So, in the words of King George, "What comes next?" (That's a Hamilton reference. If you don't get it, you're missing it!!)
But, now that we have LOA people keep asking me "what's next?" Truth was, I knew the next big thing is travel approval (which is just as exciting as it sounds), but I didn't really know what was actually next. What's between LOA and TA?
A whole lot more acronyms as it turns out:
Today we got the hard copy of our LOA which we signed and sent back to our agency along with our I-800 application (essentially another immigration approval, this time specifically for Piper.) The I-800 will go to the National Visa Center where our info will be entered into the system and sent to the US Embassy in Guangzhou, China. The National Visa center will assign us a GUZ number which will go on our immigration paperwork for Piper. Then we will get a copy of a PDF (of what, I don't know.) I'm told this will all happen within a week. Here's hoping.
Once that all happens our agency will submit our Article 5 paperwork. Article 5 basically states that we do indeed have all of our proverbial ducks in a row. A courier will pick up the Article 5 at the US Embassy and deliver it to the CCCWA (the Chinese government agency that oversees all foreign adoptions from China). This lets the CCCWA know that we are approved by the US government to adopt Piper and bring her into the US AND that we have jumped through every hoop both governments could think of. Once they see this, the CCCWA grants us permission to travel to China to complete the adoption within the next 90 days.
Once we have our TA, our agency will make an appointment for us at the US Consulate in Guangzhou. All our travel dates are based on this consulate appointment date. This is the final piece of adoption business on the trip to China: we go to the consulate to ask for Piper's visa and to swear an oath. Adoption Day will be approximately 2 weeks before our consulate appointment. So, we will leave for China about 16 days (give or take) before our consulate appointment.
That's why we don't make any travel arrangements until after we get TA and our consulate appointment is made. Then, we scramble to make all our plans and leave for China ASAP!! We are praying that will happen in mid-September!!
Meanwhile, I have requested an update on Miss Piper, so in the next couple of weeks I hope to have a new picture and at least a little bit more information. This will do my heart very, very good. I'm not sure how you miss someone you've never met, but that's how I feel.
We are SO READY (and so very NOT actually ready) to meet our girl and bring her home!!!
Thank you for all your prayers for our family. They mean more than we can say!
So, in the words of King George, "What comes next?" (That's a Hamilton reference. If you don't get it, you're missing it!!)
It's the phrase I've been saying throughout this adoption.
Well, this and this was supposed to happen, but God.....
It's been more than once that God showed up in big ways and in small ones.
Yesterday, I got word that our very last document was on it's way from the courier to our adoption agency. Our agency has the rest of our documents, so when this last document arrives our dossier will be complete and it will be immediately sent to China.
I was so excited yesterday when I heard it was on it's way because I had not expected that (even thought I kept saying that I wanted to be DTC- dossier to China- by Sawyer's birthday I realistically did not think that was possible.) So I was thrilled to hear the courier put it in the mail yesterday. In adoption world, everything gets overnighted. I asked him specifically to overnight it. However, yesterday when I got the tracking number I realized he had sent it two day mail. Meaning, it would arrive at 4:30pm tomorrow (Friday), and my agency is closed on Friday. I was bummed we were going to "lose a day", but then figured, ok....it will just go to China on Monday. Until I realized that Monday is a holiday (Memorial Day), so it would not go out till Tuesday.
Listen...I know that it's just a matter of 5 days, but to this mama, every. day. counts. Every day we move ahead means the possibility of Piper being united with her family one day sooner. You guys.....that's EVERYTHING. For her....and for us.
So, I had a small anxiety attack yesterday along with a little pity party, then I just came to terms with it. Tuesday it is.
Later yesterday I got the small, but encouraging news that we can put together another care package to send her in June. Which means I might have more pictures by the end of July. It was a little something to look forward to. Some good news on a disappointing day.
Today, I had a little party at my house (oh my WORD, Norwex.....why do I love you?!?!?) with just a few friends. It was so just what I needed today. However, my adoption agency called right in the middle of the party, and the agency emails. They don't call. We literally just swapped emails last night. I couldn't imagine what the bad news could be, but I called back ASAP trying not to let the anxiety creep in.
My social worker called to say that she literally had no idea why, and that it did not make one bit of sense but........our I-800A (our last document) had arrived in their 10:30am FedEx drop off.
One day EARLY.
It was due to arrive at 4:30 pm on Friday, but it came at 10:30am on Thursday. Less than 24 hours since it had been sent. AND...my social worker said the package said right on it "Two Day Express" and that it was due to arrive Friday at 4:30.......
