Friday, December 31, 2010

Moving on

I've been struggling for days to come up with a blog post to convey my thoughts and feelings of the past week.  I kind of wish I could pay someone to write it for me...I have a few bloggers in mind who are so eloquent they make me cry...far too often!  But I'll do my best. 

As I wrote in an earlier post, we did not receive a referral off of December's new shared list.  Several days after the release of that list, I came across the information of a little boy who was on that list but not matched with a family yet.  I inquired of our agency and was then sent his file to review.  My heart was not prepared for the gravity of this knowledge:  real information about a baby boy, his name, his province, his medical need, his feeding schedule, the fact that he was found wrapped in a red blanket.  I didn't even look at his photos, thinking that I would surely lose all objectivity if  I did.  I confess that my pursuit of this information was ill-timed and unilaterally decided; hence my husband and I had a very emotionally difficult Christmas weekend.  We decided, however, to continue to seek answers and give prayerful consideration to adopting this little boy. 

Surprisingly, I was able to get some feedback from a handful of doctors throughout the holiday weekend and in the days following; I am incredibly thankful to the men and women who made time to weigh in, at no cost to us.

A week had passed since we were given this child's file, and still we did not have the answers we felt we needed to make a decision either way.  Our hearts were open, but doubt and concern persisted.  I continued to make phone calls, hoping to find the right specialist to review this file, and yes, hoping to avoid paying a high fee for this service.  We knew we were taking a risk in not locking in the file.  This past Monday I talked to one of the China team from our adoption agency who agreed to try to obtain some medical updates on the child.  

Several times in recent days I have stated:  If someone simply announced to us--'This one is your son!'--we would love him wholeheartedly, no regrets, and would provide him with whatever care he may need.  But the choosing...that's difficult for me.  Because of the complexity of this child's file (or perhaps, the complexity of my own emotions and thoughts?), I can hardly imagine having a mere 24 hours in which to make such a life-changing decision!  I know some who would have readily taken this leap of faith.  We just weren't there yet...that's the honest truth. 

On Thursday morning I received an email from our agency staff telling me she had obtained updates (I assume answers to questions I had asked)...but that she could no longer find the boy's name on the shared list.  Did I know if he had found a family?  she asked me.  I responded, saying no, I knew nothing...to please let me know if his name happened to pop up again...otherwise, we would consider this a clear answer to our prayers for direction.

So that's it then.  I have not heard from her again, and I expect that I will not.  After a fairly painful weekend, literally hours and hours of research, and a dozen+ emails sent to doctors as well as total strangers who have adopted children with this same special need, I am coming to a new place of peace and trust in God's perfect leadership, especially in regards to our adoption.  We had been asking Him to speak "loud and clear" about our adopting this particular child, and we fully expected Him to do so, even through a closed door.  It is our sincere desire that this lovely boy finds his forever family; we hope he already has. 


My husband and I have recovered from our conflict, by the way.  Our marriage is growing stronger through this adoption process, though there is a very real enemy who, I believe, opposes anything that has to do with love or adoption or obedience (or joy, or truth, etc....you get my point).  We have felt this opposition strongly, but we are not unaware of his schemes.  

That brings me to some good news:  on Christmas Eve, right in the midst of our emotional brouhaha, I opened the mail to find a letter containing a check--a grant that we had applied for!  It's as if God was saying to us, "I see you now, right in the middle of your emotion; I understand that you are doing a new and difficult thing.  Please be assured that I love you.  Your obedience pleases me greatly.  I will continue to provide for you and will bring you great blessing and joy through this adoption."

So there you have it.  I'm sure there is much more I could say, more emotion I could plumb the depths of.  The truth is, I'm ready to move on, though grateful for the work the Lord has done in my heart (and in my marriage) through this process.  We now eagerly await the referral of the son He has perfectly chosen for our family, and we pray that we will have the grace and wisdom to make that decision quickly with peace and much joy. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

No call today

We did not receive a referral today.  I'm not gonna lie--I was nervous, and then anxious, and then sort of sickish, and then just plain disappointed.  I spent WAY too much time online today, commiserating with other waiting mommies.  But I spent some time reading the Bible and praying this afternoon...getting my head on straight.  And now I feel much, much better. 

It doesn't hurt that my sweet husband is home from work, and I have three precious (demanding, yes, but always precious) children clamoring about.  I am blessed.  God is good, and His timing is perfect. 

Thanks to those of you who have been praying.  Please continue.  We hope to receive a referral next month. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

LID!

I found out late last night that our dossier has been logged in (in China), and we have an "LID"--log-in date of 12/10/10.  This means that we are eligible to receive the referral of a little boy any time now. . . and it could happen as soon as next week.  GASP. 

