See you on the other side…

This is it.  This will be my last blog post until we are home from China!  Can you believe it?!

We are waiting on our Travel Approval (TA) right now (it’s crazy to be saying this…just a short time ago I thought TA was forever away…).  For security purposes (and also because I doubt we will have time to update more than 1 social media site), we set up a secret group on Facebook that we will use to update everyone on our travel dates and to share pictures and our experience while we are in China.  If you would like to be part of the group, just click on the “f” Facebook link on the right hand side of this blog (on the Home page) to get connected with me on Facebook, let me know you’d like to be included and I’ll add you to the group.🙂

I have about a thousand thoughts in my mind right now.  I wish I had the time to sit down and write them all out.🙂

I’ll just share 2 of my 1,000 thoughts.😉  I was going through my journal from late September 2013.  It was around this time that God really started laying the burden on my heart that we needed to do more with all we’ve been given.  I was reading Isaiah 58 at the time and one of the verses I wrote down was this (verse 10):

“…spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness…”

Our Pastor also gave a sermon on Romans 12:9-21 (Love in Action) that will stick with me for the rest of my life.  One thing he said that summed up the passage was “love is generous in ways that are both costly and visible.”

I didn’t know what God was trying to tell me at the time, but I could feel Him digging deeper and deeper into my heart.  I knew that we were called to love more, and to put that love into action.  I never would have imagined that one year later, we would be getting on a plane to China to bring our daughter home.  Wow.  I’m speechless.

Thought number 2 is also a request.  I know so many of you are praying for Josie.  Thank you!  And please continue!  I can’t even begin to imagine all her little heart has been through in just 2 short years.  Once again, her world is going to change…but this time, the change will be even more dramatic.  She will be taken from all she knows by people that don’t look like her, sound like her or even smell like her.  We tell our boys to be prepared that Josie isn’t going to want to be with us the way we want to be with her.  She will be heartbroken.  So please, please pray for her heart in this transition.

I could go on for days😉 but I’ve got to start working on our list of to-do’s now.  Thank you for being on this journey with us!  Next time I write a post, it will include pictures of us with our little girl.  Eeeek!!!🙂

Josie Turns 2

Today our little girl turns 2.🙂  We sent her a Birthday cake through a wonderful woman (Helen) that our agency works with in China.  I got up early this morning to see if Helen had received pictures from the Birthday party yet.  She did and they were in my inbox.  When I see new pictures of Josie, I feel like my heart might just burst…I love her sweet face!!!

Bday Josie 1Bday Josie 5

Bday Josie 4Bday Josie 6

There are so many things I love about these pictures!  I love that they dressed her up (even though it was probably 90 degrees with no air conditioning).  I love her perfect little teeth and the sparkle in her eyes.  :)  I love seeing who we think must be her foster Mom.

Even though I’m filled with joy over these pictures, I’m struggling not to cry.

I’m really sad that we can’t celebrate Josie’s birthday with her.  I love the fact that James has been singing “Happy Birthday” to her for days now, but wow, it’s hard not being able to sing to her in person.

Also, my heart is heavy for the woman who gave birth to Josie.  We don’t know anything about Josie’s birth mom.  Josie was abandoned at 4 months old.  From what we’ve read in her file, it seems she was left at a hospital.  She was left with a note that gave her birth date.  These 2 little shreds of evidence make me feel that her birth mom loved her deeply, as any mom would love their child.  I can’t fathom what it would be like to feel unable to care for your child and to feel that the best option is to leave them in someone else’s care. Unimaginable.

It’s crazy to me when I think about the fact that Josie’s birth mom and I were pregnant at the exact same time.  James was due on September 8, 2012, but he decided to come early.  We were carrying these children, on opposite sides of the earth, who will now grow up as “twins” in our family.  Wow.

I love Josie’s birth mom.  I love that she chose life for her baby.  Oh how I wish we could tell her how much we love her little girl and that we will take care of her and will never leave her.  I pray for her birth mom often.  I pray that she knows Jesus and is able to experience the peace He gives that surpasses all understanding.  I pray that one day we will all be together in heaven.  I pray that she has that hope to carry her through difficult days, as I imagine today would be.

As you can tell, I have lots of mixed emotions today…not to mention the fact that today was Jacob’s first day of Kindergarten!  Too much for a (paper) pregnant mom’s heart!😉

I am so looking forward to getting Josie in our arms, in our home and to the many celebrations we will have with her!  We are so close!!

