Thursday, October 1, 2015

How we wait

Adoption and waiting. They go together. We wait at different times of our lives- we wait for college acceptance letters, for a marriage proposal, for the birth of a baby, for a job offer. I've gone through different seasons of waiting in my life but none of those other times have included this deep, heart ache that is tied to the wait. It's is so profound that I have a physical reaction if I allow myself to go there. As a person specialized in compartmentalizing my emotions for the sake of rational problem solving, this physical reaction has snuck up on me a couple times.

Yesterday was a day of highs so high and lows so low it's a wonder I was able to sleep at all last night.  Or perhaps not- the exhaustion of it all could have been a factor too. In a process of ever- complicated steps, we are coming to the end of this adoption.  I can't hardly believe it. Yesterday, the last day of September, I awoke to an email containing two vital pieces of information needed to complete one of these complicated steps. As China is approaching a week of holidays, I had expected to see no progress until after everyone returned to work.  As I took a quick shower, attempting to ready myself for the day before the boys completely destroyed the house, I calculated the timing of the next steps for our adoption and realized that with this new email, there was a slim chance of moving forward before the Chinese holiday. Grabbing a towel and shooing boys away, I sent a quick message to confirm this realization. An almost instant response- "send everything right away." I threw on clothes, turned on a cartoon, tossed bowls of Cheerios and cups of milk on the table, and delved into a world of visa applications and questions of national security ("have you even knowingly or unknowingly aided the communist party?" And " are you knowingly entering the United States to commit acts of treason?"). Visa application completed, various immigration approvals collected, and one email with a bunch of very important attachments written and flying through cyberspace to very important people on the other side of the world who have the power to move our first date with our daughter closer on the calendar.  It was a rush- that slim glimmer of hope, the act of 'doing something' and making something happen, the feeling of accomplishment that I had done everything in my power... And then the other shoe dropped.

I received a message that there was an issue with our daughter's file. Discrepancies in wording and translation hurdles.  And nothing could be done until these discrepancies were resolved. I exchanged text messages, Facebook messages, and one depressing phone call that basically confirmed that everything had come to a screeching halt. We would have to wait for the Chinese holiday to pass, but even after everyone had returned to work, the timeline was still unknown.  They had a plan but could not predict it's likelihood at success.

And so we wait. With aching heart, I wait. And I know my pain is only a fraction of the pain my little one experiences each day that passes without belonging and knowing love. Austin is steadfast in his wait- "it'll take as long as it takes." Today is October 1st- a day I was looking forward to telling the boys, "next month we finally meet your sister." But I can't. That realization finally manifested itself in that physical reaction I was talking about- as various people reached out to me yesterday I heard my voice shake and watched my hands tremble. I hung up the phone and grabbed a blanket to fight off the intense shivering. It was 90 degrees. I do not wait well.

But maybe I am learning something in this wait. In the past, my response would be one of anger. Anger at the situation, at people who should have caught this 'discrepancy' earlier, at a country that throws away children, and at a system that makes them wait.  And at myself for not doing enough and being enough.  I am not angry today. Aching, disappointed, sad... But not angry. I immediately felt the urgency to pray- and to ask others to do so.  A quick Facebook post rallied our troops.  Corbin and Leo prayed for their baby sister to come home soon (and for mom to bring them yummy Chinese treats) right in the car.  And dear friends who have walked this path before us, gave me perspective- "we are excited to see how God will work."  I wasn't excited  initially but that truth has sunk in overnight. This is a mighty obstacle, requiring painful waiting, but we have a mightier God who delights in showing up and showing off His heart for the lost.

