Monday, June 26, 2017

Highlight of our summer

Well I guess summer officially just started but I think this one takes the cake for the next few months. When we told our good friend the news of our referral back in April she replied and said "My parents are going to Ethiopia in June!" (they attend our church also) I immediately asked if there would be any possibility of them visiting our sweet girl. (I mean how many people do you meet travelling to ET not for an adoption??) We both checked - us with our agency, her with her parents and it was a "go" from both ends. Now, just because they were in the same city didn't mean it would be easy for them to get to her or to arrange. I'd like to leave this part out but I must be honest--I dropped the ball. I never found out their travel dates and in the first few days of June I checked in with said friend and said "So, when do your parents leave?" They already had-June 1st. I was so mad at myself for not making work of it earlier and getting a care package together. I decided I was not beyond begging and asked for their email anyway. It was a long shot but I was going to take it! She also warned me that they had a very full itinerary and weren't really in control of their schedule. Funny thing with Ethiopia is the government can shut down their internet any time they choose. While they were there the internet did go down for a spell. So, email communication is spotty at best and I wasn't sure they would ever receive my communications. It turns out they did and replied! They weren't in the city for most of their time there from what I understood but would be flying out their last day there and would maybe have a chance to visit her then. No promises, no guarantees. That was all I was asking and it gave me a sliver of hope!

On our end, our agency wanted to set up a visit accompanied by their employee in Ethiopia and arrange it with the orphanage. We didn't know what would happen so earlier in the week before Father's Day nothing was set up. The day before they would arrive in the capitol city we received an email forwarded from their son in law where, in the email to family they mentioned trying to visit the Avery's baby! Also, they mentioned their laptop battery dying. I jumped on trying to arrange with our agency but just had no information to go on. I'd send emails to them in Ethiopia not confident at all that they'd get any. In the end, our case worker did get in touch with their Ethiopian contact and had him clear it with the orphanage and gave us the thumbs up. As you can imagine, Americans can't just show up at an orphanage asking to see a child.

Last Saturday morning my friend sent me a text saying "They saw her!!!!! 47 pics!!!!!" Happiest text I ever received!! It may top the list of best Father's day gifts for Troy too! When her parents arrived home we found out their side of the story and they will tell you it was miraculous how this all happened. They had been trying to reach the orphanage all week they were there and would never get an answer. 2 hours before they got there Saturday Carol thought there was no way this visit was going to happen. Then she said things just started falling into place. People picked up their phone, got her to the correct contact, they got a taxi, and made the 40 minute drive! Over the phone the orphanage contact said now wasn't a good time because our little girl was sleeping and they wouldn't be able to hold her or take pictures. Thank goodness they said they'd come anyway and take a picture of her sleeping. When they arrived they walked in her room and there she was (we have it on video) sitting up in her bumbo seat just as alert as ever. We may have another social butterfly here! She was not looking sleepy and was ready for visitors! So, we were able to see dozens of pictures of her, her orphanage and room, etc. These grandparents got to hold her and love on her for us. They must have emailed us from the airport and let us know a few details but most meaningful to us was that they could touch her and prayed a blessing over her. Just hearing the news they did see her really solidified it my mind that she was real! Half a world away but she was real! Up until now we've really only had 1 picture of her so it is so fun to see the pictures side by side of her at 3 months and 7 months. This is huge for me to actually have content for a baby book too. You know how monthly pictures of your bio kids are so popular (and I did it too), well what do you put in a book for a baby you didn't see their first year? Anyhow, I said before we knew if this was all possible that if we got new pictures, it would make my summer. It sure did! We are over the moon about it and cannot thank the Whites enough for their efforts on our behalf. This will help propel us through the next months of waiting. We are still pinching ourselves at the timing of their trip, the location...etc. Praise the Lord, He has been so good to us! We are eating up every detail they've shared with us about her, her environment there and the country as a whole. Sunday morning I received an Ethiopian scarf from Mrs. White which is a sweet, tangible reminder of our girl. If you can't tell we are feeling so blessed by this whole situation and are over the moon about it.