We've been praying for our son for many months, and we invite you to join us in praying several specific things:


  • For God's perfect timing, whether next week or next month, or the month after that.
  • For those doing the matching to have wisdom and be led by the Holy Spirit, even if they don't know it! 
  • For the right doctor(s) to be available and willing to review the medical information we'll receive, in a timely fashion.  (We have a very short window of time in which to make a huge decision.)               


There are certainly a hundred other things to pray about, but this is a good start.  Thanks!  Stay tuned for more information. . . 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spanakopita

In my first ever, entirely non-adoption-related post, I'm going to write about. . . . spanakopita.  Because it's what we had for dinner this evening.  After a recent and deserved admonition from my husband that I might want to be a bit more, shall we say, enthusiastic about meal preparation, I decided to undertake the aforementioned spanakopita. 

Why, you ask?  Because my dear friend, upon being recently diagnosed with celiac disease, emptied her cabinets and refrigerator of all offending foods and brought them to my house.  And I became the owner of two never-opened boxes of phyllo dough. 

So, let me just say--I find working with phyllo dough extremely challenging.  I could not get one single sheet to peel off, untorn.  And my layers looked more and more ragged the longer I worked.  All this was made more difficult by an unwanted phone call--the longest and most ridiculous phone survey of a political nature...local politics, even!  As if I know anything about local politics except how much the city earnings tax annoys me.  All the while my kids are spilling water all over my (carpeted) kitchen floor and I'm up to my elbows in shredded phyllo dough and getting a cramp in my neck and wondering, SERIOUSLY, how many more questions is this gal going to ask me???

 
But THIS was the result. 


And they tasted AMAZING, despite being a bit irregularly shaped.

Want the recipe?  (I made a few minor changes, which will amuse my sister and everyone else who laughs at the recipe reviews in which so many alterations have been made that an entirely new recipe has been invented.)      http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Spanikopita/Detail.aspx?prop31=1   Enjoy! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

bling for our boy

I am creating beautiful, unique, handmade earrings to benefit our adoption. I hope you'll find something you love!
ALL EARRINGS NOW $10
100% of the proceeds will go directly toward our adoption, helping us to bring home our son from China.   

All ear wires are nickel-free and hypo-allergenic, and include earring backs.  Some of the pieces have sterling silver ear wires or 14-karat gold plated wires (as noted).
#1--14 kt gold-plated ear wires--$15 $10
#2--natural shell, sterling silver ear wires--$15 $10

#4--$12 $10

#5--glass beads, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

#6--$12 $10

#7--glass beads, 14 kt. gold-plate wires--$10
#8--a more delicate version of #58, glass beads, sterling ear wires--$10

The cost is $10 for any pair of earrings + FREE shipping (US only).  To purchase, please use the Buy Now button at the bottom of this post.  Please email me: jgstaggs@hotmail.com  making sure I know which # or #'s you'd like to order, or leave a comment through Paypal.  You will only be able to make one purchase at a time (I apologize for the inconvenience), so if you wish to buy three pair of earrings (for instance), just "Buy Now" three separate times, selecting the correct price from the drop-down menu.  If you live locally and would like to pay cash and get the earrings in person (saving me the shipping cost), that'd be great!  Earrings will be carefully packaged and mailed to you within 48 hours of your purchase. If you see a style you like which has already been marked SOLD, please let me know--it's likely (but not guaranteed) I can make you another pair.   I am making more earrings, and will be adding new designs to the blog, so please check back.  Thanks!!!


#10--$12 $10


#21--$12 $10




#27--millefiori and faceted glass beads, sterling ear wires--$15 $10





#33--faceted glass beads, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

#34--genuine hematite and shell beads, sterling silver ear wires--$15 $10



#37--green glass beads, sterling silver ear wires--$15 $10

#38--purple glass beads, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

#39--genuine hematite, sterling silver ear wires--$15 $10

#40--millefiori glass, sterling ear wires--$15 $10


#42--natural shell and glass beads, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

#43--red and yellow crystal, 14-karat gold-plate wires and beads--$15 $10
#44--genuine hematite, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

#45--faceted glass, sterling ear wires--$15 SOLD

#46--genuine hematite, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

                                     #47--handmade glass panda bead, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

#48--orange millefiori beads, sterling ear wire--$15 $10

#50--purple glass beads, gold plated ear wires and beads--$15 $10

#51--glass lampwork beads, gold plated ear wires and beads--$15 $10

#52--raspberry beads, gold plated ear wires and beads--$15 $10
#53--painted glass beads, sterling silver ear wires--$15 $10

#54--amethyst glass w/ bird beads, sterling ear wires--$15 $10

#56--sterling silver wires--$15 $10
I created #56 and #57 in honor of my friends whose newborn son recently went to be with Jesus.  The bird bead symbolizes HOPE ("the thing with feathers") as well as the comfort and presence of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 91:4 and Luke 3:22).