I sent a message to a friend yesterday saying that thought I was tremendously disappointed, I was trusting completely in God's timing. I knew that He would not be early or late, but right on time.
Today, it felt like God gave us a small, but HUGE gift. The gift of 5 days. We are profoundly thankful.
So, ladies and gentlemen, we are officially, DOSSIER TO CHINA!
I was thankful my social worker says it was incredibly impressive that it only took me (there is not "us" on this one, it was all me) only 3.5 months to do what is supposed to take 6 months, because it certainly felt like 6 months crammed into 3.5 months.
But now, we can sit back and wait for the next thing. And to see what God will do next.
Meanwhile, we celebrate. Who wants Chinese?
Hello, May. I’ve got big expectations. Don't disappoint me.
This month is all about three little letters: DTC.
Otherwise known as Dossier to China. If we can be DTC this month it greatly increases the likelihood we can travel in October. It will still be highly unlikely for us to be with Piper on her birthday, but we could be there shortly thereafter. Tomorrow marks 6 weeks (42 days) of waiting for our I-800a (immigration) approval. And, basically, this is all we are waiting for. People are waiting between 44 and 58 days right now. Once we get our approval, we will rush it to the Secretary of State for authentication and immediately overnight it to the Chinese Consulate. Once there we will wait a very long week for it to be approved. Then, it will be overnighted- along with the rest of our dossier- to our agency. Once they have it they will check our entire dossier for any issues, and if there aren’t any, it will go to China (electronically, thankfully) that same day.
And I so, so want this to be in May. At this point, every day matters to help us to get to Piper sooner than later.
At that point, the bulk of our work ends, but the long, hard, completely-out-of-our-control wait begins.
I’m just reminding myself daily that God is completely in control. While I want so desperately to be with her right. now. God knows the timing, and He will not be late by a single day. I’m trying to embrace the waiting, enjoy my kids as much as possible while I can completely focus just on them, and just prepare our house and our hearts for this great gift coming our way.
Please pray with us that our immigration approval comes very, very soon.
And this month, let’s hope to celebrate those three all important letters: DTC!!!!
I guess it is about time for a detailed update regarding where we are at in the adoption process.
Good news: we are close to the end of dossier prep.
All of the actual paperwork is done, and has been to the Secretary of State for authentication already. And it is currently on it's way to the Chinese Consulate in New York for their (very expensive) authentication of the authentication. At this point, each document we have is worth $50 or more. We are on week 4 of waiting for our I-800A approval (immigration approval). The average time frame for approval is 4-6 weeks with it tending more towards the 6 week mark than the 4 week mark. So, hopefully in two more weeks we will have that in hand. Then, that will have to be brought to the Secretary of State and go to the Chinese Consulate as well.
Once that is done, our dossier gets sent to China!
And, that is the date we all hand our hats on. Because the timeframe from DTC (Dossier to China) to travel is 5 months (give or take).
Our goal is to be DTC by the first of June which puts us on track to travel by November 1st. Later than we wanted, but it's ok. Every day we can move that date up, is a day we will get to her sooner though! So, we do our best on our end.
Bad news: our agency gave us bad courier advice (a courier takes all your documents to the Chinese Consulate for you....unless you live by the Consulate, which we do not), so our dossier (minus our I-800A) is sitting in the office of a courier who is terrible at answering the phone, replying to an email, and updating his website with current information. As a result, it cannot be brought to the consulate on Monday as planned. And we now have to figure out how to fix this mess, get him what he needs (including new checks and money orders), and get the ball rolling again.
Good news: I sent the dossier now as opposed to waiting for our I-800A so that if we hit any snags we would not lose time. So, I'm stressed, but not overly so.
So, if you would like to pray with us that our I-800A arrives sooner than later, that we get this courier issue cleared up, and we can have our dossier to China before June 1st, we would really appreciate it! We're ready for Phase 2 of this process, which is a lot more waiting, but a lot less work and stress.
There is a tradition in the northern part of China to make a Bai Jia Bai or 100 Good Wishes quilt to welcome a new baby to a family. The expectant family invites family and friends to contribute a patch of cloth along with a "wish" for the baby. The cloth is sewn together to make a quilt for the new child. Tradition says that the quilt holds all of the love and good wishes of the child's community that the child can be literally wrapped in.
It is such beautiful imagery. For like a nano second I thought, "I'm making a 100 Good Wishes quilt for our daughter!"
I quickly came to my senses.
I love the sentiment, but I can barely sew a button let alone make a quilt.
However, ever since letting people know we were adopting again, we have been blown away by the love and support for our family. In a thousand different ways the people around us have shared our excitement and joy, prayed for us, listened to us, encouraged us, and helped us in very real ways (writing letters of recommendation, notarizing stuff, watching our kids, even cleaning our toilets).
