Friday, December 28, 2012

In the Meantime
Good news--we found out yesterday that our file has been assigned to an agent at USCIS, which means we should be getting our approval in the mail sometime in the next week or two! Let's get this show on the road, people. 
I promised that the next post would be light and fluffy, so here we go. While we've been waiting to wait, we've gone on two fun trips.  I am blessed to work for an airline, which means free flights.  We used my flight privileges twice this month: to visit my sisters in NC and to go to NYC for my birthday. 
My one request for our NC trip was to have a sisters only lunch with my sisters Sage and Jenny.  Jenny has been battling a serious illness (but she's doing really well), so it was extra-special to have that time together.
While in NC we went by Old Salem, a 200+ year old area of Winston-Salem.  I spent a significant portion of my childhood in NC, and I have lots of pictures of myself at this water pump from the time I was a baby.
All I wanted for my birthday was a trip to NYC, so we left on the morning of my actual birthday (December 15th) and came home the next day.  Jon had some Hilton points leftover from his old job, and we used the last of them for one night in a hotel near Times Square. 

Rockefeller Center
Breakfast at a tiny diner before we headed back to the airport. Sadly, that hat was my only NYC purchase.
Last weekend we were near my niece Cheyenne and her boyfriend Matt's house, so we stopped by to give our great-nephew/godson, Roman, his Christmas gift.


I hope everyone had a lovely, restful Christmas.  Happy new year! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Waiting to Wait
I have been struggling a lot this week with self pity.  We still haven't received our USCIS approval, and we had our fingerprints taken one month ago today.  I never thought that we would start 2013 NOT being on the waiting list.  Lots of other West Sands families have been getting really quick responses from USCIS--one couple got their approval FOUR DAYS after their fingerprints--and they're all passing us by.  Jon has been calling USCIS once a week for a month to ask what our status is, and each time he gets the same answer: our file is still waiting to be assigned to a case worker, waiting to be handled.  Life is  beginning to feel like one of those dreams when you're running as fast as you can and not moving an inch, or moving excruciatingly slowly. I get multiple "how is the adoption going?!" questions each week, and I grit my teeth and always answer the same: "fine, thanks, we're just waiting on our approval! we're really excited!"
I have had many angry/weepy moments when I've wondered why this process seems to be harder for us than for other people (which is ridiculous, because some families have to fight and petition and hire attorneys to get their children home).  I am also dealing with the bitter disappointment and heartache of a difficult situation with a family member, which has not turned out the way I've hoped and prayed (and I mean the lying face down on the floor in a puddle of snot and tears kind of praying).  I have definitely had a few "where the heck ARE you, God???  I'm super pissed!" conversations with Jesus. 
Admittedly, I struggle a lot with fear, anxiety, and a glass-half-empty outlook on life.  In my defence, I've lived through some pretty crappy stuff, including the tragic, sudden, and shocking death of my very best friend in the world 8 years ago.  A lot of the things I've feared most (the death of loved ones, job loss, multiple family members facing life-threatening illnesses) have come roaring to life and punched me in the face. So, of course, I immediately jump to worse-case-scenario mode with regard to this adoption. (Russia's recent announcement that it's about to ban all adoption of Russian children by American families is not helpful in this regard.)
I think I need to have some serious time with Jesus, and maybe some counseling, to shake me out of this fear/anxiety mode.  It's blinding me to the awesome things happening in my life.  I've mentioned before on this blog that we want/need to pay off our debt before the babies come home, and I've spent   years--even before adoption was on the radar--praying that God would miraculously provide the means for us to pay off our debt.  About a month ago, Jon got a huge bonus at work, enough for us to pay off one of our highest-balance credit cards. He sent me a text saying that the balance on this card had been paid in full and, when I was driving home that day, it hit me--God had miraculously provided to help us pay off our debt.  With this one card's balance gone, we can begin applying its huge monthly payment to our other cards and will hopefully be on our way to being debt free.  Praise His name.
I apologize for the lengthiness and heaviness of this post.  If you've kept reading this far, God bless you.  I promise the next post will be light and fluffy, with lots of pictures.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Home Study
and an update
We are so, so close to being on the waiting list, and I can't wait....!  We've had our fingerpints taken at USCIS and are just waiting on our approval letter.  Once that comes in we can send our dossier to West Sands and get on "the list."  

I was sad that there was no ink on my finger, since everything is electronic now.
(side note: before I left work for our finger print appointment, I had somehow managed to make a can of Coke explode all over myself--and the kitchen at work.  I frantically washed my bangs in a sink in the bathroom and towel dried them in the car, but the back of my head was still a sticky mess.)