#58--sterling wires--$15 $10 SOLD
#59--glass beads, sterling ear wires--$10
#60--genuine hematite beads, gold and silver mix, sterling ear wires--$10

Wire types



Saturday, November 27, 2010

And just like that . . .

Our dossier:  it looks less impressive than it actually is
. . . after five months of nearly non-stop work. . . our dossier is out of my hands and on its way to Holt.   I felt all trembly and nervous Friday afternoon as I finished up the photocopies and handed it over to be mailed.  Like, I can't believe this is it. . . my labor of love, in a sense, complete.  (And in a whole other sense, just beginning.)  Quite surreal, actually, to have conquered this task.  And I'm not gonna lie--I'm pretty darn proud of myself!  In case you're interested, here is what our dossier comprised:  

Family Information Form
Application Letter
Birth Certificate - husband
Birth Certificate - wife
Marriage Certificate
Employment Letter- husband
Employment Letter- wife (in my case, I had to write a letter stating that I am NOT employed...which I found amusing) 
Certificate of Financial Status
Certificate of General Physical Examination- husband
Certificate of General Physical Examination- wife
Police Clearance/Domestic - husband
Police Clearance/Domestic - wife
Adoption (Home) Study
Passport Page -husband
Passport Page -wife
I-797(this is approval of the I-800A application)
Photographs (several specific photos of our family in our home, properly attired, as well as photos of the front and back of our house)

Nearly every document on this list had to be notarized, then certified by the Secretary of State in the state where the document originated (we had a few Kansas and Florida documents mixed in), and finally, authenticated by the Chinese Consulate in Chicago. 

And hence, the massive collection of paper on my table.  The good folks at Staples are going to miss seeing my face.  [Fun fact:  we have spent $15.64 on photocopies so far.] 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

They're back!!!

Whoa, two blogs posts in one day!  Guess what came in the mail just now???  

An envelope from the Chinese Consulate in Chicago bearing my twelve documents, all sealed with the proper authentication.   In case you've been keeping track, I mailed them exactly two weeks ago, on November 10. 

I'd like to give credit (props?  a shout out?  a sloppy wet kiss?) to the good ole USPS who can, indeed, be trusted to deliver important documents hither and yon about the country.

DTC, here we come!  

Thankful

I thought I should probably blog, since it's been a while.  We mailed our documents off to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, so I've once again become a mailbox stalker.  Sigh.  Maybe today?

I'm thankful today for the community that adoption has opened to me.  I had no idea, when we began this journey, the connections we would make and the Kingdom perspective we would gain.

I have "met" dozens of lovely people through the Holt forums. . . beautiful, large-hearted souls who have helped and supported me tremendously through the difficult task of preparing our dossier.

I have six new local friends (three couples) whom we met in our adoptive parent training, and who, I hope, will continue to be part of our lives as we bring home our adopted children.

I have been blessed to be a resource for several other families just beginning their adoption journeys, and I see clearly now that adoption, for me, is more than just a means to add another child to our family.  It is my heart.  And dare I say, a CALLING, one that was nowhere on my radar until exactly one year ago.  We truly sense that this process, this journey, is going to forever change us and our family--our relationships, our activities, our bank account (ha!), our traditions, our worship. 

So on this day-before-Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for my husband, who has whole-heartedly embarked on this wild ride with me.

And I'm thankful to God, who calls me His friend and daughter, who laid adoption on my heart in such a way that I was powerless to do anything but obey, and who will faithfully provide and equip us for all that lies ahead. 


Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:7-10, The Message)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Giveaway fun!

One of my favorite bloggers is having a Giveaway extravaganza!  Click on the button to join in the fun. 
Ni Hao Y'all

In my own adoption news--I took all of our Missouri documents downtown this morning (thanks to my neighbor, Lori, for watching my girls so I didn't have to entertain three small children in the Secretary of State's office for over an hour) to have them state certified!  Huge progress! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I-800A approval!

We received word this afternoon that our I-800A application has been approved!  In case you forgot, this is the "Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country."  So, it has been Determined that we are Suitable.  Hooray! 

Once we get the actual approval in the mail, we can finish state-certifying all the documents for our dossier, which we will then mail to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago for authentication.  And THEN...we send our dossier to Holt who will send it to China.

It is completely possible that we could be matched with a little boy. . .our son . . . by Christmas.  Wouldn't that be grand?!? 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All shiny and official-like


I got my authenticated birth certificate back today from the Chinese Consulate in Houston.  Pretty cool looking, huh?

Authentication seal from the Chinese Consulate





Tuesday, October 19, 2010

whew

The final grant application is ready to mail tomorrow.  Sweet mother-of-pearl, that was a lot of work.  Praying for favor. 

