Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Snapshot: Emily's 18 month pics

I'm over a month late with this post, as Emily turned 18 months old the day after Christmas, but considering all that we've had goin' on over here, I think within a month is pretty good ;)
Emily is now 19 months old, and is the life of the party. Recently at some friends of ours, she climbed onto their island, started shaking her hips back-and-forth, saying "boom boom boom". Ya know, the Black Eyed Peas?   I laughed so hard I cried, and that sorta thing is normal, daily behavior from her. We've been speculating about whether Jenna is going to be a calming influence on Emily, or if Emily is going to corrupt Jenna?! I really don't see how we could have 2 of these in one family, but I sure don't want to test that! 

Ni Hao Y'all

Thursday, January 28, 2010

PA, baby!

We got PA for our girl today!! One step closer!

I know that many of you have no idea what I'm talking about, what it means, or why I'm excited about it, so as promised, here's the timeline/order of events that need to happen for us to bring little Jenna home. 

PA - pre-approval   CHECK! Now our agency sends off our complete dossier, and we also get to send Jenna a package!

LOA - letter of acceptance   this is after CCAA (Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs) reviews our entire dossier. This is the letter sent after your referral acceptance. China uses this to ask you one more time to confirm that you want to adopt your referred child. Time from PA to LOA can range from 2 weeks to 3 months-ish. 

TA- travel approval Official notice from China that you are invited to come pick up your child. Usually TA follows soon after LOA and then within about 4 weeks we will travel! 

Consulate Appointment A scheduled appointment with the US Consulate's Office in Guangzhou, China. The date of this appointment typically determines your travel date since this is the last step you take while in China. 

With that, we'd like to invite you to visit our blog for Jenna's 100 Good Wishes quilt and participate in that for us to help pass the time while we wait to go get her. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the whole story

Some of you know, and many may not, that I was adopted as an infant. I was raised in a family with my parents and my brother and have seen first-hand the very real, practical, and tangible ways that adoption impacts lives. I was on the receiving end of two incredible decisions by women who have never met. One, deciding in the most selfless way to forego what she may desire or feel emotionally to make a choice giving me, in this case, the best possible scenario of a chance at life: To have a family, to be loved and cared for, and to have both a mom and a dad. The other woman, deciding to act selflessly as well, and ask for the opportunity to parent a child that she didn’t give birth to. To show that child what love and family are defined by, and prove that it’s far more than DNA.

I believe that those were the seeds planted in me that have given me a heart for adoption. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to adopt a child someday. It was something I desired enough that I can remember Jason and I talking about it before we were married…. Adopting an orphan someday. Jason had no objections and thought it made perfect sense given my own adoption that it would be something I would want to do one day.

At the time I didn’t necessarily regard what God might have planned for my life, I just knew that it was something I wanted to do.

Fast forward several years to when we have 3 biological kids. 2 boys and then a little girl. Jason was quite certain that we were “done,” and scheduled his procedure. I didn’t have any objections. I can’t say I was excited about it, but if I had asked him then not to do it, I know he wouldn’t have. But I didn’t, and so he did.

I went to pick Jason up afterwards and drive him home and as soon as he walked out, my heart just sank. I thought to myself, “what did we just do?” I didn’t tell Jason that until much later, and just decided to spin it for positive and figured now we’d start pursuing adoption.

Well, that was about 5 years ago, and in that time we have been all across the board regarding the whole topic. We collected material from different agencies for nearly a year and then put our name in the mix to receive a little girl named Song in China, who had a cleft lip and palate. We had to make a case about why we should be chosen as her family and how we thought we could care for her. Two weeks later we got news that we weren’t chosen. It was more difficult than I had imagined, given I had never even seen a picture of her, and I didn’t understand why it would have gone that way. We continued seeking God though and went back to the drawing board and began to pursue adoption in Guatemala. We found an agency that we felt really good about the work they were doing and just before we would have needed to have a homestudy done as the next step to move forward, the entire country of Guatemala shut down its international adoption program.

