Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 26, 2010 - Our Dossier has safely arrived in Addis Ababa

Horray.  We received confirmation that our documents have safely arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  I was secretely starting to regret not making 2 originals (in case one got lost).  Wheww.. I feel better now. 

We also had our fingerprints taken for USCIS on Monday, so that will complete our application/petition for Orphan.  We should receive our paperwork from USCIS within about 3 months or so. 

Other than that, we  have a few things to do, some webinars to take, and another training course to take while we are waiting.  We are going to start researching doctors in the area who are familiar with international adoptions and issues associated with children from various regions.  We need to have a doctor on standby that can read the medicals of the child, once our referral is received.  Our agency has given us a list of doctors that participate.  I think our closest is at John Hopkins in Baltimore. 

We are also attempting to finish our basement and transistion things around, switch the boys' rooms around, and then begin getting Baby E's room ready.  But, we have plenty of time, so I'm not going to panic.  Plus, baseball season is just about upon us.  That is going to keep us pretty busy until June. 

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dossier in route to Ethiopia

Great news!  We received an email late on Friday that our dossier was shipped to Ethiopia.  Wow, that was a quick turn around from CWA!  They said it should arrive in 4 or 5 days, so right about now, it's probably somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.  

Our official tick-tock, start-the-clock date is January 22, 2010.  Yay!  Our hope is that we receive a referral within 9 months.   Sooner would be awesome, but we know there are others who are just as anxious in front of us.  We did request up to 18 months of age, so perhaps that might help.  Keep us and Baby E in your prayers! 

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Eagle has Landed

After planes, trains and automobiles, the Eagle as landed.  We received confirmation from UPS that our dossier package arrived at CWA offices in North Carolina at 9:34 a.m. this morning. 
Next stop . . . Ethiopia for translation into Amharic! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You think taxes are bad??

If you think taxes are bad, a dossier consists of approximately 70 pages of signed, sealed and notarized documents, is more precious than national security, and has consumed the last 8 weeks of our life!  Uggh.. but so worth it! 

Thanks to everyone to had a part in helping us complete our dossier... from the friendly people at the bank, post office, our notary, our friends and family for our references, our doctors, local police department... and the list goes on.  Thanks to our boys for being so patient with us during this process.  Seriously, we are protecting this document like the national security documents we handle.  Today we received our State Authentication and Seals.   We took pictures of our completed dossier, but for security reasons, won't post it here... but it's a lot of stuff!  It will go in our photo book for our little girl to see.  Our dossier is basically a package that proves we are fit to adopt.  It includes our home study (which was performed by a social worker), employment information, family information, tax information, personal and professional references, medical clearances, FBI clearances, letters to Ethiopia, etc.  It was fun to put together, but we aren't going to lie... we are glad we are done!   Now the waiting begins.

Heading to U.S. Department of State and Ethiopian Embassy Tomorrow!

We received our State Certification today, so tomorrow we will be hand-carrying our precious dossier to the US Department of State and the Ethiopian Embassy.  Please keep us in your prayers and we head downtown.  We are not sure what we will find when we arrive at the Dept of State.  All of the Haitian adoptions will be going through the Department of State as well, so I'm sure there is a lot of hub-bub and security issues down there right now.  We certainly do not want to put ourselves before the precious orphans from Haiti, but at the same time we are hoping we can walk in, get our documents authenticated and bound, and walk back out.  That would be perfect.  :)  Then we will head to the Embassy for the same process.  If time permits, we are planning on stopping at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.. Yummy!  I'll be sure to take some pictures.

We are on the home stretch!  Next stop for our Dossier = Ethiopia! 

God is good :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Puzzle Update

     Moving right along . . . although we haven't sold all the pieces yet (but have raised 1/2 the money), we decided that perhaps we should try to get this thing together, especially to check that all pieces are in order.  Then we will begin writing donors names on the back.  (see side bar for our puzzle fundraiser idea) 

     Funny story -- we spent most of our Christmas vacation framing the puzzle and putting the giraffes and landscape together.  It was coming along nicely.  Notice I said  WAS :)  Unfortunately, during a Xbox frenzie, Colton's sock stuck to the felt pad under the puzzle.  Not knowing his sock and the puzzle mat were attached, he made a sudden move, and, well, that was the end of the puzzle.  Poor boy was scared to tell me (we didn't witness the dumping of the puzzle first hand)... but oh my goodness.. to see about 500 pieces of a puzzle laying on the floor in a heap of messiness stirred my emotions.    My first inclination was to act like a child and scream and shout at him... but you know what... It's a puzzle... it was an accident...and it can be fixed.