I was able to walk in to our local USCIS office (three miles away, thankyouverymuch), wait for a whole five minutes, and get fingerprinted this afternoon.  Vince will get his done soon, hopefully with a similar wait. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Endurance

Some cool people I know ran in the Kansas City Marathon this past weekend for a really good cause--For the Silent.  Some other cool people I know ran simply because they are gluttons for punishment love to run. 

Getting our dossier to China is my marathon.  And I've been feeling lately like I'm just not going to make it to the end.   If you saw me at church Sunday morning looking all loopy and distracted and emotional, it's because my brain was roiling with the details of my to-do lists and some recently-encountered glitches in our adoption process.  (Easily fixable glitches, I might add, but that didn't stop me from getting all worked up about them.) 

I read these verses the other day: 

 ...Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross...Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)

For the first time I put the emphasis on the word "us," as in, "the race that is set before US."   We each have need of endurance for a race that is individual and unique.  I needn't try to run anyone else's race, at least not in the exact same way.  As I fix my eyes on Jesus, He perfects me and equips me for the life He's called me to lead.  And I look to Him as a model of perfect perseverance, knowing there is a great joy set before me.  I woke up this morning with a fresh resolve to remain. at. peace

People with their minds set on you,
   you keep completely whole,
steady on their feet,
   because they keep at it and don't quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
   because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.  (Isaiah 26:3-4, The Message)

And now for the nitty-gritty details...

After talking to my friend Carolyn, who is also adopting a child from China, I discovered that the notary wording on our medical forms was wrong and would get rejected by the Secretary of State.  This led me to the realization that several other documents would have been rejected for the same reason, had I already had them notarized (I hadn't).  I am so thankful that God gave me the heads-up on this now--so that I don't have to go back and have a bunch of documents re-notarized.  I did have to return our forms to the doctor's office this morning to have them notarized correctly, and they are now safe and cozy in my adoption paperwork file!

More good news:  We got our fingerprint appointment notices!!!  The odd thing is our appointments (V's and mine) are 13 days apart.  But we live two miles from the USCIS office and plan to walk in ahead of schedule (maybe this week?) to speed up the process.  

Upon returning from the doctor's office, I wasn't all that surprised to see those notices in my mailbox today...just a little token of God's love for me. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jason Upton's adoption story


I came across this video just now--a friend shared it on Facebook.  My husband and I attended college with Jason Upton; in fact, Vince shared an apartment with him briefly, many years ago.  In this video Jason shares the story of his (closed) adoption and his recent interaction with his birth mother.   I really don't have adequate words to convey the beauty and power of this redemption testimony.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A special gift from my son

I went to retrieve my son from kids' church this morning and noticed he'd been given a dollar bill.  "Mom!" he said.  "We each got a dollar bill!"

I asked him what his lesson was about.  He replied, "We worship God when we give.  So I'm giving you this dollar to help pay for the adoption."

Well, what could this mama do except break down crying in the church hallway?  I knelt down to hug my sweet little man and thank him for his precious gift.  Not so much the gift of one dollar, but the gift of a glimpse into his generous heart--the heart of an almost-six year old boy who, to the extent that he can, GETS it.  Gets it that adoption is a sacrifice.  Gets it that mom and dad are spending their money to bring home a son.  Gets it that this boy will be his very own brother, and that adoption will be our family's new reality.

He also gifted me with seeing some fruit from my labor, my husband's labor, the labor of faithful men and women at church who teach my children about Jesus.  Today's lesson was walked out in a practical way, and I am filled with gratitude and JOY.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Real...and not real

We received a very official-looking (well, not just official-looking...I mean, it is an official notice from the Department of Homeland Security) document in the mail just now.  I was excited to see it, knowing full well it wasn't anything super important.  Even though it does say "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" across the top in dollar bill font

Surely you're thinking what I'm thinking:  How can I obtain access to this dollar bill font for my own personal use? 

So what is it?  Just a notice that the D. of H.S. has received our I-800A, a.k.a Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.  Now that they've received it, we wait for another notice by mail of our fingerprinting appointment.  This could take several weeks, I think.  Then we get fingerprinted at our local immigration office so USCIS can continue processing our application.  Several weeks after that, we will receive notice that our application has been approved.  Then we add this notice to our dossier.  This is actually the very last document we need for the dossier...so there IS an end in sight, despite all evidence to the contrary. 

Hence the title of this post.  There are days when this adoption feels quite real.  Like, this is happening.  Like, we are going to China NEXT SUMMER.  Like, nine-ish months from now. 

But most days it feels completely surreal.  Many of you have asked how the adoption is going.  (Thank you for asking!)  And I say it's going just fine!  (Which it is.)  But I know it can't seem real to you, either.  This is the stage at which we're still mired in paperwork, the bulk of which is behind us, thankfully, and we inch steadily closer to the monumental milestone of sending our dossier to China.  It's possible we could have our dossier in China by late November...almost certainly by Christmas. 

