Thursday, December 27, 2012

The post in which I tell you his name

Wow, what a month this has been. From Thanksgiving (in which I sobbed over the fact of knowing I had a son, but I didn't *have* him with me) to Newtown, Conn. (no words, I simply have no words over this tragedy) to now, where we've made it through our first Christmas as a family of 5, in theory. It was interesting, to say the least. My oldest asked, "Mommy, will my brother be home next Christmas?"

To which I had to reply, "Honey, the way things are looking, it's going to be a few Christmases before he can come home."

A sobering reality, combined with bad news now that Russia is instituting its ban on U.S. adoptions for its children, can make for one sad parent here in Tennessee.

But I'm not writing about that tonight. At least not now, anyway. We embraced our new direction this Christmas season. Ornaments of Africa were added to our tree, our children received coloring books about the country in which their brother resides, "Santa" left sweet dolls with chocolate skin, which they have lovingly embraced as their own. I received a wonderful necklace with the words "Mother" written in Amharic, the main language in Ethiopia. Everywhere I look in our house, our son is there. He even received his very own ornaments this year.

No longer is our son just a figment of my imagination. No, he is real. Very real. I had a dream last week. My very first dream about him. The memories are so fuzzy now, but what a delightful feeling to wake up and for a moment, to imagine what he looks like. Do I sound weird, because I've dreamed about him? I dreamed about each of our girls while I was pregnant, so maybe what's happening to me is the same thing?

Drew and I have decided on a name for our son. I've kept it somewhat close to my heart, telling a few friends and family, but not announcing it to the world. I'm not quite sure why I've felt this way, but the more I share his name, the more I desire to shout it from the mountaintops, because it means he is real. He is out there. I am calling him by name. I am praying for him. I am praying for his birth mother. This isn't a figment of my imagination, or just a dream. His name is written on my heart, and is breathed into my daily life.


Precious, sweet Micah. His name actually has an interesting story. Early on in the process, I hadn't thought too much about his name. I was afraid that by naming him, it would make it incredibly personal, incredibly too quick for me. It would add way too many emotions to what I was already experiencing. It was easy to pray for "our son," but it completely changed it by adding a physical name to it.

And then, one day this fall, my mom felt it pressed upon her heart to tell me of this name. That she had been praying about it for weeks, nervous to even bring it up, but that she simply had to tell me. Is that not a gift straight from God or what?

As Drew and I spoke it, I simply fell at peace. That is his name, how can I even deny it? A prophet, who fights for those who are poor. Or in the notes of my Bible, "The prophecy attests to Micah's deep sensitivity to the social ills of his day, especially as they affected the small towns and villages of his homeland."

I can't explain why, but this name fits him. How can I know this, when I don't even know who he is?

Because I just do.

Just like I know we are called to follow God down this path. This difficult, unknowing path, in which we're told our wait time is increasing one day, and then the next we're told maybe, just maybe, our trips *might* be condensed into one by the time we receive our referral. But the constant change is increasing my faith in God, and reminding me that this is His plan, and that I am to follow Him down this path, no matter how many turns it might take.

In the Bible, Micah 6:8 reminds us what God requires of us: "Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with your God."

It is a big name, with big shoes to fill. But something tells me, he will fill those shoes. And then some.

If you have a moment in the coming days, I humbly ask you to pray for Micah, our son. Pray for him, and pray for orphans everywhere, who need a home. Pray for leadership in every country, that they will seek first to do what's best for the child at hand. It's not about us. It's not about what we need. May we all be reminded that God is at work. I love what Embracing Hope Ethiopia's Christmas devotional had to say, and it's something I hope I can always remember.

Let us remember that Jesus is with us in the ordinary. He is setting the stage. He is preparing us and watching to see if we will partner with Him. And then, in His timing and as He sees fit, He invites us to participate with Him in seeing His name known throughout the earth. May we bring Him glory and point the way to Jesus.

Amen. He is setting the stage. I want to be ready. How about you?

Much love,

[from pinterest]

Monday, November 26, 2012

The good, the bad, the ugly.

Thanksgiving wasn't the greatest.

I'm not going to lie. It wasn't the family, or the food, or the conversations. I simply wasn't expecting this holiday to be difficult, emotionally speaking. How in the world can I be emotional about this whole adoption experience, when we're technically only two months into the waiting process? I don't have much basis for these emotions yet. It's not like I'm two years into the wait, like the families who are #1 on the list. Now THOSE are some families who should be emotional.

No, my emotions completely took over my level-headed brain on the ride home Thursday night. Poor Drew, I couldn't even put into words what I was feeling. Thankfully, the girls were passed out in the back seat, allowing me the opportunity to just be.

I'm still struggling to verbalize how I feel, less than one week later. So bear with me, because I'm going to attempt that now. I want this blog to be open and honest. There is good with the bad, and Lord help me if I ever try to pretend to have it all together!

As we drove home, bellies full of turkey and dressing and vegetables and pie, my heart broke as I wondered if our son was born yet, and if so, was he hungry? Was he lonely? Was he still with his birth family? Was he clothed? Was anyone loving on him? And boy, do those questions absolutely wreck my heart. How can I feel such strong emotions for a child I don't even know yet? Or who may not even be born yet?

I'll tell you how. God has set the lonely in our family. Talk about really beginning to understand some scripture. I'm surprised at how quickly it's hit me but then again, I shouldn't be surprised by what God can do  to your heart.

