8.30.2013

Hindsight


Hindsight. It's one of those wonderful gifts, a real treasure, that allows us the perspective in looking back on an experience with a much clearer lens than when we were living that situation.

You can imagine the number of times I have reflected on our adoption journey. This experience is something I never want to forget because it has truly been one of the most incredible adventures I've ever taken. That is really the reason I started this blog in August 2007. I didn't want to forget these very special memories, and I want them to stay alive in the stories written in my blog so that our kids can have them even after we are gone.


One-hundred and thirty-two days we waited for LOA. I look back, and in some ways it feels like a blur. The pain is still very present, especially when I see other moms still stuck in that wait - 90, 100, 115, 130 days. The pain resurfaces and hurts all over again. There were so many days of heartache, though they were balanced only by my trust in the Lord's timing. I could shake my fist and scream how angry I was with God's plan, but in my next breath I could repeat Romans 8:28 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."


Called. Boy were we called. And I love God...I really love God. So, even though my heart was broken for at least 100 days of that wait for LOA, I could trust that He was working all things together for GOOD.

But the question was...WHOSE good?

I am finally realizing that this life we live isn't necessarily about us but instead about Him and what He wants. What He wants is for goodness and light and love to be present ALL over the earth...not just in certain pockets of the world among certain people. Sometimes, things start with a decision, and heart-wrenching obedience turns into something more beautiful, more wonderful than any other life previously imagined. I am seeing now how when we follow God's lead, we have the opportunity bring Him so much glory.

When Lisa and Andy Bauermeister approached us to see how we felt about them raising money to help bring Tucker home, we were humbled beyond understanding. This was a gift that would really help our family, as well as other adoptive families. As of today, 148 donations have been made to #runningtuckerhome, totaling $10,972. However, that number doesn't really reflect the number of people involved in the fundraiser. The first t-shirt order that raised $500 meant 50 people got involved. The second t-shirt order provided t-shirts for another 39 people, and from what I can tell, a third t-shirt order is being placed! I see orange #runningtuckerhome shirts all around me, and it is awesome. After this third t-shirt order is complete, the fundraiser will spill over past $11,000. A 12 year old girl held a babysitting night and taught more than 30 children about Tucker and China, and she raised $431 all because the Holy Spirit left an impression on her heart to act. It is unbelievable and humbling, and sometimes I just can't wrap my mind around it.


In July, when the fundraiser was really climbing, hindsight gave me the perspective to understand that our long LOA wait had to take place in order for so many to be moved by our story. Sometimes I would just sit at home and think about the number of people praying for our family and our little boy half a world away, and it would bring me to tears. To know that little children were folding their hands together, asking God to bring Tucker home soon is enough to melt anyone into a puddle.

We received LOA on 8/8, and over 500 people read that blog post. I couldn't believe it! Another 153 people "liked" our announcement of LOA on Facebook, and 47 left personal comments. You guys know how to make a family feel loved and supported! I don't think it's any coincidence that 9 days later Andy was running a 100 mile trail race in Leadville, CO, as the momentum just continued to build. Andy wore several tattoos during the race: a #runningtuckerhome tattoo, a John 14:18 tattoo, a picture of Tucker tattoo, and a tattoo of the race trail's elevation in Colorado. Many of us wore our #runningtuckerhome shirts to show our support. Dozens of people were writing on Facebook asking for updates and celebrating as Andy got closer and closer to the finish line.

It was very emotional to go to church Sunday, August 18th knowing that Andy had been running since 4:00 a.m. the day before. He was running and walking through the night while the rest of us slept warm in our beds. Yes, of course Andy wanted to finish this race for his own personal satisfaction, but the desire was even greater knowing it would help Tucker and other orphans come home. He and Lisa had taken a story that Ryan's and my friends, family, and coworkers knew, and they extended the story and opportunity to help to their friends, family, and coworkers. So as we stood at church singing God is Able at the top of our lungs, all I could do was imagine Andy and Matt (who was pacing him) trudging along the trail, willing their bodies to take another step and another step forward. I knew Andy had endured 95 miles or so already, and he was truly in the final stretch. Once church ended, and we were driving home, I called Lisa's phone to see how Andy was doing. She answered, out of breath, and said that she was with him, and they were running toward the finish line together. I asked if I should hang up, and she said to stay on the phone. I just cried. To hear her encouraging Andy to keep going that she could see the finish line...I get choked up thinking about it. I started yelling into the phone, trying to cheer them on! They were doing it...they were going to complete a 100 mile race. I heard the crowd cheering them in, and then Andy crossed the finish line. I continued to cry and thank them for everything they had done for our family and for other adoptive families. We said our goodbyes and hung up. Just a few hours later, the $10,000 goal was reached. I cried again. Who knew there would be so many tears shed this past year?!


