Friday, February 29, 2008

What's next?

We survived the homestudy! After all of my fretting, it turned out not to be painful at all. The social worker that we spent our day with was very kind and encouraging. She is very involved in her church and we found lots to talk about. We will see her again when we have had the baby home for 3 months.
I thought I would briefly explain what would happen next for those of you who are interested. As far as the homestudy goes, th social worker assured us she would have it written in the next week. It will then go to Gladney for review and to get a second signature. When that is accomplished, they will send a copy of it to CIS and we'll just wait for our 171H (AKA: the golden ticket of international adoption.) That could take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months. Once we receive that piece of paper, we will officially go onto the "list." I am hoping we can get on the list by mid-April. However, there is not one darn thing I can do to make it happen by that time.
Once we hit the "list" we will wait 3-5 months for our referral, then 3-6 weeks to receive our court date, another 3-4 weeks for the court date to actually happen, and then 2-3 weeks after the court date we will travel to pick up our son. At any point, things could slow down, so we are trying to be emotionally prepared for that.
While we are waiting for our golden ticket, we will be having our dossier authenticated. We contacted a dossier service today and we will be sending our documents to them on Monday. Then, we will be finished with our part of the process. All we can do at that point is wait, pray, and correct any mistakes or make any changes should it become necessary.
I will be so thrilled to mail our dossier on Monday because that means I have done what I can do. Although the real waiting will begin at that point, the stress and distraction of the paper chase will be over and I can get back to some sort of normal. Normal? What's that?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Name Game

One of the fun things about this adoption for us has been trying to choose a name for the baby. We don't have to have a name yet, but the kids have been very enthusiastic about bringing this discussion topic up on an almost daily basis. This is quite different than choosing a name for any of our other children. They were all so young when their siblings were born, they weren't able to give many productive ideas. In fact, Abby, our oldest, insisted that Elizabeth, our second, needed to be named Elmo. Even after she realized that the baby was a girl, she was still certain that Elmo would be the best name.
So, we've been pleasantly surprised that they've come up with some good ideas and some good arguments for or against the names that we've discussed. Much of the fuel for our discussions has come from our history curriculum for the year. We are currently studying Ancient History with Tapesty of Grace (which we LOVE!) Therefore, we have basically done a survey of the Old Testament. Now Ryan and I already lean toward Hebraic type names. We currently have an Abigail, an Elizabeth, and an Isaac (we also have a Lily, but that's not so Hebraic:)
We think we may have settled on a name, but we probably won't be certain until we actually have our referral and know what our son's Ethiopian name is.
However, I thought it would be fun to record some of the names we have discussed. So, I present to you a brief summary of our name discussions:

Jonah- everyone liked the sound of this name, but after studying him, we decided that the VeggieTales had it right when they said "Jonah was a prophet, but he never really got it!" We decided we want our baby to get it!
Xerxes- after reading Esther, the kids thought this one was a great idea. I just can't get into it. How do you explain the phonetics of that one to a Kindergartner?
Obed- This is Isaac's favorite, but we already get a lot of grief for having an A,E, and I, imagine if we added an O? Not to mention, Obed!?! Need I say more. I think he just loved the Adventures in Odyssey version of the story of Ruth. As Elizabeth says- it's soooo romantic!
Paul- Elizabeth's personal favorite, but I just don't like it, not sure why, but I don't.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego- Okay, for a split second someone did throw them out there- leading to some funny faces by their siblings.
Ezekiel- We like this one, but we nixed it for 2 reasons. First, I don't particularly like the name Zeke, and I'm sure he would get called that. And second, Ezekiel was a strange man of God. I know we're supposed to be set apart, but Ezekiel was weird.
Brown- Okay, Ryan suggested this in honor of his grandfather who passed away a few years ago- it was his middle name. I think it's a nice name, and I would love to honor Ryan's grandfather, but when I pointed out that we would be giving this name to our only brown baby, we decided that it might be stating the obvious.
I must admit that I'm hesitant to commit to a name because I'm enjoying our discussions so much.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lily and the new baby clothes I referred to in my previous post.
I always say that when she's older, Lily will think I didn't love her because I have very few pictures of her compared to the others. The primary reason for that is that she never willingly has her picture made. It always involves a bribe, a threat, or a sad face. But, when I asked her tonight if I could take a picture of her with the new baby clothes, she was very happy to comply!

