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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Uncategorized

This afternoon while I was hanging up laundry, I was surprised when our four year old came into the laundry room with an armful of DVDs. I was not surprised to see that she wanted to watch a movie, but what did catch me off guard was her line of questioning. She started going through them one at a time, asking, “Does Jay Jay  glorify God?” “”Does Noah’s Ark glorify God?” “How about The Hugglers? Does this one glorify God?”

I was surprised by her vocabulary; I don’t think I have ever put that question to her. We have turned a movie or tv show off if we found that it didn’t merit a yes answer, and we have had these conversations with our older children, but apparently I have underestimated this child’s capacity for understanding and responding to theological matters.

As I was standing there hanging up shirt after shirt, and answering again and again the same tiny voiced question, “Does this one glorify God?”** I realized anew that it is exactly that question I need to be asking myself when I am faced with choices. Sometimes the choices are as simple and unrehearsed as where I will spend time, or how I will spend money. Often the choices are fleeting, but more complex in execution and ramifications – deciding about how I will respond to a person or a situation. But in each situation, I need to be as intentional as my four year old was, repeatedly asking that same little question: does this glorify God?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism opens like this:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Glory and joy. I like that answer.

 

**I was really curious what our little seminarian thought it meant to glorify God, since we have not discussed this directly. When she asked me about a favorite show, I turned it back to her.

Q:  What do you think? Do you think this one glorifies God?

A: Oh, yes.

Q: What makes you think so?

A: When the dog is sad, the others come and keep it company. They love the one who is sad.

 

family, investment, legacy, Uncategorized

Two weeks ago yesterday, we went and spent the evening with my centenarian grandfather, knowing it was likely going to be our last goodbye. We shared a time of worship, of sharing scripture, of talking to him and thanking him for his teaching in our lives. He knew we were there, and in the way he responded to each of us, I am certain that he was able to hear the words of blessing and gratitude we each got to speak to him, after the many years he has spoken life-giving words to each of us.

I am sad. I miss him. He was my friend, a wise counselor, a perennial storyteller and a beloved mentor. For the four years I was in college, while my own dad was in Kuwait, while my parents and sister were half a continent or more away, he and my grandmother were my intimate family nearby. He rescued me when I was sick in the middle of a class, when I fell and went to the emergency room, when I needed to make sure the young man I met in my first days on campus was worthy of my time. My grandfather gave gentle, sage advice, founded on the bedrock of his faith in Christ. His influence is one that helped shape and guide me from my tiny years until this past weekend. And I suspect it isn’t over. Good teaching reverberates.

What I didn’t realize was that his impact was so long-lasting in other people’s lives, too. His last few birthdays have brought cards from former students, neighbors, colleagues, nieces, nephews, and church friends, so I knew he was treasured by many, and that his legacy was broad. But this past weekend when we went to his funeral in the town where he taught , where Jason and I went to college, met, and were eventually married, we spent an afternoon walking our children around the college campus that was the scene of all these events.

We had an amazing revelation when we went into the building that had housed my grandfather’s department. It was the Friday afternoon before spring break, and the entire campus was pretty quiet, so we popped in to the administrative offices so they would know why strangers were walking through the halls. When I started with, “Hi! We’re in town for my grandfather’s funeral and wanted to show our children where he had spent so many hours and years,” I was fine and steady-voiced until one of the women in the office said, “You’re Warren’s granddaughter! We were just talking about him at lunch today.”

Friends, he retired from that department 35 years ago! My tears bore witness to the fact that I just couldn’t believe that they not only remembered him, but that they too were touched by his life. One of the women who had known him when he used to spend time in the department after he retired offered to spend her time walking us through the building so we could see not only where he used to spend his days and evenings teaching and advising students, but also could see the ways that his department’s foundational post-war years made way for the current offerings. It was unbelievable, and Brenda’s kind remembrance and sacrificial time-gift were an amazing blessing from the Lord.

That tour and the memories we exchanged teed up the next morning at the same church where I often sat in the pew with my grandparents. Shortly before the service began, I had the privilege of meeting the current senior department member whom my grandfather often spoke of with deep respect when he introduced himself, identifying my grandfather as his mentor. There were Sunday school class members, current and retired faculty members from his department and other departments, neighbors from 50+ years ago, “kids” who had lived with him and my grandmother while studying at the college…

Our kids shared the scripture. One read Psalm 61, in which we hear “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”  One read Proverbs 3:1-18, which sums up so much about my intelligent, faithful, humble grandfather. One of our children shared John 14:1-7, pointing to the truth Grandpa knew so well, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that we can each know where we are going to spend eternity if we choose a relationship with Jesus.

The pastor at my grandparents’ home church arrived after my grandparents had moved to the metro to be closer to their family, but his message was spot on – that although he hadn’t known my grandfather in person, he knew him through the scripture passages, and that we can all learn one more lesson from this consummate teacher.  Grandpa loved his subject matter, and he loved teaching and preparing teachers, but it wasn’t ever the subject or content that he loved best about teaching. Above all, he was always most interested in the people, in knowing and investing in people, in sharing stories to inspire people to rise to achieve their fullest potential, in helping each person he spoke to grow to be the best he or she could be. And as the pastor pointed out, Grandpa has one final lesson – this time about the Rock who is higher than he – to teach.  Like all his stories and lessons, we can choose to receive and learn or to dismiss. He always hoped his students would catch what he was telling them, but like Christ, he was a gentle teacher, and he would leave the decision to learn up to each of us.

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This was a typical scene in my grandparents’ home; Grandpa loved to teach and tell stories, and we could listen and learn for hours. He was good at investing in people, and it was a privilege to get to sit at his feet.

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, dossier, fundraising, Uncategorized

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We usually enjoy filling out March Madness brackets for some early spring fun and bragging rights, but this year we decided to do it with a twist for our adoption. We are going to be giving away an iPad Pro to the winner of our Freethrows for Family game, and we hope you will consider either playing along or spreading the word of this adoption fundraiser with anyone you know who might like to follow the tournament with an eye toward winning an iPad Pro and helping us get ready to take our next big step – sending the dossier to China.

Here is how to play:

  1. Pick a number between 1 and 68. Email your top three choices of numbers (in order of preference) to jason@seasonsofwonder.com We will post updates of the remaining numbers in the comments section as numbers are taken, so you may want to check the comments first for a current list of available numbers.
  2. Make a donation of at least $25 per number you would like to claim. (You can use the PayPal button on the right or make other arrangements if you prefer.)**
  3. Begin cheering. The number you pick is the number that corresponds to a team name.  The teams have been randomly placed on the board using a roll of the dice system, so the team you are cheering on to win an iPad Pro may be in addition to your ordinary team loyalties 😉

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We will send an email confirmation to you with the name of the team that corresponds to your number so the cheering may begin.

Thank you for playing along with us and for spreading the word! Please share the link to this post with friends and friends of friends!

** If you don’t want to play but are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to our daughter’s adoption fund, please contact jason@seasonsofwonder.com for how to do so. The PayPal button will not be able to generate a tax-deductible receipt.

Uncategorized

When this blog title came to me, I was expecting it to be a lighthearted download of ways in which I see God working in a family with young children.  I am publishing this first post now, but that plan was formed over four years ago when I was leaving a position on the church staff for which I wrote a brief devotional each week.  I was worried that without the accountability of a weekly deadline I wouldn’t maintain the discipline of writing, which is one of the things that helps me to see God’s amazing way of working right before my eyes.  At the time, I had three young children and we were expecting our fourth child.  Through them, I often saw myself as I imagine God might see me, and I was delighted with the wonder of it all in that season of my life.  

On what was to be my last day at my job, I went for a prenatal check of our baby.  I was well into the second trimester, and my husband and I were shocked to learn that the baby’s heart had stopped beating.  In the days and months that followed, we were blessed and awestruck to see God’s amazing grace poured out on us.  We were like babies ourselves, knowing nothing of this new world we found ourselves in, but having our every need met with love, warmth and tenderness – usually before we even knew there was a need.  We look back on that season four years ago and we are still overwhelmed by the sweetness of God’s unfailing love and perfect provision in what was the hardest thing we had ever walked through.  
In the four years since, our family has walked some very hard paths.  We lost our fifth child, again in the second trimester.  A year and a half later, two of our parents and our beloved pastor fought battles with aggressive cancers.  Two of these dear ones have now joined Jesus and the saints around the throne, along with the two grandparents who were beloved mentors to both my husband and me – all in one year.  It has been a very steep stretch of road.  We are still grieving.  But even as difficult as this has been, we have seen wondrous things.  We have seen miraculous things.  And in the same four years, we have been blessed with another little life laughing and filling our home with an abundance of joy.  
These seasons of joy and grief have all been seasons of wonder.  We are in one of those right now.  I bet you are, too.  Will you join me in pondering the awesomeness of God’s grace in this new season of wonder?