Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Home Stretch

First things first - more pictures!! What else can I say that we haven't already said? This girl is going to have her way with me. Good thing I've already delegated discipline to Jenny :-)  Seriously though, I am humbled, privileged, and borderline terrified that God has entrusted such a precious, beautiful little girl to us.   

We're happy to report that there's been some progress in the process!!  Our I-600 was approved by the US government!! This is the document granting us permission to adopt her and bring her back to the US.  It's basically the first step of her becoming a citizen of the mighty US of A.  The approval of this form prompted the next step which was the securing of an interview date at the US Embassy in Kinshasa.  Our agency representative in Kinshasa will appear with her on our behalf at the interview which is scheduled for Friday, December 28th!! Please mark your calendars and pray that the interview goes smoothly!  

After the interview, the embassy will launch its final investigation and then approve her visa to the US.  The chart below (click it to view a larger version) does a great job of walking through the process and the heart shows where we are now.  Thanks for sharing this great flowchart with us, Michelle Lee! We're almost there!!

It could be just a matter of a few short weeks before we're on our way to meet and bring home our daughter. Those are sweet words, aren't they?!? 

Jenny prepared and submitted our visa applications earlier this week. I am so grateful for how she has taken on the never-ending tasks of compiling paperwork upon paperwork upon paperwork. She has been a workhorse on this stuff and has kept this whole process on track.  More proof that I married way up...

We should receive our visas in 1-2 weeks (probably more like 2 weeks due to the holidays) and then we await the call that we can book our flights!

We will celebrate her 11 month birthday soon but that should be the last birthday we celebrate without her!!  

Thursday, November 22, 2012


It's Thanksgiving.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING (said in my best Oprah voice)!  As we all prepare for eating an inappropriately large amount of food, I'll be honest in saying that this Thanksgiving is bittersweet.  Probably more bitter than sweet. In our minds and according to all of our timelines, we were sure we'd be celebrating our first Thanksgiving with her.

While it may be very difficult to understand from our perspective, the Lord has other plans and so we redirect our prayers to Christmas.  Lord, please bless us with the chance to meet our little girl in December and bring her home before Christmas.  

As easy as it would be to have a pity party today, I'm not going to do that.  Instead, I'm going to reflect on all that I AM thankful for...well, probably not ALL, but a lot, especially in relation to the adoption and the last 12 months.  Here goes...

A real, personal relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has given my life meaning and a purpose. (DUH)

For my wife, who I am so in love with and who is my favorite person in all the world and my best friend. (DUH) Without her, I am a disaster on two legs.

For incredibly supportive parents, siblings, in-laws, relatives, friends, colleagues, etc.  This doesn't begin to communicate how grateful I am for all of you...

For the opportunity to add a beautiful daughter to our family. What the heck, here's another picture for you, one of my favorites:

For the over 90 people that financially-contributed to making this adoption even possible.  Thank you for believing in the importance of adoption and believing in us as being equipped to parent our sweet little girl.  You all have reinforced my faith in God's ability to provide in miraculous ways. He's done just that. THANK YOU.

For the army of people praying us through this process and praying for her.  We are so comforted by your prayers and your words of support and encouragement.  We're in the home stretch, so please don't stop praying for a Christmas homecoming!!

For our agency - although we may get frustrated at times, we'd be lost without them.  Thank you ALBB for running an ethical shop and for the countless hours you put in connecting orphans with their forever families.  

For the workers that cared for her in her earliest days in the orphanage. Thank you for giving her what nourishment and love you were able to.

For the transition home and the workers there.  Thank you for doing your best to help her develop and grow as we wait for the time to bring her home.  Thank you for caring for her and loving her as if she was your own for the past 3 months.

For the friends God has connected us with that have been through this process or are going through it. Having a community that understands the challenges and dynamics in adoption is priceless.  

For the families that have been able to travel to DRC to bring their children home.  Thank you for spending a little time with our daughter and for sending us wonderful pictures and some information about her.

For the 46 pictures we have of her. I've stared at these pictures of her for what seems like forever for they are only connection to her.  We are so thankful we have pictures that will give her some connection to her first months of life.  

Maybe it's just because adoption is so important to us, but I'm thankful for the seemingly increased exposure adoption is getting - from TV shows (Parenthood - best show on TV, and others) to movies (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, What to Expect When You're Expecting, and others), not to mention the great books, blogs, and articles out there. They all highlight the beauty and privilege of adoption while not sugar-coating and overlooking the emotions, the challenges, and other realities that often come with adoption and/or infertility.

I am thankful that this process is almost over. While it is not on our time schedule, I'm thankful that we have a very big, very perfect God and I'm thankful I can rest in the fact that He'll get us to DRC in His perfect time.  This provides me peace today. Probably will need a reminder tomorrow, and the day after that...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Inching closer...

So our big news is that we finally were able to submit our I-600 to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services!!  This set of documents is what will allow our daughter to come to the US and was our last big set of paperwork.  They were just FedEx'd on Tuesday and the process of approval can take anywhere from 23 days to 3 months once they are received.  PLEASE pray for speedy processing and that we receive her approval quickly.