And God works every day to dry my tears. My daily emailed devotional the next morning was titled, "Tired of Waiting." Well, I don't know if technically I should be tired of waiting yet. If nothing else, I really need to get serious about settling into the wait. Our wait time has been increased from 18-24 months to now 18-30 months. It could decrease if the Ethiopian government works through its processes, or it may increase even more so. So for you planners out there, throw the calendars away. I'm trying to do so. But back to this devotion. It was wonderful and perfect, just the lift I needed. Here was the prayer written out at the bottom of the devotion:

Dear Lord, please help me have patience and faith while I wait to hear from You. Help me live in excited anticipation for the day when I will see how You answer my prayers.

And today, God reminded me in this morning's devotion to keep on this path. Today focused on Moses and how he felt so ill-equipped in God's calling for his life. I pray that whatever bends this road may take, that we stay on God's path for our family. Even if it stretches me outside my comfort zone. I am so grateful to God for his continued patience with me.

While I definitely want to be honest on this blog, I don't want to be a constant downer, so here are some fun photos from our Thanksgiving weekend that will hopefully bring a smile to your face.

Someone did NOT want to take Christmas card pictures.


Love the Chattanooga Discovery Museum. And the girls do too.

City of Lights! You can see how intrigued Madeline is over the whole experience.

No worries. She perked right up when it was time for cookie decorating.

A trip to Chattanooga isn't complete without the elf tuck-in service.

Hi Santa! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Month Officially "In"

We're officially one month in to the waiting process, or as our Ethiopia-adoption group calls it: One Month DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia). We had a great day at church, followed by our new tradition for this waiting period. On the 28th of every month, until we receive our referral, we will send balloons up in the air and celebrate with a bowl of ice cream. My girls think the ice cream is a simply marvelous addition and the balloons give them something to look forward to each month.

Before we picked up the balloons, Meredith insisted on making her brother a picture (She remains convinced that these balloons make it all the way to Ethiopia and into the arms of her brother. I am not about to lead her differently – don’t you just love the innocence of a child?). She said, “Mommy, I need you to write these words down on the paper. Write, ‘Jesus, please help my brother.’ And I will sign it.”

We taped the drawing to the balloon, walked outside, and the girls let them go. For 5 seconds, we silently watched the balloons move quickly into the sky. And then we heard a sickening “POP.” Meredith’s balloon unfortunately got stuck in a tree, and popped right there, leaving the drawing dangling from the branch. Oh, the tears that fell from her sweet eyes. I held her on the front steps of the porch as she sobbed. All she wanted was for her brother to have that picture. My poor heart ached for her – she just wants him home, and I do too.

Fortunately, the wind must have carried off the drawing because we no longer see it dangling in the tree. She is hopeful that it’s still on its way to Africa. And I am too.


The night ended in more tears, but those were all me. I made the sore mistake of reading a children’s book to the girls for their bedtime story that had just arrived in the mail. Why I don’t pre-read these books first is beyond me (note to self: a children’s book about adoption is likely to cause emotion). If you haven’t heard of the book, Mommy’s Heart Went POP!, and you’re looking for a way to talk to children about international adoption, specifically for Africa, get this book. Beautifully written and illustrated, it will melt your heart or in my case, cause some tears as I reflect on being one month in to a long waiting process. I feel a bit emotionally drained; I’m sure I can write more later, but suffice it to say, this wait isn’t going to get any easier.

I hope to use my time in this waiting period wisely. One week from today is Orphan Sunday; is your church doing anything to support it? Our church is in the infancy stages of learning more about Orphan Sunday, but I’m hoping it can grow into something more. What a great way to spend one day focusing on these precious children.

November brings about Adoption Awareness Month. If you have a minute in your prayers, pray for these orphans. Pray for adoptive families. Pray for adoption agencies, and the countries who are working to place these children with their forever families. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Money, money, money

I've been asked, in some form or fashion, "How much is this costing?" Valid question, and I understand the curiosity. The numbers can range wildly from country to country, but for us, it's helped to have a big breakdown for each stage showing us where our money goes. Because we're not, contrary to popular belief, "buying a child." I've debated whether or not to post all this. Money is, after all, considered a private matter. But I want to show you how this breaks down because at the end of the day, I want this blog to be open and honest and let's face it: the cost of adoption is something heavily discussed. So here you go, our broad range of costs for adopting our son from Ethiopia:

The Home Study - $1,500-3,000 - This fee goes to a social worker or the agency where the social worker works who spends several weeks working with your family to ensure that you are qualified to adopt. They do many criminal background checks (often at the county, state, and federal level), a child protection background check, make you do training on adoption and specifically the type of child you are planning to adopt (special needs, older, younger, etc), visit with your family and interview everyone in the home to see if you are prepared and ready (click here to read more about our home visit), look through your home to see if your home is safe and adequate size for a child, look over your financial situation to see if you can afford to raise said child, etc. Then they spend a great amount of time typing up a summary - your home study - of all their findings, which in our case was a 16-page document. It's a very GOOD thing and the first safety net to make sure certain creeps don't get their hands on children. This person is completely separate from the origin of the child and is also required for US/domestic adoption.

US Immigration - $890 - This fee is for the US office of immigration (USCIS) to look over our information, fingerprint us (yet another background check), and determine if we meet the US criteria to bring a foreigner into the country on a visa. This fee is also completely separate from the origin of the child.

Adoption Agency fee - $5,000-7,000, roughly - This fee goes toward paying the social workers who work at the agency for the many hours they spend compiling the children's files and information, helping the families with their paperwork, organizing and compiling a family's dossier, agency overhead, state/federal seals for the documents (this really adds up) as well as courier fees for those documents, training programs for families, etc.