I mentioned at the end of the last post a bit about steps that need to happen before she can come home--there is still much to happen that is out of our control. Really, since we mailed the PAIR documents April 13th it has all been out of our control. We get asked all the time "When are you taking her home?" If we knew that answer, we would share it but we don't! The process with Ethiopia is not predictable and we can never know when it might be. One thing that makes us think it will for sure be into this fall is the annual rainy season court closure. That happens approximately Aug-Oct and all court proceedings are delayed until after that. We are hoping that when the courts open back up we can get our court date and by then our Federal approval will be granted. We can really only guess though and place it in God's hands.

For now we are enjoying pictures of our little growing girl who is just so precious!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Long awaited news

It seems like I always start out saying how overdue this update is. There is no exception with this one! I'll try to keep it as brief as possible because almost 3 months have passed and the news changed weekly, if not daily since March 29th. I originally started an update but as I was coming upon 2 pages of typing I decided I needed to give a bigger picture update and drop some details. (they are amazing though!)

After losing the referral in December the holidays were hard and especially January. Looking back the time was good for us to mourn that and to be ready for what was in store for us. In the end the separation of the two was good for us. It was an exercise in trusting God though!

Yes, we have received another referral (match with a  specific child)! The call came on March 29th and was completely a God thing timing-wise. I was literally standing at the capitol when the call came getting the final seals on our updated dossier we had been working on for 7 months! It was a great feeling to be getting that finalized and an even greater feeling getting that call! Other amazing circumstances happened that led me to bringing our documents to the capitol that day rather than a week earlier that ended up being a blessing for us time/money/effort-wise to do with updating a form. That day we heard some details about a precious 4 month old baby girl they had for us! We have been falling in love with her ever since that moment! We were a bit surprised that it was a girl and so young! Our caseworker sent us her file to review and decide if we would accept the referral. The kids and I zoomed from Lansing to Troy's office where we saw her picture for the first time. Let me say, she is beautiful! We cannot share any photos via the internet until our adoption is finalized but I usually have some on me! She was born in November and is exactly 9 months younger than Lawson. That fact gave us the chills when we saw her birthdate.
As far as details of her life go, we are carefully guarding that for her someday. As she grows and she knows it we can gauge what is appropriate for her and others to know but we feel she should be the first to know. So sorry if you ask, we won't give out many details right now. We are so thrilled we get the opportunity to adopt her.

We did take a few days to pray about this child and obviously accepted it. Good thing we got that dossier done because it was time for more paperwork! We sent that off quickly before a spring trip our family took and we were riding high on the news. That week of paper chasing had answers to prayer --we would be told some document had to be translated and we might not receive it for a couple weeks and then it would show up in our inbox the very next day. Other things fell into place in a timely manner and it turns out we didn't delay a day if we didn't have to. While on vacation we received the news that on April 21st Ethiopia suspended all inter-country adoptions indefinitely. It was a wet blanket to say the least. Not much information was given as to why and how long it could last but it was concerning. Our agencies were taking it very seriously. The month of May passed with a lot of news but not really any change in the status. One thing we saw over and over is how much our U.S. Embassy and government officials were doing to advocate for us. We were so appreciative and humbled to think that they would fight so hard for maybe 200ish families.(those already matched with kids) There were emails we received from the embassy multiple times a week and also the State Department as well as many conference calls. We did a lot of praying and asking God for a miracle! How sad to think of the orphans caught up in this along with families who are just itching to take their kids home! The U.S. government was primarily advocating for "priority families" which are any that had already been matched with a child (referral) before April 21st. So that's us! I'm not sure we'll ever have firm answers explaining the suspension but it appears as of the last 2 weeks of June, it has been lifted? It can be frustrating being at the mercy of another government but we need to respect their processes. We are just relieved that we are seeing good movement there currently! This international adoption stuff is crazy! Or at least in never know what you're going to get! We are thankful God has been with us through it all, never changes, and always keeps His promises!