And then?  We wait for a phone call from our agency, telling us they have a file for us to look at.  A file containing information and photos of a little boy who just may be our son. 

And when we say "yes"?  This will all seem very. incredibly. REAL

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hip Mom Jewelry--adoption fundraiser

We are happy to have been chosen by Hip Mom Jewelry as a featured family for the month of October!  During the month of October only, our family will receive, as a donation, 30% of the retail price of any item purchased from the Adoption Collection when you use our special family code:  Staggs1010.  


These are gorgeous, high-quality pieces with lasting value--sterling silver, hand-stamped, and personalized.  Though they are from the "Adoption Collection," there are several pieces which are not adoption-related.

Two Charm Necklace w/ Script
Faith, Hope, and Love Teardrop Necklace
Simply Blessed
Hope for China

Because we receive this generous 30% during the month of October only, will you consider thinking ahead to gifts for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, or even Mother's Day?   Check out the Hip Mom Jewelry button at the top of our blog, and don't forget to use our family code: Staggs1010.  Thanks for looking!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm a busy bee

Progress:  We will mail our I-800A form (along with a copy of our home study and a big, fat check) to USCIS tomorrow! 

I have been working frenetically to complete four grant applications, all due within a month or so.  And I have to say--compiling the home study paperwork and the dossier was easier than this!!!  I mean, I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth (what in the world does that mean, anyway?)....

[aside]:  I'm hoping the horse has a gift in his mouth...or maybe on his back?  Is that how it works?  Am I not supposed to look in his mouth?  Anyway, if he doesn't, I will have wasted copious of amounts of time, energy, and printer ink. 

Well, in all seriousness, we're praying for God's favor and blessing over these grant applications.  Our friend Rachel wisely encouraged us, "His will = His bill", and we believe this.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Passports are here!

Yep, they're here.  We are now free to roam about the globe!  Except that MY passport arrived in a soggy cardboard envelope.  And is a bit. . . .warpy. . .bendy. . .not flat. . . .but appears otherwise undamaged.  So it's sitting out to dry.  And then I will place it under a heavy book.  Think it will be OK? 

Mine is the slightly curling one on the bottom
In other adoption-progress-related news:  Our home study was approved!  We are now waiting for the signed originals, which we will send with our application to USCIS (immigration). 

In non-adoption-related news:  I have poison ivy (oak? sumac?) on my FACE.  Blurgh. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Not there.

You know how something meant to be inspirational instead produces the feeling of "Wow.  I am. so. not. there."  Well, that's exactly where I am. 

I've been reading adoption blogs today.  Which is generally a helpful and informative and encouraging sort of activity.  But today I am feeling...deflated...overwhelmed...and under-resourced. 

Here I am, trying to keep my head above water as I parent and home school the three small children already in my possession, wondering if I'm giving them what they need, while planning, saving, researching, praying, and dreaming for the adoption of kiddo #4.  And today I read of an amazing woman, whose blog I follow, who has begun the process to adopt her SIXTH child from China, her....wait for it....TENTH child altogether.  Now I must say that I truly count it a blessing to have discovered this gal and her blog.  She has indeed inspired me, informed me, blessed me.  But today, all I can think is, "Who IS this person?  Clearly she and her husband are of the super-human variety.  And OBVIOUSLY they are printing money in their basement!"

Hers wasn't the only blog I read today, lest you think I'm heaping all the blame at her feet.  (I'm really just kidding.  Stefanie is a gifted woman of God whom I admire and respect.)  Clearly I have some emotions to process, and some praying to do. 

And this helps, too:

Psalm 18:31-35 (NLT)

For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Whew.

I picked up my medical paperwork yesterday from the doctor's office.  I don't have TB, by the way.  I think the doctor got a stern lecture from the office notary for signing my form three days ago with no notary present.  I said to her at the time, "Um, aren't you supposed to sign that in front of the notary?"  Dr:  "Oh no...it's no big deal...she knows my signature."   Me:  "Um...well...OK."  [thinking to myself:  Lady, you'd better not mess up my form for China, so help me...]  The office also misplaced my husband's urine sample, so he had to go back and leave another.  This doesn't exactly inspire confidence. 

So you'd think my primary relief would be that I am in good health and passed all my tests, but all I could feel as I left the office, guarding my precious document, was nervous hope that every "i" had been dotted and every "t" crossed correctly.  I can SO imagine the profound relief of every prospective adoptive parent who, at long last, completes the dossier and ships it off to China!  I eagerly look forward to relieving myself of that particular burden. 

