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, 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

adoption, dossier, fundraising, Uncategorized

FullSizeRender-3

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.

adoption, authentication, capitol, milestones

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Success!

On attempt number three we can finally report that all the documents are authenticated at the state level and will be on the way to Washington tomorrow for a trip through the U.S. State Department office and the Chinese Embassy.

We would like to say it was easy, but we value honesty.  After the document rejection last week, we had the document in question re-issued and notarized the next day, and sent it by mail to the Secretary of State’s office.  We made a daily trip to the mailbox expecting the authenticated document to be there by Wednesday – Thursday at the absolute latest.  When it hadn’t arrived by Thursday, a call to the Secretary of State’s office revealed that the second notarization was not correct either. So for the second Friday in a row, Jason tracked down documents and signatures. We had a lovely and efficient return trip to the capitol city this afternoon resulting in another step in the process completed (and some ice cream for our cheerful companions).  We are so grateful!

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This office is home to a true public servant (probably a number of them) who helped expedite today’s correction so the dossier can be traveling over the weekend.

IMG_4636These two were pretty excited that the state authentications are finished – and were happy for another chance to visit Baskin Robbins.

adoption, authentication, capitol

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Proverbs 16:9
This truth was evident yesterday when we went for a drive to the Capitol to have our bundle of fourteen items authenticated. The secretary of state’s office checks to make sure that the notary public who witnessed each document is a current notary, that it is his or her signature that is on the document, and when all this checks out, the clerk attaches a coversheet verifying this with the Great Seal and a letter from the secretary of state. We were all very much anticipating seeing what that would look like and then sending the packet on to DC today.
But that is not how this plan played out.
Shortly after we arrived (but before we had written the check), the clerk who was validating the signatures came to us and pointed out that one of the notaries had neglected to include her middle initial in the signature, so her signature on the document doesn’t match her signature in the log.  They can’t authenticate it like that, because it isn’t her signature of record.
I’m here tonight to tell you three things:
1) I hadn’t anticipated that anything could or would prevent us from coming back with all fourteen documents sealed and ready to ship off to DC to head to the US Secretary of State’s office on Monday morning.
2) God wasn’t surprised, and in his kindness prepared us for this possibility by a fellow adoptive mom sharing her story of a document needing to be completely redone before it could be authenticated at the state level.
3) Some of these documents we need to have authenticated have involved many steps and some lengthy processes in order to get them finished and notarized. We are thankful that the document with the faulty notarization was not one of those. Jason was able to speak with the person who needed to reissue the document today, and we now have a corrected version in our hands, ready to head back to the Capitol for authentication on Monday.
In all, the trip was a great success. We got to show our kids around our beautiful Capitol, we happened to be there at a time to intersect with some friends who had just finished conducting some hard but important business, and we presently have 13/14 documents authenticated and ready to go on. Lord willing, we should be ready to have the dossier on its way to DC by midweek next week.
Did I mention it was a beautiful day? Here are a few pics of the goodness:
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 On the observation deck at the top of the Capitol.
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 “We were up there!”
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 Thankful to be on this journey with this crew!
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The Great Seal!

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Sweet delights to end the day

adoption, authentication, dossier, milestones

Well, this just got real!  You know that picture we shared of us standing out in the cold after having our fingerprints taken a few days ago?  Just like that, it turned into this:

This is our I 800A approval letter – the final document we needed to begin 
authenticating our dossier documents,* so we are on to the next step!

 