We need this approval to schedule a visa interview with the US Embassy in Kinshasa.  It sounds like they are scheduling interviews 2 weeks out at this point.  Then after the interview is complete, another 2-3 weeks to conclude the embassy's investigation into our daughter's orphan status. And then we travel!! Obviously, we are hoping that all this happens on the shorter side of the estimations.  We are praying for a miracle and that she is able to come home before the end of the year.  

Prayer requests:
1) That our I-600 paperwork is processed quickly and we are sent approval as soon as possible.  Holidays are coming up and we know that government offices (as well as our agency's) will be closed.

2) That the federal adoption tax credit will be extended and passed as a permanent measure.  The current credit is set to expire in December and starting in January, will be limited to special needs adoptions out of US foster care.  There are bills currently in the House and Senate that would make the tax credit permanent (not expiring every few years) and inclusive of international adoptions (like it is now) starting in 2013.  We, like thousands of other families, need this credit to help build our families!

3) For peace - We expected our daughter to be home last month so having this process drag on for a few more months is at times unbearable, especially around the holidays.  Our prayer is that we will have peace that surpasses all understanding and use this extra time wisely.

And now, the cuteness you've been waiting for...

PS Don't forget about our adoption t-shirts for sale on Etsy!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lice Lice Baby...

I FINALLY worked a Vanilla Ice reference into this blog. Awesome. 

We learned that some children recently moved to the transition home brought with them the gift of there was a shaving party at the home and our little girl's hair is gone. 

She may not have her hair but at least she's got a new cheek sticker. Glad that wasn't still on her in the other pictures we received.

She's so cute bald! That will come in handy as we experiment with caring for her hair!

Of the pictures we've received recently, this one's my favorite:

There is some sass on that face!! I love seeing her different facial expressions in all the pictures and can't wait to get to know the personality behind those faces!

This one's the most recent picture we've received: 

She looks to be pretty tiny compared to some of the other kids and it's great to see her holding herself up, even if it was just for a second!

For those of you that read beyond the pictures (I know, none of this is nearly as interesting as the pictures!), we don't have much to update.  There has been a little movement, and we're hoping for the green light to begin the final stage of paperwork.  Please pray with us that this happens soon. This last piece of the process takes at least 4 weeks so the sooner we can get going on it, the sooner we'll get our travel dates!

In the meantime, Jenny has been following the blogs of others from the agency that have traveled to DRC to bring their kiddos home.  She's been sharing some of the "best" with me and I can now say that I've never been so terrified for a flight as I am of the FLIGHTS (likely TWO 9+ hour flights and a 3 hour flight...jealous??) home with our daughter.  Oh, the stories...this one was especially educational, and horrifying.  I've never read something with such nervous laughter in my life. 

I'm pretty sure Jenny's got a suitcase packed already of diapers, wipes and onesies JUST for the plane ride home. It will all be worth it...hope that the others on the plane agree!

It's been fun to read of others' experiences meeting their children and beginning their journeys together. These different perspectives have been very helpful for us as we prepare for what we may experience in DRC, meeting our daughter, making our way home, and then beginning life as a family back home.  

How easy it is to overlook how much change she will be dealing with. She hasn't been consumed by a paperwork process, she hasn't been checking her email 100's of times per day in hopes of receiving new pictures or updates.  She's been growing up, an innocent little baby girl. 

We forget that she likely won't recognize our faces like we will quickly recognize hers.  We pray every day that we will be familiar, loving faces to her when we finally meet.  

I'm sure we're overanalyzing and worrying about everything. That's what happens when we enter into month 12 of a seemingly endless wait. I'm not good at not being in control and not being able to do something to move this forward. I have to be still, I have to wait, and I have to trust that God is in control. Shame on me to think that I could do this better than He can. Shame on me to think that my worrying will make things better and move things forward. This has been such a challenging, refining experience. I hope that I've grown to be a more patient person, which is good practice for being a parent. 

But these days, I'm ready to not be so patient. I'm ready to meet our daughter, to learn about her, to love her, heck, even to experience our first 24+ hour transatlantic adventure together. Jenny'll remind me of that last statement on the first diaper change, I'm sure. But hey, we knew adoption wouldn't be without its challenges, so bring 'em on. We're confident that God has called us to this, and that's the best place to be. He wouldn't give us more than we can handle, so long as we rely on HIS strength and not our own. What a wonderful promise to rest upon.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Yep, STILL Waiting

Many friends have been asking if we have an update, and unfortunately, we don't.  There have been some process changes that have resulted in some delays, but I won't bore you with all of those details.

I guess we have a small update - our little girl is now 8 months old and seems to be getting cuter each and every week.  See what I mean:

We are so grateful for the families that have traveled to DRC to bring their children home and taking the time to check on her and take a few pictures!

She looks so peaceful as she sleeps, even though she's on her stomach and sleeping on the loosest bed sheet I have EVER seen!

As we wait, we continue to stay busy...

Celebrating each month she grows,

 the all-church picnic,

even a bouncy slide, on which I quickly remembered why they aren't meant for someone that's 6'2"!

I also spent a couple weeks overseas in the UK and Morocco, sign in hand!