We are now waiting for approval of our home study.  Once we have that, we will submit an initial application to USCIS asking for approval to adopt a child from China. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An adult beverage may be required

OK.  I'm kidding about the adult beverage.  Kind of.  But boy, has it been THAT kind of morning.

Who knew that the required medical exams for the home study and the dossier would be the cause of SO. MUCH. STRESS?  I just returned from my exam/tests...was there for 2.5 hours and got stuck with a needle four times.  (I have uncooperative veins.)  Now Vince is there for his exam.  We made the mistake of not arranging for childcare, so for a while we had our three kiddos, including one shrieking baby, there in the office until Vince wisely decided to take them home and come back later.  Why in the world did I schedule our appointments at the same time?!? 

One amusing tidbit:  twice I was asked if we were adopting "these three kids." 

We also felt anxiety at trying to convince the doctor's office to bill these as "routine physical exams" so they are properly covered by insurance.  I have a sinking feeling we will receive a few surprise bills. 

Honestly, NO aspect of adoption thus far has been as challenging as this morning's medical escapade.  And I realize I'm probably blowing it way out of proportion, but that's how it feels to me.  I suspect I've hit my Jumping-Through-Hoops Wall, which is going to require a fresh burst of motivation for me to press through. 

So feel free to weigh in with encouragement, those of you that have BTDT...or those of you who pressed through some other sort of wall...or anyone at all, really.  :o)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home study

We had the in-home portion of our home study this afternoon.  I'm terribly glad I cleaned my bathroom and made my bed, because the social worker DID look in every room!  She did not, however, check my cabinets for child safety latches, my end table for dust, or my outlets for plugs.  (Future-adoptive-parents-yet-to-have-a-home-study:  Don't quote me.  Yours may get checked.)  The results of that examination would have been: Yes. No. Yes. 

All in all, it was mostly no big deal.  Unless one is uncomfortable talking about the strengths and weaknesses of one's marriage, that is. 

We will each meet once more individually with the social worker at the beginning of next week. 

Now I'm off to figure out how to get my kids to obey. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Call

If you were at Harmony Vineyard Sunday you saw a promo video for The Call event taking place in Sacramento on September 3-4.  My descriptors can't really do justice to this movement and its impact over the last 10 years.  So follow the link and check it out yourself. 

If you find your heart resonating with this message and call, I encourage you to participate in some way.  We plan to watch as much as we can online, free, via GOD TV .  For those of you who love great worship music--Rick Pino, Matt Gilman, Brian and Jenn Johnson, and Leeland (and plenty of others, I'm sure) will be at The Call leading worship. 

It was while watching Lou Engle speak last fall that we knew with certainty we were called to adopt.  We believe that adoption is a strong prophetic act which directly counters the spirit of abortion and which demonstrates the lavish adoptive heart of the Father.

So watch with caution.  You might just get your heart broken over the things that break God's heart, and you may never be the same.

I happen to think that's a good thing.  :o)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Just wrote a big check...

...to pay the home study invoice.  It's in the mail!  Let the home study commence!  I think our social worker should be calling us next week to schedule it.  Now who would like to help me clean my house? 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Baby steps

Let's see...what's new?  I added an adoption timeline to the blog.  Kinda sparse right now.  I'm looking forward to getting our home study finished within the next few weeks (I hope).  We applied for passports yesterday; that definitely adds an element of reality.  We're traveling!  To China!  They should arrive in the mail in about four weeks, and we'll need to photocopy the first pages to include in our dossier. 

Adoption is gradually becoming a reality to our children, and I've greatly enjoyed overhearing their conversations and everyday play infused with the topic.   The other day S introduced me to her adopted baby (her doll).  And A created some adoption artwork, revealing a surprising grasp of the process.  (Can you figure out which part I mean?) 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Holt picnic

S giving the pinata a whack
My good friend with her son from Ethiopia
Candy!
At the last minute we decided to attend the annual Holt picnic for the KS/MO region.  We had a great time with our friends who recently adopted a son from Ethiopia and our new friends who are in process to do the same.  We also met some other nice folks in various stages of the adoption process and saw some REALLY cute kiddos!  Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I look forward to being at next year's picnic with my very own adopted son. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hooray for the little things...

...like my daughter not peeing in her bed during today's nap.  And my Florida birth certificate arriving in the mail today with a lovely state certification attached!  (Cross one more item off the dossier checklist!)

Update:  My sweet and capable husband got his employment verification today, both for the home study and for the dossier, including notarization.  Isn't he great?  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hands full?

It seems like I've heard this comment frequently in the last few weeks:  "Wow, you've got your hands full!" (upon seeing me out and about with my three children).  And sometimes I think to myself, "Yep.  Sure do.  [Sigh.]"  But mostly I think, "Really?  It's just three kids.  Is that so many?"  Some ladies, the moms of five and four children respectively, were discussing this in our Wednesday evening parenting class.  They both said they hear all the time:  "Are they all yours?"    So I'll be joining their ranks soon enough.  Can't wait to say with pride:  "Yep.  All mine!"