LOA!

Last week was probably the most significant in our adoption journey – we received our Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from China.  This means that the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption) has given us their approval to adopt Josie. {insert cheering here}🙂

It seemed like a long wait (74 days to be exact, from the day we were logged in to China’s database until the day our LOA arrived at our agency), but it finally arrived and now we only have a few steps left before we are able to get on that plane and go get our girl!

When the FedEx truck arrived with our very important document, Jacob, James and I ran out to meet the delivery woman.  As we were running out the door, Jacob said “do you think Josie might be in there?”….melt my heart.  How I wish it was that easy.🙂

IMG_9403

That afternoon, we stopped by our work to get Jay’s signature on the LOA…Jay signed it while sitting in the car….and we headed off to the FedEx store to overnight it back to our agency, along with all of the paperwork that was needed to start the next step.

IMG_9418IMG_9422

It was a very emotional experience to see that piece of paper that came all the way from China and to sign our names saying that YES we want Josie to be our daughter!  She will no longer be identified as a “foundling”, as the document states.  She has been chosen, she is our daughter, and she will be forever.  That makes my heart skip a beat.  :)

So what is the next step?  We submitted our I800 to the USCIS last week (which is a “petition to classify convention adoptee as an immediate relative”).  This step is basically to finalize Josie’s immigration.  We should have this approval in the next couple of weeks.  (Does it seem that we are always waiting on some type of approval?  Because we are!)🙂

We will be submitting our visa applications this week and then there are only a couple of steps left before we go to China!

Right now it looks like we will be in China in October – that’s not that far away!  Can you believe it?!  I can hardly stand the excitement!  We are getting so close, Josie!!

 

Waiting

We seem to be in a season of waiting right now.  Does anyone else agree with me that waiting is not fun?

We experienced one of the longest waits of our lives last Thursday.  For about 18 hours, we waited to find out if Jay’s Dad would make it through a major, unexpected heart procedure alive.  For the past 10 days, we’ve been waiting to see what each day will bring for him.  We are thanking God for the healing that He is bringing, but there is still a long road ahead for recovery.

The day before Jay’s Dad’s emergency surgery, on July 23rd, we found out that our jobs will be moving to Charlotte, NC at some point next year.  (Jay and I work for the same company) We are waiting to hear more about what our options will be – will we receive a severance package if we decide not to relocate? What and when will it be?  If we decide to move, when exactly would that need to be?  We have a million questions and not many answers at this point.

When we first heard the news about our jobs, we said, let’s just wait until Josie is home and we are settled before making any decisions about moving.  Let’s put it out of our minds for now.  Right.  That’s not exactly working.  I’m having a really hard time not thinking about it…a lot.  We have no idea what to do…to stay or to go.  We have a long list of reasons why it would be good to go, but a short list of huge reasons to stay (our family and friends, obviously).

We are still waiting on LOA (our official approval from China to adopt Josie).  It’s day 65 and honestly, I really didn’t expect that we would still be waiting.  Everything up to this point has gone so quickly.  I guess I should have known it wouldn’t all be so quick, but I definitely had my hopes up.

It’s not very often that I feel discouraged or lose my joy, but lately it feels like I’m getting there. Tonight I got out my Bible and my journal that has all of the verses I’ve written down since we started our adoption journey.  So many of them speak to my heart and to this period of waiting and uncertainty we are in.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

All I want, is to be in the center of God’s will for our lives.  That is where I find the greatest joy and peace.

He has proven Himself to be faithful time and time again.  We’ve seen Him provide and guide in amazing ways throughout our adoption process.  Why should I doubt that He will continue to do that – not just in our adoption process but in the rest of our lives?

My anxious heart wants answers and wants to know what the next year holds.  My God tells me to “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14.  So that is what we will do, we will wait to hear from Him, wait to see His hand guide and trust that His plans are always best.  To us it feels like everything is up in the air, thank goodness God knows exactly what He’s doing with our lives.🙂

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Paying it Forward

We are so excited to share with you the family that we are paying your generosity forward to.  Meet Hal and Martha Swift.

Hal and Martha

We had 2 full days of adoption training for our home-study back in March – that’s where we met the Swifts (along with a lot of other wonderful adoptive parents!).

Hal and Martha began their adoption journey in January of this year and they just recently had their USCIS fingerprint appointment, which means they are now waiting for approval from the US to adopt a child from China.  This is a big step!  Once that is complete, they will be able to send their dossier (about a million documents) to China and wait for China’s approval (that’s where we are right now…waiting, waiting, waiting).

The Swifts moved to Wisconsin from South Dakota about a year ago.  Martha told me that taking the leap of faith to move to Wisconsin was one of the things that led them to take another leap of faith and adopt.  They had seen God bless them for following his lead to WI and were confident that He would do the same with this calling.  :)  They have 2 boys, ages 10 and 7.  They haven’t seen the face of their little girl yet, but I’m sure they will know who she is soon!🙂

One of the things I loved when I met Martha (other than her obvious love for Jesus and orphans) was that she has a plan.  She is organized!  :)  When we talked at the training, she had lots of fundraising ideas and after our training, she sent me an email sharing all of the ideas with me.  They’ve done rummage sales, restaurant fundraisers (where the restaurant donates a portion of their proceeds for a particular day), a t-shirt fundraiser, they’ve even had a booth at a local farmers market with coffee and donuts.  They are on a mission and they are seeing God work through His people, just as we have.  They are confident that He will provide and He has.

As I mentioned in my last post, the 2nd t-shirt sale was above and beyond anything we had planned or hoped for.  We are giving the money from that sale to the Swifts.  The check to their placement agency (Holt International) is in the mail as we speak!🙂

I love the fact that everyone who gave to us, has made it possible to give to Hal and Martha.  Your support has provided financially to 2 adoptive families!  Not only that, but the encouragement that brings to us as adoptive parents is invaluable!

If you would like to follow the Swifts journey to their little girl, you can do that here on Facebook.  You can also check out their Pure Charity fundraising account here or watch their youtube video here to learn more about them.

We know you will love them as much as we do!

Believe me, we have many adoptive family friends that we love and wish we could support in the same way.  We asked God to make it clear to us what we should do about “paying it forward”….when Jay and I “sat down” (we don’t actually ever sit down) to talk about it, we both had exactly the same answer…the Swift family.  The other cool thing that confirmed this decision was that after I wrote the last blog post, our friend, Patti (who we also met at our training classes and who has become a mentor to us because her family has been through the adoption process multiple times) texted me and said “any chance that money will go to the Swift family?”.  I answered through tears and said yes, that is exactly who it will be going to!  Praise God for clear direction once again!

We are so excited for the day when we can have a little reunion with the families from our adoption training and have the newest members of our families with us!🙂

Thank you again for your support!  We love you all!!

Fundraising Update!

47 days…  

thermometer (1)

From the first donation we received on June 2…that’s how long it took to not only get to our $10,000 fundraising goal, but surpass it.  We still can’t believe it.  It seems impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

I truly believe that if it were just Jay and I, on our own, trying to raise these funds, this would be a completely different story.  I believe this is all due to the power of God, working through His people to make something like this happen – something that seems impossible, possible.  God has had His hand on this story from the beginning – He is the one that planted the seed of adoption in our hearts, He had Josie chosen for us long before we saw her face, and He provided the funds, through all of you.

We are humbled, grateful and just blown away by the generosity of our family and friends. As I mentioned in my last blog post, these are memories that we will cherish forever!

From our fantastic fundraising event, organized by our amazing friend, Anna….

2014-06-292

2014-06-293

2014-06-291

2014-06-292014-06-294

To our unbelievable t-shirt sales.

Adoption

To our now completed puzzle piece fundraiser.

IMG_9181

IMG_9182

IMG_9199

IMG_8936

IMG_8937

We can’t wait for the day when we can show Josie the back of her puzzle and tell her about all of the people that helped bring her home.  :)  (I’ll share pictures of the puzzle once we have it all put together – we are enlisting my Mom for help with this task!)

In case you missed the beginning of our fundraising efforts, our goal was $10,000 to help bridge the gap between the $30,000 we had saved and are planning to save by the time we travel to the $40,000 estimated total cost of the adoption.  Of course, this is all based on an estimate for travel – it could be more but we are, of course, hoping for less. This doesn’t mean we can let up on our cost savings plan for this year, we still have lots of saving to do over the upcoming months, but we feel it is now doable because you’ve helped us bridge the gap. What a wonderful feeling!!🙂

Because you’ve all given more than we anticipated – we are planning to pay it forward and we can’t wait.  :)

The 2nd t-shirt sale was above and beyond anything we planned on (even the 1st was way more than we thought was possible!), so we are going to give all of our proceeds from the 2nd sale to another family that is adopting from China.  We will reveal who this is and how much once we have our final proceeds calculated.  This is so exciting to be able to be in a position to do this.  I love that every one that has helped us is really helping 2 families!

We have other thoughts about how to pay it forward that we will be praying about and will share when we know what that is going to look like.

Thank you again for being part of this story that is so much bigger than us!  Thank you for helping to bring Josie home!!

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 

Grace Like (Pouring) Rain

Have you ever gotten completely drenched by pouring rain?

Jay and I took the boys for a walk in the wagon a few weeks back and half way through our walk, it started to rain.  At first, it was a light rain, so we started to walk a little faster but then it started pouring.  We ran as fast as we could and got absolutely soaked.  We all laughed as we ran home (the boys were squealing) and then stood in the garage and watched it rain cats and dogs as we recalled what had just happened and the boys asked to do it again.  :)  It’s a memory that will stick with us.

Just like that memory will remain with us, so will the memories of the past weeks, as we have been absolutely drenched in love and grace.

It has all been pretty overwhelming.  I feel like I am constantly saying “wow, did that really just happen?”…multiple times a day…let me give you a few examples:

    • An email from adopt together comes in to my inbox that says “New Gift Received!”…I share it with Jay and we say “how cool that this person donated to our adoption fund!”
    • A co-worker takes the money they were given for a Starbucks run and gives it to us for the “Josie fund”
    • Someone sends me an email and says they are interested in adoption and would like to get together to talk about it (my favorite topic!)
    • A friend who has already given a ton of her time and money gives even more
    • A 10 year old boy with autism plays the cello at our fundraising event and donates all of his tips to our adoption fund
    • My cousin makes beautiful hats and a scarf to use for our auction at the fundraiser
    • A friend paints us a very meaningful work of art that will be treasured for years to come
    • A card with encouraging words and a check comes in the mail 
    • Consultants offer to host a party (Thirty One / Jamberry Nails) and give the proceeds to our adoption fund
    • A friend orders 7 t-shirts
    • Children make bracelets to sell and donate their proceeds to Josie’s adoption fund
    • Someone decides that we should have a “Made to Love T-Shirt Day” at work and gets someone else on the case to make it happen
    • A friend tells us that her children pray for Josie every night before bed
    • Jay comes home from Bible study and says there were 40 men praying for Josie and our adoption process
    • My Mom sews curtains for the kids “new” rooms and gets Josie’s wardrobe started
    • A friend sends a gift for Josie in the mail
    • Friends drive 30+ minutes to get to our fundraising event

The list could go on and on.  Every day for weeks these things have been happening.

Did you know that we are naming Josie, Josephine Grace?  And that Josephine means “God will add”?  God will add Grace…man, has He ever.  He has poured out His grace on us through all of you.

What does the word “grace” mean to me?  I would say grace is the love and mercy given to us by God because He is a loving father…it is not given to us because of anything we have done to earn it, it is a generous gift that is free and unexpected.

We are just a normal family, doing our best to live out God’s purpose for our lives.  We have done nothing extraordinary to earn or deserve all of this grace, but that’s what makes grace so amazing (and why “Amazing Grace” is my favorite song!).

The experience from the past few weeks gives us great encouragement as we look to the coming months.  The journey will be filled with joy but it will definitely be difficult.  Even now, as we struggle to get everything done in a day and parent 2 children, I wonder how we will do it with 1 more (I thought the same when I was pregnant with James).  There are lots of changes ahead.  Lots of unknowns.  We know that Josie will have a lot to grieve for as we take her away from all she has known.  That’s where I know that God will provide the grace that we will need to get through the tough things that are coming.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”            2 Corinthians 12:9

We don’t have to worry, He has proven that His grace is sufficient.  It is more than sufficient, it is overwhelmingly amazing!

Thank you again for every bit of the love and support you have shown us…thank you for being God’s hands and feet here on earth!  We love you all!!!

Grace Like Rain

After our walk/run in the rain.  Happily soaked.🙂

p.s. An update on our fundraising is coming soon…and it’s great news!🙂