Our home study visit was August 18, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared/expected it would be.  Our social worker briefly toured the house, and then the rest of the visit was her interviewing Jon and me, both together and separately. I love the scene in What to Expect When You're Expecting when Jennifer Lopez's character is completely freaking out and hiding her wedding photos before the social worker arrives--I can completely relate to that "OMG if this person doesn't like us we can't ever adopt!!" panic. I was a nervous wreck for days leading up to the home visit, and I even had a last minute meltdown just before she arrived that involved my frantically bleaching and scrubbing the kitchen sink while sobbing (I can have a meltdown like a champ). As soon as she left Jon helpfully pointed out that I had a GIANT rip in the back of my jeans. I then got into bed and watched movies the rest of the day to recover.  

At least our house was super clean.


I also laughed during the home study scene in What to Expect When You're Expecting when Jennifer Lopez's character serves cookies she's baked and the social worker refuses to eat them. I found a blueberry bread recipe on Pinterest and got up extra early to ensure I had enough time to make it, but our social worker refused to have a piece. She also declined our offers of tea/coffee/water; some of our adoption friends have told us it's typical for social workers not to eat or drink anything at clients' homes.  

I, however, stress-ate throughout the entire visit.
My beautiful blueberry bread (which was half gone by the time she left)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday.  Our adoption journey began one year ago today, when God placed a desire in each of our hearts to choose adoption--to choose the orphan--first for our family.  As I look back over the past year, I am amazed at how far we've already come and at how our priorities have shifted.

Happy Orphan Sunday, everyone.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

International Adoption Lingo/The Process

Dossier (pronounced “doss-e-A”): a collection of documents containing very detailed information about the adoptive parents. Compiling a dossier involves gathering documents (everything from medical clearance from our doctors to letters from our local police station and certified copies of our birth and marriage certificates, etc.), having these documents notarized, and then authenticated, which means adding various seals from our county, our state, and the U.S. government.  Once we have all of the documents needed for our dossier we will send it to West Sands (our agency), and they will have it authenticated and sent to the Ethiopian government.  When our dossier is in the hands of the Ethiopian government we will officially be on the waiting list.

Home Study:  our home study is part of our dossier, and it's basically a social worker's assesment of our home and, in her opinion, our parenting abilities.  Also included in the home study is an autobiography for both Jon and myself (which was both fun and tough to write), letters of recommendation from three people, and several other documents (including our pets' vet records!).

Referral: once our dossier is in Ethiopia and we are on the waiting list to receive our referral.  Our adoption agency knows our requests/preferences--we are requesting siblings under the age of two--and once we are at the top of the waiting list and the kids who are meant to be ours become available we will receive a phone call and then be sent an e-mail with the children's pictures, history, and medical info. 

Once we have formally accepted our referral we will travel to Ethiopia for court (usually about 6-8 weeks later), where we will officially be declared the children's parents.  We then travel back home--without the kids--and wait to be cleared by the US embassy in Ethiopia.  When we have received the green light from the embassy we will travel back to Ethiopia for our embassy appointment, and then we get to bring our babies home!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Paper Chase

Several months ago, when Jon and I were trying to raise the money needed to begin the adoption process, I couldn't WAIT to start the paper chase (see some of my earlier posts), because it would mean we were on our way. Well, I am happy to report that we are deep into the paper chase, and we hope to have everything submitted and ready to go (which = finally being on the waiting list) by the end of the year.

(Please, please, please baby Jesus.)

For those of you whose lives are not consumed by international adoption, the "paper chase" is the (hopefully) few months when adoptive parents are up to their eyeballs in paper work and are spending every free moment possible working on obtaining needed documents. For example, last week we worked on getting life and health insurance confirmation letters and letters of clearance from our local police department. Next week we have our (thorough) physicals, and we will return to the doctor a week after our appointment to get our notarized letters stating that, to the doctor's knowledge, neither of us is facing imminent death. We are also working on getting letters of reference from a few of our friends and letters from our bank and our employers. In case you were wondering, international adoption does indeed feel like a part-time job sometimes.

Our adoption notebook, full of precious documents obtained with blood, sweat, and a few tears, and kept on a high shelf far away from spilled drinks and destructive shihpoos.
Another key part of the paper chase is the home study. Our home visit is in a few weeks and, I have to admit, it's the part of the process that I'm the most nervous about. The thought of having someone in your home for several hours to analyze you and decide whether or not you and your spouse are fit to be parents is a little daunting. We also have had to obtain several documents for the home study, and we each have to write an "autobiography", guided by their very to-the-point questions (describe your most unpleasant childhood memory. how does your family really feel about the adoption?).

