adoption, China, family, fundraising, milestones

to bring you a real-time update.

One thing you may not know is that our children would like to accompany us on the upcoming trip to China.

When we first started thinking about the configuration of what travel might look like, we came up with a number of possible groupings of who would stay and who would go. But the more we talked to people about it, and thought and prayed about it, the more clear it became that in this case, our very best scenario would involve all four of our children coming along to welcome their little sister into our family. Our agency identified a number of wonderful advantages to the whole family going, and we can think of several additional important reasons that would make this the best situation for Rui Shan, and each of the children. Obviously this will add additional expenses – for travel, particularly, and a bit for lodging – so our oldest three children formed a cooperative business called Operation: Adoption to contribute to the additional expenses, and our youngest son is collecting aluminum cans to recycle to boost the fund.

Through Carloads of Cans and Operation: Adoption, we have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination! Our big kids have offered their services to residents of nearby neighborhoods to perform all sorts of odd jobs, yard work, pet sitting, baby sitting, etc. in exchange for a donation to the adoption fund. And have they ever been blessed already! Not only have a number of neighbors offered them a wonderful opportunity to work, but through both of these ventures we have all had the chance to meet and get to know some amazing neighbors we otherwise might not have connected with. Best of all, we have discovered that we are definitely part of a community that loves and welcomes this little girl. We know that we are made to be in community, and this summer has already been a perfect reminder of the gift that we have in our neighbors and friends, old and new!

So our days look like this right now:

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Preparing for a HUGE garage sale next weekend to raise funds for our adoption. (Please spread the word!) We are praying for an *incredible* number of customers to buy the things many of you have so generously contributed!

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Operation:Adoption – weeding

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Operation: Adoption – preparing a garden site

 

 

And in the midst of all this industry, look what arrived:

 

 

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It’s our I-800! Today’s mail told us that we are one milestone closer to our trip, and we are trying not to freak out amazed by how quickly this is going!

 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:1-2, 12)

 

adoption, Uncategorized

Who is this precious child that God has called us to parent?  Who is the darling subject of most of our family’s conversations these days? Who is inspiring all of us to come together and work with all our might to bring her home?

We have called her Baby Patience, which is a fruit of the Spirit that is growing in each one of us through this process, but now that we can share her Chinese name, and her beautiful face, we are delighted to introduce you to *Rui Shan!

 

 

new photo2 7-30-15

This is the picture of Rui Shan that began this amazing journey.

*The correct Chinese pronunciation is a little hard to represent with English sounds, but it is close to “Rae Shawn.” She will also have an American name to pair with her Chinese name, but for now we are calling her Rui Shan, and we welcome you to join us in praying for her by name if you’d like!

adoption, Uncategorized

When our agency said the process from start to finalized adoption was 10-12 months, that seemed a little off-the-wall-crazy optimistic to us, but we decided just to hustle as fast as we could with our tasks, and as we get closer to our time to travel, it turns out they really knew what they were talking about   are a well oiled-machine  are really excellent and experienced, which has been shown time and again as they’ve walked us through a bajillion steps with incredible efficiency. We thank God for each of the people at our agency and in our daughter’s care team who are preparing the way for this transition whatever His timing is!

So, barring any unusual circumstances, which obviously can happen any time people and technology are involved, the next steps tend to be fairly predictable. There is room for variation, of course, but this is what we received from our agency yesterday:

Your I-800 is on its way to USCIS today! After we receive your I-800 approval, which is currently taking three to four weeks from submission, we wait up to another week for you to receive an email from the National Visa Center (NVC – an agency of the US State Department, which is the central authority for adoptions in the US, like CCCWA is in China). The steps (and approximate timeframes) from there are: Article 5 Approval process (3 weeks) Travel Invitation by CCCWA (3-6 weeks) Travel arrangements (2-3 weeks) All added together, we are looking at going to China by mid-September!

 

Welcome Home

Travel to China

Invitation to travel

Finalize Immigration - Article 5 Approval

Finalize Immigration - NVC Attachment

Finalize Immigration - I-800

Letter Seeking Confirmation - Completed

Log-in Date (LID) - 3/31/2016

Dossier to China (DTC) - Completed

Authenticate Documents - Completed

Immigration Approval (I800-A) - Completed

Homestudy - Completed

Pre-approval to adopt - Completed

adoption, milestones, Uncategorized

We just reached the next milestone in our adoption – two weeks before we expected! We have been waiting and hoping to receive – by early June – our Letter Seeking Confirmation (formerly called the Letter of Approval). This is usually taking 6-8 weeks. Ours was a little quicker, and caught us by (happy) surprise.
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Receiving the LSC means that our dossier has been reviewed, and the CCCWA agrees that we may adopt Baby Patience! It is a crucial document asking us to verify that we want to adopt the child we identified in our Letter of Intent back in the fall.  (Oh, YES, WE DO!!!) We signed and returned it yesterday, confirming our desire to adopt this child for whom we have been waiting with hope! We are thanking God for His perfect timing, and trusting Him to bring this to be according to His plan!