I've invited Andy and Lisa to write about their experiences the past few months, how this fundraiser has affected their own personal stories. I am excited to share that with all of you once they are ready! I think it's amazing how not only did God know that Ryan and I had a son in China and that we would bring him home to live with us, but God also knew that Andy and Lisa would make the decision to get involved. God knew that they would spread His message to visit orphans in their distress. God knew they would raise over $10,000 to help the least of these. Adoption is expensive, but I know God is using their fundraiser to show people that money can be raised to help pay for adoption expenses. There are so, so many good people in this world who are willing to help our family, and most of them have never even met us.

The momentum has continued to build since the race ended. Next time I hope to write about an awesome experience related to our adoption that I got to have last weekend. Tucker's immigration was approved, we were assigned a new case number for the Embassy in China, and now our paperwork is being processed at the Embassy. Although it's hard to believe it, we getting closer to our trip to China. It is going to happen. I can't wait! I am thankful for hindsight - it helps me see that this adoption journey is not just about us. It's not just about Tucker or a 100 mile race or a fundraiser. This journey is about all of them combined and so much more than we will ever understand in this lifetime. I'm just thankful to be part of it.

Photographs by Lemongrass Photography

8.29.2013

Status Update

I wrote my last post on August 16th, and I feel like so much has happened since that date. First things first...an update on our progress. We received our Letter of Acceptance on August 8th and submitted our applications for Tucker's immigration.

We received approval for Tuck's immigration a week ago on August 22nd. They sent the approval notices to our house, as well as to the National Visa Center. For whatever reason, we received our copy on Monday, August 26th, but the NVC didn't receive their copy until yesterday morning. I emailed and called the NVC a few times each day until they finally sent me our new case number. Previously, we had a "SIM" number, and after you get processed at the National Visa Center, you receive a "GUZ" number. So, I got that GUZ number yesterday, August 28th around 1:20 p.m. by email. I called the NVC last night at 6:30 to request it in PDF format, and the supervisor said they would send it to me. So I refreshed my email at least 40 times last time and stayed up until midnight waiting for it, but it never came. :( I woke up this morning and called again. I was told they were working on it right then. Ok great! By 1:20 today, it still hadn't been sent, so I called again. This time after they spoke to the supervisor, I was informed that I would find it in my inbox. Sure enough, it was!! HALLELUJAH!

I cried for what must be the 999th time in this adoption journey because again we were ONE STEP CLOSER. Our paperwork has been sent to China, and our Article 5 should be dropped off tonight at the US Embassy in China while we are sleeping (China's Friday). Pray that this actually happens! :) If it does indeed get dropped off, our Article 5 will be picked up from the Embassy two weeks later on September 13th. At that point, we will just be waiting for China to give us TRAVEL APPROVAL. After we receive TA, we schedule our consulate appointment, buy airline tickets, and fly to China whenever it's time to leave!

07/19/12 - Felt calling to adopt a child with CL/CP
08/04/12 - Made the decision to adopt
09/06/12 - Submitted application to Lifeline Children Services
09/24/12 - Submitted application to a MLJ for Home Study
11/02/12 - Submitted binder to MLJ with Home Study requirements
12/18/12 - Finalized Home Study Report completed
12/20/12 - USCIS received our Immigration application
12/31/12 - Fingerprint appointment date and time received
01/23/13 - 10:45 a.m. Call from Lifeline - saw our son!!!
01/23/13 - 11:00 a.m. Fingerprint appointment at USCIS
02/11/13 - I-797 Approval - Allows us to bring a child into the US
02/21/13 - State Authentications
03/01/13 - Chinese Consulate Authentication
03/01/13 - Letter of Intent (LOI) - not processed until after LID
03/04/13 - Dossier to China (DTC)
03/20/13 - Log In Date (LID)
03/29/13 - Pre-Approval (PA)
06/28/13 - Out of Translation (OOT)
07/24/13 - Dossier Reviewed
08/08/13 - Letter of Acceptance (LOA)
08/22/13 - I-800 Approval (Immigration Application for our son)
08/29/13 - National Visa Center - GUZ # PDF
08/30/13 - Article 5 Drop Off (hopefully)
09/13/13 - Article 5 Pick Up (hopefully)
                - Travel Approval (TA)
               - Depart
               - Meet Our Son!!!
               - Consulate Appointment
               - Home!!!