Each step we take brings us one step closer to our babies. And that makes all the work more than worth it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

it takes a village

I saw the phrase "it takes a village" on an adoption fundraiser shirt recently, and I can't think of more appropriate words to apply to international adoption (or any adoption, really).  We absolutely could not follow through with this calling to adopt without the spiritual, emotional, and financial support of our church community.  It is too hard to do alone.  And, it will definitely be too hard to do alone once the babies are home.  We will need the support of our friends and church family, holding us up when we are weary and feeling broken, even more then as we--and the children--work through the bittersweet trauma and transition that inevitably comes with adoption. I'm so very grateful that God has us planted in this community for such a time as this.  

A couple of months ago some sweet friends of ours donated $1,000 on the blog. Amazing. We had our eat-in fundraiser at our friends'/lifegroup leaders' house on a recent Saturday night, and between donations and our silent auction we made $1,100.  Incredible.  We are blessed. And we are well on our way to having the money and paperwork we need to get our dossier sent to Ethiopia, which brings us one step closer to our babies.  

Pictures from the eat-in:

chatting with Leeann
Jordan, our incredibly supportive pastor/friend

Rachel--the friend who made adoption real to me

Darrah and Erin

Lindsey and Stacy

Silent Auction 

Thank you, friends, for your support--we couldn't do this without you!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A New Perspective...

Photo credit

Photo taken from 

Who knew Africa was so big?! I know I certainly didn't. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

(belated) Mother's Day Musings

This Mother's Day felt a little different for me.  I felt much more introspective and, for lack of a better word, aware this Mother's Day.  We probably won't have our babies home until late 2013 or sometime in 2014, but in some ways I already feel like a mother.  They may not have even been conceived yet, but I am consumed with love for our kids.  I think a lot about how exciting it will be to walk out of the West Sands transition house and fly home with them, and how exciting it will be to get them out of their cribs in the mornings, feed them, and clean up their messes.  

My heart aches to have them with us, yet, at the same time, my heart aches for their birth mother.  I pray for her daily--that she will have enough to eat, that she will be healthy and protected.  It's an odd reality, to pray for someone's health and safety all the while knowing that something--be it disease, death, or simply extreme poverty and too many kids at home already--will inevitably cause her children to be taken out of her arms and placed into mine.  My heart aches for HER.  I will be honored with the task of raising her babies, and I will be tasked with honoring her by loving them well.

And, this wouldn't be a proper Mother's Day post without a few words about my own mother.   She has taught me compassion, and who Jesus is, and the importance of a good skin care regime.  I am so very thankful for her.

my mama with her mama

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reaping God’s Harvest
Guest post by Jon 

1 Corinthians 3:2 - I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7 - 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

Two weeks ago on Monday, on her way home from jury duty, my wife’s car decided to breakdown.  After a stressful conversation in which I asked repeatedly “what happened” and she answered repeatedly “I don’t know, I heard a bang, and now there is a loud noise” I decided I needed to view the car in person.  After driving to where she was, we quickly determined that it needed to go to the shop.  When I arrived, popped the hood, and examined the damage with the service tech, we noticed the engine was not in its proper place.  In fact, it was falling through the bottom of the car!  The right side of my brain went berserk crunching numbers as they soared into the thousands for the potential cost of the damage.  Little did I know that this was just God shaking the fruit from one of the “trees” in our life, the seeds of which he had planted long ago. 

You see, when I was in grad school, I took a class on negotiation.  We had a guest speaker who owned a car dealership, and he said to take your car to the dealership for repairs and service when possible.  The point of this is to establish a relationship with the dealership as a repeat customer, a major advantage when negotiating, which can lead to saving money on future expensive repairs.  I have since used this advice and take our cars to the same dealership for all repairs.   This was a seed that was planted, and God was waiting to use it at the right time.

Now, back to the car.  As Tuesday morning passed with no word, I continued to grow anxious, and the numbers continued to spin upwards in my head.  Finally, the phone call came.  Our dealership had determined that the issue was due to a lack of proper installation in a prior repair, which caused the engine to fall off its mount.  While I was geared and ready to negotiate, God already had this worked out.  The dealer then informed me that they would be taking care of the bill since it was their fault. 

As we picked up our car this past Friday, I was reminded of some things that have been planted in my life that God is harvesting right now.  Things like a comment from an ex-girlfriend nearly 10 years ago about fathering future children who would not be biologically mine, my new job which somehow ties together all of the skills I’ve acquired over a random career, and even a small seed planted about car maintenance that he used to save us over $6,000 during a time when every dime is going to save for an expensive adoption.  

Experiences like this are a reminder that God is in control, and I am grateful to be along for the ride.   