But, it's more than just a t-shirt!
- Take a picture of yourself (and/or your spouse/family) in your t-shirt(s) and email it to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) along with a personal message to Piper. This can be a wish, a personal note, a prayer, a quote, a verse, anything that you would like.
- Share your picture (if you are willing) on social media using the hashtag #BringPiperHome (if you want to point people to where they can get their own shirt as well, then please do!) This way we will all be able to see how many people are eagerly anticipating Piper's arrival in our family!
And we'll be able to say it all started with this little girl on the other side of the world who was SO loved even before we met her!
So, do you want a t-shirt?
Please know that we understand that not everyone can buy a shirt. That's ok. If you'd like to send Piper a wish anyway, please do! Also, please pray for Piper as she likely has no idea her world will be turned upside down in just a matter of months! And pray for us, and we navigate through the red tape to get to her as quickly as possible!
Can't wait to see you all in your t-shirts!
My last post left off on a Tuesday when I told Scot I thought that maybe, just maybe this was our daughter.
By this point, our kids knew what was going on. They had seen her pictures and her videos, and they were anxiously awaiting our decision. Our oldest two were desperate for us to say "YES!" Both had made no secret of the fact that they wanted us to adopt again.
Cooper is just more cautious, and when it comes to all things China there is a lot of emotion involved. So, I'm not sure he was too excited about it. He was however very interested in the process: "Did you look at pictures of me like this too? Did you see video?" He was very interested in the process.
By Wednesday, Sawyer would came home from school asking, "Have you made a decision about that little girl yet?" His faith truly helped mine.
I guess Scot and I continued to discuss it, lol. I don't even remember.
In the end it came to a few facts we were sure of:
- God had called us to adopt. That was a one-time thing. We were not going to be "called" again.
- In China we both sensed pretty strongly that we would be back.
- We both had an ongoing sense that someone was missing from our family. We had said it many times especially over the last there years. (I just realized this week that we've basically been saying that now and then every since she was born.)
- God was doing something right. now. in us. Something that was not allowing us to let go of her little face.
Obviously, the devotional itself didn't have any direct application, but the title made me laugh out loud.
God gets me. Honestly, he does. He knew I needed just one more little assurance, and He was so gracious to give it.
Some would claim coincidence. I don't believe that for a second.
I never looked back.
And, just a few short days later, that link I originally clicked on? It was updated.
A family that is ridiculously excited to meet her. A brother who asked daily when he could bring a picture to school to show his friends. A sister who cried tears of joy when we told her we said yes. And grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends-who-are-like-family who were over-joyed at the news.
That feeling that someone was missing from our family? The daily sense we had that our family was not complete? GONE. We have not felt it even once since we said yes. It's like the last piece of the puzzle snapped into place.
We are so thankful to be part of the story God is writing with her life.
After we announced we had a daughter in China, the biggest question that we were asked was "How did that happen?" Scot and I (mostly me) were not shy about saying we would like to adopt again, but no one really thought we were planning to- and certainly not now. And they would have been right. We were not. We had responded to things put directly in front of us, but we had not pursued anything.
Until I clicked on that link.
I don't want to say something magical happened. Or that I recognized her. Or that I knew right away. I didn't.
I liked on the link, saw her face, thought she was adorable, and kept on reading. She was little, and she had the same (corrected) heart condition as our son. That is what ultimately caught my attention.
I can't actually remember what I did next other than say, "Yes, we want to review her file" and we had it in our hands by that evening (a Thursday). I probably mentioned it to Scot, but I don't remember that either. I sent the file off to the cardiologist and waited. I asked about where she was (the orphanage) and began researching and reaching out to anyone I could find who knew anything about that place.
Cardiologist said she looked good as far as he was concerned with the little info he had. He suggested I send the file to our pediatrician who might have insight into her development. So, I did that.
Within 24 hours of having seen her face for the first time, we had all the info we would have about her. We knew there was one other family actively reviewing her file, and we were told there were 10-12 families who wanted to but they were holding off for now.
We knew she could be ours. We had no medical reason to say no as far as we could see. So, here we were, and there she was.
We turned to God. We knew that He knew both her and us completely. Our situations, our limitations, everything. So, we asked God to give us complete peace and to put us both 100% on the same page. We wanted to know with her, just as with Cooper, that this was the child God had chosen for our family. We simply could not move forward without that assurance. But, we knew that hearing from God required time, and that felt like the one thing we did not have.
And, of course, there was the fear of the unknown. Scot and I tend to be "risk-averse" as my sister so aptly put it one time. And not knowing the full truth of her medical needs, the kind of care she was receiving, etc, etc.......it all produces a healthy does of fear.
God has always spoken to me at church- especially when I ask and I enter worship expectantly. He does not speak audibly, obviously, but He has shown up in ways that I don't know how to explain when I needed to hear from Him most. On Sunday, remembering how God sake so clearly when I needed to hear from Him with Cooper, I prayed on the way into church something along the lines of, "God, I need to hear from you desperately this morning. If she is not our daughter, help me to know. But, if she IS our daughter, please show me this morning to keep moving forward."
The morning was pretty typical, and we went into church. Nothing during the service stood out to me at all or particularly spoke to me. When the service ended, I saw our pastor move to go up onto the stage, but Lauren, our worship leader went "off script". She was not supposed to say anything, but clearly she felt moved to say something so she started prayed. She prayed (and I wish I could remember it exactly, but I don't anymore) and in the prayer said something along the lines of "God, don't let us allow fear to make our decisions for us. Help us to set fear aside and do what it is we know we should do." After church I asked Lauren why she said that. She said she just really felt it's what God was prompting her to say. I knew that to be 100% true.
Recently Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful (MUCH more beautiful than this) account of how God led their family to adoption. I felt as if our story (with Cooper and with this adoption) was so similar in so many ways. Every word she wrote is so true and echoes absolutely how I was feeling in these days. Sometimes we do look for "fireballs" from heaven. This was not a fireball. This was more like a street sign pointing the way, saying "Keep going!" However, I trusted that God would show up and make it perfectly clear if this was the daughter He has chosen for us one way or another.
On Monday, the agency informed me (in an email at 8:59am) that the other family reviewing her file was "very interested as well" and that if both families ultimately wanted to move forward they would "have a very difficult decision to make". I immediately felt panicked. I did not want to lose her (this should have been my first sign- the only other time I felt that way about a file is with Cooper). However, I stopped and prayed and I specifically said, "God, you know if she is our daughter or if she is not. And if she is, I have no reason to worry. If she is not, I don't either. Please just make it crystal clear." I did not respond to the agency's email.
At 9:38am, I got another email from the agency stating that they had let the other family know that we had experience with this heart condition and that we had already contacted a cardiologist, and that family had decided to take a step back and wait to see what we decided before moving forward. The email ended with her saying, "So, 'Ginny' is yours if you want her. Take all the time you need."
Ours if we wanted her.
There it was. I knew it before it was put in black and white, but there it was. Did we want to bring her home as our daughter was the only question left to answer.
I forwarded the email to Scot and said, "Its the only question left to answer: do we want her?"
Until you are in this situation, it is hard to fully understand the weight of it. And the responsibility. And the FEAR. But also the pull.
However, this too was not a fireball for me. But, I did know it was an open door and we were supposed to keep moving ahead.
I talked to several families who had adopted from her orphanage trying to get an idea of how well the kids are cared for and how they adjust once they are home. No red flags. I sent the short videos we had of her to Scot and asked him to take a look and really pray about this. I was not moving forward without him being 100% sure.
Tuesday morning I arrived early to an appointment. I had been in the middle of a specific reading plan in my "She Reads Truth" app, but had also downloaded their newest study on Genesis. This particular morning, I just wanted a change of pace. So, when I went in I clicked on the daily reading in the "Genesis" plan instead of my plan.
It was on Abraham and Sarah.
This was my fireball.
The way the writer broke down the verse and basically, thereby, spoke to every. single. concern I had.
I knew the sound of the one calling. I had no doubt.
I was terrified of leaving the comfortable. But also terrified of the fact that I had recently been describing the current state of our lives as "comfortable".
We were thinking of stepping out too......"without the surety of anything that God would go with [us]".
And then this:
This is the faith we ask for: to be so blinded by the light of our Father that we trust His voice, His call, His Word, and His plan more than we could ever trust our own.
It's absolutely the faith I had been asking for. And what hit me as I read this along with the story of Abraham was that I wasn't wondering IF this was God's voice or not. I knew it was. I recognized what was happening. The question was would I trust His plan more than my own?
Honestly, my question then was EXACTLY the same as Ann Voskamp's (of course, she saved her beautiful post for much later, so it was no use to me then) : "Am I enough?"
Or, more specifically: "Can we really handle this?"
I think the Abraham and Sarah devotional stripped away that question for me and replaced it with another question: "Do you trust Me?"
I sent the link to the devotional to Scot. I admitted I was scared. I thought he needed to know.
But I also wrote this:
I think she might be our daughter.