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adoption, family, testimony, Uncategorized

Who? What? When? Why? Where? How? As my fourth grade teacher taught it, answering the five Ws and an H are pretty basic parts to telling a story. Although this isn’t exactly our story, we do have the privilege of being part of God’s story and for the moment, we get to be the storytellers of what we see God doing as this story of our daughter’s adoption unfolds.

We started telling you about this adventure with a little picture to identify what is happening in our family right now. We’ve also been filling in the parts about when this will happen as it is unfolding. Right now we’re in a giant holding spot. The who and where will have to wait until we have permission to share from our agency and the Chinese governmental agency, and the how is a post for another day soon. But the why of this story is something we’ve been wanting to answer, because there is the asked and sometimes unasked question about why a family already blessed with four children in our home and a full life would be entering into this journey of adoption.

The short answer is because there is a precious child waiting for a family, and we are that family. The details take a few more column inches.

For about six years, we have prayed about whether the Lord was calling us to adopt a child. As we have prayed and waited for an answer, the Lord has allowed us to have experiences and conversations that have prepared us for this journey. Some of our experiences have been extremely painful – stillbirth, miscarriage, a cancer journey with two parents, the loss of one parent and our beloved pastor to cancer. Some of the experiences have been pure joy – welcoming a new child through birth, supporting friends in their adoption journeys, investing in an on-line community of families who travel to our city to get care for their children with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). God wove these things together, with some other threads, and the picture He revealed tugged at both Jason and me in the same way one day last fall.

One of the circumstances our family has faced was our oldest daughter’s diagnosis of Osteogenesis Imperfecta. She was a toddler when we learned of her brittle bones, and very shortly after that, we also discovered that we live in one of the top places in America for the treatment of OI. Over the years, we have had the incredible privilege to get to know many of the families who come from all over the world to our city for clinic and surgeries. These families are part of an incredible on-line support network and community of friends that are, in many cases, like family.

In this OI community, there are occasionally profiles shared of babies or children who have OI and are waiting to be adopted. Whenever I see these profiles, I always send the notice on to Jason, and then along with our children, I begin praying for that child’s family. Last September, a picture of a 17 month old baby girl in China began to circulate in our OI group. I texted a screenshot to Jason – as I have done so many times before – and as the children and I were praying for “Shannon’s” forever family, I felt a funny tugging at my heart. I acknowledged it to myself, but a few minutes later, I got a surprising text from Jason. In the past Jason’s responses were always something like,“Yes, let’s pray for this child’s family.” But that September day, he wrote, “Let’s find out more.” So that afternoon I made inquiries, and two weeks later, with prayerful consideration by our entire family, we determined that we needed to pursue the adoption of this baby and we mailed off our application. ***

In addition to obedience to this delightful call from God, part of the answer to “Why?” is that we also have felt for years that our family was not yet complete. The irony of this is that I was fairly certain when Jason and I married that our family would be *perfectly* complete with two children, and he was equally certain that four was the ideal number of children. Eight pregnancies and the beginning of an adoption journey later, it is obvious that neither one of us had any idea what God had in mind for us, and that is a very good thing – we could never have believed it or, in some cases withstood it, if it hadn’t been revealed to us a little bit at a time.

As God has shown us next steps all along the way in our marriage and parenting relationships, He has also shown us the delight He takes in parenting us, and it has multiplied exponentially our joy in parenting. When we see tantrums, selfishness, or willful disobedience in our children, we can clearly see ourselves through God’s eyes – wholly loved even when in error. Likewise, when we receive a glorious fistful of wonderful, wilting dandelions, or are blessed by a child cheerfully doing a chore, or are treated to a spontaneous heart-level conversation, we can sense the joy our Heavenly Father takes when we offer Him our most beautiful treasure, when we serve gladly, and when we take time to talk to Him

Jason and I aren’t nearly through learning yet – there is so much growth yet to be done in both of us; when God invited us to parent another little blessing, and in this new journey to see His love and learn from Him along this path, it humbled us.

(It also challenged every single practical thought we had, but that is really a post about how, which I will share soon.)

***We had not been planning to adopt. We didn’t have a home study or even an agency. We hadn’t begun to make financial preparations for an international adoption. We did not even have passports. But those details are no obstacle for God. We decided to step into this calling with trust in His provision. Almost immediately we received an unexpected financial blessing. It was an amazing confirmation that God wants to provide for this precious daughter of His, and that we are part of His plan to care for her.

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adoption, celebrations, family, milestones, Uncategorized

Our dear, darling daughter on the other side of the world from us turned two today.  We are so thankful for the gift of her life – for the parents who gave her life, for her foster parents and nannies who are loving on her today and sustaining her, and for the many people whose work is enabling her life and our lives to be joined together. We are so eager to be able to mark milestones with her before too long. Tonight we had to mark the big day without the guest of honor, but we are mindful that each day that passes brings us nearer to our time to meet and hold her, and to begin to let her know how special she is to us, and above all to God.  We can’t wait to celebrate with her in the years to come!