Friday, April 20, 2012

Depraved  Indifference and The Father's Heart

Long, but so good 

I love this video.  My friends Matt and Rachel played it on Orphan Sunday, the day that marked the change of everything.  I feel this kind of crazy, climbing the walls desperation when I think of our babies in Ethiopia.  I think Eric Ludy does a great job of expressing the desperate, reckless-abandonment kind of love God has for us and wants us to have for the broken around us.  Although this video is a great wake up call for the church to stop looking at themselves and start looking at the hurting around us, please don't take it as being condemnation or a "you need to be doing more stuff" kind of message.  

Jesus said "My yoke (the things oxen wear around their necks when they're working for their owners) is easy, and the burden I give you is light."  -Matthew 11:30  
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10  "For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things He planned for us along ago."  The second part of Ephesians 2:10 is something a lot of Christians miss, or simply don't get.  The Lord has prepared the good works, and we are simply to walk into them when they present themselves!  No striving, no performing.  When we get stressed about "being good" and try to do things in our own strength we are working out of pride and not relying on Jesus.  We are to be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit so that when we encounter a good work God has prepared for us--from before the beginning of time--we simply walk into it.  

My mother is an amazing example of this, and she has been an excellent mentor to me.  Two examples that immediately come to mind:  about a year ago she was picking up one of her purses? watches? (can't remember) that was being repaired by a local jeweler.  While in the store she watched a young girl with  a baby trying to sell her thin, gold wedding band.  The jeweler told her it was only worth $20, and she ran out of the store weeping.  My mom ran after her, hugged her, and met her needs--both financial and emotional/spiritual.  The second occurred at a grocery store near my parents' house.  My mother doesn't usually shop there, but for some reason she chose to go there that day.  When it came time to check out an elderly man, impeccably dressed, was in front of my mother in line and was trying to pay for his groceries with food stamps, but he didn't have enough.  My mother could sense the humiliation and despair pouring out of this man, and she told the cashier to add this man's cart of groceries onto her bill.  You see? Effortless--no striving or stressing on her part--good works prepared for her to walk into before the beginning of time.  I can also recall a couple of times throughout my childhood when down-and-outs who had no place to go were brought into our home for a meal and a bed.

Once you really, truly, fully grasp just how sweet and ferociously (marked by unrelenting intensity) strong the love of God is, once you start to understand who He is, you can't help but love Him back.  Don't look to some broken Christians who twist the message of Christ to be your example of who He is.  Seek Him for yourself, and see what you find.  He loves you just as intensely--or maybe even more so--if you have told Him to eff off, that you want nothing to do with Him, that you don't believe in Him.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I run for them 
(or, the reason I'll be using my treadmill for the first time in two months)

I have never, ever been athletic--or even workouty.  My last brush with sports was in seventh grade when I got super ambitious and played volleyball, basketball, and joined the track team all in one year.  Volleyball wasn't bad; I quit basketball after one week because it was hard and a couple of girls made me cry; and I hated running so I ended up throwing shot-put and discus in track.  In high school we were all required to be involved in some sort of sport, but my friend Michelle and I convinced our headmaster to allow us to do sports independently.  Everyday the two of us would--slowly--walk around our school's beautiful, hilly campus overlooking San Antonio and chat about our boyfriends, prom dresses, and college plans.  There was never any question of our speeding our stroll up to jog-level.  

Athletics were never a big deal in my family.  Although my dad went to college on a track scholarship and was quite the football star in high school, he was hardly ever home (airline pilot) and my mother, who is from England, never thought sports were that important.  Instead we read, we shopped and ate lots of Asian food, we watched Masterpiece Theater on PBS.  I have made some brave attempts at becoming a regular workout person throughout my life, but it always lasts a couple of months (if that) before I'm back to my couch-loving self.  

our messy "gym," full of papers to be filed and things to be sold 

When we started going to our church almost four years ago, I (jokingly) told my husband it appeared one needed three things in order to fit in: an iPhone, a baby, and a running habit.  We jumped on the iPhone bandwagon two years ago and we're now working on the baby thing, but we never have been able to get into running.  Oh, trust me, I want to run, and I've tried a few times.  It always ends badly, and I always go back to just staring enviously at the willowy girls flying past me at the park as I walk my dogs.  

Nothing ever seems to motivate me enough to stick with running (or, let's be totally honest; slowly jogging).  A few months ago I went to a cardiologist because my heart was doing some crazy stuff, and he had me wear a heart monitor for a week.  It turned out that I was just having a bad reaction to some medication and a blood sugar issue (I'm totally fine now), but he did tell me my heart seemed a little out of shape and that I need to start doing cardio on a regular basis.  A logical person would be motivated by a cardiologist telling him/her to workout--nope, not me.  

