Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Encouragers

First, a quick adoption update for you...

As I last mentioned (a mere four months ago!), we submitted our dossier to our agency.  I won't bore you with the lengthy details, but once that happens, our dossier had to go through a few steps and travel back and forth across the U.S. to get it all ready to go to Haiti.  A few weeks later, it arrived in Haiti, where it was translated and went through a few more steps.  Then, on May 23rd, it was submitted to IBESR, which is essentially Haitian Social Services.  That is our biggest milestone in the Haiti process so far.  What that means is that we are now "officially" waiting to be matched with a child.  The estimated time frame for that to happen is "about" a year.  Which, if you've learned anything from watching our process, you probably know that time frames are very "loose." We have definitely learned not to depend heavily on them, since God is working this all out in His time, anyway.  Since we didn't actually find out that it had been submitted until June 23rd (one month later!), we had already been "officially waiting" for a month, and we didn't even know it!  Ha!  How's that for helping the time pass quickly? 

This past Monday, we had our third set of fingerprints done for U.S. Customs and Immigration.  It was our first set for Haiti, and the change in country makes this application a little different than our last.  Once we (hopefully) get that approval, there aren't any big adoption "to-do" items on the list for a while.  YAY!  So, there's a good chance that our adoption updates will not be as frequent from here on out, but we are hoping that one of the next updates will be the BIG one when we can tell you that we have seen the face of the little one we (and many of you) have been praying for over these past 3 years.

With the ups and downs of adoption, the L-O-N-G wait, the updated Home Study, yet another set of fingerprints, the heartbreak of a lost referral, the hours and hours of paperwork, the budgeting, and all the check-writing, there have been a few discouraging days for us.  We have had more than our share of happy days as well, but we have had a few days when it all just felt a little heavy.  I am sure you can relate.  We all have those days when it feels like we are just trudging through mud just trying to make it through the day. 

"But God, who encourages those who are discouraged..." - 2 Corinthians 7:6 (NLT)

"But, God..." God, the ultimate Encourager.  God, the Giver of encouragement.  "But, God encourages those who are discouraged..."

Lately, I have been the beneficiary of the gift of encouragement.  I have been blessed by a number of people who I call the encouragers.  They are the ones God has sent my way, at just the right moment, to lift my spirits, to make me smile or laugh, or to temporarily take my mind off whatever is currently weighing it down.  You know them, too.  It's the neighbor who God puts just a few doors down, in your new town, who welcomes you with a smile, a hug, and a sweet word every time you see her; and when she moves out just a short ten months later (sniff), brings YOU a farewell gift.  It's the girlfriends who text, out of the blue, just to say, "How's the adoption going?" and follow that up with an encouraging word.  It's the random cards that show up in the mail with a check inside, and words that say, "I wish I could do more" or "God told me to send you this."  And, it all just is too much, and you just sit down in the floor and bawl.  It's the friends going through their own adoption, who jump at the chance to help out with your fundraiser. It's when your husband knows that you have been a little down, and he texts some of your best friends' husbands, and they figure out a weekend when you can all get away for some girl time and just tell you to write it on the calendar.   It's the former pastor and dear friend who still sends encouragement and cheers you on even though you are now a few states away.  It's the friend, who you JUST recently met, who decides to raise money for your adoption.  It's the group of friends who change around their Spring Break plans and work schedules on short notice just to get away for a few days, laugh, and make some memories with you.  It's the friend who periodically sends you the most hilarious, random cards, just because she likes to make people smile.  It's the adoptive mom you meet at a birthday party, who befriends you and offers wisdom, encouragement and support every chance she gets.  It's your lifelong friend who sends you random things in the mail to remind you that there are friends who have known you your whole life, and by the grace of God, still love you.  It's the friends who text you to make sure you know there is a Groupon for Starbucks today. :)  It's the two groups of ladies who I am in a group text with that make my life a little happier and brighter in little bits throughout every single day, just because I know they are there for me.  It's the friends who walk in the door with a surprise gift they know that you have been wanting.  It's the person you know you can call and just talk about absolutely everything and nothing at all when life just feels a little heavy.  And, it is EVERY SINGLE TIME someone says, "I am praying for you." 

