Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Warning! Very LONG and overdue post!

Wow, where has the time gone? It's been almost 5 yrs since I last blogged. I guess I stopped after Grace came home and we moved to Florida! Aside from moving to Florida and me having a few big surgeries, there hasn't been much out of the ordinary going on. We're in our third home since moving and praying our next move is back to the Midwest, likely back to Rochester, MN. We all so badly miss the seasons and I personally miss the midwestern lifestyle. Not to mention how much I miss being closer to family and a lot of friends! So all 5 kids have been in school full-time for about 3 yrs and I'm still a stay at home mom. I attempted to go back to work last year and lasted 8 months until I needed to have a cervical fusion. The atmosphere and ethics there did not match my own so I did not return. However, a few months in, we felt God asking us to adopt once again. When I started my job, there was not thoughts about this but after I was able to start saving some money, the voice just got louder. When we had adopted Grace, the "plan" was to eventually adopt another girl with Down syndrome so they'd have each other when the older 4 kids leave home. However, Grace has been a much much bigger challenge parenting than we could have ever dreamed so we really thought she was to be our last. When we adopted Grace, we knew she had a cleft lip/palate and Down syndrome but were not prepared for her to have autism as well. This has thrown us for a loop. However after 5 yrs, we've had plenty of time to adjust to her behaviors and her personality and although we struggle still a lot, we wouldn't have it any other way! So....let's talk a bit about Gathering another Angel! God started working on our hearts around March or April 2013. We really weren't on board immediately as how does a less than average income family of 7 afford a $30K+ adoption? We decided we just could not go into debt to do this and so we told God yes but that we'd rely fully on Him for the financing of one of His precious angels! This was NOT about us needing or necessarily even wanting another child. Adoption is not about US especially when adopting special needs and sometimes very difficult children. It's totally about the child without a family needing someone willing to accept them as their own and giving that family...that chance to feel the love of a family of their own. We already have a lot on our plate with the 5 we have with medical appts and therapies and all the issues that come along with parenting any children on top of the extra needs several of our kids have. Trust me, I had a lot of selfishness going on in my head thinking things are just "normal" now so why would we want more on our plate? But in the end, neither Jon nor I could come up with a valid reason to say no. From day 1, we put this entire adoption process into God's hands. This is the first of 6 that we truly and whole heartedly have trusted in His timing. So as you can imagine if you're Christian, that this has set us up for MANY obstacles from satan. Satan has tried to derail us almost literally from day 1. Here's our story so far.... So to begin any adoption process, a family needs a home study. This is basically an approval from a social worker to say we are fit to care for another child and that we have room in our home and that it's safe. She's also responsible to obtain all background checks, medical reports and much more. It's A LOT of paperwork. We already had a child in mind at our first home study visit. We were quickly approved to adopt a girl with Ds from China between the ages of 3-9. We found this girl on a website called who's an adoption ministry to advocate and raise money to help family's adopt children with Ds and other special needs. This child was listed with an agency we knew nothing about and who refused to transfer her file to the agency we wanted to use. First red flag!! We requested an update on this girl before we were ready to fully commit. The strangest thing happened, this child became unavailable. Our agency had never experienced this over the past 30 years. She had a significant amount in her grant fund as well which now was to be given to another child. Since we were the ones trying to get her, we were gifted the grant to go towards another child we'd later choose. We now know why the other child became unavailable and that's because she was not the one. Cao XiXi is. We came across another child, a few years older, that we instantly felt a connection too. I had remembered seeing her picture 5-6 yrs ago when we were adopting Grace actually. She too had a bit of a grant and combined we already had enough $ to cover 1/2 of the entire adoption expenses. Wow!!!!! After getting more information on this girl and learned how high functioning she is, we knew she would fit in perfectly. She's exactly in the middle of Ivy and Iris in age and is very much a girly girl which Ivy was instantly excited about. So we committed to her and sent the necessary Letter of Intent to adopt this specific child and just a short time later got pre approval to move forward. Now the real paper chase begins to compile and lot of papers that will all collectively be called our dossier. After a 2 month loss of time due to a very basic error our