Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Travel Approval

     Well...we got it! The coveted TA...Travel Approval! In fact, we received our Travel Approval AND our confirmed CA (Consulate Appointment) within an hour of when I posted my last blog entry! Excited is an understatement. Josiah will be IN OUR ARMS on July 3. This was the earliest date we could have had...and God allowed us to have it. Thank you, Jesus! As of Saturday, we've got booked flights. As of yesterday, we've got cemented travel itineraries. And as of today, we've got somewhat packed bags. It's happening!
     Each day, I fluctuate between SUPER productive and SUPER distracted. I try not to settle on any one thought for too long.
     Exhibit A: In about a week, we'll be boarding a plane for 15+ hours. The one thing I'm terrified of (besides being submerged in a body of water inside a car) flying. I vividly remember crying on the way to the airport when we flew into Denver for my BIL's wedding. Surprise, surprise, I know. But, I also learned that I now have a more physical reaction...vomiting. The last time I flew to Las Vegas, I couldn't function the first day due to excessive puking. Next thought!
     Exhibit B: In about a week, we'll be leaving behind our three kiddos...with schedules and bedtime stories and special moments, oh my! And we won't take them to these things, read them these stories, or witness these moments...for two weeks. So, of course, I cry each time I think about this fact. Next!
     Exhibit C: In just over a week, I will hold our precious Josiah IN MY ARMS! To think that we began our journey {remember, in a South Korea program!} almost 3 years ago...and now we finally get to love on the child God has given us...well that brings me to tears too. So I have to move on.
     See what I mean? Super distracted days are super exhausting- emotionally speaking. Here's what I need to focus on: praying. Eric sent me an email earlier this week with the verse Philippians 4:6 where it tell us not to worry about anything...but instead, PRAY continually. This is definitely something I need to make sure I'm focused upon these next several days. Here are some things I'm praying for, specifically:
     -Our health...we're told jet lag is horrible and it's not uncommon to become ill while in-country due to a variety of factors. I'm not praying against jet-lag. That's unavoidable. But I am praying for strength and energy when Josiah needs us most. He will likely not appreciate being in our arms on July 3. That's the reality. There will likely be tears and screaming. Honestly, we've got pretty low expectations for our Gotcha Day. But I pray that Eric and I can feel well enough to meet Josiah wherever he's at and not be so ill that we can't give our boy what he needs when he needs it.
     -Josiah's health...that we wouldn't disrupt his little world in such a way that he becomes sick and refuses to eat, etc. Disruption is inevitable. But I pray that he feels safe and comfortable enough with us after those first several that he can continue to grow and flourish in a healthy way with us!
    -Our visit to the orphanage...we'll visit Josiah's orphanage on a Thursday. I am already anxious about is such an important trip for us to take. It truly is necessary. We need to be able to understand where our son has spent the last 15+ months of his we can answer any questions he might have later on. A conversation only we can have with him. But I know this trip will be see other babies and other kids who are likely waiting...I don't want to be a blubbery mess the entire time I'm there. That will surely scare some people! I'm praying for strength and emotional stability.
     -Our flight...that things would run as close to on time as possible and that Josiah would sleep some on the plane. Many kids become ill...repeatedly...on the long flight. Many kids cry uncontrollably. The trip home is emotionally and physically exhausting- for everyone. That is unavoidable. BUT, if our flight could be on time...then we can at least try to muster up the strength to survive the expected length of the trip...and not need extra energy for any unexpected delays.
     We are overjoyed to finally be at this stage in our story...and I hope to update our blog while we're in-country! Now to try and's 1:43AM here...BUT it's 1:43PM in China...I wonder what our sweet boy is doing now?! The kids and I always like to imagine throughout the week...what Josiah is doing at any given moment. We can't wait to share these daily moments with him in such a short time! Goodnight, Josiah. Mommy loves you!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Bad Case of the Hiccups

     In March, after we had said YES to our son, we submitted an LOI (Letter of Intent- saying you have a desire to adopt your specific child). After your LOI, you are waiting for something called a Pre-Approval. This process typically takes a week. Except in our case...because we received our pre-approval the VERY NEXT day. This kind of timing definitely isn't ordinary. We were beyond excited that our process was gaining speed. I remember sitting down with a friend and talking about potential travel dates. She too was shocked that we had received such a quick LOI and in turn, LOA (Letter of Acceptance). She offered to go home and plug our important dates into a spreadsheet that can estimate your time of travel. Our "quick" travel date was April. Um...this was MARCH! YIKES! I almost couldn't wrap my brain around that quick of a turnaround. Our "normal" travel date was May. This fit much better with my obligations during the school year as a teacher. We were done at the end of May so I wouldn't have to take off a lot of time if we left before the last day of school.