Protecting my children

This weekend we had some surprise guests. My in-laws decided on Thursday morning that they were coming for the weekend. It was a great surprise for my children because it was their last week of Upwards basketball games, and Nana and Pap had not gotten to see them yet. So, they drove 7 hours on Thursday to see them play on Saturday.
Well, it is a given that when my in-laws are here, we will go to Marshall's. They live about 2 hours from a Marshall's, and they love it. So, on Friday, I found myself there with 2 of my daughters and my mother-in-law. Lily, my youngest, was riding in the cart with me while I was browsing and I discovered a rack of baby clothes that had just been rolled out from the stock room. It was full of very cute Carter's pajamas, onesies, and cute knit outfits for a super cheap price. I have purchased no baby clothes yet for the adoption, but these were basics that could be used regardless of season, and would also make great baby shower gifts. So, I chose several and tried to quietly slip them in the cart. Well, Lily immediately grabbed them up and asked with very big eyes and a very excited voice. "MOMMY, are these for OUR baby?!?" I responded that they were, and she began squealing. She spent the rest of the weekend carrying those clothes around. She really would have slept with them if we'd let her- it was precious. She told everyone who would listen that we had bought clothes for our new baby.
It made me smile all weekend, but it also made me a little leary. I kept thinking what if something goes wrong? What if we don't get approval? What if something doesn't work out? Have I set their little hearts up for sorrow? Have I put them in too vulnerable of a postion? The Lord gently reminded me of this verse, which he has impressed upon me during other times of parental concern:
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11
You see, I was reminded that God loves my children, He created my children, and He has a plan for my children which is far greater than anything that I could devise. Last year, we went through a situation where I had to let my oldest daughter go through a terribly difficult time in her life. I watched her cry tears for many weeks in a row while she worked through this situation. It affected our whole family, and my husband and I could have changed her circumstances, but we knew it wasn't God's will. She had to deal with it. At that time, God really impressed on my heart that He was enough for her. I could love her, I could encourage her, but He had to be her Lord, not me. He frequently reminded me that he was not just writing my testimony, he was writing hers. It was hard, but her faith was so multiplied during that time.
I am so thankful to know that He is working in my children's lives. For one thing, I find comfort in the fact that no matter how badly I screw up, he can redeem it. He can use them in spite of my mess-ups!
I had the opportunity this weekend to see a situation where God is so obviously working in the hearts of some children. I have this delightful friend who is an adoptive parent. She has 3 biological children and 5 adopted children, and she does an amazing job of imparting the love of Jesus to them. Well, they have known for a while that they were not finished growing their family. They know that God has put on their heart that there is to be another girl brought into their home. So, they've just been waiting. Their two oldest daughters have been praying for 7 years specifically for this child.
On Saturday morning she called me to tell me that this baby was coming. They had gotten a call several weeks ago, had some meetings with the birth family, been present at the delivery, and they were going to pick the baby up at 6 p.m. on Saturday night. We were so excited for them, especially for her 2 daughters who were so awed at the way that God had woven every detail together to answer their prayers at last.
Well, it didn't work out. On Saturday, just a couple of hours before they were to go pick the baby up, the birth parents revoked. This morning, I was moved to tears as I saw her sixth grade daughter sobbing at the altar with her daddy. My heart broke for her, but at the same time, I rejoiced for the story that God is writing on her heart. I don't know how God will use this sorrow in her life, but I know that He will. I know that in her sorrow, God is still on the throne and he still shelters her in the shadow of his wing. I know that her parents took a risk, and because of that, there is pain. But because of that risk, she has the opportunity to develop a faith that the "safe" life rarely affords.
Thank you Lord for working all things together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purposes! Give me the courage to allow you to work in the hearts of my children, even when it hurts.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We have a date!

We have a date for our homestudy! Hip, Hip, Hooray! I talked to the very kind lady who will be doing it for us, and we scheduled it for next Thursday, the 28th, at 10:00. We settled on doing only one visit, but it will be about 4 hours long. That will be the last big piece of the paperwork puzzle.
Part of my hurry to this point has been that I really was hoping to get the adoption completed before the rainy season. The Ethiopian courts shut down for about two months in September and October for the rainy season. If you haven't cleared court before they close, you're basically stuck for those 2 months. Well, after counting and re-counting the wait times, I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we will probably not be bringing a baby home before the rainy season. I was probably delusional to think it might work out that way to begin with. At this point, if every step of the process went with the shortest possible time frame, there is only a slim chance we could possibly make it before the courts closed.
After I dealt with the reality of the timeline, I actually feel relieved. Not that we'll be getting our baby later, but that a day or two of delay in a document here or there won't be the deal breaker. I feel a little less pressure, which is good, since there is nothing I can do. Don't get me wrong, I know we serve a big God who holds time in his hands, and I would certainly love to see him scoot things along and surprise me with an August travel date. However, I also know that he may not- and I have decided to be okay with that!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Moving along

Alright, so today was a productive day on the adoption front. Progress is being made. These three things happened:
1. We completed our CIS fingerprinting and both of us were told we had "great prints", so we're hoping that's a done deal!
2. We finally got the call for our homestudy- today is business day number 10, so it came in right on time! We continue to feel very confident that we've chosen a great agency. We didn't actually get to talk to the social worker because we were gone to Norfolk, but we are at least to the phone tag stage!
3. We received the funds we were waiting for to finish paying the adoption expenses. We were told by our bank that we would receive the transfer by February 7th, so we were getting antsy that they hadn't appeared yet.
We have decided to use a dossier service, so basically once the homestudy is done, we'll mail off all of the dossier paperwork we've been gathering and then we wait. We believe we are through the worst of the footwork. Yeah!