agency made, we finally sent this dossier to China in Feb, 2014. Remember how I mentioned God has provided everything for this adoption so far? Well we had depleted our savings account for the several thousand $$ we needed up front for our home study and initial agency fees and such. Despite being very upset and disappointed about the paperwork delay issue, it gave us extra time to do some fundraising as we had our 2nd big agency fee due when our paperwork went to China as well as the first part of the China program fee due. Through some generous donors, t-shirt sales, jewelry sales and an online auction I had, we were able to raise almost exactly the amount we needed for this step. Awesome huh? I think so! So our dossier is safely logged in at the China center for adoption on 2/12/14. This date signals the beginning of an average 60 day wait for China's final letter of approval to be issued. About 2 weeks later, another sabotage hits us and I find out on facebook of all places, that our agency went bankrupt and closed. We were told we could choose any agency to help us finish our adoption and we did. We were also told they had notified China of their closing and who our new agency was. This was a LIE! They did not tie up ends on the China side which left us in limbo for about 2 months, the length of time we should have gotten our approval letter. After our new agency did some digging, the China center decided all the families affected by the agency closing needed to use the same agency so we were forced yet again to change agencies losing several more months! As upsetting as this was, it allowed my family to spend 2 months in North Dakota this summer and allowed our kids to experience many things they've not been able to do here living in such a large city. Believe me when I say they got a lot of fresh air. So we get back to Florida in August and back in the school routine. I'm missing ND terribly and slip into a slight depression coupled with the stress of the wait for our approval letter(LOA). Mid September rolls around and we still have not heard a word from China. I start nagging our agency to dig deep into our case. I just have this unrelenting feeling that something is terribly wrong and I just couldn't let it go. I believe that feeling was from God Himself as sure enough, things had changed at the China center and our paperwork needed to move to a different office. FINALLY on Sept 29th on day 227(of the average 60 day wait) we received that coveted LOA. Just 2 days before China was taking an entire work week off for a holiday. Thank you Jesus!!! In the mean time, we needed a home study update as they're only good for 1 yr and ours expired the end of August, more $$, more time waiting for background checks etc. The next step was to file another form with immigration which will allow our daughter to become an American citizen the moment her feet touch American soil. The paper copy of the LOA is needed from China to get this approval although we were able to file with just the emailed version. It takes about a week to get this official paper copy. But, since this is "our" very frustrating adoption process, ours took 3 weeks to come!!! Ha, not funny satan! But it eventually came and we got our final immigration approval 2 days ago. Yay! Throughout the past 17 months, we've also experienced so many other attacks on the family but every time, God was right there to rescue us in most cases, literally seconds! Our God we serve is so faithful and loves us so much! So what steps are left for us before we can get our now almost 9 yr old girl home? Our immigration letter has been sent to the National Visa Center(NVC) that will issue as a number that we need to file another form. Then we wait a couple more weeks for an important letter to be picked up in China. Then we wait for our invitation to travel. We do not know our travel dates yet which makes planning for childcare for our other kids a bit tricky. We are in the race against the calendar to get her home asap and hopefully before mid December. After 12/9, flight prices skyrocket over the holidays and we just can't delay getting her due to that but since we aren't quite fully funded yet, we may have to wait until January. However, that's not even our biggest issue with waiting even 1 day longer than we need to. We've been renting our current home for about 2 1/2 yrs now and our landlord gave us a blow and told us he's needing to sell. He told us on a friday and it went on the market Saturday. The timing couldn't be worse when planning a trip to China to bring home a confused child and then into an unstable home environment of top of that. So here are a few immediate prayer requests: 1. That our house does not sell anytime soon(like February or March) 2. That these last few steps of our process are supernaturally expedited so we can leave for China before 12/9. 3. That the rest of the funds needed will come through by way of donations or a grant (approx. $5K to be fully funded) 4. Childcare to work out for the kids we're leaving home (Grace is covered already) 5. That God provides a level of peace and calm for me as we prepare to add another child, move(possibly twice), and navigate these next few months. So after this novel, if you're still with me, stay tuned as my next blog post will be all about our new daughter!!