The reason I feel some urgency is that China is on a National Holiday the third week of September and the first week of October. The sooner we get our stuff over there, the more chance we have to get processed prior to these holidays. I know God already has determined when we will go, and I just need to be patient until He lets us leave. I just need to know that I did everything in my power to move things along. I've learned how much even one day can mean in this process!

I started making our packing list yesterday, and I think we will start collecting the majority of our items this weekend with the exception of clothing and toiletries. I seriously thought we would never reach this part of the process. I thought we would be stuck waiting for LOA until March. Still rejoicing that The Lord brought us through that time, and we really have seen the rewards in waiting so long, even though it was the most difficult time in my adult life.

Thank you for your prayers and for continuing to cheer us on until Tuck is in our arms!

8.16.2013

Tucker's Puzzle is Framed!

I want to say thank you again to all of the families who donated to our Puzzle Fundraiser in June! We finally got the puzzle framed, and it turned out perfectly. We can't wait to hang it in Tuck's room. We cannot wait to tell Tucker about all of the families who loved him even before he came home. We will treasure this always!




Larsen Family, Abs Bunco Girls, Casper Family, Brewer Family, Charles and Jo Setser, Noah Abell, Meaghan Byers, Gale Smith, Jennifer and  Olivia Cameron, The Noll Family, Sarah Stallard, Kelli Phillips Family, Chris and Chloe, Ahfeld Family, Limeberry Family, Kelley Berry and Family, Nancy Zimmerman, Matis Family, Chrenko Family, Cogswell Family, Erin Whitt, Balzar Family, Irwin Family, Kerri and Casey Walls, Deaton Family, Hennessey Family, Beth Burr, Bauermeister Family, Rachelle and Keith Lowe, Moore Family, Caitlin Sautter, Reibly Family, Sarah Stallard, Morris Family, Costello Family, Angie Till and Family, Bill and Lisa Turner, Earnest Family, Syers Family, Grove Family, Farrant Family, Krouse Family, Tolle Family, Holly Hicks, Linda and Kent Bauer, Tom and Danette Till, Vokurka Family, Megan Wolfe, Fitzgerald Family, Katie Miltner and Scott Dust, Jennifer Rose, Milano Family, Lori Beaupre, Richardson Family, Molly Evert, The Brink Family, The Littlefield Family, Whitney Fowler, Kelley Berry, Amy Norris, Jennifer Cameron, Peter and Jo Scott, Black Family, Boone Family, Franken Family, Linda Simmons, Viktor Rodriguez, Kandice Durbin, Hildebrand Family, Jessica Anderson, Jeanne Floyd, Kohlmann Family, Schilt Family, Dan Till and Family, Whitesell Family, Laurie Gridley, Widner Family, Juliette and John Perko, The Marinos, Stacy Talbott, Jessica Beretta, Janoski Family, Gilchrist Family, John and Gloria Abell, Ciochina Family, Pffaffenberger Family, Beth and Carlos, Kay and Larry Gleeson, Mick and Colleen Bouska, Dick and Ardis Tolle, Katie Shocklee, Gina Short's Family, Wagner Family, Schneider Family, Amber Blackburn, Laura Kirkland, Dittmer Family, Mercer Family, Cornpropst Family, Cantlon Family, Miranda Baker, Ann and Larry Schmidt, Joey and Katey Till, Ward Family, Niehaus Family, Thompson Family, Shartzer Family, Erin and Larry Eckert, Houghtons and Abue, Enciso Family, Lapkovitch Family, Sarah Stallard, Nattie Till, Waterson Family, Ferguson Family, Amber and Jimmy Linn, Tylette Watmough, Jessie and Shelva, Tim and Marie Dowling, Pat Till, Kim and Tim Gray, Eric and Laura Hoots, and Shannon Greika.
 
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

8.12.2013

What's Next??

Hooray!! Our LOA arrived last week, and we are FINALLY on to the next steps to bring Tucker home. Typically, once you receive LOA, our agency submits our I800 application to United States Citizen and Immigration Services (this is an application for Tuck to be allowed to live in our country). Because our agency had a head's up that our LOA was on the way, and we had previously discussed doing so, my social worker submitted our I800 application to USCIS on Last Monday, August 5th. This was sent overnight and received by USCIS on Tuesday, August 6th. I received a text message on August 8th to confirm that it was received! Yippee!

So, now I am supposed to email/call my officer (who seems really nice!) at USCIS until we receive our approval. This helps ensure our paperwork is together and that things are moving along appropriately. I sent a plea to our officer a few weeks ago letting her know about our situation in having to wait so very long for LOA. I begged her mercy in processing our paperwork, and she promised that once it was received, she would process things "expeditiously." That is a word that all adoptive parents LOVE to hear.