International fee - roughly $4,000-5,000 - This fee goes to the agency contacts in Ethiopia. It is spent on paying someone for the translation of the dossier (a very detailed look at your family, including your home study and immigration approval); fees for government documents like embassy paperwork, birth certificates, passports, etc.; in-country social services (community outreach and services the agency facilitates); facilitation of the adoption (acting as the family's hands and feet in the government agencies in the country to complete the adoption); travel coordination; orphanage fee (upkeep, buying supplies, paying nannies, utilities, etc); and childcare (approximately the amount of money spent on your child's nutrition, medical, schooling, etc. while they are waiting to be picked up).

Travel - $6,000-15,000 - Two trips are required for Ethiopia and many/most other countries. This is approximately how much will be spent on plane tickets ($1,500 - 2,000 each person/each trip), hotel costs, food costs, transportation costs, etc. This fee, of course, goes to airlines and in country companies, not to anyone relating to the child.

Embassy Visa - $400 each child - fee for each child to receive a US visa to enter the US as your child. Again, not a fee associated with the child.

If you're really curious, click here to view our agency's further breakdown of costs specifically for Ethiopia.

So as you can see, only a small portion of that actually goes into the hands of an adoption agency for their services. Absolutely ZERO money should ever go into the hands of the families placing their children for adoption and no more than an average salary should ever go into the hands of the facilitator who works in adoption in the country. It happens and those are the stories that of course hit the news. If the world was perfect, people would be able to work these selfless jobs for no pay, but we all know that simply isn't possible. And I guess in a perfect world, there wouldn't be orphans, so maybe I should just shut up about perfect worlds and face reality. Or maybe I just need to stop over thinking this. Or maybe I should go to bed, because thinking about numbers makes my head hurt. I don't like numbers. They scare me.

Have I lost you yet? Nervous about talking dollars like this?

Sorry about that. Continuing on:

No one likes to talk about the fees relating to adoption, but it's a very real thing and something that can't be ignored. Just like giving birth to a child costs a great deal of money, so does adoption. The difference is many people have medical insurance to help cover the costs associated with giving birth. Families who choose to adopt must come up with all of that money on their own.

When I think back to how much we would have had to pay for medical expenses for each pregnancy, I am grateful for medical insurance covering the large majority of it. Had we not had that, we couldn't have afforded our two daughters. For our oldest, the hospital stay alone would have put us in great debt. Thank goodness for good insurance (and good medical care)!

So no, we're not "buying" our son. And yes, it is expensive...if only something like adoption insurance existed! We do hope that the adoption tax credit that is due to expire this year is renewed with Congress. It will help us, and many other families, tremendously, in covering some of these costs. And yes, at some point we're going to do some fundraising (guess that's a good way for me to utilize this waiting time period).

I do hope this helps clear up any questions you may have. I know, starting on this journey, I didn't know the ins and outs of costs either so I promise I'm not offended if you have additional questions.

Sooo....this wait over yet? No? Two+ years to wait, you say?


Much love,

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crossing the Atlantic

It's official: we are finally DTE!

(DTE = Dossier to Ethiopia)

Our paperwork arrived at our adoption agency Monday morning, went through additional staff checks, then taken to the Department of State and the Ethiopian Embassy for certification/authentication. Our dossier will head over to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where it will sit until we receive a referral.

And now? We wait.

So tonight, in addition to celebrating my husband's birthday, we tacked on a DTE party to it.

Add caption

The cousins are ready, in Meredith's words,
"to send my baby brother balloons to Africa."

My Tennessee girl, rocking the cowgirl boots.

There they go! Off to Africa!

And no celebration is complete without a cake.

We are excited, relieved, and yet nervous about this next stage. I am praying hard that Drew and I (probably mostly me) will have the patience for the waiting we'll have to endure. But before I begin to worry, I want to spend tonight celebrating this first phase. So we will send many, many  more balloons over to Africa during this time.

Much love,

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dossier to D.C.!!

I have to keep this post short. Emotionally, I'm drained, but in such a good way. Today started out normal enough. Errands to run, pictures at church for the directory, followed by lunch and playing at the park with the girls. I had found out the day before that our I-600A had been approved and that within a week to two weeks, we could expect that all-important I-171H form to arrive in our mailbox. This form is the one sheet of paper I've been talking about non-stop because it's the final document needed for our dossier.

Our Dossier - blood, sweat and tears
As I got closer to home, my heart started to quicken because I knew by then that the mail had arrived, and that there was a chance it would be there. But I really didn't want to be disappointed so I talked myself out of it. "Courtney, it's okay if it's not there. Remember, the U.S. postal service takes forever to get these kinds of things across the country. It's NO BIG DEAL." (yes it is)

There was one envelope in the box. One envelope with a return address of U.S. Department of Homeland Security. I about hyperventilated. My poor sister-in-law, on the phone with me at the time, asked if everything was okay.

Within seconds, I was staring at that sweet piece of paper; it had finally arrived!

Needless to say, the next 2 hours were a flurry of activity as we contacted my friend who was available to notarize the document, scanned and made said copies of this document and did one final check-through of everything needed. And of course, we had to write out a big, fat check (more on the costs of adoptions later - promise that post is coming).

On our way to the one FedEx office still open, I kept a tight grip on the bag containing everything. It was so bittersweet to realize we were finally sending off everything.

When we got to the office, Meredith asked if she could carry it in (nervous mama over here!). But she did fine - I think she knew this was a big deal!

Proud big sister
The girls were, ahem, rather loud normal and I thanked God we were the only customers there. And thank goodness we had such a nice FedEx man there. He quickly realized what we were doing and heaped words of congratulations upon us.
The girls, making themselves comfortable.

There it is! Just need to slap on the address and it's ready to go.

She asked, "Okay, so NOW can we go get my brother?"

Miss Sassy Pants Junior.

I had one moment where my breath caught in my throat. As he was finishing up the package, he asked us what we'd like to list as the value of that package. I jokingly said, "One million dollars," and then looked at my husband as I realized this package truly was priceless. Needless to say, the package is officially OUTTA HERE and hopefully on a plane, making its way to Washington D.C., the location of our agency.

What's next? Our agency has to do a bunch of super-secretive stuff to the documents before the dossier is sent to Ethiopia. Kidding, of course. But seriously, they have to translate everything, authenticate some know, make sure every I is dotted and T is crossed. I'm thankful for the fine tooth comb investigation that's conducted. I pray all our paperwork is indeed fully complete. This review process can take anywhere between one and three weeks, then after that, our dossier is on the way to Ethiopia and we "officially" begin our wait of approximately 18-24 months (or longer, or shorter).

I find it fitting that this took place today. It's technically the first day of autumn; we are in the process of changing seasons. As we transition from this rushed paperwork process and settle into what will be an excruciating wait, I pray that this change in "seasons" is one I will grow to appreciate. What little control I had in this first season is now lost as all paperwork gets turned over to our agency and in turn, over to the Ethiopian government. We have a long season ahead of us; winter will come. But even though we can't see it, God is planting those seeds, and nurturing them. One of these days, spring will come, all stars will align, and when our child steps forward, in need, we will be ready.

Okay, this "short" post has become longer, and deeper than I intended, and a blank sheet of paper sits next to me, begging for the makings of a grocery list to appear. Much love, as always, to all of you.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Brain Dump

Ouch, my brain hurts. If ever there was a time I wish I could do a brain dump - use some type of chip to download everything I learned this weekend to a hard drive - I would. Drew and I took time to attend the Empowered to Connect conference this weekend and what a life-changing experience it was for us. Yes, you heard me. Life-changing. On so many levels. Can't even get into it all right now, that will have to wait for another day and another post.

Complete strangers from our adoption agency who were in town for the conference came over to our home for dinner (hey, when you live in the South, you open your home to others and serve them tons of food, am I right?). At the end of this weekend, they feel like dear friends. We spent precious time after dinner praying over a hard issue for one of the families. We laughed, we cried, we compared notes, we cried some more, and for the first time in this process I felt that sense of camaraderie. I knew the online adoption community was alive and kicking, but boy what a difference it makes to have some of them in the flesh to love on you and speak words of encouragement!

I could tell my brain was reaching overload when I crashed last night at 8:30 p.m. after getting the girls to bed. I simply couldn't focus on anything else. I didn't even care to watch the DVR'd Alabama/Arkansas game (which shows you how exhausted I was!). The purpose of the conference was, in my mind, to have a deeper understanding of where these precious children are coming from, and what our role, as adoptive parents, is in connecting to them as they make this tough transition. I learned so much more, and I'm grateful for all the resources I collected over the weekend.

This awesome conference was followed by two wonderful sermons at church (yes, I attended two services today!). The early service focused on inclusive love, and the passage about Philip and the Ethiopian was discussed (Acts 8:26-40). I've never read that passage before, but my ears definitely perked up when I heard the word "Ethiopian!"

And the second service moved me to tears (really, I should just give it up and start carrying around a package of tissues). The focus was about what makes you angry, and how we should pay attention to what makes God upset. Our pastor asked us that if we had the courage, to ask God to break our hearts for what breaks His. Because if our eyes are opened to what breaks God's heart, maybe we can have the strength to be moved to action. To make a difference. To defend those who can't defend themselves. 

My breath caught in my throat, because I felt like he was singing my song. Ever feel like someone is talking to a crowd but you feel like they're talking right to you? I certainly felt that way today. Everywhere I turned, there was another message giving me such comfort about the direction our family is headed.

We're still waiting for that one sheet of paper from the government so that we can "officially" begin the waiting period. As I always say, I can't imagine how tough this waiting process will be (I really am going to dread still waiting one year from now, I just know it. And I don't EVEN want to think about two years from now). However, I don't want to waste the time I'm given, so I look forward to learning everything I can and deepening my walk with Him during this first stage of the journey.

Much love,

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do I have what it takes?

We are just a few days out from our federal fingerprinting appointment - hallelujah! Many have asked what happens next. Here's a brief snapshot:

Federal fingerprinting appointment - this Friday!
Wait on U.S. government to send us our I-171H form
Receive I-171H form, and then our dossier is complete!
Mail dossier to our agency - they will process it, translate it, then we will be....
DTE (Dossier to Ethiopia) - the date our dossier is officially sent to Ethiopia

And once we receive our DTE date, then the looooong wait begins. How long? It is an ever-moving target. Right now we're told 18 to 24 months from DTE before we receive our referral, but we're constantly reminded that the time could increase. Or it could decrease. That is the beauty of adoption - you simply don't know. Our agency does a great job of giving us realistic expectations so as the wait officially begins, I hope to learn more.

This past week was my birthday, and it was wonderful, but my heart has been hurting. You wouldn't know by talking to me, or seeing me, or hanging out with me. But it can be so disheartening to read all the stories about families who struggle once their kids come home from orphanages, and it's something that's become a focus of mine. We've discussed it internally with our Ethiopia group in the agency and fortunately, I have found I'm not the only one to feel this overwhelming sense of worry. And also, fortunately, God knows my heart, and once again, he has stepped in to calm my fears.