I can't promise that I will always have the happy excitement when we are faced with the hard. But I will learn to wait- with my heart ache- for the One who will wipe away every tear to act. And I will look forward in eager anticipation of His mighty work.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Tomorrow she turns three. Or at least that's what a thin file folder of medical exams and growth measurements records. 34 months ago, a state-paid doctor guessed at the age of a tiny bundle of a baby brought into the orphanage. For the past nearly 3 years, September 20th has stood as a grim reminder to doctors, nannies, and orphanage directors that time was passing this little one by. A birthday is not a happy thing if it is not celebrated with hope. Tonight I am making a birthday cake for my child whom I have never met. Furthermore, this cake will not be enjoyed by my little girl as distance and paperwork and more obstacles keep us apart. I can barely think the thought that she has spent three years without a family to celebrate her very existence. A sob clutches in my throat and tears threaten to spill but then... Hope. This is her last birthday without a family. Tomorrow we celebrate her- and someday we will tell her of how we loved her before we had ever met. Your family waits for you, little one. We're having 'whooping pie cake' because, as I told her big brother, this is cake for happiness and little one's name means happy. Happy birthday sweet daughter- tomorrow will mark the year that you became ours forever. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Let me tell you about orphanages. They are a juxtaposition of childhood and nightmares. Sterile hallways, chipping paint. Rooms bursting to the seams with little faces,little feet and silence. Rooms with toys or technology perfectly arranged and on display for all visitors to see and rooms behind locked doors where no visitor will ever lay eyes for the unmentionable things that happen there. At the very best, there are caregivers that actually do care but are so outnumbered by the immediate needs that face them that there are simply not enough hours in the day, arms to hold crying babies, or room in their hearts for more brokenness. Malnourishment, neglect, hopelessness. And that's at the very best. If you are brave, allow your mind to wander to the very worst. Untreated diseases, unchanged diapers and sheets, unsupervised, tiny souls who have been hardened to no longer resemble children. And still silence. I have met young adults who will never be able to lift a heavy object over their heads. As orphaned children, they were restrained in their beds and their muscles died. Imagine what happens to another, more precious muscle- their brains- when left alone, restrained in a tiny bed for years on end. Imagine what happens to their most important muscle- their hearts?  Silence, always silence. 

This past week a family traveled to bring home their precious daughter. Months of saving, fundraising, preparing a sweet room and sharing her photo with family  and friends. Little girl was sick- complex special needs they call it- but her true problem was one too many days in an orphanage. The child was not doing well - "her needs were more than we thought we were getting into" - and so the family returned home without their darling daughter. And little girl- abandoned a second time and returned to the very place that was slowly killing her.  Disruption. And silence. 

There is outrage and disbelief in the adoption community this morning. The diplomatic ones urge others to "not judge, you were not in their shoes". The problem solvers demand new photos, new medical exams, new agency, new family, go go go! The sensitive ones offer prayers and tears.  And the angry ones...well, you can imagine. 

So often the argument is "what if your biological child had these issues? Would you leave them at at the hospital?" Sadly the answer is yes some families would choose to end a pregnancy that promised a broken child (which is acceptable in our society now) while others would actually abandon such a little one after birth (which is not acceptable in our society- but does happen at an alarming rate). 

This isn't really about that argument. Families are faced with hard things every day and find a way to deal. In my life, that dealing is a whole lot of depending- depending on a God who loves all of His creation to carry you through. But adoption- adoption is purposefully and knowingly walking into that hard. And still depending on that God who loves us to provide the very best for us. 

We were called into this journey called adoption.  It is God's heart to set the lonely in families, to rescue the orphan, to redeem the lost, and restore the broken. We said yes out of compassion and a personal desire- but out of obedience. We will knowingly walk into hard because of the One whom has our back- and our front and our sides. We know that God will provide, supply, lead, and sometimes carry us through the hard. 

So my mind wanders to the what ifs of our adoption. What if on that day in a government office building in China, a different little girl than that one whose picture I carry in my wallet walks in? What if she has physical needs that we are unprepared for? Mental, emotional, social issues we never considered?  What if she is on death's door and will take her final breaths before she takes her first flight?

I remember those orphanages. The ones with sterile walls and chipped paint. The dingy cribs and closed, locked doors, and silence. Always the silence. And I know that we will say yes, this is our daughter no matter what she is. Because God created families- not orphanages. And it would be better to die in the arms of her family in China than to be sent back to the hell of life in an orphanage.

Someone called me brave this weekend. I am not.  I am terrified. But I know who goes before me and because of that reassurance, I will not be shaken when faced with the hard. We can do hard things- I tell my four year old this every day. But the reality is, only with God's help. My heart is broken for another little girl this morning. My heart is broken for my little girl who exists in those sterile, silent walls until we can come to her. Hang on- please.

Resources on disruption, visit No Hands But Ours

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Rest of the Story...

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

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

You can see where this is going...

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are already so loved little one!

Friday, July 17, 2015

July Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 8, 2015

May- where we're at...

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April Adoption Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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