I Will Follow

Almost 2 ½ years ago, I stood at church singing a Chris Tomlin song (click to play while you read)…

I will follow you
I will follow you
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back

This is my heart cry
Though none go with me
The cross before me
The world behind me

This is my heart cry
Though none go with me
The cross before me
The world behind me

I will follow You (I have decided. I have decided)
I will follow You (I have decided)
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
No turning back
After singing that song and listening to the subsequent sermon on obedience, Ryan and I made the decision to surrender to God’s will for our lives. We decided to deny our selfish desires, put aside our fears, trust the Lord, and move forward with adopting a child. The lyrics, “I will follow you. No turning back,” became an anthem of sorts to us. Many of you probably remember hearing it in the video we made for our puzzle fundraiser. We entered a world that was completely unfamiliar to us but felt God’s presence and affirmation at every turn. Our eyes had been opened to a broken part of this world that we knew existed but never allowed ourselves to feel or see. Soon, the term orphan became personal. These children became real. I experienced an insatiable hunger for the Word like never before and longed for a child I had never met. I spent more time praying on my knees and drew closer and closer to God than I ever knew was possible.
Fourteen months after making the decision to FOLLOW the Lord, I held Tucker for the very first time. I can still remember how his tiny, warm body felt in my arms, just like those first moments you have with your newborn baby. In time our difficult beginning was replaced by deep roots of love and a strong foundation. We have experienced the true meaning of beauty from ashes.

Over the past year, I have struggled with all that we have lost since bringing Tucker home including our family of four, our church home, and our community we experienced there. I resigned my position as a school psychologist, which I really loved. Walking away from a possible opportunity to create and lead an orphan care ministry was more painful than I can describe. Several relationships have changed. Some have ended altogether while others have shifted significantly. Two years ago I had certain dreams for the future – what could have been but will never be. I have grieved each of these losses and have often questioned why so much has changed and why we seem to have lost so much.
In the time that the leaves have changed colors and fallen off the trees, God has revealed answers to my questions in so many ways, and I am finally beginning to understand the purpose in our loss. For book club, we read Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods. The term counterfeit god is another word for idol and is defined as:
-Anything more important to us than God.
-Anything that absorbs our mind, heart, and imagination more than God
-Anything we seek to give us what only God can give
-Something so essential that, should we lose it, our lives would feel hardly worth living.
-Anything on which we spend most of our passion, energy, emotional, and financial resources
-Something that we look to for significance and security
-Something that when it is removed, we feel despair
Tim Keller states that the most painful times in our lives occur when our idols are being threatened or removed. Although the past year has been filled with great joy, I have also felt heartache and disappointment after losing what I now understand were treasured idols. Without them, I have sometimes felt isolated, in despair, and alone. Over the past six months, I have often felt like I don’t fit anymore. I have wanted to leave and start a new life somewhere else because trying to live here without my idols was uncomfortable.
I now realize that throughout this past year, God has stripped these idols away so that He could fill that space in my heart. Tim Keller wrote, “You don’t realize that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have” (p. 19). Instead of seeking the majority of my spiritual nourishment at church, I am primarily being fed through quiet time with Him, studying His Word, reading additional books like Counterfeit Gods, and having discussions with women in my Bible Study. Rather than placing expectations (which Beth Guckenberger calls premeditated resentments - love that!) on outside relationships, I am trying to find healthier boundaries for them. More importantly, I am striving for deeper relationships with my family and the Lord. I am working to find my acceptance, security, significance, and approval through Him rather than through my career, a church, and my relationships.
On November 10th, I was reading a devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. She wrote, I am molding your mind and cleansing your heart...
...I am re-creating you into the one I designed you to be."
More affirmation that all things lost were for my good. God was cleansing my heart so that I could continue to FOLLOW Him.
Last Christmas, I downloaded Kyle Idleman’s book Not A Fan on my Kindle and finally started it a week or so ago. Sometimes I laugh when my circumstances collide in perfect timing with a book, song, sermon, etc., and this was definitely one of those cases. I have highlighted so many parts of this book – it is so good! The main theme is what it means to be a true follower of Christ versus just a fan. Idleman writes that:
Fans are enthusiastic admirers. For example, we are amazed by what Jesus has accomplished.
Fans want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives. For example, we are willing to go to church until it interferes with our kids' ability to play on travel teams.
Fans don’t mind Jesus doing a little touch-up work but resist when He wants complete renovation. For example, we are willing to give a small portion of our money to His Kingdom but resist a full financial makeover through a program like Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.
Fans are happy to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t require any significant changes or have negative implications. For example, we are willing to accept Jesus as our Savior as long as we don't have to stop living our comfortable, pleasure-filled lives.
Idleman states that “When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we become nothing more than fans” (p. 32). In reading this book, I found it so interesting that within the four gospels describing Christ’s life, Jesus said Believe in me approximately five times but said Follow me about twenty times. Idleman defines following as requiring more than mental assent, as it calls for movement. He writes, "There is no way to FOLLOW Jesus without him interfering with your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something.”
I was once a fan all the ways described above. I loved God but stayed inside my safe bubble. I wanted to sit in a pew, listen to a sermon, and be inspired. I didn’t know what it meant to make sacrifices for God. I thought God wanted me to be happy – not feel pain. On July 19, 2012, God asked us to stop being fans and decide to FOLLOW Him…really FOLLOW Him…for the first time in our lives. In fact, I am still learning how to stop being a fan as I strive to FOLLOW Him.
This past Sunday, we attended a local Chinese Christian Church for the second time, and Dr. Thomas H. Hermiz spoke. His sermon was entitled Full Submission. Again, this was another situation where our circumstances and God’s message collided so perfectly. Dr. Hermiz stated, “Following Christ requires surrender, submission, and obedience.” As I continued to listen to his talk, I started thinking about how God will never lead us astray. Ryan and I have lost parts of the world that we loved, but those pieces stood between us and God. With those idols removed, God can reside in our hearts more fully, and He can more powerfully work in us and through us. Following Him will cost us, but I believe with my whole heart that there is nothing sweeter than living in the center of God’s will for our lives. Dr. Hermiz said, “No one ever regrets entering the mission field God calls them to.” I love that. His words were so encouraging to my soul. 
On Orphan Sunday, Ryan and I stood with friends at a church we’ve been attending for the past 6 months. We sang a beautiful song by Hillsong (click to listen while you read):

Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there's nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy
(not even the most enticing, comforting idols)

Through every trial
My soul will sing
No turning back

I've been set free

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Christ my all in all
The joy of my salvation
And this hope will never fail
Heaven is our home
(Of course I don't feel like I belong - this isn't my home - and leaving won't change that)

Through every storm
My soul will sing
Jesus is here
To God be the glory
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

And before I knew it, we were singing out those beautifully familiar words. Our anthem had returned two years later under different circumstances and in a different song.
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
And so we keep singing our anthem and marching toward the Lord – wherever and however He leads. This journey hasn't been comfortable or easy or without loss, but there is no place I would rather be. Christ is enough for me.


A Burdened Heart

Have you ever spent a week at church camp or gone on a mission trip? The traveling, the relationships, the food, the work, the learning - so enriching and enlightening. We are exposed to experiences that fill our souls yet break our hearts. We make new friends, feel a special kinship to them, and sadly say goodbye at the end of our time together. Our heart stirs in new ways, feeling emotions it has never felt before, and should we choose to delve deeper, investigate, process, and follow its lead, we know our lives will never be the same.

Then we come home. At first we feel raw with emotion, the experiences so fresh in ours mind. We share with anyone who will listen about all that we saw, did, and cannot wait to do now that we are home. There is a new passion alive within us. We correspond with friends we met during the trip, and share a common desire to go back. We long for the memories and intensity of emotions to be real again. We have come home with deep convictions, which lead to new priorities. We hope to never go back to life like it was before this experience.

Day and weeks go by. The intensity of emotions shifts to a mild remembrance, and the convictions we felt at one time now feel a little dramatic (i.e., It's not wrong to have 10 pairs of shoes). You slip back into old habits and ways of life.

     A week of providing food to starving families initially led us to extreme gratitude for food without waste, and before we know it, we're throwing away leftovers in the fridge because they just don't sound very good.

     A week of studying God's Word and singing our hearts out initially led us to waking up at 6:00 a.m. every day to have quiet time with God, but a couple weeks later, we are back to sleeping in every single day because we stayed up too late watching TV and playing on Facebook.

     After a week of seeing children rummaging through trash, playing with a half-deflated soccer ball, going to the restroom in the streets, and living at a landfill, we promise ourselves that our children will get one or two Christmas presents this year, but when the holiday season arrives, we can't help but buy them toys, candy, clothing, and gifts galore because they will be so happy on Christmas morning.

On the inside, we feel a little guilty that the experience did not change our lives like we hoped it would. We had the best intentions to never forget what we saw and did, and in our heart of hearts, we truly wanted the passion we experienced to transform us. However, we live in America, and the people we surround ourselves with did not have our same experience. The passion we felt is not affirmed. Our loved ones do not feel our same convictions. Their hearts are not burdened in the same way ours hearts are burdened.

And the burden hurts. It is painful and real, and part of you wants it to just stop hurting. How can we live in America, with this burden, and still live a happy life when that is the American way - to strive for happiness? Our longstanding priorities of success, wealth, material goods, approval from others, achievement, and love beckon louder than our new passions to change the face of worldwide hunger, orphaned children, preventable disease, vulnerable widows, and clean water. Our original priorities are affirmed by those around us, and suddenly, it feels normal to pursue them again.

In the end, we decide that the best thing we can do is send money to an organization that supports what broke our hearts. We know that it will truly benefit the lives of others, and when we're really honest with ourselves, we know that our guilt for not doing more will also subside. We didn't make the life changes we had hoped for, but at least we were doing something to help (and of course that financial aid helps...it's just not what the initial convictions of the heart led us to do).
Today, I found myself wanting to forget what I've seen. I want to forget what I know. The burden is too heavy and cuts too deep. They are just children, helpless, and vulnerable and deserving of so much more than life has given them. They deserve a mom and a dad and brothers and sisters. They deserve a hug in the morning and a kiss goodnight. They deserve to have healing for their club feet so that they can walk and run and play. They deserve to have their HIV treated so they can live a long life. They deserve to have their cleft lips and palates repaired into beautiful smiles. The deserve to have their extra chromosome cherished and celebrated. They deserve to eat meals that nourish their bodies. The deserve to learn at school and become world changers. They deserve to hear about the Father who loves them so much and learn that they fearfully and wonderfully made. They deserve LOVE. Oh how they deserve love. Unconditional, sacrificial, I-would-give-my-life-for-you kind of love.
Ryan and I went on a mission trip of sorts, and we came home from China on October 25, 2013 with Tucker. Our experiences filled our souls yet broke our hearts. We made new friends, felt a special kinship to them, and were sad to say goodbye. Our hearts were stirred in new ways, feeling emotions like never before, and we knew our lives would never be the same.

Then we come home, our emotions raw and the experiences so fresh in ours mind. Through this blog, we shared with everyone what we saw and did. Our passion for orphans was stronger than ever. We regularly correspond with other China families and share a common desire fight for the fatherless. The memories and intensity of emotions is as strong as ever. We came home with deep convictions, changing our hearts and leading to new priorities.

Our adoption experience has changed our lives, the kind of change that, even a year later, makes life in America still feel different. There are many times I have wanted to leave, walk away from our life here because I don't feel like I fit anymore. The passion we feel has transformed our hearts. Much like in the example above, despite their incredible love and support, the people around us did not have our same experience. The passion we feel is not always affirmed. Many people do not feel our same conviction that every child deserves a family. Their hearts are not burdened in the same way ours hearts are burdened. And the burden hurts. It is painful and real, and sometimes I want it to just stop hurting.