Progress-wise, I got fingerprinted this morning; Vince will get his done this afternoon.  It looks like we may be able to begin our home study within the next few weeks.  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Parenting class

We just returned home from our two-day required adoptive parenting class, and I have to say it was actually fun!  We enjoyed laughing and talking with three other Christian couples from the KC area...I hope we'll stay in touch.  We learned a lot, and I left even more eager to speed this process along and bring our son home. 

Checked off my to-do list:  police clearance letters for me and Vince (we're good), and scheduled my FBI fingerprinting for next week.   I hope to receive my state-certified birth certificate from Florida in the mail some time this week. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

What will Ari name his Chinese brother?

This morning Ari seemed concerned that he wouldn't be able to pronounce his new brother's name.  (An amusingly mild concern, relative to what he could be concerned about, I think.)  I told him that we could name his brother whatever we want, if we choose to, but that I was sure he could learn to pronounce a Chinese name.  Hours later he suggested the name "John."  John, I said? Ari grinned.  Yes, John.  Hmmm...we'll put it in the maybe pile. 

I got my new Florida birth certificate in the mail today.  And tomorrow I will probably mail it right back to have it state certified.  I've been working on my 16-page questionnaire...have nearly finished it!  Vince asked if he could copy my answers.  Um, I think they might notice something like that.  Made myself an adoption to-do list.  Several of the items (like the questionnaire) are Vince-to-do.  (Note to self:  do not nag.)  This coming weekend we have a two-day (all day) parenting class with the adoption agency.  I'm going to pretend that it's a romantic get-away with my husband.  After all, we'll be child-free for a total of 12 hours.  When was the last time that happened? 



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Boring progress

Since last I posted, I've received all the home study paperwork via snail mail and email.  Since DD#1 was sick over the holiday weekend, we had lots of time indoors to sign background check release forms and type up some documents for the dossier.  Florida refused to certify my old birth certificate and sent it back to me, so I mailed off another request for a new one.  Our main focus is preparing for the home study, which probably won't be until September--we will need medical exams, fingerprinting, police clearance, birth and marriage certificates, proof of this, that, and the other...and individual answers to a 16-page questionnaire.  Talk about introspection...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Early morning gifts, and progress

Like many of my friends' kids as of late, my daughter has begun waking up (and waking me up) much earlier than normal.  I'm not going to tell you the time, but suffice it to say it's early for ME.  We've always been a "late to bed, late to rise" kind of family.  She shares a bedroom with her brother, and usually I'm able to whisk her out of there without waking him up.  I bring her into my bed where she is uncharacteristically sweet, funny, and cuddly.  (No sleep actually occurs.)  I wish she'd stay in bed longer, but I'm gradually coming to view these tender moments with her in the morning as the gift that they are. 

On a slightly related note, I found a dime in my bed.  I'd been sleeping on it...like some bizarre twist on The Princess and the Pea.  I didn't feel it underneath me, so does that mean I'm not a true princess? 

Adoption progress made today!  Here's a brief overview of the process, if you're interested:

International adoption requires the notarization of many, many documents--medical exams, signed agreements, bank statements, home study report, employer verification (I even have to write a letter stating that I am a SAHM and therefore, not employed), etc.  This is somewhat tedious, but not so difficult given the abundance of notaries. 

Then, every single document has to be sent to the Secretary of State in the state where it originated to obtain a seal of authentication, verifying that the notary who signed it is indeed a true notary in that state.  Yesterday I sent our birth certificates off to KS and FL for authentication, a feat which is not nearly so simple as it sounds and which had me on the verge of tears once before the letters were in the mail.
 
THEN, once every. single. document. has been state authenticated, the documents are sent to the appropriate Chinese consulate (most of ours will go to Chicago) for its final seal of authentication.  This entire collection of documents, including photos in which no one has bare feet, is called the "dossier," and will then be sent to China.  DTC ("dossier to China") is a monumental accomplishment in the adoption process! 

If you're wondering how to pray specifically, I'd ask you to pray for favor and for NO mistakes in this document-collecting process.  There is so much room for error along the way, and I've been asking God to make the rough places smooth for us as we do what He's calling us to do.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

For Ryan

This post is for my friend, Ryan, who is surely sitting by, waiting with bated [insert pause while I check the spelling of "bated." Spelled it wrong the first time.] breath to read tonight's ramblings. I got to visit Ryan and his wife this evening and meet their newly adopted newborn son. Their adoption saga is truly epic, and not in a good way. But I know they'll say it was all worth it to have their tiny, beautiful son in their arms and hearts and family forever.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paper chasing...