At that point, I felt as though I was part of a practical joke. Seriously, I’m being punked. I believe that God’s heart is for orphans, as stated in James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t want us to pursue this, but felt that this was a giant slammed-shut door in the pursuit of our adopting. We stepped back and prayed. In a more diligent way than I had ever prayed before. One day following, Jason came to me and said, “I think we’re supposed to have another biological child.” I think my response was, “HA! That’d be great if it were possible.” He shared with me that he had been in prayer and felt complete and total clarity. He asked what I thought about him getting a reversal. We had never even discussed it prior and I couldn’t believe he was saying this. We did some research and found a medical doctor in Indiana who performs reversals at a reduced cost as a ministry to bless others. We contacted him and a short month later Jason had the procedure. Beforehand, the doctor sat us down and explained that, while he was going to do what he could for us medically, he really believed that he was just opening the door for God to act; that a baby is a blessing that only God can give. I was nervous hearing him explain to us all the medical reasons why this procedure could still not work. He certainly confirmed that this was only going to happen for us if it were God’s will.

The doctor had also mentioned that if, after six months, we still weren’t pregnant, to go in and have things checked out. I was certain this wouldn’t pertain to us, given how easily we had conceived every other time. However, six months came and went and we figured we better go get things checked out. The doctor told Jason that things were not ok and that there was little to no chance of our having success getting pregnant again. With that, I began questioning so many things. It left us reeling, really. We thought it had been so clear to Jason that this was the path that God was leading us down, and now THIS??? What on earth?

The next month we found out I was pregnant, and that following June, little Emily joined our family. And for those who’ve met her, she adds a lot! I like to think that God has big plans for her after all that happened for her to get here!

Anyways, on with the story. Our close friends, Bill and Sara, were planning to adopt a little girl from China and got their referral in July 2008, when our Emily was just one month old. When Sara called to share the news, she told me that her daughter was on the website of the foster home she was at, and for us to go online so we could see her. We shared their joy and continued to look at that site. I also saw the face of a little girl who seemed to jump off the screen at me. To this day, I still think it sounds silly and irrational to describe, but it’s true. I showed her to Jason, the kids, and began praying for this little girl, known as Madeline. After months of this, we began sponsoring this little girl. As her sponsors, each month we would receive updates about her development and pictures of her. We started putting together a package each month or so to send to her of toys, clothes, notes, pictures the kids drew, etc, and the foster home would send us pictures in return of her opening the gifts we sent.

That part was very cool for our kids to see how this was impacting a little girl on the other side of the world. And it didn’t take any of us long to fall in love. Having knowledge about international adoption, though, we knew that until Emily was six months old, we couldn’t pursue anything.

We prayed and prayed again and both felt united in doing everything we possibly could on our end to move on this child’s behalf to try to adopt her. We felt that she had been put before us for a reason, that God had lead us toward her and she seemed the perfect addition to our family. The CCAA (Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs) does not promote or support the pre-identification of a child. When I began contacting agencies, several told me that they wouldn’t allow this. When I found Lifeline, a Christian agency, Karla was very frank with me and said that its definitely not encouraged, or commonplace, but that it does, in fact, happen from time to time. I told her we understood and wanted to move forward. We felt that God is in the business of miracles and that locating her file was no hard task for Him. We stepped out in faith and believed wholeheartedly that God had led us to her and that if it were His will for us to join our family, he could and would work out the details.

Lifeline did everything they could to work on our behalf to track down this child’s file. While we were in it, and as we compiled our dossier, it seemed as though God’s hand was guiding this right along. Even them finding where her file was in the process, amidst thousands of others, seemed a miracle and made me cautiously optimistic. I can’t tell you how certain I was that she belonged in our family. I loved her and prayed for her, as did Jason and the kids.

We expected that we’d hear something over the summer (2009), which was perfect timing as we had finished up our dossier. In August I got the call from Karla telling me that Madeline’s file had been given to another agency and that she now had a family. I kept composed on the call, though barely, and was completely heartbroken. I wasn’t completely na├»ve, I knew this was a possibility all along, but nothing could have prepared me for how attached I had gotten to a child half a world away that I had never even met. I knew that it was His will, I was just so sad that it wasn't our family He had chosen for her. We loved her so much. I so appreciate the capacity God has given us to love, and marvel at the fact that He loves us more than we can fathom.

We went to a concert just after that happened; Jeremy Camp at the Iowa State Fair and one of his songs, “Walk by Faith,” was sung and I stood there, singing along, with tears rolling down my face as he sang, “I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see; because this broken road, prepares your will for me.” How timely.