An Early Morning

Okay, so I'm convinced the good Lord is chastising me this morning. You see, we're at a hotel in Norfolk getting ready for our CIS fingerprinting. We spent some time finding a place that was very close to the office because we had an 8 a.m. appointment and we didn't want to get caught in morning traffic- the last thing we want to do is be late.
So, last night before we went to bed, I asked my husband what time he thought I needed to set the alarm for and he responded- 5:30. To which I replied (in a "that's really stupid tone of voice") 5:30! Why in the world would we get up at 5:30!?! I'm not getting up before 6:00! He consented to 6:00 a.m. and off to sleep we both went.
You guessed it! At 5:00 a.m. I was wide awake with no sleep to be found. I laid there for 45 minutes before deciding to give it up and come blog for a few minutes. As you can imagine, being a mom of four, I could have really used that hour of sleep. But, like I said, I think the Lord was trying to teach me something.
You see, I have been under conviction this week to live out Phil. 4:4. "Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all." Now let me just say, I am not by nature a gentle person. It will take the full power of the Holy Spirit to transform me into a gentle person. Let's just say last night, I was not calling on that power, and this morning at 5:00 a.m., God reminded me of that. But, His mercies are new every morning, so I"ll press on for today, maybe with a little more victory than yesterday!
That said, I need to go wake up my darling husband who has soundly slept until 6:15 with a clean conscience. I'm so glad that God is transforming me from "glory to glory"- I'm convinced it's going to take that long!

Friday, February 15, 2008

A special experience

Ryan and I had the privilege last Sunday of attending a birthday party for the Mestas twins. This is a family that are in our Tapestry of Grace co-op for homeschool. We have really enjoyed following their Ethiopian adoption journey and have been blessed by their transparency and willingness to invest in other families who have hearts for adoption.
They brought 3 siblings home from Ethiopia in November- a 3 year old boy and his twin sisters. Knowing that we were just beginning our adoption process, they were kind enough to invite us to the twins' first birthday party on Sunday. What a blessing it was. Not only did we get to witness the celebration for their beautiful girls, but we got to meet at least a 1/2 dozen other adoptive couples. The crazy thing was, we had been following several of their blogs, and you would have thought we were meeting our favorite movie stars, not just ordinary folks in the blog world.
It was very beneficial for us because we got to chat with people at all points in the process. We chatted with a family who had been home with their child for 2 years, 2 families that had been home with their children for 4 days (yes days!), and 2 families that had referrals but were waiting for court dates. We gained a wealth of information and contacts that we know will be a treasure to us in the months to come.
At one point, they invited any adoptive families who wanted to share their stories to share. Well, it was all I could do to sit and listen without ugly face crying. Adoption is something that I am so tender to and so affected by- no more than ever. At one point there was this beautiful family standing there with their 4 children- 3 of them were biological children and then their Ethiopian son who was celebrating his 5th birthday. Everyone began singing to him and he was grinning from ear to ear- as beautiful as any child could be, and I lost it! I looked at Ryan and I could tell he was on the verge of losing it too. I think it was just a strong visual picture for us of where we are headed and what a beautiful thing this truly is. Not because of who we are or what we are capable of, but because of who God is and what He is capable of. I am just overwhelmed that God would chose someone as inadequate as me to care for 4 much less 5 of His children- thank you Lord for such a high and holy calling!

Excitement at the mailbox!