     Our next big step was waiting for our I800. This step takes 4 weeks. It is not a part of the process that can be miraculously shorter. It's one of those "known" steps which can be a breath of fresh air when there are so many waiting periods of UNKNOWNS in this process. We sent our I800 application to our agency who then forwards it on to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). *Do you sort of feel like this post should have been named alphabet soup? So many acronyms!* Two weeks into our wait...we received a letter from USCIS. I was so anxious to open it up! Unfortunately, the letter was informing us that our application had been rejected due to a missing signature. I was in disbelief. We had missed one spot for Eric to sign. What was even more frustrating...was that our agency didn't catch it. This oops set us back TWO weeks. That may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but it felt like an eternity.
     Shortly after we sent in our corrected I800, we received our letter confirming that our application had been sent to our I800 officer. This means that we had two more weeks to wait before this specific step was complete. At the two week mark, I still hadn't heard anything. I had been reading from others online that you can call your USCIS officer and ask about the status of your application. I decided to do this...and was connected to a very kind officer. OUR kind officer. She shared that she had just sent us an RFE the day before and that if we had any questions about it...we could call her! Ok. So an RFE is a "Request for Evidence." This means our agency would need to supply more information to the officer for one reason or another. I was sick after hearing this news. I immediately called our social worker...who I could not get a hold of via phone. I tried email.
     A few minutes later, I received a phone call. I knew it wasn't our social worker because of the number. But I didn't recognize it. I answered quickly. It was our officer on the phone! She apologized about misspeaking just moments before. She actually had our application on her desk and had been trying to reach our social worker that week to discuss something about our paperwork. I explained that I could not get a hold of her either and so I went ahead and called our agency director of the China program. She called our officer immediately to find out the situation. In short, our home study listed some specific mild to moderate special needs that we were open to as a family. It was not an all-inclusive list, but it also did not use the phrase "including, but not limited to." Basically, our list COULD be interpreted as an all-inclusive list. Well, since we adopted our little guy off of the waiting child list...his SN wasn't named in our list of examples within the home study. *Now, I had called our SW several weeks prior to check on this specific situation because it was one of the things suggested to families in an email that was sent out. I was told it would be fine.* Our agency director remedied the situation but shared that the only place where this would turn into a problem again would be at the Article 5 process. It was worth the risk to continue on in our minds. Making amendments at this point meant more delays and more money.
     After the I800 process, you work through a series of steps to get you ready for the Article 5 pick up and drop off. This is done IN China at the Consulate...only on certain days...and it takes exactly 2 weeks. Again, this is a "known" step that cannot be hurried. We were finally set for A5 drop off on a Tuesday. A week later, we received an email saying that our A5 was ready for pick up the following Tuesday. All systems go. We were SO CLOSE! Except we weren't. On the day we were scheduled for pick up, we received an email that said our A5 could NOT be picked up due to missing information from Josiah's medical report. Our social worker explained that this situation was worked out between the Consulate and the CCCWA (China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption). The agency has nothing to do with this issue and is hands-off. I was crushed. CRUSHED. Yet another hiccup. We were already into June and there was no end in sight. I waited and waited...but heard nothing. I reached out to others online and this problem was not new to some. In some cases, the issue was resolved within a couple of days. In other situations, it was resolved within a couple of weeks. I felt paralyzed. I emailed our social worker...but heard nothing back. I emailed the director and she called me right away. She said that she would look into the situation after a week had passed...and if we had still heard nothing. If the email said it was missing medical information, then that's what it was...except that it wasn't. A week passed and still crickets. The agency director called...and learned that the Consulate was actually waiting on a new I800 from us. WHAT!? This was NOT the issue we were told at first and now an entire week was wasted (again) because we couldn't get involved. I was unraveling fast. All I knew to do was gather our prayer warriors and pray. We literally heard the phrase "In my 16 years of working with China, we've never had this happen." The issue was in fact our worst nightmare. The issue we had with our I800 was now rearing its ugly head at the point of the process where it would only be an issue...the Article 5 process.
     Even more ironic than the occurrence of this problem was that the issue was actually being asked to be resolved by USCIS. This was truly a God-thing. Typically, this problem is asked to be fixed by the adoptive family. We would need to update our home study to match the wording of our son's SN. This means our social worker would need to come and visit and then make changes to our home study which we would then have to resubmit for I800 (4 week process). I could barely travel there in my mind. We were grateful that this was not yet the case, and prayed for favor from USCIS in this unprecedented situation. We should know something in a few days. Miraculously, the situation was remedied and we did NOT have to delay our process any longer. Our A5 was picked up and we were officially waiting on TA (Travel Approval)!
