Friday, August 31, 2012

We're Officially Waiting!!

Today was the day.

August 31, 2012.

Our Dossier was FINALLY  sent to Ethiopia!! For those of you who have been following my blog, I have been talking about this day for a loonnnggg time!! Why? Because the day a family's Dossier (ALL of the paperwork we have been completing jammed into one envelope) is sent to Ethiopia, that family is officially placed on our agency's waiting list! Before now... we were simply collecting tons and tons of paperwork to make us eligible for a referral. Finally - we are here!

Most popular questions:

"So, now how long?"
Right now families with our agency should expect an 18-24 month wait before a referral.

Yep :(

"Do you really think it will take that long?"
Unfortunately, yes. At this time I do not anticipate a referral outside of this time frame. This time frame is subject to change (for better or worse) so I will be praying over the months to come for the process to speed up!

"Will you have a waitlist number?"
No. Our agency does not give out waitlist numbers. There are different methods of "anticipating" approximately when we might receive a referral, but unfortunately even with agencies who have waitlist numbers - it is still a guessing game. It is all completely in God's hands.

"So how will you keep up with where you are on the waiting list?"
We will use several different means to estimate this.
1) the 18-24 month time frame. Example if we have been waiting 2 months and the time frame is still 18-24 months... I probably don't need to start painting the nursery right away. However, once we have been waiting 19 months and the time frame is still 18-24 months... we can start getting some things ready for little man to come home.
2) We will get updates every month on referrals that went out that month. Along with these referrals are the family's DTE date (Dossier to Ethiopia). Our DTE date is today 8/31/12. So once we start seeing referrals go out for male infants/toddlers with DTE dates of June or July 2012 we will know that we are getting close.

It is all quite complicated :)) I will do my best to keep you guys as informed as possible! Thank you so much for your continued support. Please continue to pray for us. We have a long wait ahead of us filled with ups and downs. Please continue to pray for the Lord's financial provision. HE has provided so much this far! Lee and I are amazed that in 7 months the Lord has provided approximately $12,000. Yes. Just seeing that number amazes me! Thank you so much to all of you who have given!! We still have anywhere from 13 to 20 thousand left to raise.

Malachi... sweet boy... I say this all the time... you.. are.. worth.. it.. ALL! Every blog post. Every dime. Every piece of paper we fill out. Every day we wait. We would do it all over again at the drop of a hat. We are coming for you! You will not be fatherless. You will be ours.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
John 14:18

We have embraced today.

A few precious sentences from the email I received from our agency today:
I teared up re-reading the email time and time again.

"Welcome to the Waiting Stage of your adoption from Ethiopia! You have successfully completed the paperchasing process..."

"Remember that the whole adoption process is a journey, and the steps toward bringing a child home have begun!"

One last thing I want to share.
One day this week I was talking to some co-workers about our hurting world... from sex-trafficking to orphans. A coworker said, "you know... that's what happens. Once our eyes are opened to the hurt... something rises up in us and there is no way we can ignore it any longer. We have to do something about it." It was as if her words pierced me. I am in no way perfect or even coming close to meeting the needs of a hurting world. However, every once in a while the Lord is gracious enough to remind me of the journey He has taken me on so far. When she uttered the words "our eyes are opened and something rises up in us. There is no way we can sit back and do nothing" my mind flashed back to the months when Lee and I were praying about whether or not the Lord desired for us to adopt. Our eyes were opened to the fatherless. I distinctly remember nights when I LITERALLY could not sleep. One night in particular I rose with my stomach churning and heart aching. I said to God, "they are hungry, please Lord give them a bottle. Help them." The thought of a child being without a bottle haunted me. The thought of a child being without a mother, or a father.. a home.. a bed.. clothes.. Christmas. It all haunted both of us. We are thankful because our eyes were opened and our lives will never be the same... Praise God.

Some blogs I read leave me thinking... aching...
I read this blog yesterday. She is yet another example of the Lord opening someone's eyes and their life will never look the same. Check it out if you have a minute :)

The Boy With The Finger
Have an awesome weekend!!

1st Saturday of College Football tomorrow! :))

Monday, August 27, 2012

Help Put Shoes On Their Feet


Something we in America often take for granted. My personal closet is full of them. This is not the case for everyone in the world. In fact, shoes are one of the main items that some people long to have.
I love TOMS one-for-one. I love giving money to organizations that reach out to provide things such as shoes to people all over the world. But WHAT IF we could skip the large middle-man corporation and instead give the money directly to the individual who would buy and hand out the shoes to those in need? See a need and meet it. No fancy advertisements. No big websites. No major ministry. Instead, simply giving money to someone and saying "go buy those sweet kids some shoes!"