Typically, receiving Tucker's immigration approval should take 2 weeks from the time it was received, which means that we hope to get his approval around August 20th. After USCIS approves us, they send their paperwork to the National Visa Center (NVC) with two day shipping. Hypothetically, that means the NVC could receive our case on August 22nd.

We currently have a SIM # with USCIS, which is our family's case number. The NVC will then assign us a GUZ #, which is just another case number. I have to request a PDF document with that GUZ # in order to submit our paperwork to the US Consulate (Embassy) in Guangzhou, China. This typically takes about a week, which could put us around August 29th. Once I have that PDF document, I will send it to our agency, who with then submit a document called an Article 5 with our GUZ #. This Article 5 gets dropped off at the US Consulate and is there for two weeks. Then, the Article 5 gets picked up from the US Consulate. Projected dates for this might be Article 5 drop off August 30th and Article 5 pick up September 13th.

This begins our wait to hear from China for our TRAVEL APPROVAL (TA). I've seen travel approvals take anyway from 1-3 weeks. Once China issues our TA, we then schedule our Consulate Appointment (CA) with the US Consulate. After that CA is booked, then we buy our airline tickets, pack our bags, and head to China!

Clear as mud?  :) All dates in BOLD are hypothetical...just to give you an idea of what is typical.

Of course, I hear there are some major holidays at the end of September and beginning of October that may delay getting our TA, but who knows. I am just trying to give you an idea of what COULD happen. As you have seen, there are delays that come without warning. Here is our entire adoption timeline. :) Enjoy!

07/19/12 - Felt calling to adopt a child with CL/CP
08/04/12 - Made the decision to adopt
09/06/12 - Submitted application to Lifeline Children Services
09/24/12 - Submitted application to a MLJ for Home Study
11/02/12 - Submitted binder to MLJ with Home Study requirements
12/18/12 - Finalized Home Study Report completed
12/20/12 - USCIS received our Immigration application
12/31/12 - Fingerprint appointment date and time received
01/23/13 - 10:45 a.m. Call from Lifeline - saw our son!!!
01/23/13 - 11:00 a.m. Fingerprint appointment at USCIS
02/11/13 - I-797 Approval - Allows us to bring a child into the US
02/21/13 - State Authentications
03/01/13 - Chinese Consulate Authentication
03/01/13 - Letter of Intent (LOI) - not processed until after LID
03/04/13 - Dossier to China (DTC)
03/20/13 - Log In Date (LID)
03/29/13 - Pre-Approval (PA)
06/28/13 - Out of Translation (OOT)
07/24/13 - Dossier Reviewed
08/08/13 - Letter of Acceptance (LOA)
               - I-800 Approval (Immigration Application for our son)
               - National Visa Center - GUZ #
               - Article 5 Drop Off
               - Article 5 Pick Up
               - Travel Approval (TA)
               - Depart
               - Meet Our Son!!!
               - Consulate Appointment
               - Home!!!

8.09.2013

Letter of Acceptance


This morning my phone rang at work. It was just after 8:00 a.m. "Hi, this is Amy Abell." On the other end I heard, "Amy, it's me, Karla (my amazingly committed, loving, God-seeking social worker). I got it."

Tears started falling, and I could barely utter the words, "You got it?" She again said, "I got it."

More tears...more words spoken in this voice reserved only for when I am crying and talking about Tuck. Words of gratitude, words of disbelief, words of sweet relief. I could tell Karla was trying to hold it together, but before hanging up, I could hear her voice breaking with mine. This is a woman with a beautiful gift of finding families for orphans and supporting families with great compassion, understanding, and love until their children are home. I am blessed to know Karla and have her walk alongside me on our road to Tucker.

To understand the whole situation, I should probably back up a bit. Last Friday, August 2nd, Karla called to share that our LOA had been issued in China! It was being mailed to the US and would hopefully reach our agency by Wednesday (yesterday). For the first time in a long time, I felt such relief. Finally, we could just breathe again. Almost. There was a piece of me that truly felt like it wouldn't arrive. Ryan and I didn't tell anyone for fear that the plane would go down, the mailman would lose it, etc. Something was going to keep the LOA from reaching our hands.

And we were right. Karla called Tuesday to say, "Amy, I need to tell you something, but hang tight with me." My heart dropped. She explained that the batch of LOAs arrived at her office, and our LOA and one other family's LOAs (they are adopting two) were missing. I didn't cry. I felt ok...was not panicked...yet. I knew Karla had mailed our immigration paperwork for Tuck to USCIS on Monday in order to begin our next "timeline." Immigration paperwork sits in a "lockbox" for 2 weeks, and then is processed. We wouldn't technically need LOA until it left the lockbox. I felt ok about things. Karla was communicating with our agency's contact in China to figure out what happened.

I worked a half day the next day and had a message to call Karla on my way home. She let me know that when she woke up that morning, the other family's LOAs had been scanned and sent to her. However, ours was still missing, and she wasn't sure why. This is when I lost it. I just felt like the enemy was doing everything in his power to prevent this adoption from moving forward. We had been waiting, by this time, 131 days for something that typically takes 30-90 days to receive. Our LOA was issued but lost or missing. When would it come? Why wasn't it scanned? Was it ever issued to begin with? So many questions that would never be answered. I just cried while Karla empathized with me and encouraged me. Then she prayed and prayed and prayed on the phone with me. It's amazing how prayer can just cover you and wrap you with this beautiful feeling...the feeling you get when you know God is holding you.

Just because God is holding you doesn't always mean the pain is washed away. You just know you are not alone. I came home and started begging my prayer warriors (you know who you are) to cry out to God for Tucker! I told them that I felt like Satan was doing everything he could to keep Tucker away as long as possible. I asked them to pray for God to keep fighting for our son. One friend immediately text me to say she was on her knees in her closet. Then another friend found somewhere private at work to pray. I could feel them...an entire army of my dear prayer warriors crying out, "Abba Father, help us!" I fell to my knees and sobbed with groanings too deep for words. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26).

Karla tried to stay up last night (I finally made myself sleep just past midnight) to see if it would come, but she passed out, too, probably much later than midnight. When she woke up, a scanned version of our LOA was in her inbox. She called and spoke three words that answered our prayers. "I got it." God heard our cries and answered our prayers.


I called Ryan as soon as I hung up the phone with Karla. "We got it." More tears...and I could hear the relief in Ryan's voice on the other end. I could feel the weight lift from his shoulders.

Our son is coming home. China has issued us the paperwork needed to move forward with his adoption. One hundred and thirty-two days have passed by, and we made it. God has stretched, grown, moved, loved, and held me. Many days I found joy and peace knowing that He was in control and that this was all for our good. Other times, I wanted to lie on the ground, kicking my feet and pounding my fists that this was His plan. He knew all of his would happen when He called us to adopt. He goes before me and stands behind. He is with my son, and He is with me.

We received our preapproval for Tucker on March 29, 2013, and we have endured silence since then. When I look back the past 4 months and 10 days are a blur. I had so many wonderful days filled with fun and laughter with family and friends. I also had hard days, difficult weekends, and painful hours.

God doesn't promise that being a Christian is easy. Choosing to follow His plan can often bring sorrow, pain, and heartache. But I am here to tell that there is beauty in the ashes.

*Long time friendships have been strengthened.

*Unbreakable bonds have been created with other adoptive mommas.

*My faith and character have been strengthened while old habits and other character flaws have been shaved away.

*Loved ones, coworkers, and even strangers have donated $12,158 to our family and other adoptive families through the puzzle fundraiser and #runningtuckerhome. Only $3,267 is needed to complete Andy and Lisa's goal!

*T-shirts were created to bring awareness to Tucker and other orphans, and 50 were sold in a week.

*A twelve year old girl held a babysitting night to tell children (and their parents) about a two year old boy living on the other side of the world. Then she donated her earnings of $431 to #runningtuckerhome.

*A marriage has never been stronger. Our children are cherished even more than before.

*Children are seeing adoption not as a "exciting, unique, that-would-be-fun-to-do experience" but rather just part of their everyday reality. Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6).

*The love we have for Tucker has grown stronger and stronger each and every day. This is the bond we will need to work through challenges that lie ahead.

*Many people are getting involved in orphan care for the first time in their lives. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

Yes, the past 132 days have been difficult. Yes, adoption is very expensive. Yes, there is heartache in the process.

But I want you to know this. I haven't even met my son yet, and I already know I would walk through this fire again because I know what waits for me on the other side. Not only is Tucker there, across the world, but God is there. Walking with God for the past 132 days has brought more light in my world and in the world of others around me than I've ever experienced before.

We only get one life...one chance to live a life with God's purpose directing our paths.

I choose Him and His plan for my life - to invite one of His children into my life, this home, and our family. I am grateful beyond words that He asked us to take this journey. My life is forever changed, and a little boy, our son, will soon be coming home forever.

Celebratory dinner together


#runningtuckerhome t-shirt and fabulous necklace made by Sara Noll (another adoptive momma)
 

Signing our LOA! Yes we accept the adoptee mentioned above!!!

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