We decided to take a step back following that and give ourselves some time to really, really heal. And also to completely reevaluate. In that time, we’ve been reminded of the heart of God for the orphans of the world, and were convicted that the only reasons we had not to move forward were selfish ones, and fear. We believe that God’s plan for our life is always better than what we think might be best for us. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

What’s happened since then is that we notified Lifeline after the first of the year to go ahead and put us back into the mix for a match of a special needs child. We filled out our form, asking for a child with either cleft lip/palate, a minor heart defect, or club feet.

We got a call Tuesday, January 19th that they had a match for us, though the need the child had was something we’d never heard of: A kidney cyst. I got the call while I was at a doctor’s appointment, and my doctor had a connection to a pediatric urologist at the U. When I got home, Jason had another contact of another urologist from church that we contacted, and yet another nurse practitioner friend spoke with colleagues of hers. We put in calls and emailed the medicals to all these people plus our pediatrician and got back news from each of them by the end of the night, which was amazing in itself. What’s more remarkable are the people that God put in our path that day as we had only about 24 hours to make a decision. We got good reports and while you never know everything 100% with these children’s needs, we felt pretty comfortable with what we were hearing.

We decided to sleep on it and when I woke at 3 a.m., I wisely used the time to pray. I prayed for peace, clarity, unity for Jason and I, and that we would feel it pressed on us heavy, which way to go with it.

About one-thirty on January 20th, 2010 we placed a call to Lifeline and tell them that we’d like to ACCEPT THE REFERRAL.

You understand, right? We added a little girl to our family! Her Chinese name is Lu Ming Qi (pronounced mingh-chee). In China, the last name is listed first, so she’s called Ming Qi. And we’ll keep that as her middle name. So, Jenna Ming Qi. She will be two years old on June 1st..

I have condensed this to make it readable, but there are just a couple more things I’d like to share. During the fall I was involved in a women’s bible study at our church. There have been SO, SO many verses and things over these past 5 years that have struck me at the time, but a couple more recent things stick.

In my recent study of Esther, Beth Moore said, “we’ll never fulfill our God-ordained destiny if we’re straddling the fence; we can’t be motivated by fear.” She followed with the verse Isaiah 40:31, “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength….”

She also stated, “He’s proud of us for fighting overwhelming human emotions to do His will. God isn’t interested in our stellar performance but in our hearts. He loves our willingness and obedience despite our insecurities.” Of course we have been scared to do this. And of course it’s overwhelming. But the fact is that we feel that God has given us a heart for adoption and we know that we will have peace that only He can give. We’d also appreciate your prayers immediately for Ming Qi. She is described as shy, timid and introverted and so the transition could be especially difficult for her.  Please begin praying for her transition and for her heart to open to us and for her to accept the love we are anxious to give her. Especially right away in China, when she is removed from all she’s ever known.

“…I sing for joy at the works of your hands….” Psalm 92:4

Monday, January 25, 2010

I've been waiting

I've been waiting to share this post. Actually, I've been dreaming about this very post for months and months.  I thought that it would be to announce the addition of a certain little orphan girl that we had been sponsoring at New Day Foster Home in China, whom we went on to paperchase for, and try to adopt. But that all ended sadly in August when we learned that her file went to another agency. I tried rejoicing in the fact that she was no longer an orphan, and that she had a family, but the fact is that I was heartbroken that it wasn't our family that God had chosen for her. 

I've "met" blog friends and read others' stories on this journey who have been through this and who have told the story as in the book, "The Strength of Mercy," about God leading you to a particular child, through the loss of another's file. And it seems as though we are there!

Last week, for the first time, we saw the face of our daughter. We accepted her referral just shy of a week ago, on January 20th. She is adorable and has made our entire family weak in the knees in such a short time. We are not allowed to share pictures of our baby girl just yet--we must get official approval from China first. This whole post may have come as a bit of a shock to you, as many may not even know that adoption is something that has been on our hearts for about the past five years.

But please rejoice with us in the addition of Jenna Ming Qi to our family. She will turn 2 years old on June 1st, and hopefully we'll be traveling to China to pick her up shortly thereafter. (probably July). She's just 3 weeks older than Emily, so life around here is about to get just a little bit crazier! I can't wait!

Lots more to come!!

"I sing for joy at the works of your hands..." Psalm 92:4