The Lord has recently presented this opportunity to me on 2 different occasions... For 2 different countries.

Africa and Ukraine

Below are two different stories of kids in need of shoes. I am naming it the 30$ challenge! For 30$ you can have a hand in directly giving a child a pair of shoes and even a Bible. No, this has nothing to do with our specific adoption, but our hearts are falling in love with children all over the world.

Ethiopia, Africa.

Brittni Huff (another adoptive mom from our agency) recently read a blog from a missionary in Africa. The missionary was not in any way asking for money in her blog post. She was simply describing events that were happening in Africa. However, the Lord stirred Brittni's heart to move in action and help the kids that the missionary described in her story. The specific need.... SHOES. I love how God moves in the hearts of those willing to take action. I pray that you would read the following blog posts to learn more about this specific need in Ethiopia.

Click HERE to read Brittni's post on how to help!

Click HERE to read the original story.

NEXT POST... How to help put shoes on the feet of orphaned girls in UKRAINE.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Helmet Update

Monday welcomed another 2 week check-up for Miller's helmet. He is growing, but still no major changes in his head shape per the measurements.However, we all agree that his head looks almost symmetrical to the naked eye. The helmet also needed a lot of adjustments. Monday's visit took a while because of all the adjusting and brainstorming we were doing. Needless to say... my 1 year old became weary of sitting in one room and decided he would explore the entire clinic... on foot! No time for being held these days.

This is Miller attempting to measure his head :)

We couldn't contain this child! He thought the clinic was a playground! It wore me out chasing him around :) He was everywhere! Halls. Offices. Etc.

Further entertainment... spinning on the stool and "riding" the stool around the room.

When I took Miller's helmet off that night, I realized that he had a red spot where the helmet was applying too much pressure. Please don't gasp :) This is very common and we have had this multiple times during the process... but alas, it meant another trip to the clinic for adjustments the next day!

THE VERDICT: We are nearing Miller's "Helmet Graduation!" I cannot say exactly when it will be, but we all agree that we are on the home stretch! I am tempted to say that he may graduate in 2 weeks during our next visit, but I could be wrong. So, of course, I am planning "graduation" stuff :)) just in case!

Thinking about Miller's helmet graduation presents a basket of mixed emotions for me. Weird right? How could I possibly have any emotion other than excitement? I guess because I'm a woman and a Mama!
I have learned that when a stage of Miller's life comes to an end it leaves me with a mixture of sadness and joy, so why would this be any different?
  • Initially, one of the most devastating things about the helmet was how different it made my son look and feel. I know it's hard to grasp what I am saying, but imagine this: Every time I picked Miller up pre-helmet, I would kiss his head (a million times). Once he got the helmet, kissing his head became obsolete - it was kiss a HARD helmet or nothing. However, over time, the way he looks and feels in the helmet has become our new normal. Seeing him without it on is "strange" to us. And let's be honest... he is just plain cute in that helmet! It will be sad to know that I will never see him in it again other than pictures. My heart has grown ENORMOUSLY large for babies in helmets!
  • The helmet has been a lifesaver with a child learning to walk! I fear a concussion in the future without it!
  • It has been, yet another, season where the Lord was extra near to us in so many different ways - from forming relationships to healing Miller's head.
  • It has humbled us...  A LOT!
  • Gratitude pours from me every 2 weeks (or less) as I drive to the clinic for check-ups - thankful that this is only a short season in my child's life and not a lifetime full of doctor visits.
  • It has presented so many interesting public conversations and situations! I love a funny public story. I always have. There is something about them that just plain cracks me up!! It's been interesting to hear people who babysit Miller and take him into public come back and say "you weren't lying! People just stare or ask questions!" So, I think it's only appropriate to finish this blog with a story from being in public today! :))
Disclaimer: I tell these stories because I think they are funny and because I honestly do not believe that these people have malicious intent. I think they are just curious and display it in funny ways.