Our case has even had some movement and we have already had our first court date scheduled for July 26. This court date is not for us-we attend the second court. Right now we wait for those along with a Federal approval that can be terribly slow to get. We still have a quite a few steps to do to bring her home but we are praying it is in God's perfect timing. We are boldly asking God to bring her home this fall. You may join us in that! :) I really want to celebrate her first birthday WITH her.

I'll save our happiest news this month in another post-coming soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Disappointing Developments

Sadly, we have to share that the week of December 5 we found out we lost our referral.  It took us and our agency by complete surprise and could not have been anticipated. It only happens very rarely that a family would lose a referral but it has happened.

When we first found out it was heartbreaking for us. Very quickly we had adjusted mentally to what was going to be our new family of 6 and all that would change. We had many hopes and dreams for “M” and had hoped she was meant to be in our family. God very firmly closed that door (or should I say slammed) and it is clear to us she was not who He has planned for us. During the week as we digested the news I thought of a quote Troy keeps in front of him at his desk. It is “What do you want now? vs. What do you want most?” I realized what I want now is to be anticipating a little toddler girl, a little sister for Harlyn, celebrate Christmas riding on that joy of the referral, buy some headbands (oops already did!).…you get the picture. What do we want most? What we want most is that God places the perfect child for our family with us, one who is without a family, that we do His will in this process and that He guides it. When I compared the two I realized how shortsighted we can be, how shallow and how much we would miss if we chased after what we want NOW.

There were very few details for us at first, just some facts that were hard to swallow. Not knowing the details probably made us question if it was best for her or if this was some mistake that could possibly/miraculously be undone. 5 days later we received additional information about her circumstance that gave us a complete change in perspective on the situation. It brought us peace, relief and comfort. It was such a blessing to get those details we thought we’d never know and always wonder about. We don’t feel we deserved that but are thankful to our gracious God for supplying a look “behind the scenes” of what He is doing. It’s amazing how one email relieved this burden of sadness, disappointment and loss.

In summary, Harlyn said it best when I overheard her tell someone our news boiled down to, “Sad for us, good for Meskerem” :) Telling Harlyn had to be about the hardest and seeing her cry with genuine sorrow over losing “M” as a little sister was disappointing to her. She still just doesn’t understand why we don’t have direct access to her to “tell her we love her” but I think she understands the big picture. I pray that when God completes this, her faith will grow more than she even shows now and that she will see Him as the never changing, promise-keeping God that He is. His promises are what we’ve relied on and have gotten us through the sad moments and days.

We continue to pray for God’s perfect timing in this and know this was necessary to bring us to the next little Avery. Now we are back on the waiting list just like before we got the referral. Because of this falling through, our immigration approval has since become a concern. Without explaining it, please pray that the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services will hear us out in expediting our case so that any referral we receive will not be delayed because of our paperwork. We are at the top of the list for another referral and we never know when that call will come.

Thank you for your continued, prayers, concern and inquiries about this process! It sure has been a rollercoaster but we’re hanging on to our Rock, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"Hurry up and wait"

"Hurry up and wait" is the phrase used by an adoptive mom who gave me advice over the phone in the last weeks. That's so true---we need to be ready at any given time, with no notice to jump into action. Once we have that thing mailed or chased after a document, then we have to sit and wait.

Many have asked us "now what"? Waiting is the name of the game for now! After referral, I mentioned we overnighted our documents to immigration. They still have them and unfortunately requested one document we don't have. Please pray this paper can be sent to us quickly. It is held up at immigration while we wait for it. It needs to come from the orphanage "M" is at. That was disheartening to have a slow down on the very first step but with God all things are possible!

The fun news we were given is that someone from our agency is travelling to Ethiopia this weekend to encourage movement on cases and she will be visiting "M". We had the opportunity to send her a small package. Off we ran to get a little baby photo album with pictures of our family (hopefully we will be less scary to her!) and a little lovie bunny. Here is a picture of Harlyn and Lawson giving it some love before we shipped it off.

