adoption, Uncategorized

We started this series of posts about the Five Ws and an H to try to answer some questions about this adoption. If you missed any of the earlier posts, you can check out who this story is about, what we are doing, when this is going to be happening, where this story is set, and why we are adopting.

Today we will answer – in part – how this adoption is going to happen. Honestly, there is a long answer and a short answer; this question is the exact question we asked ourselves and God when we heard the call to adopt Rui Shan.

I won’t speak for anyone else in our home, but my conversation with the Lord went something like this – though this list is far from exhaustive:

  • But God, how will I get on a plane and fly to China for two weeks?
  • And how will I find gluten free food in a country where I don’t speak the language?
  • How will I explain to our youngest child that I’m going to be gone for two weeks?
  • How will we ever survive jet lag when we return home to rested, enthusiastic children?
  • How can we ever save enough money in this short window to cover the adoption expenses?
  • How can we adapt our family’s activities to accommodate another child with some intense medical needs?
  • How will we meet the needs of our older children?
  • How will we be able to do this amazing, delightful, terrifying thing?
  • How, God?

And I got a very direct and clear short answer: Trust Me.

I am thankful we have a long history of reasons to trust God, even when circumstances are impossibly hard, because there are parts of this season and the upcoming season that already look impossibly hard, and we are now only in the push-paper-and-wait trimester. But God made it clear that we are supposed to be walking forward and trusting in Him. And as He always does, He has already shown Himself faithful, meeting needs in His perfect timing, which is sometimes but not always immediately before we become aware of a need.

The long answer is really a series of stories about His goodness, and I will delight in sharing these soon!

 

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!

Uncategorized

One of my favorite fictional characters of all time is Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Now, I’m going to assume that most of you know who Sherlock Holmes is. But, in case you don’t, Sherlock Holmes is a private detective who lived in London in the late 1800s, and is – in my opinion – one of the most well developed literary characters of all time (OK. I am sixteen, so this might not be the most experienced opinion you have just received.) One of the most fascinating things about Sherlock Holmes is his ability to observe things and put together a story based on his observations. In Sherlock Holmes’ mind, he would ask himself six questions – Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. If you would be so kind as to put yourself in his metaphorical shoes, we’re going to continue our exploration through a series of blog posts exploring these questions, looking at some “clues” and then it will be up to you to put these clues together and see how the pieces fit to give you a more complete picture of our adoption. So, put on your deerstalker as we examine our surroundings and explore the question of where.

Omaha Skyline

My family lives in the largest city in Nebraska – you may or may not have heard of it. Omaha in located on the eastern edge of the state of Nebraska, in the heartland of America. Omaha was founded in the mid-1800s, and was actually settled illegally (by Iowans) in 1840. It wasn’t until July 4, 1854 that Omaha was officially founded. To celebrate, there was a picnic on Capitol Hill, the present day location of Central High School. Ever since then, Omaha has grown, becoming a national leader in a variety of industries. Omaha was home of the famed stockyards, the Union Pacific Railroad, Boys Town, and Jobbers Canyon (the industrial area of downtown, which employed thousands.) Let’s jump to modern times, in an age where Omaha is a world-class venue for many different events. In 1950, Rosenblatt Stadium was constructed, and became the home of the College World Series for the next sixty years, before making its move downtown to TD Ameritrade Park. In 1988, part of Jobbers Canyon, in downtown, was torn down to make room for ConAgra’s headquarters, which they just recently abandoned for greener grass (or the lack thereof) in Chicago. The annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting draws tens of thousands of investors to Omaha for a spring weekend;  musicians, live performances, festivals, and sporting events draw people from near and far alike to Omaha – don’t forget to buy your tickets to the Olympic Swim Trials this summer; and Forbes recently reaffirmed that Omaha is among the top ten cities to raise a family – but it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure this out. Today, Omaha is the 42nd biggest city in the United States, with a population of 432,981 people. And Omaha is the city that will be Rui Shan’s home.

Now for China. China has a long and fascinating history, which you will be glad to know I will not be covering in its entirety in this post. Rui Shan is from Datong, in the Shanxi province. The picture below shows Datong (red) and Shanxi (orange) in relationship to the rest of China.

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Datong is located just south of Inner Mongolia. Imagine yourself in this city and remember, you are in Sherlock Holmes’ shoes. What would Sherlock Holmes be looking for?

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How many people live in Datong? What is their economy based on? What is their history? What is Datong’s geography? How important is Datong to its surrounding population? Sherlock Holmes would ask all these questions, and more, but I’m going to answer these specific questions. Datong was founded in 200 B.C., only 20+ centuries before Omaha and is surrounded by mountains on three sides, according to Wikipedia. Datong is home to just over 1 million people, and is a major city in the coal industry, earning Datong the nickname of the City of Coal. It was the western capitol during the Jurchen Jin Dynasty, before it was sacked by the Mongols. It was rebuilt, then sacked again in 1649, (during the Ming dynasty) but was rebuilt by 1652. Its beginning as a “modern city” began in 1917, when a rail link was completed that linked Datong to Beijing, and Tainjin. Britannica.com says that Datong is also the “collecting and commercial centre for the surrounding Chinese agrarian population and for the Mongols in Inner Mongolia.”

So, now you know the “where” and can begin to apply that in your observations about our adoption. It’s simply elementary.

And, please, post any other questions you may have about Datong in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them. I will try to answer them truthfully, which means you might see me answer with “That’s a good question. I don’t know,” and if I don’t know, I will find out and get back to you. Also PLEASE subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss the next time I get to write. 🙂

Will

 

 

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.

 

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