So. I took Miller on a walk down the street. I was pulling him in the wagon. Of course the "normal" things happened such as people taking second glances, smiling excessively, or the same kids riding by us multiple times on their bikes staring as they ride by. But the funniest thing happened when we were headed back home. We walked through the 4 way stop (we were going straight through it) and a truck pulled up to the stop sign behind us. The driver was an elderly lady. As she began turning right, apparently she noticed the helmet because she began to slow down... almost coming to a complete stop in the middle of the road. Her eyes were looking directly at Miller's helmet. She began squinting... tilted her glasses down on her nose... lowered her head to the bottom of the window... and even began to roll down the window to get a better look. I almost wanted to scream "I can SEE you!" Her truck is just coasting at this point. She continues staring until her neck has rotated as far as the muscles will allow, then she quickly corrects her vehicle onto her side of the road. She NEVER even made eye contact with me. She was staring so intently at Miller that I am pretty sure she would have bumped into another car if it would have been at the 4-way stop. She honestly just looked really confused about the whole situation ;))

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dossier to AWAA

On Tuesday, I went to FedEx Office and made copies of all of our Dossier paperwork.It was a somewhat surreal experience.
Today, Thursday August 16th - Lee put our Dossier in the mail, sending it to our agency (America World). Our last 6 months - piled into one little box/envelope - placed in the hands of FedEx to travel across multiple states in less than 24 hours. My heart will be happy when it safely arrives! Lee said that he was nervous being in charge of mailing the Dossier. I told him he would do great and just to remember to TAKE PICTURES :) He did! He's such a good husband and daddy!

We are not "officially" on the waiting list until our agency says our Dossier looks good and they send it to Ethiopia. However, we are one huge step closer! Please pray that ALL of our paperwork looks good and that they can send it to Ethiopia ASAP :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We got our "Golden Ticket!!"

On Saturday, I checked the mail and there it was! Our USCIS approval! I felt like doing a toe touch right there in the street, but refrained as I would have probably only injured myself :-)
I ran inside and told Lee. He said "let me see it!!" He looked through it and then said (in all seriousness), "why is it not yellow? Didn't you say it would be our golden ticket?"
:-) I guess I didn't explain my picture analogy very well.

We went out to eat Saturday night to celebrate! We had a gift card to eat at Shapley's and were so excited. For those of you not from the Jackson area- Shapley's is a very nice restaurant. We have never been there before so it was a treat.
I love attending nice restaurants with Lee. We are both open and honest with our lack of etiquette skills. We are that couple that pulls it off by smiling and acting like we know what we are doing, but inside we are completely second guessing every move :) We know we aren't alone. We have a sweet friend who knows her etiquette and has been educating us and others over the past year. Love you Alicia!

A little dialogue from our dinner:

Lee: "So, I'm not suppose to do this huh (propping both elbows on the table when we first got there)?"

Abby: "no! Get those elbows down."

(a few minutes later)

Lee: "Abby, your elbows are on the table."
Abby: "crap!"

Abby: (looking at two pieces of lettuce on the floor near lees chair)
"Lee, you dropped food on the floor."

Lee: "Abby, seriously. I did NOT do that! It must have already been here!"
He still denies it :)

Lee: "man, I really think Im going to have to sop my bread even though I know I'm not suppose to."

Abby: "please refrain :-)"

He refrained. For those of you concerned.

We had lots of funny conversation throughout the whole dinner!

Afterwards, we went to Barnes and Noble. Lee took me there because he knows I love to browse around. We bought Malachi his first gift from us :) its a children's book about adoption. I have been eyeballing it for months. I knew exactly where it was located and decided that tonight was the night to get it!
Lee and I smiled as we walked out! There was something very real and exciting about buying Chi a gift.

An attempt to explain EXACTLY where we are in the process now:
We have completed all of the paperwork necessary to submit our Dossier to Ethiopia. The dossier is basically our file that will eventually get matched with Malachi's file (upon referral). Once the Dossier is submitted - we are OFFICIALLY on the waiting list for our agency. The countdown to Malachi will begin that day :-))
We hope to get our Dossier submitted to our agency THIS week. There are unfortunately a few steps we have to do before we can submit (mainly notarizations, copies, etc).
We will keep you posted!

Dossier paperwork! A beautiful sight :) only missing our family pics!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pure Cuteness

On Tuesday, Miller had his 2 week helmet appointment. The appointment went well. His ears had shifted towards alignment by approx 1/4 inch (yay!). No major changes with his head shape (we still lack 1/16th inch to symmetry). They adjusted the helmet a little and we will follow up again in 2 weeks. I am hoping that we can continue wearing it through August and hopefully hit one last growth spurt! His little head looks so good!

After the appointment, Miller and I were walking through the waiting room to exit the building. We rounded the corner and I saw the most precious sight EVER! I thought my heart was going to melt all over the floor in the waiting room! There sat 2 little twin boys wearing little. blue. helmets! Ahhhh. Something about a baby in a blue helmet just makes my heart melt :-)

It was so refreshing speaking with the grandmother (she had brought them to their appointment) about their journey with the helmets. It was fun to hear her excitement about the twins hitting a growth spurt and seeing some improvements from the helmet in a short amount of time. There is something so encouraging about talking to people who truly "get" what you are going through! The good times and the bad in the journey. We didn't get to talk long because they were being called back, but I whipped out my phone and asked if I could take a picture! I just had to have one! She said "of course!" and asked me to text her the pictures as well.