Or maybe they both wanted to keep it........
It was just what we needed to feel like she wasn't half a world away and that she'll get to hug it not long after we have!
 The wait after referral is hard, much harder than before. She is often on our minds and we can't wait for the day we can go meet her. We are soooo thankful for this little girl who will join our family and are still basking in the awe of how our family will change.
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is GOOD; His love endures forever" Psalm 106:1

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2 years 10 months and 22 days

I was mentally writing a blog post to update for about 3 months but considering our latest news, I'm scratching that lame update! We have exciting news to share! On October 13th we got the call we've been waiting 35 months for. I will document our day, reactions...etc. more for our own records than for others.

Our caseworker called while the kids and I were at Harlyn's homeschool class. This is our original agency that we began this process with in 2013.  I was expecting her call because she had left a voicemail the day before that I was slow to call her back and never ended up connecting that day. She seemed upbeat on the message but also emphasized that we really needed to talk (usually our correspondence is via email). We had spent August updating paperwork that was expired in preparation of coming off "hold" from having Lawson.  Just before this call we had a little hiccup with a required document that was causing some concern with an expiration that was approaching. We had been in the thick of trying to get this next set of documents out and I had some questions on forms.  I figured she was calling regarding something about that form that was holding up the next step. I stepped out of Harlyn's class, dragging Asher with me along with my thick file with forms in question.  I'm glad I got to an isolated place because what she said next floored me. I answered and our caseworker said "Laura, we have a referral for you--this is your referral call".  I imagined this moment for years now and honestly it didn't play out as beautifully as I thought it would. My first instinct was I felt sick, like really sick to my stomach, shaky, nervous. I was in the middle of a morning of school during my first year homeschooling, my 4 year old playing at my feet, my 8 month old down the hallway. Most likely my kitchen sink at home was full of dirty dishes and we probably left late. You just never know the moment when that call will come! If I thought it'd come when I "had my life together"---that was laughable. We were completely surprised. In August when we had our home study visit with our caseworker I think she tried to hint it could go "very quickly" before we got a referral but couldn't say they were working on one for us until it was official. That hint did tip us off to stop thinking this adoption was way far out time wise though.
Back to the phone call....she asked if I would like the details right then or if I'd like to wait for Troy. Of course, I needed to be with Troy before we'd hear it so we agreed to call her back if Troy could come home for lunch. I don't think my brain could've handled the information at that moment anyway. With the shock and sudden feeling of being unprepared, my mind was whirling. Troy thought I was joking when I told him what the call was about. I reassured him I would NOT joke about that. He was sharing those same feelings of incredulity. So, we had to wait about 3 hours until we were home and together to call our caseworker back. My mind was going crazy thinking about how our life was about to change in one phone call. I had recently been reading in Proverbs and on the drive home, all I could do was repeat Proverbs 3:5-6 over and over "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Troy and I were pinching ourselves although we felt nervous and anxious we kept saying "This is what we've been praying for!".
Our referral was for a sweet GIRL. It was pretty emotional and heavy hearing what they know of her life story. There are a million questions we have and so little information. We do know she was loved by her birth mother and we will forever pray for her and the sacrifice she made. It really hit me-- the loss side of adoption while hearing about her. For her, for her mother, our gain is their loss. So we learned about her and then were emailed all the documents they had in her file along with a picture! She just turned two last week. That moment of seeing that little face was one we'll never forget. We sat the kids down and told them about her and their reaction was priceless. Harlyn and Asher were so excited to hear it was a girl!
We took the next 4 days to pray about it and confirm this was the child to say yes to. Our agency gives us time to accept a referral but families have the option to decline it.
We were so overjoyed but really spent a lot of time in prayer that weekend. Early on we felt peace about it and can only explain that she was the one we've been praying for since we began this process. The following Monday we accepted the referral. Shortly after we received a few more documents along with a more recent picture of her! I thought I had memorized every detail of the last one and now we had one with a child who looked totally different! Hair grew in a few months, she filled out and was smiling! Also, we found out her second birthday was the following day. We had an estimate of age before but now we had an official birthdate to use!
The next day we overnighted the first step of the paperwork needed to get our court date. Every day counts now that we try to get her home. It will bounce back and forth between the U.S. Immigration and Ethiopian Embassy a few times before that court date will be set. We will have to travel to Ethiopia for a court date and to pick her up. The timeframe is uncertain and different for everyone. The average wait is 5-6 months.
Thank you to all our friends and family for praying for us and asking us about the process so often. It means so much to us to see our circle of friends come around us and support us. Her little face will have to power us through the next months until we meet her! It's so fun to finally have a face in mind when we think of her, pray for her and talk about her.
We have just been overwhelmed with thankfulness to the Lord for His faithfulness through all the ups and downs and for allowing us this privilege.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Two Adoption-Related Reasons we are VERY merry this Christmas