  
Welcome Home
Travel to China – 2 weeks in country
Invitation to travel – plans made to travel in 1 month
Finalize Immigration
Letter of Approval (LOA)
Log-in Date (LID) – Dossier has been received by PRC
Dossier to China (DTC) – will take 2-3 months once submitted
Authenticate Documents – Started 02/17/2016
Immigration Approval (I800-A) – Completed 2/16/2016
Homestudy – Completed 1/13/2016
Pre-approval from China to adopt – Completed
*Today I got the distinct pleasure of sitting and watching our four year old play with the five year old daughter of a dear friend. Five years ago, I was pregnant with our daughter and my friend was waiting to be matched with hers. As she shared her experiences while our older children played together back then, I remember learning all kinds of things about authentication and dossiers and all manner of things we are now experiencing or may soon experience. I remember reading her blog and thinking there was a bit of a foreign language to learn before travel was even on the horizon. 
Dossier – the packet of information that goes to China to represent us as a prospective family for this precious child.  It includes a wide range of information from birth and marriage certificates to letters of reference, background checks, household budget, medical history, description of our home and community, approval from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring a child into the country, and (my favorite part) family photos.
Authentication – a test to see how well one follows directions.  Not really – but it seems like it.  First, the gathered documents go to the Secretary of State in the state in which they were issued or notarized to get the Great Seal of that state. Next, the entire packet goes to the Secretary of State of the United States to receive a federal Great Seal, and from there, the now-twice-sealed packet goes to the Chinese Embassy to receive a special embassy seal. While it seems like many steps to go through, and some of it seems superfluous, and all of it is costly, it is crucial that adoption be conducted ethically and only when it is the best option for the child. So we gladly take these steps to make sure that all the legal and ethical processes are being attended to, and we are mindful that each of these steps brings us closer to this beloved daughter whose journey has already been hard, and whose steps we are so eager to match, to witness and to guide as she grows.  
  

adoption, creation, milestones

When I was a little girl living in Japan, I learned about mountain folds and valley folds, and about making sharp and precise creases in the colorful papers we would fold into frogs and dogs, cups and cranes. These days I am teaching young fingers how to do this, and remembering again how important it is to do one step, then the next step, the next step, and then the step after that. It’s helpful to read through the directions before we begin so we know what is coming next, but it is also quite important to simply do the steps precisely, methodically and in the correct order to be able to bring a new creation from what was simply a flat 6″ square of paper. *

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So it was, too, in Genesis 1, where we read that the earth was formless and void. God made beauty out of chaos one step at a time, each creative step laying the foundation and groundwork for the next step in the creation that delighted and pleased Him and that He pronounced “good,” and finally “very good.”

And so it is here, too, in this time of mountains and valleys, starting with one small picture that became an inquiry, then a piece of paper, signed, folded in thirds and tucked in an envelope.  That little paper multiplied and is now over halfway to filling a three inch binder as we follow each methodical step, then the next, the next, and the next.  In this project we know what many of the steps are, but we don’t know what the finished product will look like.  There is a holy mystery in the folding and unfolding of these papers, because we are both the paper folders and the paper being shaped.  Even while we make precise creases and follow orderly steps to bring a new little one into our family through this adoption process, God is working His own process, creating something beautiful and yet unrevealed in each of us.

We hope you’ll follow along to see what God is making here, but right now, here is what we know of the steps we are taking in this folding and unfolding of papers, processes, and people:


                  Welcome Home
                Travel to China – 2 weeks in country
              Invitation to travel – plans made to travel in 1 month
            Finalize Immigration
          Letter of Approval (LOA)
Log-in Date – Dossier has been received by PRC
     
Dossier – will take 2-3 months once submitted
   
Immigration Pre-Approval (I800-A) – application submitted 1/14/2016
 
Homestudy – Completed 1/13/2016
Pre-approval from China to adopt – Completed

You may also enjoy listening to what has become our family’s theme song for this adoption.  It may not have been written with adoption in mind, but as we listened to it, we decided it just beautifully illustrates some of the grief and especially the hope that are part of an adoption, whether it is an adoption into a family or our adoption as a son or daughter of God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKMjEvF2Fkw&feature=youtu.be

Our friend Kirstin, a mother of three biological and two (going on three!) adopted children, has often observed that every adoption is really a series of miracles.  We saw and thoroughly enjoyed some parallels to that bit of wisdom in this behind-the-scenes look at our theme song video:
http://stevencurtischapman.com/behind-the-scenes-on-the-glorious-unfolding-music-video/

*In Japanese, the art of paper folding is called origami. In Chinese, it’s zhezhi.  If you’re interested in pronunciation, I recommend checking out an app called Pleco.

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adoption, dossier, milestones

For anyone who has adopted or who has walked alongside someone who has adopted a child, it will come as no surprise to hear us say that adoption is quite a series of steps. We will post soon about what those steps look like in this adoption, but yesterday we took another step closer to meeting this little one!

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Jason and I after our appointment at the US Citizenship and Immigration offices as part of our approval to bring a child into our family from another country.