     So now, we've moved it to a much safer location, cover it at night, and we are back to the point it was before.   As you can see, it's really beautiful and the colors are very vibrant.  This is actually an older picture.  We are further along than te picture shows.   

     If you are interested, there's still time to purchase your piece.  We think it will be really neat for Baby E to see all the people who helped bring her home.  So far we have about 40 names to put onto the puzzle from various donations received over the holiday.. THANK  YOU!!!   So, that only leaves 960 names to go!  Ask your family, friends and work associates if they'd like to own a piece of the puzzle.

Home Study Approved!

Good news!  Received phone call from our social worker on Monday, and our Final Home Study has been approved by CWA (They had to view a draft first). 

The final home study is in the mail to us so we can complete our Dossier and Immigration application. Hoping it will arrive to us by Friday. Our poor poor mail lady has no idea that we will be stalking her until it arrives! Ha!

What’s next?
  • The home study will complete our dossier package. The dossier package (a draft copy) will be sent to CWA for approval.
  • If Dossier is acceptable (with no errors), CWA will issue a final document to us that will go in the Dossier
  • We will take dossier documents to our State Department in PA for Authentication;
  • Next, we will take those same Dossier Documents to the Department of State In DC and to the Ethiopian Embassy in DC for Authentication -- we are going to Hand Carry!
  • Head to the bank to get check for Country Fees, translation fees, etc. due to CWA
  • Dossier will go to CWA; CWA will send to Ethiopia (4-5 days to arrive)
  • After arrival in Ethiopia, the Dossier will be translated (7-10 days)
  • Dossier ready for court!
Now our wait begins -- please pray that we receive our referral before the estimated 9 months. But hopefully (worst-case) we will know our baby’s face by November. Sooner would be nice, but I’m not going to count on it

Bottom line – it’s not OUR timing – It’s God’s

Saturday, January 2, 2010

USCIS Biometrics Appointment!

Yay!  We received our US Citizenship and Immigration Notice of Action today for our biometrics appointments (fingerprinting, etc.) to continue the processing of our I600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition).  This will bring us one step closer to receiving full approval of our application!  Our appointments are for the end of January.  After our biometrics are taken and approved we will be well on our way.  The next step will be for our Home Study Provider to send a copy of our home study to complete our application.  We are truly blessed! 

Psalm 119: 1-8
You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.
That's right—you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.

You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set;
Then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.

I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I'm going to do what you tell me to do; don't ever walk off and leave me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Catalyst Video (note: Need to pause Dizzler music player before playing video)

Adoption from Catalyst on Vimeo.

This is one of the videos from Catalyst (P.S. You'll have to pause the sound on our Dizzler music player)

Orphan from Catalyst on Vimeo.

A Defining Moment

A lot of people have asked us, “what was your defining moment when you knew you were going to adopt.” Did you have a divine sign, did you do it on a whim, did you always know? We had been talking about adding to our family for probably the last 5 years, but have been seriously considering it for the last 2 years. We had always talked about adopting a little girl from China, but never sincerely talked about it. Over the last two years, we kept coming up with excuses as to why we couldn’t add to our family; why we shouldn’t add to our family; we talked about the logistics and reality of it; we talked about our job situations and how that would be an issue; you name it – we used it as an excuse. But, the desire to add a little one to our family just never went away. We knew that God had placed it in our hearts for a reason. Little by little each excuse that we had seemed to disappear. The more we talked about it, the more it seemed like a sincere possibility. Following is our story of how God spoke to us.

We had been asked several times over the last few years if we would have any more children. Medically, it could be possible, but it would involve some treatments. We weren’t sure we wanted to go there. We are not saying that we are against fertility treatments in any way, shape or form. But, we had 2 children without any assistance, and I guess we figured if God wanted us to have any additional biological children, it would have just happened. We prayed about it, but never got the ‘yahoo’ let’s do this from God. But, the desire for a child lingered on. We talked about it all the time, prayed about it all the time and talked about different options. (of course we did all of this privately because we figured our family and friends would think we were nuts!!) Adoption came up, but again, we weren’t detailed in our discussions – we were open to it, but did go into details. What we did know was that we had room in our hearts for another child; we had room in our home for another child; and we were waiting on God to tell us what our next move would be.

