Thursday, June 21, 2012

How it all began...

Several people have asked me recently, to share our adoption story. It made me realize that I've not really ever put it "out there" for our long distance friends and family, so I thought this would be the perfect post!Before I begin, I'd like to point out the new button to the right side of the screen. It is a link to our secure Paypal account. We have been asked about how to send donations for our adoption fund, so we set up an online account specifically for it. If you feel led to donate even 1.00, it would mean so very much to our family!

Let me begin before the beginning, as it's the only place to start where you can truly grasp the gravity of our journey, and the impact God has made on our lives through it. I grew up in the small town or Louisville, MS. We lived in the country, but near us was a very small subdivision. It had about 16 houses in it, and three had adopted children. All were domestic adoptions, and one of these people grew to be one of my dearest, lifelong friends. My entire life I always envisioned that I would eventually get married, and that we would grow our family through adoption. Domestic adoption, at that, I never even considered International adoption.

Well, eventually I did get married, and when we began to talk about having children, I said that I wanted to do that by adopting. Greg immediately said that he would never, ever adopt, that he could never love a child that was not his own flesh and blood. So, knowing that it would be unfair to subject a child to that, I set aside my dream of adoption. We tried for 5 years to have a child, and finally reached the end game. I.V.F. or adoption. We could not conceive a child without the aid of I.V.F., and weren't even sure that would work. We discussed adoption again, and came up with the same result, where Greg said he'd rather just not have children if we couldn't successfully conceive through I.V.F. So I dismissed my dream again, for what I thought was forever. We went on to go through I.V.F twice and have three beautiful boys to show for it.

We talked about how many children we wanted, and decided that 3 was it. Three children in 22 months was HARD to say the least! Most people get baby fever a few years after their last child was born, but not us. When I say we were done, I mean we were D.O.N.E. Greg even took care of the "1 in a million" chance we could ever have a miracle child by having a vasectomy.  DONE I tell you!

Fast forward on to a year ago. Nathan was 8, and the twins were 6. We were finally reaching a stage in our lives where the boys were all old enough to fend for themselves, if I was sick, or at least walk next door to my parent's house. They went to school 5 days a week, and having had them all so close together, they all played well with pretty much the same toys. Over the summer of 2010,  I'd gotten a call that hit me straight through the heart to go to the mission field. After at first deciding that financially we couldn't do it, Greg had begun to stand behind my calling to support me in my efforts to raise the money to go to the Philippines with our church. It was Memorial day weekend, 2011 and I'd taken hundreds of jars of pickles, jams, and jellies to Louisville to the Red Hills Arts Festival to sell. This was to be my very first fund raiser for my mission trip. Little did I know how much that weekend was going to change my life!

Greg had gone to church that Sunday morning, and in my absence, help was needed to work with our "house lights." So he filled in in my stead. That put him in a seat on the back wall of our church where he could see everyone who walked down the aisle. At our church when it is time for the tithes and offerings to be taken, most of our regular attendees and members stand and walk down the aisle to deposit them into our offering buckets. We also do the traditional method of passing the plate down the rows, but many people give by walking down the aisle. That said, Greg sat there that morning and watched as three little Chinese girls walked hand in hand down the aisle to place their offerings into the buckets. As they walked back up the aisle, something inside of him just blew. He said it was as if the Holy Spirit broke down a wall, and struck him with a bolt of lightening. In that moment, that split second, he knew that we were being called to adopt. He said it brought chills to his body, and tears to his eyes. Talk about the movement of The Holy Spirit!

That afternoon, as I was driving home from Louisville, and he from church, he called me to say that we had to talk about something important when I got home. I had no idea what he had to say, but I knew it had to be big! So a couple of hours later, we sat on our bed, and he began to tell me about what had happened to him, how it made him feel, and what he believed we had to do. He felt that we were being called to adopt. That we were supposed to adopt from a non-Christian nation. We began to do research on International adoption, countries, requirements, and cost. We narrowed down the countries through our research. Some we had to dismiss because we just didn't meet the requirements, some because multiple trips were required, that would take us both away from work, and our family for too long. The more research we did, the more doors to countries were closed to us. Eventually we would up with China. It was what Greg felt called for in the beginning, and it was the only door God left open for us to go through. Again, how is that for the calling of God? Only He had the power to close every other door to us that was available at the time He called us to adopt!