Fun with the new iPhone panorama feature in Fes, 

hangin' with King Mo, 

and some kids playing in the medina.

We were able to go out to Iowa and meet our nephew Sammy and celebrate his 1st, 2nd and 3rd birthdays! We had so much fun getting to know him and spending some time with him.

We wish that we had some more information on when we might expect to be traveling but that's completely out of our control.  We continue to pray everyday that she stays healthy and continues to grow and that the process will move along so we can bring her home.  Keep praying when you see those Jeeps! And if you're looking for an early Christmas present, we've still got shirts to sell (see link in sidebar)!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

More pics!

Since we don't have any updates, we thought we'd share a few pictures we've received from our agency, as well as from families that are currently there picking up their kiddos and were nice enough to share these with us.  (I've covered up the other kids in a couple of the pictures, just in case their families didn't want their cuteness broadcasted on our blog!)


And my personal favorite....WARNING...cuteness overload!

Please pray that we will be assigned an embassy date SOON so that we we will be even closer to meeting our munchkin and bringing her home!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Good Morning

Good morning Sunshine,
I woke up this morning thinking about you and praying for you and realized again how ready I am to meet you and bring you home. I have that realization every time I open my phone and see the picture of you waving back at me. I've never been more excited to buy airplane tickets and make our way to you.  We don't know the date and we may not know until just a few days before.  

This whole process, the privilege of adopting you, choosing you to be our little girl, so clearly captures  the journey of faith that I pray you'll experience in a real, powerful, life-changing way.  Sweetheart, in the same way that we chose you to be ours, God has chosen you, me, your mom, and every other little boy and girl - young or old - to be His.  He has chosen us to be part of His family and to celebrate all the blessings that come with being children of God.  

In the same way we have been waiting for you, God is waiting for us.  He calls us to Himself, but often times we just aren't ready to respond.  We're focused on our own agenda, our own priorities.  But, He's patient and loving through it all, knowing that His "gotcha day" with us is coming up.  And when it does, what a party - even the angels in heaven rejoice at this gotcha day! (Luke 15:10)

Through mountains of paperwork, we have had to be patient and wait for our documentation to make it through the process. But we know our gotcha day is coming soon, when we will forever be united as family.  Father and mother to their daughter.  What a day it will be!

I know there are challenges that we will face. We'll try every step of the way to put ourselves in your shoes and remember what you've been through. The separation, the transitions, the circumstances that brought you to an orphanage many months ago.  While they've given us the privilege to bring you home with us, they undoubtedly have not made the first 6+ months of your life easy. We know that we don't have a clue what we're in for but we promise to love you forever and guide you through the days, months, and years ahead, to hopefully help you be the happiest, healthiest little girl in the world.

Thanks to another blogger (thanks Jen Hatmaker for such incredible posts!), I have these words to be encouraged by and hope they'll encourage others who are going through the same process as us:

Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through, and adoption is one of them. I can hardly think of something closer to God’s character, who is the “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy.” Certainly, we are his difficult children who spaz out and pull away and manipulate and struggle. We distrust His good love and sabotage our blessings, imagining our shame disqualifies us or that God couldn’t possibly be faithful to such orphans.

But He is. We are loved with an everlasting love, and it is enough to overwhelm our own fear and shame and humanity. In adoption, God is enough for us all. He can overcome our children’s grief. He can overshadow our own inadequacies. He can sweep up our families in a beautiful story of redemption and hope and healing. If you are afraid of adoption, trying to stiff-arm the call, God is the courage you don’t have. If you are waiting, suffering with longing for your child, God is the determination you need. If you are in the early days of chaos, God is the peace you and your child hunger for. If your family feels lost, He is the stability everyone is looking for. If you are working hard on healing, digging deep with your child, God is every ounce of the hope and restoration and safety and grace.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Almost there!

We received word last week that our little girl was transferred to the transition house in Kinshasa and arrived there safely!  This is a great thing because 1) it is run by our agency so their in-country staff will be able to better monitor her health and overall well-being, 2) we should be getting pictures pretty regularly, 3) it means it's almost time to go get her!!!  Our agency is waiting for paperwork from the courts so that they can apply for an embassy appointment and to start scheduling her appointments to get her Congolese passport and the necessary medical exams required to leave the country.

I celebrated our daughter's 6-month birthday with my family (and Marie Callender's pie - yum!) when I came out for a visit to California.  Hopefully we don't have too many more to celebrate without her.

My mom and sister (and some fantastic helpers) threw me a shower while I was out visiting.  It was so nice to see so many of the people from our past and present come out to support us and our daughter.  

I was also able to see some of my favorite colleagues and former students.  It's been so weird not preparing for a new school year but they reminded me that those ten years of teaching middle schoolers might soon come in handy!

I can't wait to bring our baby girl to visit CHCMS and out to visit St. John's.  So many happy memories from my second homes :)

We are busy crossing things off our "to-do lists" like painting the nursery and getting the necessary vaccinations for travel. 

"Hold an armadillo" wasn't on our list but who could resist?!?

There is still much to be done but we finally feel like the end is in sight!  Thank you for your continued prayers for us and our baby girl.