Maybe you don't know every one of these people.  But, I do.  I know them ALL.  I have been the undeserving beneficiary of their encouragement.  But, I bet if you look around, you will find out that you know people who, in their own unique way, are a lot like the ones I know.  I am so grateful for them all.  Grateful and humbled.  Grateful because their encouragement has meant more than they know.  Humbled because I want to be like them.  What I have learned from watching them is that encouragers are givers.  They are more interested in building up someone else than they are in building up themselves.  They aren't people whose lives are easy, or uncomplicated, or who have nothing better to do.  Often, the complete opposite is true.  They are people, in the middle of their own struggles, their own busy lives, their own to-do list, who simply take a minute, or an hour, or a day, to lighten your load a bit or to do something special for you.  And, I am pretty sure, most of the time, they don't know how much it means.  They are simply just doing what they do.  And, being the recipient of so much of that, has made me want to do more. 

Because I want to do better and because I love a good story, I would love to hear yours.  I'm going to ask something of you that I have never asked before because I have never been "that" kind of blogger.  I'm not sure I am even an actual blogger.  :)  It's just mostly been the way we have been able to best share our adoption journey with those who want to follow along with us.  But, if you don't mind, would you just leave a short comment for me (either here, on Instagram, or Facebook) of a way that someone has encouraged YOU lately?  I would love to hear how the encouragers have been active in your life.  And, I am sure they have been, because they are EVERYWHERE.

This road has already been more than twice as long as we thought it would be when we started down this path, but I am honestly still grateful to be here.  I'm thankful to still be moving forward.  I'm thankful that God called us to walk this road, and that every day is one day closer to our little one.  Thank YOU for going with us on the journey!

~Stacy

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blessing

Today, I woke up excited knowing that I was going to the post office to put a precious piece of cargo in the mail.  We finished up the final piece of our Haiti dossier on Friday (Thank you, Jesus!!!).  We had originally planned to put it in the mail on Saturday, but at the last minute, decided to wait until Monday.  Just like when we went through this process with our paperwork for Ethiopia, I managed to miss every deadline for finishing this dossier that I set for myself.  Three of them, in fact.  I think God probably loves that.  He is always having to remind me that He is in control, and that things actually DO work on His timeline, not mine. 

There have been so many conversations in our house during these last few months as we have worked through the paperwork trail, again.  But, one of the biggest challenges this go-around was that when we felt God leading us to change from Ethiopia to Haiti, we knew it was going to be another challenge to our finances.  This second dossier was not something that was in our financial plan.  But, we were confident that it was in His plan.  As we were nearing the end of our dossier and coming up on another big payment, God made it very clear to my heart one day, just last week, that He called us to adopt, and that He would provide the finances.  I felt it so clearly that I immediately burst into tears.  I knew that He would provide. 

So, today my little man and I made a trip to the post office and happily mailed off our dossier.  With it, went a huge chunk of our savings.  But, there was peace in my heart.  Then, we ran a few more errands and came home to eat lunch together.  As I finished my lunch, I received a text from my friend, Layla (who goes to our church and is also adopting from Haiti!  How cool is that?!), and she asked if she could share my blog on her blog.  Now, if you have never checked out her blog, you totally should.  It's so incredible!  So, laughing a little in my head at how infrequently I blog, I said "Sure!"  Why not, right? 

It wasn't until about an hour later, when little man was down for a nap, and I had a moment to sit down, that I decided to spend some time catching up on Layla's blog.  What started as another fabulous blog post by Layla, ended with me in a puddle of tears.  The very puddle I had joked about on Facebook earlier.  God, in all His goodness, had laid our family on Kevin and Layla's hearts.  And, we were about to be the beneficiary of a blessing we never saw coming.  I will never get over it when people tell me that God has laid us on their hearts.  While they were praying through their own dilemma, He was assuring me He was taking care of ours.  What an absolute joy it is to be a part of the plan He has for our lives.  He has already convinced me that He is writing a much better story than I could have ever dream up. 

I cannot wait for you to read how God is once again revealing Himself in our adoption.  Head on over to The Lettered Cottage now and read the rest of the story.

"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." - 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Thank you for taking the journey with us! 
Stacy

Monday, November 4, 2013

One Year Later

It has been one year.  Not since my last post, but it has been more than a year since we lost the referral for the twins.  Just typing that sentence is STILL enough to bring tears to my eyes.  The term, "adoption loss" is something we have come to understand personally.  It is still hard some days.  I still cry sometimes.  But, the one verse that God has reminded me of this last year is...

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  

I have repeated it over and over in my mind some days.  And, because I believe God and His Word, I have known that He was truly going to somehow work this all for good in our lives.  But, I have often asked Him how.  And, I have asked Him at least 100 times, "What in the WORLD was that about?"  And, honestly, this past year has been one of the quietest years that I have walked through in my relationship with God.  There were no real answers.  There was just a very real feeling that He was there with me in the middle of it all.  But, in the past few weeks, He has started showing us some glimpses of His plan.  Reminding me that nothing takes Him by surprise.  Showing us that He has been working.  For our GOOD.  For His purposes. And, I can't wait to tell you what He has been up to.
 
But, first, let me back up.  We lost the referral for the twins in October of last year.  I will spare you the details of what all went down to make that happen, but suffice it to say, we knew our first step was to cut ties with our Home Study agency.  We did, and God showed us very clearly that it was a step in the right direction.  We started a Home Study update for Illinois (with a new Home Study agency), and, with the blessing of our adoption agency, we started pursuing a concurrent (two-country) adoption process, for both Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Then, God did something completely unexpected.  

Neal came home the week before Christmas, and said that there was an opportunity for us to transfer (with his job) to Alabama.  It wasn't "home" for us, but it was close.  It would put us 2-3 hours from family and also 2 hours or so from many of our friends in Columbus, Georgia.  He would have to apply and be selected, but we only had 24 hours to decide what to do.  After talking about it, we decided to go for it.  And, we prayed a prayer we have prayed often over the years, that if it wasn't meant to be, that God would close the door.  Needless to say, a few days before our 15th Anniversary, we found out we were moving to Alabama.  We. Were. THRILLED.  

One of my biggest hesitations about Neal requesting the transfer was that it would halt our adoption process for a several months.  Although we would technically still be "in the process," we wouldn't have a current Home Study until well after we were settled in our new house in Alabama, which I knew would be months, and, we wouldn't be eligible to accept a referral, should one come our way.  Again, God provided confirmation.  Our fingerprints that we had taken in December to work on our Illinois update, came back to us the week after our anniversary in January.  They had been un-readable and needed to be re-done.  (Don't even get me started on why it took 6 weeks for them to determine this.  SERIOUSLY.) This had never happened to either of us before in the process. For me, it was added confirmation. 

We spent the next few months preparing to move, selling our house, looking for a new house, living in a hotel for a month (enough said), and finally, moving into a new house.  All the while, our adoption agency continued to prove themselves supportive, patient, and understanding.  There was no pressure from them at all.  However, they also made the decision in the middle of all of this to stop issuing wait list numbers. So, if you are wondering what happened with that or what number we are, there's your answer.  We were #77 in April, and that's the last we know.  :)

Fast forward to August.  It's almost time for school to start, and we feel like it is time to start the Home Study update.  At this point, to be honest, it had a lot to do with the fact that our Immigration paperwork was coming up on a deadline, and it really came down to the fact that we felt like we just needed to be obedient to what we believe God has called us to do.  People adopt for a lot of reasons.  Some have great stories to go with their reasons.  Neal and I will tell you every single time that we simply believe God intervened in our contentedly 3-children-are-enough-for-us life and put adoption on our hearts.  It's just our story.  But, at this point, when I would think about our process, the loss of the referral, and the mountain it felt like that was still in front of us, I have to say that a lot of days, I honestly just didn't want to do it.  But, at the end of the day, we knew God was still telling us it was time to move forward. 
 