Look at them. That is just too much cuteness for one picture. My heart can barely handle it!

Their mom had decorated their helmets so cute! They had their names on the front and baseball stickers on the back. It is time for Miller to get some decor!

I am not sure what is going through Miller's mind in this picture.
The possibilities:
- "hey dude... you've got something on your head!"
- "cool stickers!"
- "So that's what I look like in my helmet??"

Answers to potential questions:
1) No, we did not know them prior to this meeting. They just happen to have the same doctor and Orthotist we do and had an appointment after us.
2) No, not all helmets are blue. Actually... Miller's helmet was the first plain blue that URC had done. These two little guys got theirs after Miller. There are TONS of colors and patterns they let you pick from.
3) These two little guys are only 7 months old. Miller is 1 year.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A divine mistake

Rewind with me to Friday afternoon.

After work, I picked up Miller and headed home. My anxiety was rising because it was 6:00 and I had to pick up Lee at 7:00 from work to head out of town for Miller's birthday party weekend! I knew I was responsible for loading up all of our bags plus all the birthday party stuff!! Anxiety came in because of the timeline and a little confession... I don't pack. Long story. God just simply didn't design me to be organized, so I am thankful he partnered me with a man who is quick and efficient at packing! Anyway. As we pulled up to the driveway I realized that the mail had not been checked today! Yay! Excitement rising now. So I parked the car and immediately checked the mail. As I opened the mailbox I saw one... white... letter sitting in it. I flipped it over and saw the return label "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services." I smiled. Could this be IT? Our FINAL piece of paperwork?? Of course... I opened it standing in the road at the mailbox. As I was opening the letter something didn't feel right. I could see through the white envelope that the letter was pink. PINK??? For some reason "pink" felt like bad news. It was. The letter was titled "request for evidence." The first sentence said, "The USCIS is unable to complete the processing of you Orphan Petition I-600A at this time." My heart sank. I skimmed through it in the street and couldn't understand it. I hurried into the house and got Miller entertained with food and toys so I could focus. I read through the letter again... and again... and again. My emotions were making it difficult to focus. I was on a timeline and had so much to do. It was 6:00 p.m. and I figured that everyone was off work, but I frantically began to look up USCIS phone numbers. Of course - they were closed. I would have to wait til Monday. Basically the letter was saying that I needed to submit "original copies of our homestudy, etc with original signatures." I was confused because I was pretty sure that we had done that. The letter wasn't a friendly letter requesting the above documents. It was fairly abrupt. I called Lee. He could tell that I was emotional about it all and he just spoke sweet truth to me. He said "Abby... Malachi just isn't ready yet. God is aligning us with him." Lee reminded me of God's faithfulness in the past and encouraged me to cling to that. Although I felt like throwing a hissy fit - Lee was right. So I calmed down and decided that I wouldn't mention the letter to anyone over the weekend because it was Miller's birthday party and I wanted to enjoy it!

Forced to wait.

Desiring to pray.

Reminded that HE is in complete control of this entire journey. Not me.

There are times in this journey that I am desperate to hear from Him, to have Him move on our behalf and more than anything.... to have Him just draw near to me! This weekend was one of those times. Yesterday and today as well.

He was faithful.

My Spirit is refreshed not because He made me happy and answered my prayers, but because I stepped down from my "throne" on this journey and returned to my rightful position - my knees.

The verdict. My sweet, sweet coordinator from our home study agency contacted the appropriate people on Monday & Tuesday regarding the letter. She sent me an email today that said, "Officer M. said that it was a MISTAKE and that he would begin reviewing your file at this time. Disregard the letter."

Really?? I feel myself wanting to get sassy about it! I will refrain.

Truth is. It wasn't a mistake from a spiritual sense.
1) the slow down will align us with our son.
2) God wanted to get my attention and I NEEDED Him to get my attention. I needed to return to complete dependency on Him and Him alone. To claim that this is HIS story... not mine.

Tonight... I am thankful.

In case I didn't word it well... the letter that USCIS sent us was a mistake and our file is currently under review. If When they approve us, we will FINALLY receive the piece of paper I have labeled "golden ticket." Our. Last. Piece. Of. Paperwork. Needed. For. Our. Dossier.

Please pray that we will receive this approval soon!

On a happy note - Miller's party went so well! It was a joint birthday party with his twin cousins, Mia and Chord! Everyone had a lot of fun! Below is a picture of Miller LOVING swimming at his party!!