     TA typically comes within 7-10 days of your Article 5 pick up. Our pick up was on June 5/6...and as of now, we've heard nothing. I emailed our travel person because I was truly hoping for a June family day still...only to hear that the earliest available family day for us was July 3. July. This was not even a month I had wrapped my mind around. I didn't even think it was possible. July is my last true month of summer break before school starts. I don't have enough sick time built up to take time off at the beginning of the year...unpaid leave is now inevitable. Admittedly, in times like these, it is HARD to understand that God's timing is perfect. My lists of "cons" can get long, quickly. To make matters even more interesting, no TAs have been issued because the TA office is apparently moving offices. I almost laugh now. Almost. We also heard that the TA officer was on vacation last week. In my own little world, it's me vs. China. Doesn't China know that my son is in an orphanage waiting for his MOMMY AND DADDY to come and get him?! Doesn't China care? But, I am one person. And there are lots of families just like us that are anxiously waiting to bring home their son or daughter. They're experiencing the same agonizing wait that we've experienced...with no urgency on China's part. But, I have to remember that I cannot be selfish. People in China are allowed to take vacation. They are also allowed to move offices just like government offices do here in the U.S. We are not dissimilar in these ways. <Stop being selfish, Lindsay.>
     Adoption is such a refining process. And I can be so unwilling to be refined. And lately, I have not wanted to be patient. But God calls us to be patient. He asks us to trust. Trust in Him. Trust in His timing. And I know that this bad case of hiccups will be over with soon...and our son will be in OUR arms at the most perfect time. HIS time. Not ours.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


     So as I've shared before...I wear my heart RIGHT on my sleeve. I can be <slightly> impulsive with my feelings. I recently saw a shirt that said "I can't keep calm because...ORPHANS." Annnnnnd I'll probably need that shirt sooner than later. I can obsess about situations that tug at my heart strings...which are easily tugged. In short (or long), I am basically an emotional ball of MESS. I'd still like to think of this quality as both good and bad though. Ok? Ok.
     Like take the day almost five years ago when I bought a baby bag...before I had a baby. Yeah. Makes sense, right? Well, maybe if you were actually pregnant. But I wasn't. I wanted to be pregnant (again)...but I wasn't yet. But there I the Vera Bradley Outlet sale...buying a baby bag. That's what I do. That's how I roll. The irony is that we would experience secondary infertility for the next four-ish years. While those were some of the most trying times in our marriage...I grew and learned so much about my relationship with Christ. In short, I NEED Christ. Badly. Moving on!
    Now let's take the day about three years ago when I was in TJ Maxx and saw the cutest wooden letter J. There it was...sitting on a shelf...staring at me. Before I could blink, there the J jumped...into my cart. Ok fine. It didn't jump. I snatched that letter RIGHT up though! Why, you ask?! Because I have liked the name "Josiah" for a long time and I really wanted to name a little boy Josiah. OUR little boy.
    Recap: I had a baby bag, but no baby. I also had a letter J, but no baby boy to name Josiah. Ok, great. We're on the same page! Emotional ball of mess. It's who I am! But, God! Remember? Let's fast forward to six months ago when we began our journey to our sweet and precious boy.
    When we received our first pictures of our little guy...I immediately remembered my boy name...Josiah! He looked like a Josiah. (Of course he did!) But again, I wanted to get Eric's opinion and see what he was thinking. And then I looked up the meaning of Josiah. And the decision process pretty much ended before it even began. Josiah means "healed or supported by God." Of course it does! I made sure I typed in the right spelling. I checked a few other sites. "Healed or supported by God." All across the board. At that moment, I broke down and cried. It was truly the PERFECT name for our sweet and precious boy.
    You see...we haven't shared our Josiah's special need with anyone. This is for several reasons. Mostly, there's a lot of unknown. We don't want to share something that we don't know much about. We want to get him home so we can fully understand what's going on and how we can help him. We also don't want his special need to define him. Says every Mama Bear in the history of ever. Someone recently told me...that he doesn't look like he has a special need. And honestly, it broke my heart a little. I know this comment was not meant to be hurtful. But this comment is exactly why we aren't sharing until we know more. And even then, we'll be careful to protect our sweet Josiah...because whether God heals Josiah PHYSICALLY...we KNOW our God will heal Josiah SPIRITUALLY...and we believe our God can heal Josiah EMOTIONALLY. Josiah, you are loved. You are treasured. You are HIS. And we love you

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Snail Mail and China

     Two weeks. Fourteen days. Three hundred and thiry-six hours. What can be accomplished in this amount of time? Well, I'm here to tell you...enough. Enough can happen when God is in control.