This past weekend our pastor/friend, Jordan, e-mailed Jon and me about a fundraising opportunity this October.  It's called The Chosen Marathon, and it's basically a giant fundraiser for families who are adopting.  They have a full marathon, a half marathon, and a fun run for kids.  My immediate reaction was HA!  ok whatever.   Then I started looking into it, and thinking about it.  Thinking that maybe we can do this.  Maybe we HAVE to do this.  Yes, we can have a team run on our behalf (four people have already expressed interest in running on our team!) while we just volunteer at the event, but I feel like this is something we, or at least I, HAVE to do (the half marathon, not the full).  I think this is the push I've needed to start doing what's been nagging at me for so long.  I've actually been praying for awhile that the Lord would give me the courage and motivation to embrace running for my health and overall well-being because, running to fit into my skinny jeans (or, let's face it, my regular jeans), running to improve my health, running to fit in with everyone around me who is always running...none of that has been enough to motivate me to start, and keep, running.  

But now, now I run for them.  

And, maybe I can get one of these cool shirts.
***If you'd like to help support our adoption by participating in The Chosen Marathon on our behalf, please contact me at

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Queen of Sheba

As I research and learn more about Ethiopia, I find myself really falling in love with its culture and history--it's such a beautiful country!  I think it's important for Jon and I to know as much as possible about the place our children are coming from.  So, in an effort to incorporate a little more Ethiopian culture into our lives, I convinced Jon to go to an Ethiopian restaurant tonight for dinner.  It was delicious, and such a fun experience!  I (or Jon, to be honest) had to hold myself back from asking our waitress 1,000 questions about Ethiopia and telling her all about our adoption.  I tend to get overly excited about things and over-share, especially with strangers.  :)

our platter of food
yummy Ethiopian honey wine

there are no utensils; instead you tear off pieces of injera bread and use them to pick up each bite of food

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Step

Jon and I have taken the first, official, on-paper step in our adoption process.  We've been accepted into the Ethiopia program of our first-choice agency--West Sands Adoptions!  Their slogan is "a sacred mission" which I absolutely love, because that's exactly how Jon and I see our calling to adopt.  

Our application being notarized
The next step is getting our home study done and putting our dossier together (which involves tons of paperwork, physicals, background checks, trips to government offices to be finger printed, etc.).  Once all of THAT craziness is finished, our dossier can be approved and sent to the Ethiopian government, and then we'll be on the waiting list.  Lots of adoptive parents talk about how agonizingly difficult the waiting phase of adoption is, but, to be perfectly honest, I would give almost anything to be on the waiting list right now.  The thought of being finished with the stressful "paper chase" and overwhelming fundraising phase of adoption and just waiting to receive that phone call announcing that we've been matched with siblings sounds like bliss.  I know I might feel differently in six months or a year, but that's how I feel right now.  :)

Now that we've officially begun the adoption process we can throw ourselves whole-heartedly into fundraising--I apologize in advance to all of our local friends who will probably be sick of our special events, bake sales, and pleas for garage sale items in the coming months.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Garage Sale

Last Saturday we had our BIG garage sale.  It was completely exhausting--we got about three hours of sleep the night before, and the sale lasted six hours.  By the end we were both sunburned and barely functioning (hauling the left overs back into the garage felt like the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life), but it was totally worth it because we made $750!  A few sweet people saw our ad on CraigsList and came to the sale because they wanted to support our adoption.  One lady came to the sale just to give us a donation--she didn't even buy anything!  

We now have enough money to pay our agency's application fee; the next step is raising the money for our home study and dossier fees.  It's amazing that we've made so much progress in such a short amount of time!  We are planning on going to the bank tomorrow to sign all of our application documents and have them notarized, and then we will head to the post office to mail everything off.  Hopefully we will learn whether or not we've been accepted by our agency in the next week or two--we are on our way!

Our living room the night before the sale; our garage was also completely full.
We had tons of clothes to sell--two clothing racks full in addition to these bags.
Our puppies weren't sure what to think!  Mops camped out on this bag for several hours while I priced stuff.
My friend Rachel's husband, Matt, made this sign for us.  It was a great conversation starter! 

The stack of documents we're mailing to our agency tomorrow!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Jon and I get to practice our parenting skills this weekend--we're keeping our great-nephew/godson Roman for a couple of days/nights.  He's such a sweet baby.

Also, we're beginning to see a wee bit of progress on the fundraising front.  We've had a couple of donations on the blog from sweet friends/family members, and I do a happy dance every time I get one of these notifications: