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,