I imagine this will be the title of, like, 27 more posts in the months to come. I wonder if the chasing burns calories....

So this morning I had some exciting communication with the states of Florida and Kansas, asking if they'd authenticate our 36+ year old birth certificates. Any tiny mistake can trip up the whole adoption process, not to mention cost us more time and money, so I'm trying to be careful and ask lots of questions. I hope no one gets annoyed with me.

My sister-in-law took a fantastic family photo last night (for use in our dossier), no small task with three kids under the age of six! But the baby is barefoot in the photo, which might be offensive to The Powers That Be. Might have to slap some shoes on that girl and take another pic.

Update: Phooey. Babies can't be barefoot. Still a good pic, though. Thanks, Gena.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Slow going

I called our agency branch office here in Missouri. Not much for me to do this week except locate birth certificates and marriage license. Can't seem to find our son's BC...it's gotta be here somewhere.

We are feeling the gravity of this decision. It's just. so. huge.

My parents have each expressed wholehearted support for our adoption journey and love for their perhaps-not-even-born-yet new grandson. As you can imagine, this is very meaningful to me. So thanks, parents, if you're reading this. :o)

Update: So...my son's birth certificate does NOT have to be here somewhere, because apparently we never ordered one for him. Ordered one this evening, along with another copy of our marriage license...total = $30. Just an itty, bitty drop in the adoption bucket.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's official...

...We're adopting a son!

I just received the email stating we are officially approved for the China adoption program! The email contains all the vital information we need to know and all the data we must collect in order to move forward in the process. First up--the home study. Must prove to China that we are not criminals and that we can be good parents...and a few dozen other things. :o) This process should take between 12-18 months, start to finish. I have a LOT of work ahead of me!

I've been waiting until we received this important email from our adoption agency to let you all know about our exciting news...and my fledgling blog. Please feel free to follow, ask questions, and/or comment. Prayers are welcome too. This is a BIG deal...totally life-changing...but we know without a doubt that God has called us to adopt. Join us in praying that the right little boy will soon join us as his forever family.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Taking a break from the "serious"...

...to talk about my new denim skirt from Target. Was I looking for a denim skirt? No, I was not. But there it was on the clearance rack. The perfect length. The perfect shade. The perfect price...$4.98. Score.

We are waiting to hear from our adoption agency this week that we are officially approved and in process for the China program.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Culture of Adoption

Read this today on a blog written by Jason Kovacs, Director of Ministry Development for ABBA Fund.

The greatest thing you can do to establish a culture of adoption/orphan care in your church is to be gripped by the reality that God has adopted us as His children. The church is God’s great trans-racial adoptive family. As the gospel takes root in our hearts and we recognize that adoption is central to the heart and mission of God it also becomes something we care about. We will naturally begin to reflect our vertical adoption in our horizontal efforts. This is the foundation for creating a culture that believes that every Christian is called to care for the fatherless in some way. Not everyone is called to adopt but everyone is called to do something. The question for each Christian and each church is not “Should I care for orphans?” The question is “How can I care for orphans?”

Well said, Jason. I know the International House of Prayer in Kansas City is also deeply committed to releasing the adoption spirit and fostering this culture of care and compassion for the orphan.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The beginning...

One evening last fall, Vince and I were listening to Lou Engle (www.thecall.com) speak:

"From slavery to the civil rights movement, it was always the praying remnant that mobilized the future into being with intercession and activism. Today, the same God who ended these atrocities and injustices wants to use this generation to end abortion.

While reading a quote in a biography on William Wilberforce, the great parliamentary figure of the 1800s who almost single-handedly ended the slave trade in England, I was suddenly and forcibly apprehended by the presence of God. In that moment, I received an undeniable and irrevocable commission from the Lord: "Raise up a prayer movement to end abortion in America." TheCall is a part of that prayer movement.

God is looking for intercessors. That's not just a fancy word to replace "prayer." It is a high calling---some say the supreme vocation. There is a small piece of real estate that exists in between God and His rebellious creation, and it's called "the gap." You are called to stand there. You were made to stand there. God said, "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none." (Ezekiel 22:30)

The true heir to the civil rights movement is...freedom for the unborn and the pregnant mother, and the Underground Railroad for the great injustice of abortion is adoption."

Whew. We both found ourselves weeping at his words--the authority and the anointing they carried. Almost overnight, adoption went from being a great concept to something we needed to do, wanted to do, planned to do.

And so began nearly seven months of talking, thinking, praying, and research. (I'm kind of a research freak.) Fast-forward to this past Saturday evening when I finally convinced my husband that we needed to submit our adoption application--for an international adoption from China--and get started...like, right NOW. And so we did.

And I'm really, really excited!