My devotion this morning was titled, "Do I have what it takes?" (Hello God, you've got my attention now). The devotion asks:

"Have you ever stopped short of God's calling on your life because you felt almost paralyzed by your limitations and insecurities? We often excuse ourselves from God's greater vision because we don't believe we have enough for God to work with. Unfortunately, one of the enemy's most effective strategies is to fill our mind with thoughts about what we don't have and all the ways we fall short. But when we focus on what we lack, it can keep us from realizing what we have is more than enough for God. You see, God has a history of using what little someone has in order to do great things that only He can do. When I hear that voice reminding me of my shortcomings and limitations, I've decided to say, 'You're right. But my greatest limitation is God's greatest opportunity.'"

I can't tell you how much I needed to hear that this morning. My shortcomings seem to smack me in the face constantly. My little voice reminds me of how many barriers we're going to have to overcome by choosing to expand our family this way. It's going to be hard. I'm not choosing the easy road. But God doesn't say our road will be easy. He does say that He will be with us. And that is the thought that crosses my mind each and every day.

My sweet 4-year-old proudly showed off her drawing from school today. She had drawn our family, and the first person (well let's be honest, they all look like amoebas, but it's the thought that counts) she pointed out was her brother. This whole concept is still so abstract for her, understandably, but it warms my heart to know that she thinks about him too. I love her childlike innocence, and her hope for the future. I think that's what I will go to sleep dreaming about tonight.

Forever and always grateful for your prayers,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

30 for my 30th

One week from today, I will turn 30 (Insert 'getting old' comments here). While all in good fun, thinking about turning 30 makes me wonder what this coming decade will bring. My 20s were absolutely amazing: meeting and marrying my husband, having children, building a house, getting a job... I feel so incredibly blessed.

It brings back memories of those papers we all wrote in school..."what do you think you'll be doing in 5 years? 10?"

I wish I had saved those, to see if I was doing everything my teenage self thought I would do. But as this next decade rolls around, I've decided I don't want to do what I've always done. Because I've been complacent. Comfortable. Even lazy. And if I've learned anything these past few months, it's that I want to make a difference. I want to grow. I want to be okay with stepping outside my comfort level.

How about you? Do you ever have those moments, where you think to yourself, "You know, I can do more than this. Work is good, I'm busy with my family and kids, but I need to help others. I want to help others."

The good news is, you can. All from your computer as you read this. There are families out there being called to adopt, to save a child, but they get hung up by funding. Adoptions have a wide variety of costs, and they can easily total more than $30,000. I am utterly amazed by the number of families who are doing anything and everything to bring a child home. It warms my heart when I see the good news that a family is fully funded.

If you're willing, and want to join my celebratory atmosphere of entering my 30s, would you do one thing? Donate $30 to a family adopting or a child waiting to be adopted. Visit and thumb through the pages of special needs children, waiting for a family to rescue them. Most, if not all, have a donate button by their names. Check out sweet Damon, a precious boy in Eastern Europe with Down Syndrome, born September, 2011. Or check out families who are in the process of adopting, and see if they have a fund you can donate to (most do).

So will you help? If not $30, maybe $5 or $10? I know adoption sites like these can be overwhelming. There are so many orphans out there needing a home. But you can make a difference to one.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Tougher Parts of Adoption

I've wanted to write this post for several weeks now, but I've hesitated. Because when someone hears about adoption, their first reaction is, "Oh, that is so sweet!"

And yes, in some ways, it is.

But it's not always sweet. In fact, it's going to be hard. I can't even imagine the road we have ahead of

During our final visit with our wonderful social worker, she talked to us about what we should expect when we return home with our son. I've read a couple books and completed my online training and while I'm by no means ready, I knew some of what she was going to explain. I don't know how to explain this, but it's one thing to read about it from some author I've never met and quite different to hear about it from someone sitting across from you at the kitchen table. It seemed.....real.

There's a good chance our son will be malnourished. That's a no-brainer, right? Helloooo, we're adopting from a third world country! I shouldn't be shocked to hear this. But she explained why. If he's a toddler, he might have had to fight for his food at the orphanage, simply because there's not enough to go around. Do you know what that did to my heart when she said those words? And again, I "knew" this in my brain, but it just clicked in such a different way when we spoke about it.

We also talked about attachment/bonding issues. She explained in more depth why we need to be his 100% sole caretakers when we first get home. If we have family or friends over, helping change his diaper, feed him his bottle, burp him and put him down, how will he know that we are his parents? We could easily be confused for being just another nanny. After all, that's all he will have known. Again, I had read about it, but to have someone look at you, eye to eye, and tell you that this transition - making sure he recognizes us as his parents - is paramount to his complete emotional well-being? Talk about feeling overwhelmed.

And then the questions took over in my brain. What if he doesn't attach well to us? What if, when he sees us for the first time, he cries in fear? What if his malnourishment severly impacts his development? What if, what if, what if...

Satan just loves when I play that game and believe me, I do it quite often (just ask my husband). I begin to feel completely inadequate, and I look to other adoptive parents who are unbelievably awesome, and I panic. "I can't do this, I don't have my life together," I think to myself.

And I'm absolutely right. I can't do this. Only God can. If I try and depend on myself, I will fail. And probably quite spectacularly so. God has to remind me every day not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough worries of its own. Through this, He continues to humble me as I realize I have so much to learn. I am grateful for the wait time leading up to our referral, because I have a feeling God's going to do some major work on my heart to prepare me for this amazing journey.

I feel we are so close to finishing the paperwork process. All we need now is one tiny piece of paper from the government, and then we can send our dossier to our agency for a final review and to translate it, and then it's off to Ethiopia. Unfortunately, our lovely government is not known to move quickly so I'm practicing patience (and believe me when I say I'm not doing too well at it).