     When we were given the file of our little guy, there was a lot of uncertainty. We were overwhelmed by the unknown. There were terms in his file that we had never heard before. And then there was this shortened time frame. We had a LOT of learning to do in not so much time. SO, like many other situations before, I immediately began to do some research on my own. Enter: Google! I've typed many a word into a Google search throughout our adoption journey. And like many scenarios in life, you get the good with the bad. The scary with the hopeful. Annnnnd everything in between.
     I also took the advice of many adoption agencies and consulted a doctor well-versed in international adoptions. I had spoken with a doctor out of Cincinnati Children's Hospital a few years ago when we had wanted to review a file of a little one in South Korea. It was a wonderful experience and they were so impressive. This time, however, I decided to reach out to an IAC that was slightly closer to home. Admittedly, I didn't know this IAC existed a few years ago when we had first begun our adoption process. I made the initial phone call to seek out financial information and how their process typically worked. I was super surprised when I was given the doctor's personal cell phone number. I called and had an amazing conversation with this doctor. She told me to forward her the file, pictures, videos, etc. and she would be in touch.
     A day later, she sent measurement and growth charts with all of his data plotted. She also shared a wonderful list of follow-up questions to send to the orphanage. I immediately forwarded these questions to our social worker. Remember, we're down to crunch time at this point. The clock was ticking. Our social worker responded that she would most certainly send our questions to the orphanage. She also made sure to inform us that it was possible that we would not receive a response.
     China. Adoption. International. Any and all of these words remind you quickly that this is not an "ask and you shall receive" type of scenario. But Eric and I decided to pray and wait. We basically decided that if we did not hear back from China, we would take that as a "Not now" answer to this little guy. We wanted to have complete peace about whether we were the right family for this little boy and his special needs.
     On March 9th, we received an email with an updated video and updated answers to almost all of our questions. This email was an absolute answer to prayer! We still had a little bit of time to make a decision we felt peaceful about. As we watched the updated video, we both smiled from ear to ear. Immediately, I felt as though this boy was OURS. I tend to be the more heart-headed person in our marriage so I didn't want to jump to I asked Eric what he thought. We spent the next several hours talking a LOT about what was going on in our hearts. The next day, I spoke on the phone with our IAC doctor. She shared a lot of positive things based on our update we had received. She also shared the scary things. I fully expected her to say the things she said. She's a doctor. And I don't expect her to understand our hearts and the calling we truly felt God was placing on our hearts. She had a couple of questions she wanted us to ask the orphanage as a follow-up to the information we were given. Discrepancies. That's another word you can just go ahead and expect to experience with those three words I talked about earlier. China. Adoption. International. I sent them to our social worker knowing it was almost impossible to hear back from China in time. We were down to five days. Five days before our agency lost his file. Our social worker said she'd be happy to send the follow-up questions, but reminded us of the time crunch.
     Eric and I talked around the kitchen island that night. We discussed a lot of things. Deep down, we both know our decision didn't hang on whether or not we heard back from China again. We both felt peace about helping our little guy with whatever he may need. He was OUR boy! Now, remember, I'm the heart-headed I pretty much wanted to SHOUT THIS FROM THE ROOFTOPS! But Eric said to give it a couple of days to see if we heard back. Actually typing that sentence out makes me a little queasy. WHY DID I LISTEN TO HIM!? But I did. I waited.
     Our social worker emailed me on March 14th letting us know she had not heard from the orphanage and we would need to make a decision. I replied QUICKLY with our resounding "YES! We are overjoyed at the chance to be his forever family!" The icing on the cake was that this email exchange took place at 10:20AM. At 11:02AM, we received our second update from the orphanage. Wow, God!
     The next few hours were a blur. I had until 4PM Central time of that SAME DAY to submit a host of documents. And I was at work. And we had to leave immediately after school to take one of the kiddos to the doctor. Soo when was I going to type of these documents and scan them back!? AHH! Well, praise the Lord...I had not yet had my conference period that day! It begins at noon. And lasts for 40 minutes. I don't think I've ever accomplished SO MUCH in so little time. But, GOD!
    In two weeks, God orchestrated the most perfect journey to our sweet and precious boy. He showed up and showed off. We are so grateful for all of the ways the Lord met us along the way and gave us an indescribable peace about our SON! His timing is truly always perfect.