Fast forward to October. We were set to go to Catalyst in Atlanta, GA. Catalyst is a leadership conference for church leaders that we attend with our church, Mountain Ridge Church. It’s an awesome time to connect with our current church leaders, a time to hear great speakers, musicians, etc., but mostly, it’s a time to spend with God. When else can you turn off the world, and spend a few days with God, hear great worship sets and just connect period!? Our first Catalyst experience as in 2008, and we were never the same! We had decided that this would be our “defining moment.” We needed to get clarity on what God wanted us to do about adding to our family. Should we proceed with treatments; should we adopt; or should we just be happy that we have 2 beautiful boys and concentrate on them? Were we selfish for even considering adding to our family? Is it in our path? We were tired of talking about it and being non-committal about it. If we were going to do something, the time was NOW. (we weren’t getting any younger!) We knew God would lead us to our final answer. We were OPEN to whatever God wanted for us.

So, here we are sitting with our awesome group of people at Catalyst and thinking about taking a break and going to look at the exhibitors, etc. The next segment to come on was “Are you Open?” Good grief! It was an entire segment on adoption complete with videos, testimonies, and the big she-bang, Mac Powell, lead singer for Third Day (which is one of our favorite bands!! Woo hoo) and his wife talking about the adoption of his son. Talk about a Defining Moment! Talk about Leaving Your Mark (which was the topic of Catalyst this year). I (Angie) cried through the entire segment. When the segment was over, we both looked at each other and knew. We knew this is what we traveled to Atlanta for. We knew this is what God has planned for us. Brad looked at me and said, “we’re going to the adoption tent exhibitor and getting more information, aren’t we?” And, that’s basically it. We haven’t looked back since.

Our decision to adopt from Ethiopia probably was planted at Catalyst last year as well. We saw the most beautiful children dancing and singing who were from Kenya, I believe. (not Ethiopia, but close). Their hearts and personalities were so innocent and pure. We instantly fell in love. They were there again this year, and appeared RIGHT AFTER the adoption segment and they even sang with Mac Powell. Of course I bawled my eyes out again this year! Ok, God, we hear You loud and clear!

We came home and instantly began contacting adoption agencies. I can’t say they we still didn’t have hesitation about it. We did. This was a big decision, a big expense (one that we hadn’t saved for), and this would change our lives and the life of a child and the lives of our 2 boys forever. We read, prayed, fasted and talked, and talked, and prayed and fasted. We were still hung up on if this was in our plan and our path. Although the writing was on the wall, we still wanted reassurance. We prayed some more. I decided to take a day or 2 and fast and pray yet again… just to make sure we were not being ‘moved by the moment’ at Catalyst… then something funny happened… we received an email from the Catalyst people (that very day) giving us an electronic copy of Andy Stanley’s new book, “The Principle of the Path.” Oh my word…. Really??... this again was God giving us another tool to help our decision. I read the entire book in a few hours. Then, Psalm 119 came to me. So I turned in my bible to it and again, God’s words spoke very clear to us about our path ahead.

So, here we are only 2 ½ months later, ready to submit our dossier to Ethiopia for the adoption of our daughter. 2010 is going to be an awesome year. It’s so funny when you look back on the last 2 years of our life. It’s amazing to see how God had perfectly aligned our thoughts, decisions and situations to bring us to this very moment. Way too many to list, but we see them very clear now. It’s a puzzle of perfectly aligned pieces. We cannot wait for the next piece!

I want to list a few excerpts from the front page of our Catalyst program. Now remember, we didn’t have this book in our hands before we decided that our Catalyst experience this year would be our “Defining Moment” about what direction we were going with our family. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I looked back at the front page of our Catalyst program and got chills. It was a ‘fill in the blank’ cover and then you open to the front page to read how it came out. The bold text show what I filled in. I won’t give you the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts… simply amazing:

“As leaders, we are marked by defining moments that shape and change us. Moments like our marriage redemption.[which should be a whole other blog, but we won’t go there right now :)]. These moments are turning points that adjust our present and help shape our future. . . When our true identity is clarified and we grasp a clear understanding of God’s eternal perspective . . . This journey you are about to embark upon is similar to hearing Third Day for the first time; once experienced, you’ll never be the same. . . We have all been marked by Our Heavenly Father. You have a unique mark. Now go leave your mark on a broken world. . .”

So, did Catalyst persuade us into adopting? Absolutely not! We already had that possibility in our thoughts and prayers. But, I think if we would have missed Catalyst this year, we would have missed our mark!