Sunday, April 23, 2017

I See the Finish Line! | Reece's Rainbow

On Friday, I found out we had received an officer, with USCIS! This is great news, and means our approval should follow shortly, unless the officer requests additional information from us. In any event, our immigration approval is now underway rather than waiting in line to be considered, and our "golden ticket" should be coming soon!  This is the very last thing we need for our dossier to be complete, so once it is apostilled and mailed to her country, we will be submitted shortly!

Things are moving right along on the fundraising front.  Just last week we magically (and by "magically," I mean God was on the move!" had just over $1,000 added to our Reece's Rainbow ONE DAY! We still have quite a way to go to be considered fully funded, but that's okay. Robbie has already been talking to the bank and is approved for a loan, and they're ready to move forward with the approval as soon as he calls back and pulls the trigger. We were really hoping to adopt debt free, but I had said for months that I'd happily take out a loan and go NOW rather than drag this out for long enough to be funded, so I'm not going to complain when the Lord heard my heart's cry! I definitely meant it, and we are thrilled her country is expediting "Mila's" adoption.  Her being out of the orphanage and into her family months sooner is ultimately priceless to us.  We are still fundraising and hoping to hear shortly from some grants, but we feel a sense of peace that we know the funds are available and she will not remain an orphan due to something as meaningless as money.  If God wants us to be willing to pay her ransom monthly, well, we absolutely are.

Aside from waiting on our last, single sheet of paper needed to submit, I have finally finished every grant we can possibly apply for, and I'm gathering items we will need when we travel. I bought a money belt, and I have a couple of plug converters saved on Amazon. I'm gathering snacks my husband (who has special dietary needs) can eat in a pinch, if needed.  I have even allowed myself a few "fun" items and have bought the first few clothing items ever bought specifically for "Mila," for just her! That has been a lot of fun for me, in this time of waiting!

Things are wrapping up. I feel like I keep right on saying that, but they really are! One piece of paper. One single, "golden ticket" left to get. We're coming, Princess!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter | Reece's Rainbow

Today is Easter! I'm currently waiting for our turkey breast to cook, and just finished making our cherry cheesecake!  I'm busy prepping a nice dinner for our crew and I'm truly thankful for each one of them, thankful for Jesus and the sacrifice He willingly made, and praising God that Jesus rose on the third day, defeated death, and broke the chains that would have bound me for eternity!  But if I'm honest, I'm struggling a bit to find joy today.  I keep thinking we should have had seven kids getting baskets this morning.  Two beautiful little girls rather than one, with their five brothers.  It's an odd feeling, to miss a person you haven't met, and yet here I am. I keep thinking of "Mila" and how she didn't have a mother this year to put a bow in her hair and take her to church and tell her about Jesus and his Resurrection.  But I'm SO thankful this is the last year she'll be in a crib instead of around a table, enjoying Easter dinner.  Next year, she'll be celebrating Easter as a daughter. <3

It's been a couple weeks since I have updated, which is maybe odd considering so much is happening right now! We have everything we can possibly do, back from the apostille now. Our homestudy and agency licenses came back. Our FBI clearances came back and rode along with another family that was traveling, so they're already in country. Actually everything is in country minus our homestudy and agency licenses and, of course, USCIS approval.

It's been two weeks and a handful of days since we had biometric fingerprinting for immigration, and we are still waiting for an officer.  This isn't abnormal at all. It can six weeks, on a normal basis, but of course we are hoping for sooner.  What this does mean is that we are not being expedited stateside.  At first I was a bit bummed about that. We want our girl as soon as possible, and every day we wait is another day she's in an orphanage.  But once we are submitted, things will move very quickly, so maybe it's okay that things are still moving at a more steadily slow pace for now.  It gives us more time to fundraise our tail's off, and Lord knows we need it!  We still have approximately $10,000 to feel like we are fully funded!

I've still been applying for grants.  Most say they take 60-90 days to notify winners so I'm not sure we have time to be approved for even one before we travel, but I'm really hopeful.  I know that God is going to work out the details, regardless.  It may be that He works it out in the form of a high interest loan that we pay on monthly, and honestly that would really stink for us.  We aren't exactly rolling in the dough and bringing home a child with special needs isn't going to improve our financial situation, lol.  But if the Lord wants us to be willing to pay for her monthly in order to bring her home, well, He knows we are happy to do so.  She is, after all, priceless.

So that's about where we stand.  We are waiting on one more paper -immigration approval- and once that comes through, we are ready to submit to country.  We could travel in as soon as a month from there!  I'm so, so ready to go.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

God is Faithful | Reece's Rainbow

I was just thinking about how far we have come in this journey.  Today we had our USCIS biometrics fingerprinting appointments, and that approval is the last thing we need to be submitted in country. The first email from our stateside facilitator was sent to me on November 23, after we informed Reece's Rainbow on November 22 that we were ready to commit to adopting "Mila."  In just four months (and one week) we have flown through our home study, our entire dossier (minus this one paper we need from immigration), and have raised $8,000 towards our adoption expenses.

In four months.  Just let that sink in.

A lot of you reading this will already know our background, but I've made a lot of new friends on this journey, so allow me to share some of our history.  Five years ago we owned a home we loved, in Lexington, KY.  We were living the American Dream, when my husband became laid off work. We ended up moving to Indiana, lost our home in a deed in lieu agreement, and started over.  We were just beginning to get back on our feet when he was laid off again in a company merger (retail is so brutal).  We no longer had a penny to fall back on, having spent all we had and then some (credit card debt) to stay afloat after the first job loss, so we ended up moving back to his family's farm. Thankfully they had a place we could stay, but the seven of us, who later became eight of us, were crammed into a single wide trailer, and y'all it was hard. Like HARD hard.

For two years we lived there. There were good things. My husband got out of retail for good, which was an answered prayer.  Rosie was born, and she's such a joy!  But I can't pretend it was easy. We were cramped, we were swimming in debt acquired through the losses, our credit scores had taken major hits, and we just felt like things were out of control.  On top of it, God was calling us to adoption.

What God? Adopt? How?!

God provided.  We crawled out of the whole that had been dug.  It wasn't easy and it didn't happen overnight.  There were tears (from me, lol) and lots and lots of sleepless nights.  My husband worked lots of overtime and was almost never home. I did as much with my etsy shop as possible.  And we prayed.  And slowly, there was a light at the end of our tunnel.

On November 18, 2016, we closed on our home.  On November 22, 2016, we made the commitment to adopt a precious little girl who made all the hard times suddenly feel worth it.

And today, on March 30, 2017, we wait, with nothing left to do but fundraise and apply for grants.  Ready to submit our dossier and then wait on travel dates, as soon as immigration approval is received.

I still don't know how it happened. God just...did it.  He did it in His timing and not ours.  He did it through the hearts of those who have donated and He did it by putting whoever got our daughter listed on Reece's Rainbow in the right place at the right time to see her and shout for her, and then we saw her.  He just keeps...doing it. Over and over He shows up, letting us know that this child is precious to Him, and by extension is precious to us.

We still need to fundraise.  We still need about $12,000 in fact. But I'm not worried about it. It would be silly for me to stress that, considering how far we've already come and knowing how God keeps providing.  I'm just going to keep fundraising and shouting for our daughter and for the other children who don't have moms and dads on the way. I'll keep filling out grant applications.  But I'm not going to get panicked about it.  It's going to work out.

We are so, so glad to have gone through everything we went through to be where we needed to be to find you, "Mila." We'd do it again twenty more times.  You're worth it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Exhausting & Emotional - An Adoption Story | Reece's Rainbow

We are getting close, and things are wrapping up. The bulk of our dossier came back from the apostille last week, and will be sent overseas to be translated, later this week.  We got our FBI background checks in the mail, and they'll be on their way to DC tomorrow. And our homestudy came in last week, too, so we are able to apply for grants and get our homestudy apostilled and translated! Today we got letters from immigration, giving us a date and time to go get our biometrics fingerprinting done, so we can get approval from USCIS soon! Yes, things are wrapping up and coming to a close for us on this side of the ocean.  And I'm relieved!

Fundraising is creeping along. Honestly I'm struggling with it. On the one hand, I know that God is going to provide. He will see us through this, and I trust Him. But my sinful, human nature spends many nights stressing the dollar signs, and knowing how much more we need to raise to afford to bring "Mila" home. I'm praying over these grant applications. Praying God gives me the words to convey our need and our desire to love and parent this child. And I'm just going to let it go. I'm going to apply to every grant I can, do my best with fundraising, and know that He is in control. God loves "Mila," He knows every hair on her precious little head, and He will not forsake us. He's got this!

We had a birthday party this past weekend for two of my sons.  It was bittersweet, because I couldn't stop thinking about how our sweet girl has never had a mother to make her a cake, never blown out candles. She's never been celebrated. I don't even know her birthday, only the year! I can't wait to know her birthday. I can't wait to know everything about her, to make her a cake, to wrap gifts that were bought specifically with her in mind, and to be her mother for as long as I live.

I'm feeling all the feels tonight. Just looking forward to my girl. <3

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Compiling Dossier | Reece's Rainbow

We've moved up a step in our journey! If you follow any family pages on Reece's Rainbow, you'll quickly see that the family's progress is documented on the bottom. Our "Mila" has gone from a waiting child, to "My Family Found Me" (which totally made me cry), to our family page which said "Homestudy in Process" to now "Compiling Dossier!" This means that our home study is officially, and finally, wrapped up, approved, done and over with!  A copy is on it's way to immigration to match with our forms and be ready for approval, and copies are on their way to us to be put in our dossier (and also to be used for grant applications).

Actually, though we are listed as "Compiling Dossier," the truth is we are nearly finished with it! We've been actively working on our dossier at the same time we were going through home study, and the vast majority of our dossier is at the Secretary of State to be apostilled as I type. Or, will be, actually. It's due to arrive tomorrow (Monday). :) So, for those following along, here are our next steps:

1) Apostille copies of our home study and agency licenses, once they arrive, to go in our dossier.
2) Receive our FBI clearance papers (our fingerprints had to be done again, this time in ink, and are on their way to biometrics, also due to arrive tomorrow), and send them to apostille in DC.
3) Get immigration/USCIS approval and get that approval letter apostilled.
4) Send everything to "Mila's" country.
5) Be submitted!!!

We are chugging right along! Some days it feels like this is taking forever, but we only committed to adopting "Mila" at the end of November, so we actually have come a very long way in a short amount of time.  We're coming for you, Sweet Girl!

Money is currently the biggest obstacle in our way.  We will need at least a good $15,000 when we travel, but as close to $18,000 as possible to be covered in the event things don't go according to plan, which is more the rule than the exception, lol.  As I write this, our FSP (family sponsorship page) reads $1,405.  So yeah, we have a ways to go to being fully funded.  I waiver between stressed out about the money, which seems insurmountable, to at peace about it, knowing God is in control.  As a friend gently reminded me yesterday, God has not forgotten "Mila." Deep within her country, in whatever region and whatever orphanage, in whatever room and whatever crib, she is not hidden from His sight.  I find a great deal of peace knowing He knows every hair on her precious little head.

That said, we do still have a few fundraisers going on that you can help with!  Today and tomorrow are the last days to buy a vehicle decal sticker to help advocate for orphans in general but specifically to help bring "Mila" home to us. The decals say #AdoptionRocks and are available in several color options, and can be ordered HERE for only $7! Also if you'd like to donate directly to our FSP page on Reece's Rainbow, we currently have a matching grant, matching every donation dollar to dollar up to $450! We have another local fundraiser, this time at Dairy Queen, on Wednesday, too, and I'm excited about that! Things are moving closer every day. :)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Update | Reece's Rainbow

As usual, lots of things are going on at once, in our efforts to bring "Mila" home! Our home study is wrapping up quickly, with a draft having been sent to our Hague oversight agency. Soon the edits will be finished, and a completed copy of our home study will be sent to join our forms already at the USCIS office. We are on the road to getting immigration approval which is a huge step that finalizes our stateside adoption efforts! BIG news!

In other stateside news, our dossier is mostly ready to be sent to apostille! We need the final home study after edits to get it apostilled, along with our agency license, but most of our paper chase (on this side of the ocean) has come to an end! Soon we won't have anything to do but wait on travel dates, apply for adoption grants, and fundraise our little tails off!

Speaking of fundraising, there is so much going on there! 1) The local consignment sale is finished, and our sweet friend raised roughly $190 for our family, which she's going to be offering as a matching grant, so that's a huge help! So thankful for her willingness to serve our family in that way, though she's committed to another family as their "warrior." She has such a servant's heart! 2) Tonight we have a much anticipated fundraiser at a local steak house, which is excellent news!  We love, love, love the family that's doing this for us, and truly believe God will bless their efforts, both for "Mila's" adoption and in their own family. They have such wonderful, giving hearts! Truly beautiful people.  3) I'm back to selling things in my own little small business, Heart to Home Organics. I've been fortunate to be able to bless other adopting families through this small business in the past, and I'm so glad that God has provided the opportunity to add to our own adoption funds in this way, now! 4) I'm in talks with a local photographer who is generously offering to do mini shoots as a fundraiser for us! And 5) Another generous friend is selling vehicle decal stickers to donate proceeds to us!  These are $7 and will only cost a stamp to ship, and you can fill our her Google Doc to place an order HERE. 5) LOVING CUP TEAS is offering 10% off with code WELCOMEMILA and 25% of sales with this code will be donated to us!

We continue to be so amazed and thankful for the generous, loving people God has placed in our lives and who are helping us bring our daughter out of the orphanage and into her forever family!  We look forward to meeting "Mila" this summer, giving her a new name and a new title that is of beloved, wanted, forever cherished DAUGHTER and SISTER and orphan no more! Thanks for following us on this journey!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Home Study Wrap Up + More | Reece's Rainbow

There's been a lot of progress made since my last blog! We had our final home study visit with our social worker, and it went pretty well! Our social worker is working on the write up for that right now, then our umbrella agency has to approve it all, and then we will be ready to submit it to USCIS for our immigration approval! Aside from that, our paperwork is ready to be sent to apostille (some things are at apostille right now, actually) and then submitted! We are really making huge progress and wrapping things up here, stateside!

I'm going to be honest about something weighing on me, though. Our social worker will only approve us for one child. I haven't shared publicly our desire to adopt two, but it was something we discussed with our social worker. Unfortunately our agency has a blanket statement for not approving the adoption of two unrelated children at the same time. She did hear us out, and really seemed to understand our desire, but ultimately the answer was a no. I'm not going to lie, it really hurt. With the rejoicing in the approval for us to proceed with "Mila's" adoption came some grieving for another child we can't adopt right now. And while I definitely do understand the agency's reasoning, and I won't pretend to believe that adopting two children at once (specifically two children with special needs) would be easy, I'll say that it's very, very difficult to recognize the enormous need, and only be able to bring home one. There is just so much work to be done. Millions of orphans all around the world need homes. Some have huge need for medical attention. Some are starving. Others are being abused and neglected and ultimately there just aren't enough people who are willing to say "yes." And so it did sting, that we are so very willing, but can only bring home one. But what it boils down to is God is sovereign over this. I prayed and prayed that He would open the door for us to be able to adopt two children, if that were His will for our family, and the door remained closed.  So while He didn't open this particular door, I will praise His great name in the hallway, for He has opened many more.  He said no to a second for our family right now. But He has said yes over and over for Mila. <3

In other news, the ball is rolling! We have several local fundraisers coming up. Restaurants doing fundraising nights for us and donating proceeds.  I'm really excited for that! Even in this, it's obvious to me how God has orchestrated so many things to come together for His plan for "Mila." People I didn't even know just a few months ago have gone out of their way to help us, from fundraising at restaurants to selling clothing in a consignment shop on our behalf. It's truly incredible! I had no idea, when we were looking to buy our house, that even the home we bought would be a part of God's plan for us and for Mila, to connect us with so many people who would be a part of this journey. God is so good!

Please continue to pray for us as we raise money for in-country expenses, which is the bulk of our need! We are so close to wrapping things up on this side of her adoption, but the need on the other side is great. I have absolute faith that it will all come together, because it's been evident in every step of this process that God is on the move. We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to serve Him and witness His miracles for our daughter-to-be!