"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes” -David Platt

Go to Africa to build a clean water well, but don't just come home when you are done. Instead, invite a family who has never experienced clean water to live with you in your home. I bet you will be aware of your seven faucets, washing machine, water heater, refrigerator with filtered water, dishwasher, and three toilets like never before. The family's presence makes you aware of just how very fortunate you've been all these years. You realize that real people spend a large part of their day collecting water to drink, cook, and clean. You know they are real because they live in your home. These real people watched their child and dozens of others die from a water born illness. You try to explain to them why you own a water softener, but when the words come out, you realize how crazy you sound. The family living with you continuously ignites what you experienced in Africa. Because of them, you can't forget what you know or what you've seen. You can't brush your teeth with the water running ever again because there is a family in your home who sees water as more valuable than gold, and now you do, too. Your heart has been transformed, and you will never be the same. All you want to do is get more involved with the water crisis in the world. You blog about it. You post about it on Facebook. You donate to clean water causes. You see Christmas as an opportunity to fundraise for a new well. You go back to Africa every year instead of going on family vacations in order to build new wells, maintain the old ones, and connect with the people who still suffer from the water crisis. You realize that while God has created you for many purposes, one of the most important is helping people obtain clean water.
The people around you support your efforts, but you wonder if they are tired of hearing about the water crisis. Maybe they want to brush their teeth and take long, hot showers in peace. If that's the case, you understand how they feel - secretly you miss the days of long, hot showers, too. God has put this desire in your heart so strongly, though, that it pours out at all times and in all places. You find yourself sitting quietly at get togethers just listening because you know what will flow from your heart if you open your mouth.
Everyone thinks the family living with you is really nice and that their kids are so cute. They can't believe how much the family is thriving in your home. You think that maybe, just maybe, getting to know this family will make the water crisis real for them, too. Posting pictures of them on Facebook and telling stories about them on your blog...surely that will make the crisis come alive, making it personal to them, too, right? Every time you look at this family, you are reminded of all the other families trying to survive in Africa. You hope and pray that it stirs the same in others and motivates them to get involved in the water crisis, too. Your heart's burden to provide clean water for others is lifted only when many carry the weight. So you stay, and you keep sharing.


Let's Get Real: Affording a Second Adoption

When we experienced our unexpected surprise in July and learned that a specific child's file was being prepared and would eventually reach our adoption agency, one of my thoughts was, "How will we afford this adoption? I just quit my job." Tucker had made so much progress since coming home, and I was afraid that my going back to work for the 2014-2015 school year would negatively effect him - and the rest of our family to be honest. So for that reason, I decided to resign my part time position as a school psychologist.

I have shared countless times that affording adoption is possible. Few people have $35,000 sitting in their bank accounts for adoption. However, I have witnessed family after family have every penny they needed to adopt their child through hard work, awarded grants, and the generosity of loved ones. In February I wrote a blog post about funding an adoption with grants, interest free loans, the adoption tax credit, and employee assistance benefits. The following week, I wrote a second post about using fundraisers to help afford adoption costs. When we decided to take the leap for a second time, you better believe I went back to both of those posts to see what we needed to do to afford this adoption.

I don't know about you, but I really appreciate when people are transparent with me. So, for the sake of transparency, I want to share with you how we are hoping to afford this adoption. My goal in doing so is to encourage those of you who are considering adoption to not let finances be the reason for saying no. Too many kids need a family for us to let something like money get in the way of making it happen!

Based on our estimates, we believe this adoption will cost us $34,103.80. Your next question is probably, "Why does adoption cost so much money?!" Let me break it down for you. For our situation...

$1,900 - Home Study Fee - includes visits to home and report giving approval for adoption
$250 - Hague Review of Home Study - to ensure that all requirements are present in the home study
$8,855 - Adoption Agency Fees - facilitates our entire adoption process
$235 - Education & Trainings - to prepare us for our second adoption
$79.80 - Fingerprints for Indiana - background check
$890 - Immigration - federal background check with the Department of Homeland Security
$579 - Authentication of Dossier - county, state, and federal approval on dossier documents
$1,190 - Log In Fee - China collects this fee when our dossier is logged into their system
$600 - Matching Fee - once we are matched with a child, this fee is paid
$350 - Visas - allow us to enter China
$4,800 - Airfare to and from China
$14,375 - Travel Expenses - orphanage donation, hotel, flight within China, food, tours, etc.