So, we started our Alabama Home Study update.  And, it was exactly as much fun (ZERO), as it had been the last two times we had started a Home Study except for the fact that this time our Home Study agency has been wonderful!  But, for me, this step forward was crucial in my relationship with God.  It didn't get easy. But, I felt God very quietly speaking to me again. And, I felt like during those few weeks, He began helping me process and make some sense of the last year of our lives and showing me ways that He had been in the details.  He began to show me that, even in the loss, even in the move, even in the extended wait, and even in quiet, that He had been working.   

Over and over again throughout this process, so many people have asked us "Why Ethiopia?" or "How did you choose a country?" And, our answer has always been, "We wanted to go to a country where there was great need."   That, for us, was the requirement.  What you also must understand is that very often, in international adoption, countries just rule themselves out because they each have their own unique requirements for adoptive parents.  We started with an initial list of countries that tugged on our hearts, but we slowly began crossing countries off the list for various reasons (i.e. we weren't old enough, we had too many biological children, we couldn't be in another country for months, etc.).  So, at that time, we very happily ended up in Ethiopia.  But, what we learned at our home visit a few weeks ago is that due to some recent changes, we now met the requirements for Haiti.  For HAITI.  Some of you who know us well can probably imagine how quickly our ears perked up when we heard that news.  Haiti was the first country to be crossed off our list initially.  We were ruled out by THREE requirements at the time.  By the end of this year, we will meet them all. 

So, the next few days were spent talking, praying, and investigating the possibilities.  After all of that, we felt God opening the door for us to move forward, all the while praying, again, for Him to shut it if it was not meant to be.  Suffice it to say, He has very clearly opened the doors for us to move forward.  So, as of last week, we officially terminated our Ethiopian adoption process and transferred to our agency's new Haiti adoption program.  We are EXCITED. 

I know for some of you, this might make no sense, and for others of you, it will make perfect sense.  Haiti has been heavy on our hearts since the earthquake in 2010.  Neal spent 10 days in Haiti last Summer on a mission trip, and I have no doubt that he would have been back this Summer if it hadn't been for the move.  And, almost two years ago, God led me to organize a group of runners to run a 5K and raise enough money to build a house in Haiti through a wonderful organization called Help One Now.  And, in April of this year, we were able to raise money for a second house!  You can read the story of those houses here.  It's fairly safe to say that Haiti has had our hearts for a while.  And, now, it looks like we have a child there as well.  And, for my "Run for a Reason" friends, I think you should know that the orphanage where will we go one day to pick up our child is in the SAME VILLAGE as our first Run for a Reason house.  How's that for AWESOME?  It honestly feels like its a story only God could write.  

I know that for those who have walked this journey with us from the beginning, that the change is a lot to process.  It is for us as well.  To answer the number one question that I am sure will come our way, the timeline is about 2-3 years.  From now.  But, that's honestly what I believe we still had left to go in our Ethiopia process.  Y'all just sit tight.  It's going to be a ride.  Like, a LONG ride.  We are currently finishing our home study update for Alabama and working on our Haiti dossier.  We are hoping to be done in the next few weeks with all of the above, but nothing about our process has moved on our timeline, so we shall see.  I tell everyone who asks about our adoption that ours will probably be the longest process you have ever heard of.  But, I can tell you for sure that God is the One moving us forward.  I was reminded of this verse in the first few days we were contemplating a transfer to Haiti - 

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." - Proverbs 16:9

We feel like God is definitely guiding our steps.  We are beyond grateful to all who have walked beside us, cheering us on in our journey, especially this last year.  It has meant the world to us.  Please pray for us as we move forward.  There are a LOT of unknowns in Haiti's adoption process right now.  A lot of the details about the timeline are not firm.  And, there are some things about the timeline that are going to be HARD.  But, I will share more about those as we come to them.  But, friends, it looks like we are going to Haiti somewhere between 2-3 times in the next 2-3 years.  Isn't that just as clear as mud?  And, if you ever secretly wonder if we have lost our minds, just know that there are days when we wonder that out loud. ;)

With much love, 
Stacy