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones." Proverbs 15:30.
This verse made me smile yesterday when I came across it. I can certainly relate to it considering the week I've had with the adoption. Every time I've been discouraged this week because the business day has ended without a call from the social worker to schedule our homestudy, something has arrived in the mailbox to assure me that we're making progress. The crazy thing is that I wasn't expecting any of it for a long time. On Monday, Abby and I received our passports- they took 11 days! We went for out photos on Jan. 31st and received our passports on February 11th.
Then on Wednesday, we got our fingerprinting appointment for CIS. CIS is the agency that holds one of the biggest keys for getting on the "list." Most people are waiting for their CIS clearance long after everything else is done. I really did the happy dance over this one because I thought the order was: apply (wait), homestudy(wait), fingerprinting (wait), approval letter (waiting begins on the "list".) That's why I have been in such a hurry to get the homestudy done- because I thought that we were stuck until it was done. But, apparently in North Carolina they will do your fingerprinting before they receive your homestudy. So, Ryan and I are to appear in Norfolk, VA at 8:00am on Tuesday to do the biometrics (fingerprinting) portion of our orphan petition to CIS (citizenship and immigation.)
Yesterday, we received our no arrest stamp from the FBI, which was also remarkably fast. We had gone for our FBI fingerprinting on February 1st, mailed it all on February 4th, and received our FBI clearance on February 14th.
So, all we're waiting on is the homestudy. There is not one more thing we can do until that is done. We've got almost all of our dossier documents ready to send to the dossier service, but we're waiting until the homestudy visit is completed. Today is the 9th business day since Gladney requested our homestudy, and they told us it would be scheduled within 10 business days- but who's counting? So. I'm trying to convince myself that I will not be frustrated all weekend if I don't get news today. We'll see how well I can hold to that resolution.
So, that's the long and short of where we are with the adoption. It's certainly progressing and in the mean time, I'm making every effort to enjoy my family as it is. I keep thinking about how blessed I am to have such a rich life already and I'm trying to treasure our family as we are instead of simply longing for what will be. Some days I do better at that than others.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Waiting Game

Alright, so we're only a few short weeks into this whole adoption process and I can already tell you that I'm not sure that I am going to like the waiting part of this game! I was thinking today- as I did my 77th load of laundry for the week- about how different adoption was going to be from pregnancy. I have been there and done that 4 times, so I have that down to a science. However, this is a whole different ball game with a whole different set of rules, and I'm not sure I'm going to like it!
With pregnancy, you go to the doctor, and on the very first visit, they get out that little dial chart thingy and they tell you - within about 14 days- when your baby will arrive. And, for the most part, it's pretty accurate. There is nothing you can do to make it happen any sooner or any later. You can eat all the leafy greens and drink all the water you want, and the bottom line is, your due date is your due date. No typos, authentication mistakes, fed-ex men, or doctors with the flu can change the date when that baby will arrive. Not true with adoption. It's maddening, and we've only just begun. I feel confident the good Lord is going to give me lots of opportunities to grow in faith, whether I want them or not.
So, all that said, here's where we're at in the waiting game. On Tuesday morning we got an e-mail from Gladney letting us know that they had requested our home study and a social worker would be calling us within the next 10 business days. I would have preferred for the e-mail to say- they had requested our homestudy and someone would be calling us first thing in the morning so that we could have the homestudy completed at lightning speed so that we could get it to immigration immediately so that we could be fingerprinted so that we could receive CIS approval in record time so that we could officially be on the real waiting list because they know we can't wait to kiss that sweet baby's face. It didn't say that and we now have 4 business days behind us and we'll patiently wait for 6 more if that's what it takes.
For those of you mature people out there, let me say this. Yes, we know God's timing is perfect, He's an on-time God, and He knows exactly which child is best for us at which time. Yes, we also know He has lessons for us to learn and we are certainly getting an opportunity to see His glory. All that said, we still aren't loving the waiting.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Running Away

Okay, so this crazy balancing act I call life has driven me to running away! I called my husband at the end of the workday on Tuesday after a couple of discouraging days and asked him to run away with me. I knew it wasn't really possible for us to run away- we had Wednesday night responsibilities and dentist appointments we needed to keep. Not to mention work, school, errands, and a million other reasons why it simply wasn't reasonable for us to run away. But, to my surprise he called back about 15 minutes later and said he thought we really should. So, we decided on a place that neither of us had been to before, booked a cheap hotel online, printed out some Mapquest directions, grabbed necessities, and took off.
Within 90 minutes, we were on the road, and it felt great! The best part was when I told the kids to pack a bag because we were running away. They looked at me like I had 7 heads, but the grabbed their backpacks and started packing!
We're here in Virginia Beach and we managed to pick a 78 degree day- in February! The kids have had a great day swimming in the lazy river and walking on the beach. We even managed to scope out a Friendly's so we've all gorged ourselves on grilled cheese and ice cream.
I've been feeling the need to leave the zip code for several weeks, and I've been holding out because we have been overwhelmed with appointments, commitments, etc. I finally decided that if Jesus needed to retreat to Gesthemene- my need to journal on the beach and spend a few hours alone with my husband and children couldn't be so wrong!
So, tomorrow we return to reality, but that's okay. I feel refreshed and reminded of how much fun my family can be, and how capable my Creator is. I think maybe I should run away more often! As long as I make it back in time for those dentist appointments (it takes a LONG time to get 4 children's appoinment rescheduled!)