We are excited that there is new news to share! Our original agency, AAI, had a great month of referrals in November. So much so, we’ve moved up the list to number 9! We aren’t actually eligible for a referral until August of 2016 because of the biological child we’re expecting but we are last on the wait list. AAI is so optimistic they are even adding families to their wait list. By bringing on new families, AAI is committing to working in Ethiopia for a longer time. This is great reassurance for us considering how shaky things were this past May. We have a picture of our family two Christmases ago in which we were #69 on the wait list. That is a crazy thought how things have changed since then, in more than one way!

The second fun development is that we mailed our second dossier to America World, our new agency, on Monday! It has already been hand delivered to the State Department and is scheduled to be mailed to Ethiopia early January. Having that stack sent out is a great relief. There were so many technicalities we had to comb over or ask people to redo! Thanks to all our friends who helped us with certain documents included!

 (our adoption paperwork files are getting thick!)
(Troy was the driving force behind getting this paperwork done this fall)

(Ready to overnight our envelope!)
(Yay for mailing day!)

Four months ago we didn’t know if it would be possible for us to complete an Ethiopian adoption but today we are much more hopeful of it being a reality! We still know there are so many variables that can change but our God is the same. He has been faithful to us in the waiting of the last two years and will continue to be faithful. We trust in Him for the timing and completion of these adoptions.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Announcement and Status

If you’ve seen me lately, you might be questioning the status of our adoption. The reason for those of you who aren’t seeing us regularly is that we are expecting a baby in February! We are so excited for this new addition and anxious for his or her arrival!

That being said, our summer has brought a rollercoaster of adoption news and any given month, our plan may have changed.  We are still passionately pursuing international adoption from Ethiopia, so much so, we have two concurrent adoptions going!  It is too hard to break down that decision but I am pleased we took a few months to make our decision after our current agency, Adoption Associates (AAI), announced their sad news in May.  AAI’s Ethiopia program is still open and they are cautiously optimistic. The future is still very uncertain for their program which is why we decided to continue there, but also start the process with another agency.  Since we have the paperwork done with AAI and fees paid, it doesn’t hurt us to stay on their wait list to see if it will result in a referral.  In addition, as of September 1, we began another adoption from Ethiopia through America World Adoption Agency (we’ll refer to them as AWAA or America World, not to be confused with AAI).  Both agencies have approved us to have two adoptions going at once and AWAA in particular doesn’t let our pregnancy affect our progress in their program. 

How many kids could you be adding to your family you ask? We don’t know! We’re willing to let God work that out as well as the timing of potentially 2 adoptions with biological children mixed in there. AWAA is a large agency and has hundreds of families on their wait list. At the current pace adoptions are being completed in Ethiopia, they estimate the wait time will be 5-7 years. That is why we are starting this process now, knowing it may take that long.

Currently what we’re doing is just kind of sitting with AAI-playing the waiting game (still) and now trying to complete our dossier for AWAA.  We really want to get this paperwork done for AWAA before the end of October which will be tough but keeps us constantly working at it.

We hope that is the least confusing way to explain what’s going on in our adoption world right now!  Thank you so much for your thoughts, inquiries, and prayers for us these last few months. We are sticking with it but realize we have a long road ahead of us. With God all things are possible, that includes our adoption!  J We are putting our trust in Him who knows how He will build our family in the coming years.