I'm sure I don't say it often enough, but thank you to everyone who has encouraged us along the way. You probably don't know how much of an impact supportive words can be, but believe me, they are usually the exact thing we need to hear at the exact minute that you tell us.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Home Study Recap: The Dirt (The Dust?)

Whew! What a day. The official "home visit" portion of the home study took place this morning. You know, where the social worker visits your home, opens each closet door to make sure you're not concealing anything illegal, confirms that you do, indeed, have a fire extinguisher... it can be a little intimidating.

In all actuality, it went great. Red-faced, I opened our junk closet doors and just as quickly, she gave me a warm smile, promising me that she's not doing a cleaning inspection. She calmed my nerves, and easy conversation made our house tour much like showing a guest around during a dinner party (albeit a thorough tour, but you get the gist).

All was calm until we grew closer to "the" interview. You know, the one where my 4-year-old daughter is interviewed. The one where I'm reminded that 4-year-olds can say whatever, whenever. That anything and everything you might have uttered can be reiterated at the most inopportune times. And that our daughter happens to be one who is, shall we say, quite chatty with those she comes in contact.

Nothing was dramatic. And truly, all went well. But for laughs, let me showcase a few conversations that were had:

Social worker: "Do you want a baby brother?"
Our daughter: "No." (pause) "I want 2 brothers and 2 sisters."

Social worker: "I know you're going to be a great helper when he comes home."
Our daughter: "But I can't change him or give him a bath. He's a boy and I'm a girl and I can't see his privates."

Social worker: "You know, his skin will be a different color than yours. It's going to be brown."
Our daughter: "I'm brown. Brown as a biscuit. That's what Mommy and Daddy say."

Social worker (after discussing getting in trouble): "So when you get in trouble, what happens?"
Our daughter: "I go to the stairs. Or my room. It depends on what's closest when I get in trouble."

The visit wasn't complete without her coloring a picture for the social worker to take home (I'm just sure she framed it - we're talking masterpiece people) and her attempting to play "beauty shop" with me while I tried speaking in a serious tone about our commitment to bringing our son home. Because you know, I can be taken seriously when a 4-year-old is climbing on my back, combing my hair, and attempting to put it in pig tails.

 We also spoke at length about his arrival home, and what that may entail. I'll have to save that for another post, as I'm trying to keep this one light-hearted.

A sweet moment for me took place as I picked her up from school this afternoon. I walked in to find her rocking her baby doll to sleep:

We talked about how she was rocking her 'brother.' Love that girl, and I love her heart. She's going to be such a good big sister to him.

So what's next for us? I'm breathing a big sigh of relief because once the home study is approved and notarized, we just have one more form to get before our dossier can be on its way. Woo hoo! Unfortunately, that little sheet of paper is perhaps the most important one, and it can take some time to get. We submit an I-600A application, go to get fingerprinted federally, and upon approval receive the coveted I-171H form from the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Servies).

I can't believe we officially started this process a little over a month ago. My, how time flies! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. They are felt and oh-so-needed during this process.

Much love,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Preparing for the Queen

I apologize in advance for the short post but you see, we're preparing for the Queen. At least, we should be. My nerves are slowly increasing - our social worker is visiting our home next Thursday for our final visit before we finish our paperwork. Did you catch that? Visiting our HOME. As in, walking through our house, checking out our digs, looking at our safety standards, ... you catch my drift. In all actuality, I realize it won't be as bad as I'm making it out to be in my mind, but you see, I'm a tad nervous. Some part of me feels like I need to defend myself. I realize, of course, that she isn't going to come in with gloves and run her finger over the top of my frames to make sure I dust. She's not going to sigh deeply over the fact that I have toys stacked up by the couch (at least, I hope she doesn't). But my hyper overactive side of my brain starts to worry over every little detail. Someone out there, please tell me I'm not insane!

So of course, with all this worrying, you assume I have spent my Saturday in an effective manner. I've cleaned, reorganized closets, double checked every smoke alarm and conducted a final run-through to make sure everything is up to code. Oh wait, no...... I haven't done any of those items. I need to, or at least I need to make an attempt to, but I hope our social worker looks at my house through a different set of eyes, because I spent my day a bit differently:

Instead of looking at this image and checking out the mess, I look at this and say, "We had a great time coloring this afternoon before the girls took their naps."

And after nap, we had a great time wearing princess dresses and putting on a performance for all of Meredith's pretend friends.

We had a good time seeing family this evening, going to church and staying out way too late for dinner. And now? I'm blogging, relaxing after a good day. So perhaps tomorrow I can get my house ready. Or maybe I'll have another day of playing with the girls and enjoying memories I can't get back. Something tells me my social worker will understand.

Happy Saturday y'all. Enjoy your weekend, and don't get too swept up in the mundane details.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

So I met this man the other day...

My apologies for the lack of posts lately. It hasn't been because of a lack in activity on our side. We have experienced quite the opposite. Between the mountains of paperwork, approvals and interviews with our social worker, and then all the rest of "life" on top of that, we've been a little busy.

But I digress. Because we have made progress. In fact, if we can keep moving at this pace, we'll have our actual home visit by the end of this month, which would be wonderful! I took a day off from work this week to focus on adoption paperwork, and it helped so much to cross a few more items off the list (boy, do I love crossing things off a list!).

Part of that list contained getting some documents county and state certified. As I stood in line at the Secretary of State's office to certify the documents, the lady asked the man behind me what he needed done. When he spoke to her, I could tell by his accent that he wasn't from the U.S. And of course, being the nosy person that I tend to be, I turned around, put on my friendliest smile, and said, "Hi, I'm Courtney. I love your accent. Where are you from?"

