Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Adoption Update

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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



Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Thoughts



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

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

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Update

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

www.etsy.com/shop/christmastreeface


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


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

Thank you!

love,

Austin and Anna

Sunday, February 22, 2015

hope

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



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


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Update- 2/5


We are 1/8th of the way there!  Moving along in our 'paper chase' too with applications filled out, lots and lots of documents signed, medical exams checked off ( or at least scheduled for one of us...ahem!), and birth and marriage certificates obtained.  It's exciting to have something measurable to reference- a pile of paperwork representing scheduled appointments and long waits at county recorders offices; little squares checked off on a long checklist; and yes, that little bar under our fundraising goal slowly and steadily  moving to the right.  We don't know what our little one looks like- does she smile with her mouth open or closed? Does she have hair yet? Do the orphanage workers tie it up in tiny pigtails? But each tiny, measurable step feels like fogged up glass slowly clearing, revealing our beautiful girl, waiting for her mama and daddy. Oh and those rascally brothers who so need a little sister to provide some balance to their truck-filled, dirt-encrusted lives!  Thank you friends for following along, praying, and giving so sacrificially.  We love you!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Let's get to work!

A quick update:  It had been all of, oh let's see, maybe 24 hours since I had emailed our application and first fee to our adoption agency and we hadn't heard anything back from them.  And I had already poured my heart in the last blog post and I couldn't help but think about how embarrassing it would be if we weren't accepted to adopt from China and other similarly ridiculous things.  So then I hemmed and hawed about contacting the woman in charge of the China program- but it had only been 24 hours, so that's like, crazy- right?  I mean, I don't want to be that person.  But I realized I was that person so I emailed her and this was the response:



Hooray!  Maybe I am a crazy, impatient person but this is great news!  And I quote, we 'are in!'  My second favorite part of this email was the ending:

"Let's get to work!"

We're ready Ms. Thomas- let's get to work!

And because I need this reminder, every day, here's another necklace I just finished that's available for sale.



Contact me if you're interested, or if you'd like a custom creation!

And in case you have forgotten how to view our youcaring page, check it out:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

all in

Well, the short of the long of it is we have officially applied with an agency to start the paperwork for our adoption.  We have applied to Across the World Adoptions, a California based agency.

This has seemed like one of the hardest decisions we've ever made!  Much harder than deciding to pursue adoption in the first place.  It seems like such a small thing- there are thousands of kids waiting for families- pick an agency and get moving!  But there are so, so many agencies that adopt children from China- many very good agencies.  There are huge agencies and little guys, Christian and secular, agencies with amazing websites and agencies still operating with a telephone number and a xeroxed information packet.  (note: I tried not to let web design sway my decision making process... or at least not too much)


After a lot of prayer and a lot of late night internet searches, googling scary things like "X Agency/ unethical adoptions" and "X Agency lawsuits" and then a whole lot of phone calls, emails, and back and forth correspondence, this is where we've landed.  And I'm feeling at peace so far.  (Coincidentally, or probably not so coincidentally, our church is studying peace this week.)

Austin and I both came to a place recently where we felt convicted on our faith levels.  Sounds weird- so here's an explanation.  We took a step of faith and announced to the world (ok... Facebook and our church family, and random people) that we were going to adopt.  We didn't have any money saved up. We had talked about this for years, taken a class at church, and yes, while it seemed a lot in our lives was leading up to this step, it still took a fair amount of courage and faith and maybe foolishness (**more on this one later) to actually do it.  We were overwhelmed by our friends and family and even acquaintances who immediately gave us money to help with adoption expenses.  It was beautiful and I *may* have teared up every time I saw that someone else had donated on our youcaring page (you can still check that out here.  Go ahead- make me cry!)  But then the money flow kind of dried up.  We were several thousand dollars short of even the first set of fees due.  Austin and I both felt that God was urging us to trust Him.  To jump in with both feet.  And to really sacrifice.  And that meant our savings.  At least for now.  I'm not advocating fiscal irresponsibility- we've taken a few steps to make sure we have a safety net for emergencies and what have you-but it was time to get some real skin in the game and to see how God would provide.


Because adoption matters to God.  Rescuing kids from hopelessness matters.  Eating out and shopping trips at Target for stuff we don't need and treats from Starbucks really don't matter.  Our daughter, whoever she is, wherever she is, if she's even born yet, matters.  And now, the clock is ticking down to the time she is in our arms, in our home, with her family.  I think that's worth putting off some house improvements and scrimping on our grocery bills for awhile (sorry Austin- I know you're already tired of crock pot 'mush' every night!).


We are still saving, fundraising, and attempting to make every penny go as far as possible, but now, we get to write a few big checks.  And as scary as it is to take steps into the unknown, I do know that its exactly where God wants us right now.

So what happens next?  We have a contract fee due in a week and then we can begin our Home Study!  (exclamation point added for those who have already walked the adoption journey and truly know the emotions and work involved in a Home Study)

We have a lot of paperwork to complete.  Probably some little house repairs to get taken care of.  And lots of scheduling to deal with.  But we're ready!



There's a lot of waiting in the adoption process.  I knew that going in.  I just didn't anticipate having to wait to get started.  Now that I've had a little taste of that waiting, I've concluded that I don't like it, but I recognize its purpose.  God makes us wait in order to move our hearts to the right place.  If our friends had donated $30,000 immediately after we made our big announcement, we of course would have been blown away.  But we wouldn't have allowed God to grow our yearning for our daughter and recognize our need to sacrifice for her and for Him.  We still don't know where all the money is going to come from.  But we know that God is more than able to provide for all of our needs.


And we'll do whatever it takes- whatever He asks.  And I have a few ideas.  Check out some of our fundraisers going on.

My etsy shop is up and running once again!  There are tons of these t-shirt cowls in every color.  They're fun, stretchy, and make a great accessory.



I also have been making glass/metal necklaces with Bible verses and quotes.  All the above photos are recent creations.  There are other adoption-related necklaces too.  I love custom orders, so if you have a favorite verse, contact me!


My mom and I also harvested a special blend of wildflower seeds from her garden this year and packaged them for sale.  She did this last year from her flower garden and grew an amazing bed of brightly colored flowers- all from harvested seed!


 Orange, yellow, purple- these babies started blooming early spring and kept going strong (at least in our southern california climate) until Christmas!  Each pack is $3.  (BTW- 'Dodo' is Corbin and Leo's- and baby girl's grandma.)




If you're interested in any of these items, there are a couple of purchasing options.  If its listed in my etsy shop, you can purchase direct from there.  All proceeds from the shop go toward the adoption.  If you see something on my facebook page, you can make a donation through youcaring to our adoption fundraiser or paypal us.  (Look for the Donate button on the side bar or click below)



Or if you're local, call me- I deliver!  

A few other things coming up- 

Garage Sale!  If you have items you'd like to donate to a great cause, please contact me.  We have a good friend who offered the use of their prime garage sale yard for an upcoming sale next month.  So we are collecting items to make it as successful as possible.  If you LOOOOOVE garage sales, particularly working at them, let me know- we could use some help!

Also, I'm hoping to offer "Share the Love" mini photo shoots- in studio!  Bring your kids for an adorable Valentine's Day themed photoshoot.  More details to come.

Thanks for reading, praying, donating, purchasing, sending good vibes, etc our way!