$34,103.80 - GRAND TOTAL

For our last adoption, we used $25,000 that we had set aside to build our "dream home" to pay many of our adoption fees (of course now we know we are living the dream in our real dream home). Our puzzle fundraiser brought in an additional $5,425, and the Bauermeister family donated $6,000 to us. Our first adoption was fully funded! This time, we have much less money set aside for this adoption...$8,400 to be exact. Your next question is probably, "How do you plan to afford this adoption?"  Let me explain.

Adoption Tax Credit:
We received $8,400 on our tax return due to the Adoption Tax Credit. We will receive the remaining $4,570 on our 2014 tax return, assuming we have at least that amount of tax liability. This makes $12,970 that we can apply to this current adoption due to the Adoption Tax Credit.

Employee Assistance Benefit:
Per our puzzle fundraiser conditions, we paid forward the $5,000 that Ryan received from his employer after Tucker's adoption was complete to the Haun Family as they bring home Charlie Mae from China. We will most likely need the $5,000 that Ryan receives after this adoption is finalized. This brings our total to $17,970. If we are fortunate enough to be awarded grants to cover our adoption costs without this $5,000, we would likely give this benefit to another adoptive family again!

Puzzle Fundraiser:
It is our hope to hold another puzzle fundraiser when we are further in the adoption process to provide an additional $5,000 for this adoption, and the result has been more amazing than we could have hoped. We treasure Tucker's puzzle and tell him that every single piece of the puzzle represents someone who helped bring him home. We would love to do the same for our next child! This time, however, we plan to use a website where people can make tax deductible donations. Stay tuned! If we reach our $5,000 goal, we will have $22,970 to put toward this current adoption.

MudLOVE Bracelet Fundraiser:
When we decided to adopt again, we had no idea that my dad and stepmom would initiate this fundraiser. They bought us 100 bracelets, and we sold them for 100% of the profit. So many people were interested that we reordered an additional 165 bracelets. If our calculations are correct, this fundraiser will bring in $2,032.21. We will announce the final numbers after all bracelets have been distributed, and the money is collected. If that number is correct, we will have $25,002.21 for our adoption.

Adoption Grants:
After completing our home study, Ryan and I applied for seven different grants that provide assistance for adoption. We will probably not hear back from the grant organizations until October and as late as January. We might apply for 2 additional grants, if necessary, later in our adoption process. We are hoping to be awarded grants to provide for the remaining $9,101.59, assuming that our total costs really are $34,103.80. Depending on time of year in which we travel, our hotel and airfare could be more or less expensive, but we will not know until the last minute.

So, in sum, we are beginning this adoption with only $8,400, and to be completely honest, this money is nearly gone already due fees we have paid so far. However, among all of the ways listed above and our very conservative personal spending, we are choosing to believe that God will provide every penny we need to bring home our 4th child.

I know many people are outraged by the costs associated with adoption. However, I am choosing to be part of the group that says it is the best money we will ever spend. Our cars will eventually break down. Vacations will eventually end. In time, we will move out of our homes. Our clothes won't fit, or they will go out of style. Our jewelry will break, get lost, or sit in a box. The latest technology will soon become obsolete.

On the other hand, a child who was once relinquished will now have a forever family. This child will come to know that God loves him/her and will learn all about Jesus. The child will receive love, education, food, friendship, and grace. This child will have the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of others. This child will have the opportunity to change the world. I cannot think of any better way to spend my money, and I am SO GRATEFUL to all of you who agree and helped us bring Tucker home and are now helping us bring this child home, too.

