

She then goes on to describe her life, and her own resistance to God and his daily calling for her life, being very similar to the bathtub episodes. He calls (her) us to do things that just don't always add up to what we want to do.

We question him.
We refuse.
We fight.

I love her words for (her) our reaction when we finally submit to his will:
"So God picks me up, exhausted from struggling, and plops me in the center of His will for my life. And then a funny thing happens. As I kick and scream and struggle, I remember: I like being in the center of God's will for my life. God's plan is usually pretty great. It is a whole lot better than mine anyway. I am so glad that He does not allow me to win.

The more I strive to live in the center of God's will, the more He asks me to give up, the more uncomfortable I become. He teaches me, over and over again, that He does know best. The "bathtub," the uncomfortable places, they get only more difficult. But I am learning to remember, before I even get there, that eventually this will be what is best for me, and more important, what is best for His Glory." (page 227) 

Was my dream related to this chapter? I have no idea, but I feel like God is using the connection to teach me something. I may not know what it is now, and I may not see it until years from now, but I have a feeling that one day I'll have an "Aha" moment as I recall the weekend I was pondering the connection between babies and bathtubs. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts...