Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Introducing "Wren" | Reece's Rainbow

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 58: 8-9

As we are grieving the lost adoption of "Mila," I'm clinging to these verses. God is not surprised by this loss. He knew all along, this was the plan. He knew another child would be ours, and He knew it would hurt. Through this pain we are clinging to the promise that this is all for His glory, and we are proceeding on with faith.  for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) I'll be honest and say that our immediate, knee-jerk reaction was to think about stopping. How could we proceed, knowing our hearts belong to a child we can't bring home? I believe the timing of this loss -coming after our dossier was already submitted in country- was grace, and God's protection. Had we not needed to continue, we likely wouldn't have. We would have waited, redone papers as they expired, wasted time and money trying to make our dream, God's plan.

Oh, we are such fools, thinking we know what's best.

Yes, God knew all along this would happen. And maybe, just maybe, the reason He did this was for a little girl listed as "Wren."

When we committed to the adoption of "Mila," "Wren" had not yet been born. Deep in her mother's womb, she was being knit together, fearfully and wonderfully made. God knew she'd be abandoned at birth. God knew she'd need a family. And God knew "Mila's" biological mother was going to come back to claim her.  

And so, maybe, God got us going with "Mila" to bring us so quickly to "Wren?"

We are hurting, to be sure. Our hearts long to be parents to "Mila," but we trust the Creator of the universe, the Creator of "Mila" and Creator of "Wren," that He didn't bring us this far just to turn His back on us.  God has miraculously provided for every need of our adoption, and that hasn't been so we would stop, and turn away. No, we must press on, and we will step forward for "Wren."

Honestly, it's been difficult. Though "Wren" is precious and created in His image and worthy of love as much as "Mila," we are just sad. To be sure, we will love her. There is no doubt in my mind that, a year from now, we will wonder how there was ever a time we were anything less than delighted over her! Love is a choice. And we will choose it. Every single day from the moment she is ours, we will choose love for "Wren," and God will reward that choice with unbelievable, unconditional love for her as our daughter before we know it.

Sweet "Wren"...you just may be our biggest adventure yet. <3 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We have been pursuing "Mila" as our daughter for six months. Her photo is hanging on our wall, and is the background on my phone. She has dresses in a closet and clothes in a drawer, and we have personalized items with what would have been her new name embroidered on them. We are only weeks from travel, and have been so, so excited for this to all come to an end and to meet "Mila" and hug her and love her and bring her home! We pray for her daily. We pray she is loved.

And when we got the call from our facilitator yesterday, delivering new information on her, we found out that she is loved. She's loved by her birth mother. She's been an orphan her whole life, but never unloved. And now her birth mother has decided, for whatever reason, to petition the court to have her rights reinstated, so she can bring "Mila" home. Home where she truly belongs, with the mother who birthed her and is biologically related to her, and wants to care for her.

And, so, she is no longer available for adoption. And she cannot be our daughter.

Our hearts are shattered. Please understand that this is good news, for "Mila." Her mother wants her! This is so incredibly, unimaginably uncommon in her country - a birth mother coming back to reclaim a child with such physical needs! "Mila's" needs are taboo in her culture, and for her mother to go back for her must mean that she is dearly loved. And that's what we have been praying for, is it not? For months we have prayed that someone there would be loving on "our" girl before we could. It turns out, that someone is the woman who is biologically hers.

This is the hard part of adopting from a country that is technically a blind adoption country.  We have known through this entire process that "Mila" isn't ours until we are there to claim her. We have known in our heads that this could happen, though our hearts refused to listen to reason, and burst forward with delight over her.  We have no regrets in falling in love with her.  The "loss" stings but we are immensely thankful God let us love her from afar during this time. Maybe our prayers for her interceded the gap between biological mother and child and helped to soften her mother's heart. I don't know. I will never know.

But I know we must move forward.

We are already submitted in her country, expedited at that. This means we do not have long before we travel - for someone. We no longer know who will be our son or daughter, but God knows. And though "Mila" isn't the child He chose for us, our child is there. We are thankful for "Mila's" role in capturing our hearts and leading us there, to find our child.  And we ask you to pray that she is loved as fiercely as we would have loved her, and more.

Friday, May 12, 2017

SUBMITTED | Reece's Rainbow

Yesterday, I saw the most beautiful word above our beautiful girl's face: SUBMITTED!

After months of paperwork, background checks, homestudy, thousands of dollars and no telling how much sweat, blood, and tears (okay, really minimal amounts of blood, lol!), we are officially submitted to the government in her country, registered as pre-adoptive parents, and only waiting for a phone call to travel!  Honestly, it's only been 5 1/2 months since we made the commitment to adopting "Mila" and we managed to pull off being submitted exactly one month and one week before our dossier would expire, so we've made excellent time! Some days it feels like it's been incredibly fast! Other days, it just drags, waiting for her to be home.  But soon!

In other news, on Tuesday I got a call that we had received two matching grants through Lifesong! (<--clickable link) Chosen & Dearly Loved and Orphan Care Alliance BOTH offered us $3,500 matching grants! This is INCREDIBLE news and, if met, would put us fully funded! We have an online auction coming up, set to begin on Sunday, and I really anticipate that generating a lot of funding, but I'm also working hard for every dollar toward our grant, making fudge.

Just about every night after my kids are in bed, and often during the day, when the opportunity arises, you can find me in the kitchen, stirring a pot of fudge. What started as an idea from my 12 year old son, hoping to generate a little adoption money, ended up being an enormous success too much for his preteen ability. He helps when and where he can, particularly with packaging and cutting Oreos, but I am absolutely happy to step in and make batch after batch of delicious, homemade fudge every night to go toward our adoption - which is especially fruitful with this matching grant!

We are submitted expedited, so we know "The Call" will come in the next few weeks. When exactly that will be, I don't know. The only thing consistent in her country is that nothing is consistent, so I can only make guesses and then re-evaluate later. But until the call comes and we are told to travel, I will be fundraising my tail off, making fudge and doing anything I can to meet the matching grants.\

If you want fudge, let me know! ;) 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Finished! | Reece's Rainbow

We are finished! That's it! We have done everything we can possibly do!

Our immigration approval came in the mail on Monday, May 1. On Tuesday, May 2, we drove to our bank to sign our page in the dossier for USCIS approval in front of a notary, then took that to the county certifier, and then my husband looked at me and said the most beautiful words...

"Wanna just drive to Frankfort and get this finished?"


Off to Frankfort we went with our six kiddos, to finish up our dossier to bring home our sweet number seven! We managed to get to the Secretary of State's office about fifteen minutes before they stopped taking walk-ins, and we were out about five minutes later!

We left the Capitol and headed straight to a nearby UPS Store and sent our "paper baby" off to be joined with the rest of our dossier that's already in country. Tracking shows it was delivered today (Thursday, May 4) so it made excellent time! We hope to be "submitted" next week, and then we just wait for our travel dates!  And that's it, as far as things we can do! Our end is finished until we travel, and it's a relief to have it all wrapped up, stateside!

The only thing left for us to do is work on funding which, of course, we have been working on for months. Mason (12) had the brilliant idea for us to make and sell fudge, and that has gone over very well! He had actually intended for us to take orders for delivery in time for Mother's Day, but the idea what a hit when I shared it on facebook, and to date I've had 26 orders for boxes of fudge! We also have an online auction that will start on Sunday, May 14, and we have been blown away with the generosity of donors towards that! There are really some great items up for bid!  We have seven grants out that haven't responded, but none of them are due to notify until we expect to already be in country, since she is going to be expedited.  We are praying and have faith that God is going to make a way. After all, He has brought us this far, and He loves "Mila" even more than we do!

Since I have no paperwork left to do, when I'm not busy working on fudge (or doing school with the boys - our school year will wrap up in a few weeks, just in time for us to travel for the adoption!), I've been trying to get things squared away in the girls' bedroom. "Mila" has a drawer of clothes here, but I've had to guess at her size. I'm looking forward to knowing better what to buy for her, after our first visit, when I can see her.  We also have things to do to prepare our home and our kids for our time away, and things to buy for travel - like European converters for our electronics that will need to be plugged in!  There are definitely plenty of things to still keep me busy in the next few weeks. :)

Please continue to pray. Specifically:

1) We are praying God will prepare "Mila's" heart, because she is sure to be scared when she leaves her orphanage. It's the only "home" she's known, and she doesn't know us or our language, and it will all be quite a shock. We pray she bonds with us quickly.

2) Praying all of our documents look good, everything is in order, and we get submitted without any trouble.

3) Praying for financing.

4) Praying for peace - both in the wait to meet "Mila," and peace when we have to leave our six behind to travel.  They will be with grandparents and will be totally fine and happy, but it's never easy to leave our babies!

I can't wait to update again, when we are submitted!

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 page...in 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.