Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's a date!

We got a long-awaited call this morning.   Since June 16 when we got the referral of an adorable little chubby-cheeked boy, we knew that the next step in bringing him home would be first approval.  This is when a Thai government social worker, who has been assigned your case, presents it to the adoption board of the Department of Social Welfare, and they declare whether or not you are approved to adopt this child.  It takes so long because there is a huge pile, or queue, of cases to be presented, and the social workers are very busy--some more than others, it turns out.  We were told last summer that first approval would come in December and hopefully we'd travel in March. 

Weelllll...obviously that didn't happen.  It's been a good four weeks (which is not as long as some friends of ours, who went through the roller coaster for three months!) of being told it "should" happen this week and hopefully we'll hear news "tomorrow or the next day."  Seriously, it may not sound like a big deal, but for four weekends, I've been telling people that I should have good news on Monday, and then have nothing.  It got old quickly, so it was nice to finally have something to announce today!

Our agency called and said that we'd been given first approval.  And, in fact, we were granted first approval on February 15th, but the communication has been so lousy that no one knew it.  The paperwork that is produced from this approval, called Article 16, has already been issued for us!  This is great, because it can sometimes take up to a month or more for that.  Of course, that just means that we can go ahead and start the next truckload of paperwork.  Woohoo!

The bummer is the date of travel.  I was secretly hoping for late April, but assuming it would be May.  We are scheduled for the June 6th board meeting.  I did not hide my disappointment well on the phone.  "JUNE?!?!?!" I said in disgust.   She explained that there's still a lot of backlog from the floods (everything seems to be traced back to those stupid floods), and another friend was told that there is a large number of European families waiting to travel for court dates in Thailand, and they are mostly scheduled for the month of May.

I wallowed in the bad part of the news for a good few hours.  That will be 12 months from referral to travel.  Ugh.  Asher will be at least a month older than I had expected when we meet him.  We'll literally get home most likely on the last day of school for my big kids...dumping me straight into LONG summer days with NO plans with three kids and no schedule to keep Carson and Sydney entertained for at least a couple hours a day, while I get my feed under me about parenting an adopted, traumatized, jet-lagged toddler.  Plus, three months seems a long ways away from now.  (Someone told me it is 96 days.)

But then, after sharing the news with family and friends, their excitement has been completely contagious.  We have a date!  The way Holt trips work, you meet your kiddo on the Sunday before the board meeting, so we are scheduled to meet Asher on Sunday, June 3rd!  We can officially start a countdown.  We know there is a light at the end of this insanely torturous tunnel. 

The other wonderful part of the news is that two of my friends, who have been walking this journey with me (I'd say us, but really it's the mamas who connect the most) are schedule for the same board meeting!  So we'll be in country with some kindred spirits whom I've longed to meet--and as a bonus, I get to see their Thai baby girls!

I should probably give a disclaimer that the board dates are tentative until some of this paperwork goes back and forth between the two countries.  We won't start booking plane tickets for another month at least.  But the date rarely changes, so we're writing it on the calendar.  You can too.  ;)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Surprise gift

We got a wonderful surprise this week.  The BabyHawk baby carrier that I have drooled over for months arrived via UPS--without a card or receipt or any indication of who purchased it for us!  I know it has to be someone who reads my blog, b/c I only ever put the registry information here!  So, one of you amazing people has saved this frustrating week of "sorry, no news" from being completely depressing.  What a wonderful, thoughtful and GENEROUS gift!  I was planning to ask for the carrier as a gift if a group of people wanted to go in on it together.  I never thought someone would take the leap and get it for us, and yet I'm so thankful and grateful!
I'm hoping that Asher weighs less than this almost-4 year old, but she let me try it out with her in it.  I tell you what--it is really comfortable!  We walked all the way around the block like this and my back didn't hurt at all!

 Isn't it cute too?  (But hopefully not to feminine for Trent--I'm sure he'll have his share of carrying duties.)
 When he put it on, both kids decided they wanted to be carried.
 The first day we got it, the kids gave it a trial run. I promise no one was harmed.  Except for their dignities when I share these and other photos when they are teenagers.

To our gracious gift-giver: THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!  It's gestures like this that truly encourage and sustain us during this long home stretch!  I can't wait to have a picture with Asher sitting his little bum in that carrier.  :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

State of the Wait

This week is an anniversary of sorts.  It was 2 years ago that we sent our application for adoption to Holt.  Our first choice of country was Thailand, second choice Ethiopia.  Whoa.  When I think about that season, those intense weeks between the Haiti earthquake and pulling the proverbial trigger with that large envelope in the mailbox, I can't help but get emotional.  It was nothing like I've ever experienced before in my adult life.  The stirring in my heart and the clear--SO CRYSTAL CLEAR--moving of the Holy Spirit in the direction of adoption still brings me to my knees.  I remember at that time I had a Saturday morning walking buddy.   She was seeking the Lord for wisdom on whether or not she and her husband should have another child.  I was seeking to confirm if this decision was truly His or if it was an emotional reaction to the earthquake. I love looking back at that time and seeing how He answered.  For Becky--her baby girl just celebrated her first birthday.  :)  For me, God has provided confirmation time and again that yes.  We truly had heard His voice, and I'm so grateful we obeyed.

THE absolute largest reservation we had about adopting was the financial aspect.  It seemed insurmountable.  Outrageous and unrealistic.  Perhaps that is why God has chosen that special chapter of our story to reveal Himself in such outrageous and unrealistic ways.  I cringe when I think of how humbling it has been to ask for money.  Not even selling something--just asking for cash!  Oh, people.  That was so very hard.  But OH!  PEOPLE!  How you responded!  We didn't even have enough for the initial application fee!  And our loved ones provided before we could even ask.  I had to put a brazen (ha) plea for money to pay for our homestudy--it felt so callous and crude to use my blog for such a thing.  But God provided ears that heard it with compassion and not judgement.  (There was probably judgement too, but those ones kept their mouths shut!)  Two ginormous garage sales (that were stocked and run by volunteers for the cause), helped us make the payment for our dossier and and part of our program fee.  An especially humbling--yet rewarding--old fashioned fundraising letter campaign through Lifesong for Orphans helped us raise several thousand dollars. I can't tell you how amazing it was to watch the funds come in.  $10, $25, $40, $100, $400--IT ADDS UP. 

Just this last week I believe we have possibly received a pivotal confirmation of God's faithfulness.  A promised grant from over a year ago went through many stages and obstacles.  It was from a very honorable, but very small organization, and there were several unforeseen challenges and miscommunications.  At times we weren't sure it was coming.  And we drained every penny to cover that program fee last summer, so we have nothing for our travel expenses.  We got the check a few weeks ago...and it bounced.  Yep.  That was kind of scary.  But it turns out it was an oversight and was quickly rectified.  I redeposited again on Friday.  If it goes through--and I have no reason to believe that it won't--then we should have enough to pay for our travel.  Other than incidentals and little things like carseats and highchairs, WE ARE FULLY FUNDED!  Can you even imagine the joy that statement brings to me?!  Tears are streaming down my face at that knowledge.

I'll never forget singing and blogging HERE about the song "Great is Thy Faithfulness."  It was a huge leap of faith for us to make this decision with no way to pay for it.  But I so strongly felt the Lord telling me, " YOU WILL NOT BE ALONE."  And that has been true is so many, many ways!  We have felt more supported and uplifted and sustained over the last two years than I ever thought possible.  This is what I wrote 2 years ago:

"All I have needed Thy hand has provided. Great is Thy faithfulness to me."  I'm singing it in advance, knowing He will provide.

Jehovah Jirah, my provider!  As we have heard it said: He funds what He favors.  He favors adoption!  He cares for the fatherless, and will put a child in my waiting arms.  Yes, the wait is hard--harder than I ever imagined it would be.  (I probably should have been more worried about THAT than the finances!)  But He is also El Roi, the God who sees.  Who sees me and my husband in our impatience, who sees my older children in their ignorant excitement, who sees my youngest child in a faraway land, at times surrounded by floodwaters and poverty, and he CARES about every piece of this puzzle.  I believe it is His desire that Asher be a part of a forever family, a redemptive response to the loss he has (and will) suffer. 

Did I ever think we'd still be waiting after 2 years?  No.  But I also could never imagine the blessings and growth I'd receive JUST in the wait alone.  I can only imagine the joy, challenge, growth and blessings that will come we we truly BEGIN the adventure with this little man!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wrong Order

Last night for Valentine's Day we had a special dinner, and I planned some chocolate fondue for dessert.  I needed some time to get it ready, so I had Trent take care of getting the kids their bath and shower.  It turns out that bathing BEFORE chocolate fondue is putting events in the wrong order.  But still fun. ;)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Little Nugget

This weekend I was looking at the new pictures of Asher again and I remembered a little nugget of information that Laura had told me about Asher...which in the business of the day and the excitement I had forgotten.  The foster mom said that Asher loves taking things apart--and attempting to put them back together.  He had a very primitive puzzle toy, and he would disassemble and reassemble it over and over again.  I don't know why, but this little tiny detail is so special to me.  And also makes me want to go shopping for the perfect puzzle toy for a 19 month old boy!

PS: If you are the praying type, the Thai adoption board meets again on Wednesday, which is tonight around 6pm west coast time, and we'd love your prayers.  ;)  We want our family's file to be presented for First Approval!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Oh happy day!

We got a wonderful surprise this morning.  I got a call during Bible study, and I saw it was our agency.  Now, you gotta know how much I love the study I'm doing.  It took a very important call to pull me away from my BFF Beth Moore!  Bless her heart, the first thing our rep told me was "I don't have any news on first approval for you."  Well, darn it!  But smart girl to lead with that.  "But, I wanted to let you know that when I was in Thailand last week, I visited your son."  !!!!  Tears sprung to my eyes immediately, I hadn't really thought that this would be a possibility!  I've never spoken to someone who has seen, touched, heard, smelled our little guy.  She got to spend a little time in his foster home and observe him and took notes, pictures and even a few short videos! 

I'll try to remember all the things she shared.  I've photo-dumped the pictures on our password protected site HERE and the password is my maiden name, all lower case.  If you'd like the password, leave a comment or email me at brazenlilly@gmail.com (I don't check it often, but I'll try to!).  She also sent a couple very short videos, but wordpress doesn't like the format, so you may not get to see those unless you are a friend of mine on FB!  I will say--they had him wearing a shirt of Carson's that we sent several months back, and a little baseball hat on backwards!  It was perfect. I think it may become his signature style.  Oh, and some pink.  He's wearing pink shorts and sandals!  Love it.

First, she said Asher looks very happy and healthy.  He has a couple spots on his face, but she said the foster mom thinks they are bug bites or a small rash. It is not typical and has only been there for a few days.  She said he has grown out of all the clothes we have sent!  Laura, our rep, gently said she wanted to warn me that of all the foster kids she visited, Asher was probably the most reserved & guarded, the most unwilling to come near her.  Foster mom said she can't think of any other white people he'd ever seen, so he was pretty taken aback.   We are preparing ourselves mentally--as much as you can without living it--for a traumatized and grieving little man.  But we are so, SO grateful for the steady love and affection he's received from this family since he was 4 days old.

Asher is very attached to his foster mom, and she is very natural and fun with him.  She's a younger mom and even though she had her own baby a couple months ago (news to us!) she has lots of energy and played with Asher. He says bye to his foster dad each day when he heads out to work. He says several words in Thai--including the names of all the family members.  She said one little game he was playing while she was there was to "go shopping."  They handed him a handful of bat (Thai money) and he would walk around the room and give a little bit of it to each person, jibber-jabbering to himself. 

The other important piece of information that Laura passed on was that she had a sit-down meeting with social workers from the Thai government--this is separate from our sister agency.  They are the ones who have our case right now, the ones we are waiting on.  She said she firmly conveyed to them the importance of catching up on the files that have been delayed, and tried to remind these workers that these papers represent families who have already become attached to these children, who have a permanent home ready for them, and that it is important to catch up from the delays caused by the floods.  She specifically pleaded for three cases that are delayed, and ours was one of them.  That was huge for me--to know that someone was there speaking for us, advocating for our family.  She said communication has been bad between countries this week, but there is still a possibility that our family was given first approval last week.  However, the more likely situation is that we will be presented next Wednesday, February 15th.  

That's definitely what we are hoping and praying for, but the Lord knows how my waiting heart has been soothed today with this blessing.  Although, I'm even MORE anxious to get to him and begin the rough transition so we can enjoy our little man!  Thank you all for being excited with us...it makes the joys more joyful and the lows more endurable.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Looking OUT

I once gave an inspirational/devotional type talk and I encouraged the women listening that if they were ever feeling down or sorry for themselves, the best cure is to focus on someone other than yourself.   Look OUT rather than IN.  Time to take my own medicine!  (PS: Our agency has not heard anything from the Thai gov, which leads me to believe our case was not presented last week.  One of the Holt reps was in country last week and returns later this week, so hopefully when she is settled she can shed some light on the situation.)

A few of you long-timers remember that the earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010 was a big deal--and a big deal to me.  It truly was a catalyst in our decision to adopt.  I had a group of friends who were in Haiti at the time doing short-term mission work, and I also had a friend there (Kristen) who was visiting the son she planned to adopt--but had not been granted approval.  I knew that her son was living in a children's home run by Heartline ministries, and Kristen was visiting some friends/missionaries in Port-au-Prince named the Livesays.  Well, it's been two years and I've still been following the Livesays blog and their ministry in Haiti.  From what I understand, in the aftermath of the earthquake, Heartline increased it's focus on prenatal care and infant/early childhood education.  There is a HUGE need in Haiti...there is very little education on how to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and the medical care is rare and inadequate.  Far too many mothers and newborns die without basic & proper care. (Not to mention the chronic mistreatment of women that leaves many of these women as single mothers.)  Heartline takes on 35 pregnant women in their prenatal program at a time and usually provide a safe place to deliver.  The coordinators of the program recently posted pictures of most of the women in the program and asked for prayer.  To be honest, I was kind of daunted by the prospect.  Then I realized that people around the globe were "claiming" one or two of these mamas--to commit to praying for them regularly through (and after?) delivery. 

I thought--I can do this!  I can focus on two women a half a world away and whenever I start feeling sorry for myself and this waiting game for my son, I'll think about them and their waiting game...in which the stakes are tremendously high and the resources are night and day from my own.  I have chosen 2 of the women from THIS PAGE to be praying for...and you better believe I'll be following the blogs closely when their due dates near! 

The first is Loudia, and the only thing I know about her is that she is 17 years old, due April 7th, and this is her first baby.

 I also chose Patricia.  Her beautiful face jumped out at me, and so did the information below her pic: 21 years old, due July 21, third pregnancy--no living children.  I just can't help but wonder about her story.  How did she lose those other children--miscarriage?  Stillborn?  Death as infants?  Whatever the situation, I want so badly for this third pregnancy to be the one that brings her a healthy child who lives into adulthood. I can't imagine the hope she has resting on this little life.

 I'll try my best to pass on any information about Loudia and Patricia if I hear any. So what about you?  How do you look OUT and focus on someone else? 

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Let's get this train back on track.