Money cannot be the reason that these children never experience the love of a family. I cannot imagine Noah, Liam, or Tucker living in an institution until age 14, having no hope for their future, struggling to earn money to live, and never knowing the love God has for them. Please don't let money be a hurdle that prevents you from adopting a child. I would love to talk to you if you have any questions about affording adoption. I cannot wait to see how God helps us fund this adoption so that it can be an encouragement to all of you!


Mudlove Bracelets

About a month or so ago, my dad called me to ask if I had ever heard of a company called MudLOVE. I told him that I had, and in fact, I purchased one of their bracelets in an online auction that was being held as an adoption fundraiser. My dad shared that he had recently visited the MudLOVE store, as it is located in Warsaw, IN where he works. Here is an excerpt from the MudLOVE website:

In an attempt to deny self, MudLOVE was built on the idea of giving back. Starting with nothing more than an old stamp set, a box of clay, and an unadvised business plan of giving 20% of all sales to clean drinking water projects in Africa, MudLOVE was born, and God-inspired creations emerged. The hope of MudLOVE is to be an inspiration to people, not just providing Africans with clean water, but also encouraging and loving broken people. What one may lack in clean water, another may lack in love.

My dad really liked their business model, especially when he learned that 20% of the earnings go to clean water in Africa through an organization called Water for Good. MudLOVE chose Water for Good because this organization "focuses on long-term development, not just short-term solutions. They believe in solving the water crisis for good, by implementing a well maintenance program that shows villages the importance of maintaining their new water source, and teaches them how to finance the repairs on their water pump themselves, keeping the clean water flowing forever!"

So why am I telling you all about MudLOVE and Water for Good? Well, first of all, they are really awesome organizations! Second, my dad and stepmom surprised us with an incredible gift. They bought us 100 MudLOVE bracelets to use as a fundraiser for this adoption. We are hoping to raise $1,000 by selling these bracelets per MudLOVE's recommendation on pricing their bracelets for fundraisers. The bracelets are made of high-fired clay and are waterproof. We chose the words and color bands for each bracelet and love how they turned out! All bracelets are $10 with the exception of "be the change." It is $12 because it cost more to make. Check out pictures below!


 "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba Father!" (Romans 8:15)

 "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (Romans 12:12)


 "I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me." (Jeremiah 32:40)


 "You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life." (Lamentations 3:58)

Last year for Easter, we held a Forget the Frock t-shirt fundraiser that benefitted Love Wthout Boundaries. The theme was CHANGE STARTS WITH ONE. We chose be the change for our last set of bracelets to continue that theme and to remind people to take whatever they are passionate about and use it to change part of the world.

If you would like to purchase a bracelet, please send an email to amykabell@gmail.com with the details of your order, or you can leave a comment on FB! Be sure to tell me which bracelets and the quantity of each. There are limited quantities (20 of each bracelet), though if there is enough interest, I can order more! These would make great Christmas gifts. Thank you for helping us bring home our new son or daughter by purchasing a MudLOVE bracelet!


Where Things Stand

After reading about our Unexpected Surprise and learning why we are adopting again, I want to catch you up on where we are in this process. Below you will see a list of dates and the milestones we have met so far, as well as the milestones to come. Just eight days after learning that a sweet one's file was being prepared in China, we made the decision to officially start the adoption process. The next night, July 7th, we submitted our application to Lifeline Children Services.

When adopting from China for a second time, you have the option to reuse your previous dossier - pronounced doss-ee-ay (the official paperwork that is sent to China during your first adoption) or to create a completely new dossier. Reusing your dossier can save some time at the beginning of the process, and you can be approved to adopt a child who is designated as Special Focus. These are children that are typically older and/or have more significant medical needs. Starting over with a brand new dossier gives you the flexibility to adopt a child designated as either Special Focus or Special Needs. Children designated as Special Needs may have less significant medical issues and/or be a younger child. We wanted the flexibility to adopt a child with either designation, so after talking with our contacts at both Lifeline and MLJ, we decided to prepare a completely new dossier.