Once we had a country picked out we began to research agencies. We decided on CCAI because of all the agencies we contacted they were the one who was easiest to reach, and they spent almost 2 hours on the phone with us answering questions, before we even signed a contract! So on June 11th 2011, we signed a contract with them and began our crazy adventure! We were approved June 17th, and we began the paper chase. For all of you who are not in the International adoption circle, the paper chase is the portion of any International adoption where you have official documents notarized, verified, and sealed for a dossier which will be sent to the child's country. This included official copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, police clearances in every state you've ever lived or worked, local fingerprints, and clearances, federal fingerprints, and clearances, and so much more. Each piece of paperwork must be notarized locally, then sent to the state it originated in, to be verified, then sent to Washington to the State department to be certified, then sent to the Chinese consulate to be sealed. It is then ready for inclusion in the dossier. Once the dossier is complete, it must be sent to your agency, who proofs it to make sure every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed, and then they send it to China. This is a tedious process, to say the least, and is very time consuming.

We finally finalized all of our documentation, and our dossier was officially "logged in" to China on December 8, 2011. In China, you can be matched with a child anytime after submitting your medical conditions checklist. We submitted ours on June, 14, 2011. The match process widens when your dossier is logged in though, because you are allowed to be matched with children reserved for people who have logged in their paperwork. Many of the LID, (logged in date,) only children have a lesser degree of special needs. On January 3rd, 2012, we received our match, and knew in our hearts that Annabella was our daughter. Annabella's file was the second file we'd received. The first file we prayed about, but decided to decline. That was absolutely gut wrenching for us, and cause me to be deeply depressed until we found out that the next family who got her file, adopted her. For God, it was that simple, she was theirs, and we were meant for Annabella! A sense of peace came over me as I prayed when we declined her file, and though you normally do not find out about the fate of children other than your own, we did find out that she'd been matched and was adopted by her own forever family. This again was evidence for us of how God was touching our adoption journey.

January the 9th, 2012 our LOI (letter of intent,) was logged in to China, stating that we officially intended to adopt Annabella if they would allow it. A very long 4 months later we received our LOA (letter of acceptance,) from China on April 30th, 2012. This is the letter that China sends saying they officially accept us as Annabella's parents. The next steps have all gone quickly and we received our Article 5 which was the last official piece of paperwork we got on June 9, 2012. Now we wait for our TA (travel approval,) which is our official invitation to travel to China for our adoption. We should receive this within the next 3 weeks, and will travel to China anywhere between 10 days and 3 weeks after receiving it.

There are so many things that God has taught us and so many ways we've grown throughout this adoption. I have no doubt that His plan all along was adoption for me. It is why I had the strong pull from such an early age, and why that fire never died within my heart. One thing I have learned is that you should never give up on your dreams.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 NIV

 "But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”"
Luke 18:27 ESV

Patience. That is something I have struggled with my entire life. He has taught me how to have patience, and the value of it. 

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might ,so that you may have great endurance and patience and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light." Col 1:9-12 NIV

"So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
Hebrews 6:12 ESV

Never say never. I realize to some that this post may make Greg sound a bit barbaric, and that could not be further from the truth. Adoption is not for the faint of heart! I have a whole new post planned on that topic, but for now, just know that God was only using Greg's resistance to adoption, because His plan was for us to be joined with Annabella. No other scenario could have worked for our family. We believe He sent the twins to us early, so that we would understand the gravity of special needs, because He knew one day that we would be adopting our daughter through the special needs program from China. This has all been a lesson on His divine timing. And I tell you, I am a true believer, and have found SO MUCH SOLACE in the fact that God is faithful, and I know that He has this whole thing in his hands, and that His timing is perfect.

 “In the time of my favor I will answer you,..." Isaiah 49:8 NIV

 "And then God answered: "Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn't lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time." Hab2:3 MSG

 And He has helped me to trust in Him, knowing that He has a plan for my life, and that no matter what I say or do, He will love me and guide me to do His will.

“The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you’.” Psalm 32:8 NIV

“For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

 Most of all, I have grown in my walk with Jesus Christ, in seeing how He has worked through this whole process. He knew just what we could handle, and gave us just enough. He gave us solace when we needed it, along with a good dose of strength and patience, He supported us in so many ways, emotionally, financially, and spiritually and these things were all tangible things. I could give you all of the examples, but I choose to keep some of these lessons a bit more private. I'm happy to share others, as I've already done on this blog, both in this post and in previous posts. I have been humbled by the people who have helped us, and prayed for us, and supported us in a variety of ways, and been shocked to find that our journey has inspired others to take steps of faith of their own. God truly uses people in such unexpected ways! I continue to trust in Him and know that He will continue to show me how to delight in His great works! For all of you who are new to our blog, or have been here since the beginning, I hope you will take a moment to pray for our family and our continued walk of faith! Thank you for allowing us to share our lives with you!

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Eph 4:20 NIV

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