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adoption, China, dossier, family, fundraising, milestones

Did you see that finish?  Two 3-pointers in the last 5 seconds – one from North Carolina to tie the game and one from Villanova for the win and the national championship.  Guess that is why they call this tournament March Madness.  With that final buzzer, our Freethrows for Family contest comes to a close as well.  We are so blessed by each of you that participated in the game and for your generous contributions to our adoption fund.   We are happy to report that the Gaskill family won the iPad with the #40 square.

Additionally, in the middle of the craziness of hosting a speech and debate tournament for 100 students last week, we received our log in date on Thursday, March 31, 2016.  This is the date that our dossier was officially entered into the system for review by PRC.

Welcome Home

Travel to China

Invitation to travel

Finalize Immigration

Letter of Approval (LOA)

Log-in Date (LID) - 3/31/2016

Dossier to China (DTC) - Completed

Authenticate Documents - Completed

Immigration Approval (I800-A) - Completed

Homestudy - Completed

Pre-approval to adopt - Completed

adoption, dossier, milestones, Uncategorized

What a whirlwind this past week has been! There have been a number of amazing opportunities to see God’s hand working in this season of wonder – in conversations, in surprising opportunities, in unbelievable provision. Those are all posts in their own right, so I will just leave this good news here.  We mailed our completed, authenticated dossier to our agency on Friday, and today they received it and sent it out the door – to China! This means we have hit a major milestone – our adoption status is DTC – Dossier to China, and now we wait for our log-in date when our dossier enters the review process. In the meantime, we are praying for this little one and her caregivers, and would welcome you joining us in this, too.

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adoption, authentication, dossier, fundraising

When I woke up this morning, I was mindful of the fact that the NCAA Men’s Basketball ChampionshipTournament would be starting in less than four hours, and we had hoped that we would have all the Freethrows for Family spots filled. It didn’t look like that would happen, but I posted an update of the remaining spots on Facebook, went to get ready for the day, and came back to a trickle of messages that turned into a deluge! While we were packing lunch and eating breakfast, more requests for numbers came in, and by the time I was ready to leave for Bible study, it was clear that God’s work for me today was going to be here at home instead.

Friends, this is the board now:

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When we planned this, we had hoped that by some long shot, all of the spots would be filled by the time the first games began, and although I was too busy to watch the clock or any games, I am pretty sure every single one of the spots was claimed before halftime of the first game, and there were more people asking for spots after we ran out as well! As my friend Dana put it, “God’s timing is always perfect.” So many of you were instrumental in getting this board filled, and we are incredibly grateful! We will keep you posted as we find out who chose the number with the winning team underneath it. If you were wanting to enter into the story through a contribution, we are planning to do another project in the late spring or early summer, and we will welcome your help!

In a seemingly unrelated development, we have been waiting for our paperwork to be verified at the State Department and affixed with a seal at the Chinese Embassy so we can send our dossier to China, which is the next step in the process.  When we send our dossier in, we will also send a payment that is roughly 20% of the total cost of the adoption. Together with an amazing gift we received earlier this week (which is a story for another post), the contributions you made for Freethrows for Family have prepared the way for us to send the dossier right away. God’s perfect timing and provision were evident in this; just as I was getting ready to write in names on some of the last remaining spots, the FedEx driver pulled up with the documents we have been waiting for!

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With the authenticated documents in hand, we are now ready to submit our completed, authenticated dossier and the accompanying payment to the agency where they will prepare it to go to China!

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This stack of 16 authenticated documents along with letters of reference and a small photo collage showing who we are will soon be on their way!

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This is the Chinese Embassy Seal that we were so eager to see in place on our documents. It’s interesting, isn’t it?

Thank you so much for being part of this story of a glorious unfolding! You are welcome to subscribe using the button on the right so you will get an email notification of the next part of the story. We are so grateful to have friends with us in this adventure!

adoption, fundraising

A friend and I have been working on a project to catalog our church’s amazing children’s library, and I was being trained on the data input this afternoon. It is quite an undertaking, but the end result will make this great collection of family resources easily searchable, which will be wonderful!

While I was away working on that, our dear friends (you!) were busy sharing links to our Freethrows for Family game; when I got back to look at updates, we had quite a few more spots filled!  Thank you for sharing information about what we are doing and for helping us move forward in this adoption. Before we started this journey, I had no idea what an incredible encouragement it is to families in the process of adopting to know that there are others who are willing to walk along the road beside them. As we were praying tonight, with gratitude for each of you, I saw an image of a couple and their children walking along a country road. Before long, there were a few people beside them, then a few more, and pretty soon it was a crowd of people all walking along together with this family. That’s what it feels like tonight. Thank you for walking along this stretch of road with us!

Here are the numbers we have left. We’re hoping that the word will continue to spread and that we may have all the spots taken before the games begin. If they aren’t, we will still keep playing anyway with hope that more people will join in and fill the board, but it will be more fun if all the players can be cheering for their iPad team right from the beginning! Please keep on sharing… 🙂FullSizeRender-3