Sometimes I get caught in a lousy streak--a lousy parenting streak to be specific.  I can't tell you how many times my TWO healthy kids have driven me bonkers, and I've started comparing myself to other moms who have more children or children with special needs or difficult life circumstances, and I begin to think that a well-trained labradoodle could do a better job at raising these small people than I am.  And just when I've mentally crafted my craigslist ad for a nanny, God sends me a sunny day.  A day when [literally] it is not raining, when my kids aren't yelling at each other, I have a plan for dinner that someone might eat, and maybe someone even makes a special card for me during quiet time. It looks a little like this:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

It's all good!

I usually hate it when people say that.  "It's all good!" Sometimes they just sound like pot-smoking hippies and they are almost always saying it when "IT" is definitely not "ALL" good.  It's kind of like "LOL" in person.  It means "This is uncomfortable and I just don't know what else to say."  But I'm feeling pretty pumped right now for a lot of good things happening around me--even if the one piece of news that would greatly affect me (finding out if we were presented at the Thai adoption board on Wednesday) hasn't made it's way to me yet!  We've been told to expect news next week sometime.

BUT!  In case you haven't heard about the MIRACLE, the news that made the doctor's jaw drop, please go RIGHT NOW to my sis-in-law's blog, Choosing Hope.  Basically, they were told about 20 times in the last 7 weeks that there's no way a healthy embryo is in that uterus.  BaBAM!  Ultrasound shows heartbeat and healthy embryo.  They are not out of the woods, this is still a very high-risk pregnancy, but we are thanking the Lord that He has brought them and this little life further than any medical professional predicted.  My kids have only known for 4 days and they remind me often to remember to pray for the baby in Aunt Jess' tummy--like I could forget!  This is HUGE, people.  HUGE!

Also, I just got back a gathering of friends to love on and pray for sweet Erika who is getting ready to travel to Eastern Europe for one of THREE trips required in order to adopt their daughter, Rush.  Check out her blog and her story over on the links to the right, under Redeeming Our Daughter.  I'll never forget when I came across the post that shares their story.  I was hooked and knew I needed to get to know this girl who went to my church, we just hadn't met!  I loved when she said she was just looking at the pics of the children "with only the intention to pray for all these sweet faces, when I came across a photo of a little girl. From the moment I saw her, God wrote her on my heart."  I was blessed to be a part of praying over Erika, Rush and their whole family as they make important steps (which really feels like jumping through hoops) towards bringing her into their family forever.  At least these next steps will bring them face to face with Rush, even if they can't bring her home just yet.

Also, my Thailand people are having good things happen!  I've heard that relationships are stronger when forged under intense circumstances.  This explains the bond I feel to the people (OK, mostly the women--the moms, with a few male exceptions!) that I've met and connected with who are in the process of adopting from Thailand.  We literally "talk" almost every day.  We know each other's deepest adoption fears, confess when we want to throw in the towel and can share when we get good news--even if the other person hasn't.  One of those people, Angie, is in Thailand right now and has finally met and been given custody of her daughter, Lydia.  People.  This family was put through the RINGER--delays like none of us could ever have imagined.  I'm SO. HAPPY they finally have her!  Two other dear friends, Mama K and Mr. Tiger's Mom who were forced on a nightmare roller coaster of waiting for 1st approval that lasted months--were FINALLY granted the papers they needed, and they WILL be traveling to meet their children in March!

I don't know if our papers came through.  I don't really understand why, in this day and age, it takes 5-6 business days to communicate the information of "yes" or "no." But even if our family's case was not presented and we are thrown into the waiting cycle again?  It's OK.  And I know that I have loved ones who are still dealing with some pretty crappy stuff.  But for now, I'm not gonna dwell on that. I'm gonna dwell on the positive.  I'm sustained by all the joy I see around me--most of it is Mama Joy, which is my favorite kind.  So right now?  It's all good.