Our next big step was starting the Home Study process with MLJ Adoptions on July 9th. We were very relieved to learn that we could apply our education hours from Tucker's adoption to this current adoption, as this saved us precious time. We will complete some new education requirements throughout this process, but they take place after the home study piece. Because I had put together our required documentation in a binder once before, the process this time was much faster. I made the appointment for our state background check the same day that I submitted our application, as I knew the processing of those fingerprints can take some time. I was helping friends throw a baby shower on July 12th and had to sneak out at the end to secretly get our fingerprints taken. Thanks for understanding, Kerri!!

For the next two and a half weeks, I worked on gathering the rest of our required documentation including every financial record you can imagine down to how much you spend monthly for groceries, entertainment, clothing, electricity, etc. It pays to be organized in an adoption process! Ryan and I also had to get physicals and blood work completed. The kids had physicals and even the vet had to sign off on Kya. Everything was organized in a binder with each document in plastic page protectors. Ryan submitted our completed binder on July 28th, just in time for our first home study visit with our social worker that afternoon.

The meeting with Angela, our social worker, went really well! She completed our previous home study and has visited with us on two other occasions for Tucker's Post Adoption reports. China requires an update on how the children are adjusting at 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, 3 years, and 5 years. Seeing her again for the first visit and again on August 5th was fun! Angela asked us a million questions. I find it so interesting to hear Ryan's responses to questions, but it's even more fun to hear Noah, Liam, and Tucker answer their questions.

After much work on her part, Angela finished our home study report and submitted it to Lifeline to go through their Hague Review process. China adoptions operate under the Hague Convention, so all home study reports must be approved by a Hague Accredited Agency. Lifeline has that accreditation. We were ELATED to learn that our home study had been finalized and approved on August 21st, just 6 1/2 weeks after making the decision to adopt again. Two weeks later, our application to immigration was submitted to be approved to adopt a child from a Hague country and then bring that child into the US.

Last time we adopted, it took us 19 1/2 weeks to get to the same point we reached in 8 1/2 weeks this time around. YAY!! We have continued to celebrate this fact and thank all of the professionals who worked hard alongside us to reach this milestone so quickly. Praise God this first HUGE chunk is behind us.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received our application on September 5th, and we received their notification of such on September 13th. Yesterday, September 22nd, we received our fingerprint appointment date and time. The Department of Homeland Security will complete an additional background check after they take our fingerprints. Then we will await our immigration approval.

Many of you might remember that our fingerprint approval was on January 23, 2013 last time, and that was the day we were presented with Tucker's file. It was the day we saw our son's face for the first time. I am so thankful to be at this point in our process right now, and I cannot wait to find out who our fourth child will be. We have many, many steps to go, but one-by-one, we are getting closer and closer to meeting our new child.

06/30/14 - Found our that a precious child's file was being prepared
07/06/14 - Made the decision to adopt again
07/07/14 - Submitted application to Lifeline Children Services
07/09/14 - Initiated our Home Study process with MLJ Adoptions
07/28/14 - Submitted binder to MLJ with Home Study requirements

07/28/14 - First Home Study Visit Completed
08/05/14 - Second Home Study Visit Completed
08/21/14 - Finalized Home Study Report completed
09/04/14 - Immigration Application mailed to USCIS
09/05/14 - USCIS received our Immigration application
09/13/14 - Received Letter of Receipt from Immigration

09/22/14 - Fingerprint appointment date and time received
               - Fingerprint appointment at USCIS
               - I-797 Approval - Allows us to bring a child into the US
               - State Authentications
               - Chinese Consulate Authentication
               - Dossier to China (DTC)
               - Log In Date (LID)
               - Out of Translation (OOT)
               - Dossier Reviewed

               - Dossier Match Reviewed
               - Letter of Acceptance (LOA)
               - I-800 Approval (Immigration Application for our son)
               - National Visa Center - GUZ # PDF
               - Article 5 Drop Off
               - Article 5 Pick Up
               - Travel Approval (TA)
               - Depart for China
               - Meet our child!

               - Adoption Finalized
               - Consulate Appointment
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