"Ethiopia," he said, smiling in return.

Well of course he was. Because there were two people in line - the two of us - and of course he would be from the very country I am just dying to know about. Seriously, what were the odds of that happening? I love when God gives us little moments like that.

This poor guy... I tried not to pepper him with questions, but I wanted to know so much! I explained my excitement, asked him about the country, and we both had a nice conversation as we waited for our documents to be completed.

In all odds, our paths probably won't cross again. But I was so grateful to have this chance encounter with him, and that he was willing to talk to this crazy Southern girl who had a million questions.

I won't lie, the paperwork process is grueling, and I'm so anxious to have it all behind us so we can go ahead and get in line. But a fellow America World family recently posted their adoption video and it was such a wonderful breath of fresh air to watch. What a great reminder for our family to remember why we're doing it. That there is a child at the end of this process, waiting for his family.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reading, reading and more reading

As we've begun this process, one of the first items on the check list for our agency is to make sure we understand all aspects of adoption, and begin adoption education classes. Classes online, workshops in Nashville, a massive stack of books to read... it will definitely keep me busy while we're waiting for our referral!

Before class sign-ups though, I've been reading. Reading. And reading some more. If you've known me for quite some time, you know I have a voracious appetite when it comes to reading. I don't know how I find the time to do it, but I so enjoy tearing through books. I had no earthly idea how many adoption books were out there until I began to research. So I'm working through many of them - how to deal with children when they've had a "troubled" background, being fully prepared as a transracial family, helping our daughters learn more about adoption, how Christ has called us to adopt....and on and on and on.

The books can be overwhelming at times. And yet, the stack of books reminds me of when I first became pregnant with my oldest. I can't begin to list all the books I read (and believe me, you don't want to know!), but I know it gave me comfort to read as much as possible.

As I was halfway through a book the other night, it hit me that technically, I'm not pregnant, but yet I am. In a way. I've heard it called a "paper pregnancy," so I guess that's where I am right now. Except I won't have a baby in 9 months. I won't feel him kick. I won't make the drive to the hospital or come home with a newborn.

But I do have him on my mind and in my heart. I will make a mad dash over to Africa as soon as I hear the word that we're approved and our court date is set. And I will come home with a precious son that God has hand-picked, just for my family.

So I sit back, pick up my book and relish in the thoughts of this new and different pregnancy.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Choosing Adoption

I thought as we celebrate today, America's Independence Day, it would be fitting to talk about freedoms (wow Courtney, what a genius concept). I am so thankful to live in a country with so many freedoms. And of course, there are many countries out there, as we well know, who don't have the same rights and liberties as we do.

As Americans, we are faced with a variety of choices: public or private school, Democrat or Republican, organic or not, SUV or compact hybrid. We aren't "capped" on the number of children we can have, we can build our houses large or small, we can vote for our elected officials. I love that we get to choose and that these decisions aren't made for us.

You see, we are choosing to adopt. Adoption is plan A for us. It's not a back-up plan, we aren't having infertility issues or any other health issues. We made a choice. I know people assumed there were health problems, but let me assure you there are none! We are confident that this is God's plan for us, so we're following it.

And because of this great country where we reside, we get to make these choices. So Happy 4th of July, and don't take for granted the freedoms we can take advantage of every day. I can't wait for the day when our son will get to celebrate his first Independence Day!


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Well, Oprah, let me tell you my life story.

Holy cow, I knew there was a lot of paperwork, but I simply underestimated the sheer volume of it all! Documents upon documents, fingerprinting, criminal background checks... I understand why they call this period the paper chase.

Part of the paper chase is completing the home study, which can take a couple of months, depending on the visits and of course, the paperwork. And part of the home study consists of writing your autobiography.

Have you ever written your life story? Ever wondered how you got to this point in your life? Ever wondered about how your events led up to this moment? I'm living through that now, and there are nice parts to the story, and not-so-nice parts. Writing my autobiography for someone to read who I don't even know feels like going onto a talk show and telling strangers all the details to what makes me, me. The good, the bad and the ugly. It's painful, yet therapeutic.

I love this quote:

I don't know who wrote it, but I saw it on Pinterest and thought, "Man, what a great reminder for me, especially as I write my autobiography."

As I read through my history, there are most definitely some points in my life where I could have gotten stuck on a page. And I won't lie to you. Sometimes I have. And I'm sure going forward I will. But if I get stuck on a page, I might miss out on something completely amazing that God has planned for me. I want to keep moving forward, because as I am reminded:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

We all have crazy lives, in some form or fashion. But isn't it exciting to think that God has a plan for us and that we get to live it out? All we need to do is follow it, and not get hung up on a page.

And on that note, I guess it's time for me to finish up that autobiography and move on to the next document.

With love,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Much love to Ethiopia

I have to keep this post short, because my table is covered with papers I'm working through for our dossier and home study. But I saw this video tonight and I simply had to re-post it.

As for me, I am happy to deal with paper cuts and getting documents notarized and writing narratives and having strangers look at every personal detail of my life. Because you see, it's worth it in the end.

Much love,

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Walking in Obedience...well, trying

As I sat in front of the computer, attempting to come up with a name for this blog, nothing came, other than some obvious ones (and I know they're obvious, because they're already taken). So I continued to stew, frustrated that I couldn't come up with an amazing site name. I write, a lot, at my job, so why couldn't I do something as simple as this?

And so I decided to keep it simple, and state what is was we're trying to do: walk in obedience.

I feel like I should put a big disclaimer on the home page though. "We're really not obedient people though. In fact, I know for a fact that I'm disobedient every single day!"

Because you see, I'm a sinner. I wake up in the morning, chat with God as I get ready for work, ask Him to give me the chance to be positive in someone else's life, and it never fails. At some point during the day, I screw up. Sometimes, I screw up before I even walk out the door. Whether it's losing my patience with my daughters, snapping at someone at work, or groaning in frustration that my husband left his shoes in the hallway for me to trip over (again!), I am reminded of how far from perfect I really am.

I am so incredibly grateful to have a God who is patient and kind, who gives me mercy and grace when I most need it, who knows my shortcomings and loves me anyway.

What this blog really should be named is "attempting to walk in obedience." Because I do attempt it. Every single day. And I will continue to do so for the rest of my life here on Earth.

God gives us one precious life - what are you going to do with yours?


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Diving In

What a busy week this has been! First and foremost, I can't thank everyone enough for the support we've received. The kind words through phone calls and email give me such encouragement as we move forward in this process.

That said, we made our first large payment to the agency, which will soon follow by another large chunk of money for the homestudy. The hubby and I sat down the other night to talk through some of the financing because as I'm sure you know, adoption is expensive. Sometimes it makes my heart race just thinking about it.
So knowing we had these two back-to-back payments, I started thinking. "We need to start consigning the girls' baby clothes, we need to work harder on cutting down expenses..." blah blah blah.

And last night? Well, last night stopped me in my tracks.

Drew came home from work with fabulous news. He was getting an extra paycheck as a thank you for the countless hours he's logged over the last 8 months. And the amount? Almost exactly what we need to cover the first agency payment and homestudy cost.

[deep breaths]

[more deep breaths]

Really God? Really? How awesome are You? Because we don't deserve it. We don't always make the best decisions. We're such sinners. And yet...

He blessed us. He held our hands and said, "I love you. You have made the right decision. And I'm going to completely freak you out by slapping a check in your bank account for exactly what you need." (Okay, I don't believe God talks like that verbatim, but hey, it's my story!)

I'll tell you this. I know there will be moments I get discouraged by this whole process. I'll have times where the waiting kills me. And when our son finally comes home, I'm sure I'll wonder sometimes if I was completely crazy.

But then I'll remember times like this. And you know what? God may not give us a check like that again. Goodness knows, we are going to work hard to pull together the rest of this money. But I so love moments where God calms my heart and reminds me that He and He alone is in control. All I have to do is follow Him.

And my devotional for this morning? It was a story about adoption. Because you know, God likes to work in funny ways like that.

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John 14:6

Dear Lord, I'm taking a deep breath and diving into Your way. Lord, help me please as I put my trust in You.

And in honor of diving in, I can't help but listen to this song and smile:

Humbled, once again,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Faith in Timing

As we've told friends and family, one of the main questions we get is, "So when do you hope to bring your son home?"

Great question. We don't know.

Only kidding. Well, a little bit.

Right now we are waiting to be assigned a social worker so we can begin the home study and dossier process (often called the paper chase). That will take a few months and once everything is submitted and approved by the U.S. government, it is submitted to Ethiopia. And then we begin the veeeerrry long waiting process. The waiting process typically takes 18-24 months, but that is an ever-changing target and I wouldn't be surprised if it increased.

Once we receive our referral, we have to travel to Ethiopia twice. The first trip is our court date, and the second is when we'll travel to finally bring our son home. That whole period could be as little as a few months, or as long as 10.

So overall, we're estimating around 3 years from now. Yes, that's quite a bit of time to wait, but Drew and I remind ourselves that we are on God's timing, which is always perfect, not ours.

For those who know me well, you know I'm not a patient person. Prayers for patience are greatly appreciated!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Boy, Oh Boy!

Wow, do we have some news for you! In case you can't tell by the title of this blog, our family has made the exciting decision to pursue adoption.

"What's that?" you say. "How great, but....why? You have two children and there weren't any major pregnancy/childbirth complications."

You're exactly right. We have been blessed with two healthy girls and we have loved every minute with them. And we look forward to many more fun times ahead. But God has been knocking on the door of our hearts for quite some time about following Him and being obedient to Him. We would push the adoption conversation to the back of our minds with excuses of busy schedules. Both of us work full-time jobs, our two very active girls keep our hands full, we love hanging out with our friends and going on trips. And on and on we would go with these excuses.

But then God started knocking a little louder, a little more persistently.

So we begin to pray. "God, is this really your will for us? We're not equipped to adopt. We can barely manage our schedule as it is. Maybe you're just saying we need to pray for orphans."

So we decided to pray for orphans. We picked out specific ones from Reece's Rainbow and poured our hearts out to God, praying they would find forever families.

And yet, it wasn't enough. Our eyes had been opened to the world of children without families simply needing someone to love on them. From one devotion to the next, through conversations with friends who had no idea what we were struggling with, to sermons preached, we finally decided to answer.

What a peace we have in our hearts, and we are so excited about what God has in store for our family!

We have a long road ahead of us - we feel God leading us to adopt a little boy from Ethiopia, so we are attempting to walk in obedience according to His will. We are working with America World Adoption to bring home our son and were officially accepted into the agency last week.

I've started this blog in the hopes of keeping friends and family up to date but more than anything, our family covets your prayers of support as we begin this process. It's only just the beginning and I know God is going to do great things through this.

It seems fitting that on this Father's Day, we especially remember to celebrate our Eternal Father, who is with us every step of the way. And we thank Him for continuing to humble us as we start this journey.

Courtney and Drew