Pictures and letters.

Today a precious friend who’s in ET picking up her sweet girls sent us a whole bunch of photos of T. She said they got to spend a lot of time with her and that she was so proud to show off her pictures of us! 🙂 I wish I could share them all, but since I can’t…this will have to do to show you what a sweet day it was:

20130926-204734.jpg

This. is our girl holding up our pictures!!!  Oh, I remember hating making those pages – I pretty much threw them together right before sending off our dossier because I was OVER paperwork at that point and just wanted to be DONE.  I had no idea the kids saw them!  Well, not that I thought we’d be getting a child who would have any concept of a picture page at that point anyway.  If only I’d known… 😉    This made me cry so many happy tears.  And really miss her at the same time.  You truly can miss someone you’ve never met.

20130926-204746.jpg

And then THIS.  She wrote us a letter.  Bless her little heart – she wrote us in English.  The giraffe may be a bit in the way but you can get the gist.  LOVE. HER.

There are definitely some amazingly sweet things about older child adoption that we never would have experience otherwise… already.  We are so blessed to have the privilege of having this special girl in our family.

sweet T.

We are running around like crazy people trying to get new physicals, clearances, background checks, homestudy updates, fingerprints… you know… NBD.  It will all be worth it but man it feels like we just did this! 😉  Please pray we will be able to get these documents done very quickly so they can be sent to ET and we can work on getting our girl home as soon as possible.

In the meantime… a sweet friend of mine did this when they got their referral for their little boy who had been on the WCL (waiting child list) and I loved the idea!  Here are just a few little snippets of what some people have said about T:

  • “T” is A-DOR-A-BLE!!!! Oh my gosh… So stinking sweet, has the sweetest smile & disposition. She kept asking me for gum, would come nestle in my lap, (when A [her son] wasn’t! 😉 -He eventually started getting jealous! ;), loved hugs & holding hands! TOOOO Cute!!!
  • She is just a doll!!!! So cute, so sweet. She was terrific with the little kids.  She was playing balloons with a little girl and T was so sweet and gentle and would laugh and clap for her.
  • She is SO precious!!! Sweet and sensitive and loving. Would be a GREAT addition to a family.
  • That little girl is a doll.  She’s a very sweet girl, quiet and calm and all smiles.
  • She oozes joy.
  • She really is such a lovely little girl. Our daughter really loves her and wants her to find a family so much.
  • She was adorable & so sweet- one of our days wasn’t he best, she could tell & unsolicited came up to me & just hugged me.
  • I just came home & fell in love with “T.”  She is a sweetheart.  Just wants to be loved.  She is just a love.
  • We absolutely fell in love with her. We spent many of our days at the Transition Home loving on her.  She will bless your family for sure.

Ohhh how we love her, and we haven’t even gotten the privilege of meeting her yet!  We got to send her a letter with some pictures, and were able to mail her a care package today (by way of another family traveling to get their children).  I can’t imagine how hard it must be for these kids to be told they finally have a family, and then they have to wait months and months for their family to actually come.  A friend who’s there right now told us she was having a hard day yesterday (breaks my heart)–we’re so grateful for other families loving on her in the meantime when we can’t.  Praying God will hold her until we can!

For now, every time Lane sees an airplane he asks if his sister is on it. 😉  Sweet boy.

WE HAVE A DAUGHTER!

IMG_1146

The day has finally come, we’ve seen our daughter’s face!!!  And boy, there are more than a few twists and turns to this story…

Cullen and Lane are getting a BIG sister.

It has been a crazy journey only God could orchestrate… if you’d told us a year ago we’d be adopting an older child I would have never believed you–but here we are! To fill in the gaps, let’s start from the beginning, as told by Jeff…

Friends, family, countrymen:

As you all know, our family has felt the desire & call to adopt since before we had Lane and Cullen, and in January of 2012 we began the process. We went through the home study and paper-chasing phase and submitted our dossier (really official sounding term for several trees worth of paper documents covering all of our lives) last November. We’ve been prayerfully waiting since, and all the time expecting that the Lord would bring us a daughter (age 0-3, healthy or with special needs, since that’s what we have been approved for!) in His time. In the meantime, our agency has a “waiting child list” with children available who don’t meet the criteria of ANY families who are waiting for a child. Most of these kids have either severe special needs, are older, or both. Lauren has been extremely diligent in praying for these kids to find a home and for God to work in our hearts if one of those kids is who He would want us to adopt. We have both separately felt tugs on our hearts for certain children, but never really were we aligned on the child who God had for us. What’s been so great about that process is that just about every child we prayed for (and asked each other to pray for) has been united with a family. We praise God for his provision for these kids and were completely blessed by what He had been doing.

IMG_1170

Fast-forward to early this summer, and there was a girl who God put on my heart in a different and stronger way than ever before. As was our custom, I asked Lauren to pray about her. She agreed, but was hesitant, as this girl was older (and had some special needs). Lauren has always been much more open to special needs than I have, but the older child aspect is something she has been more scared of than me. Conversely, I’ve seemingly been more drawn to older children while hesitant as it relates to the medical/special needs for kids we’ve seen. We spent some time praying both individually and corporately and Lauren’s heart began to soften. At the same time, there were several families from our agency in Ethiopia who had met this girl and absolutely raved about her… from how sweet and special she was, to her desire to have a family, etc. In fact, many of these families sent messages out saying that if they could, they would just bring her home with them when they left the country, they loved her so much! We talked and prayed further, and decided to check with our home study agency to see if they would even approve us for an older child. From there God just kept flinging open doors with approvals – it seemed our social worker & agency both thought we’d be a great fit for this girl. We did older child trainings and lots of homework/research, and everything kept falling into place, no matter how hard we prayed something would shut it down if we weren’t supposed to pursue this girl. In fact, the one time we got scared & just about backed off, (long story short) God CLEARLY re-opened the door & made it obvious we weren’t supposed to stop yet.

IMG_1151

We have now spent the last few weeks reviewing this little girl’s information and going over her medical needs with a local doctor who specializes in international adoption (who is one of the most highly recommended, goes to church with some dear friends of ours, and who just so happened to previously attend the church Wayne founded in Charlotte!). We have prayed, asked our families to pray and even many of you to pray for us. This is certainly not a decision to take lightly and there were a lot of things to consider about how an older child would impact our family. Our agency was wonderful about making sure we were going in with eyes wide open. Along the way we have received so much encouragement, confirmation and support. God has shown us so many things that connect the dots for us and have told us that He is in this and she is in fact our daughter. So last night, after much prayer, Lauren and I decided that even though we are scared and this may be crazy, we are ready to say “yes”–we will pursue the adoption of this precious girl! God’s timing is indeed profound, as the day we sent our acceptance paperwork in was New Year’s Day in Ethiopia and the children at the home were all celebrating the new year and what it might bring.

IMG_1193

So – about our daughter! “T” (We cannot share her Ethiopian name online until we pass court – but it starts with a T so we’ll refer to her as that for now) is listed as about 10 years old, but very tiny so she may be younger. She has some medical needs, including some ear issues that will likely need surgery when she gets home – so you can pray for her health! She is adorable with the best smile and everyone tells us she is the sweetest – kind, loving, very affectionate, and happy – and great with kids. She LOVES gum, stickers, and jewelry, and wants a pink backpack. She’s pretty short and small–hey, she’ll fit right in. 😉 We have been blown away by hearing the stories of those who have met her and fallen in love with her… it just kept confirming how special this girl is, and what a blessing it will be to have the honor & privilege of having her in our family.

IMG_1272

You may be asking yourself the “why” question at this point in time – are we crazy?! {Probably. But that’s ok.} Well, other than God working on our hearts, he really has taught us a lot about international adoption and the process, especially as we watched friends adopt from the WCL–their stories began to change us. The vast majority of adoptable orphans are older children. However, most adopting families (us included) are looking for younger, healthy children.  For our agency, the wait time for a healthy baby or toddler from Ethiopia is probably around 3-5 years right now.  We kept asking ourselves why we were sitting there on a LONG wait list, miraculously fully funded, while these precious children sat waiting on a family?  Mostly, my heart just breaks for these older kids—they NEED to be adopted–they are paper ready and just waiting. They truly KNOW what it means to be an orphan and they see themselves as undesirable. It’s not hard to imagine how you would feel if you were in an orphanage and only “babies” or young kids were being adopted. The older you get, the more you would lose hope… and that is such an awful thing to ponder.  We’ve been told that T has asked many visiting families many times when SHE will get a family… breaks your heart.  God truly is at work in so many ways and has really changed the way we have thought through adoption in general. This is not to say that we are against infant adoption at ALL (we may still end up adopting a little one someday, who knows?!), but God really showed us that these waiting kids need families, and we can provide one. One thing we have learned is that the process isn’t one size fits all and that the Lord works on families in different ways. For us, he happened to work in this way with THIS girl, and clearly wanted us to say “yes” to this.

IMG_1227

Ok, so by this time I’ve officially written a novel (maybe a novella). Let me explain the next steps. We will need to update our home study and our USCIS clearance letter to increase the range we’re approved to accept and get our fingerprints renewed. Oddly enough, most of these things were going to need to be updated in the next couple months so we again have good timing on those items. From there, we really have no idea. The process in Ethiopia has changed as they have adopted PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review), which has literally JUST happened, so timelines and expectations are really unknown, but they are guessing 8-10 months to bringing her home.   We’ll be the guinea pigs.  We ask for your prayers in this and we will certainly provide updates as we learn more. Right now courts are closed until beginning to mid-October, and we are hoping USCIS will share more information about the new process in the next few weeks.

…so there you have it!! Our BIG news… Cullen and Lane are going to be little brothers! 😉

IMG_1237

I (Lauren) will share my side of the story soon, and how the boys reacted to the news (they are so excited!) – but I have to tell you one way God showed me she’s our daughter:

On April 30th, 2012, we announced our adoption on our blog, Facebook, etc. On that very same day, across the world and unbeknownst to us, our future daughter entered an orphanage for the first time. There was a reason God told us to start RIGHT THEN. Our little girl’s heart was broken, she had lost everything she’d ever known, and the long road was beginning to make it possible for her to join a new family–our family. He used the waiting time to soften & prepare our hearts for her just in time.

IMG_1333

We are certainly still nervous & scared of the unknowns of parenting an older child, and how to help her heal (she has not had an easy life by any means).  We know this will probably not be an easy road, but we’re ready to travel it with her.  We are so blessed to have such a terrific support system, and cannot wait to bring this precious girl home! We love you all and thank you so much for your prayers, letters of encouragement/support and conversations as we have worked to discern the Lord’s will in this entire process.

All our love,

Jeff, Lauren, Cullen and Lane

PS – We do have pictures of her, but for confidentiality reasons cannot share them online until we pass court. However, we can share in person, so if you’re around us, just ask – we would love to show you her sweet smile! Here’s the best we can do for now…

20130915-155834.jpg

Sweet T… are you ready to be a part of this crazy fam?! We can’t wait to meet you.

IMG_1323

*We took these photos about a month or so ago… thanks to my sweet sister who brainstormed & set it all up as a surprise! 🙂 Little did we know they’d end up being ready just in time for the big announcement! 

Cullen & Lane at four.

{because apparently this is their “baby book” and because I won’t remember otherwise 🙂 }

STATS (ummm, way after their fourth birthday but Dr. G is just too popular to get an appointment on time!)

Cullen – Weight: 32.4  lbs, Height: 39 1/8 in

Lane – Weight: 34.6 lbs, Height: 39 in

He was a little worried about C’s growth and recent tummy issues so we are running tests.  Unfortunately they couldn’t get any blood drawn after two very traumatic tries, so we have to go next week to try again. 😦  L’s tonsils are still huge so we’re trying a nose spray to see if we can help with that, if not we’ll go from there.  Other than that they’re doing well and he said four was his favorite age–so far, I think I may agree.  They are so hilarious and fun and hey, we made it through the three’s so… woot!

You are still great eaters – especially Lane, who hasn’t met a food he doesn’t like – and great sleepers, somehow still napping at age four.  I imagine Cullen will switch to quiet time at some point this year, but we joke that Lane will probably sleep till kindergarten – kid LOVES his sleep.  You are super into “projects” – arts, crafts, experiments, whatever… thank the Lord for Pinterest because I ran out of ideas a long time ago.  You love riding your bikes or scooters, playing baseball in the backyard, golf, soccer, watching sports with Daddy, wrestling, doing Daddy’s workouts, cooking with Mommy, and board games.  You could read books all day long.  You love “doing preschool” with Mommy whenever we can and are so curious & inquisitive.

CULLEN – You talk all.day.long.  Your conversations are funny, sweet, and so interesting.  I can’t believe your memory sometimes.  You are sweet but stubborn, such a combination.  The three’s weren’t easy with you, but staying consistent is paying off and though you still have your meltdown moments (who doesn’t? I sure do!) you’re becoming such a fun BUDDY to be around as you mature.  You’re SO affectionate and love to tell us how much you love us.

LANE – You are a ray of sunshine and laughs.  You play hard and sleep hard.  Sometimes you are crazy and have more energy than I can keep up with, but then you’ll ask me to cuddle and snuggle in my lap.   You’re sensitive and we’ve dealt with some days full of tears, but you’re so very caring – great with babies, and such a great friend.  You are still ridiculously attached to your bunny and pretty soon we’re gonna have to break you of sucking your thumb… oops.

You both are such loves.  I can’t tell you how blessed we feel to have you.  You are truly best friends and get along so well the vast majority of the time.  It’s precious to watch.  You still want to sleep together on the bottom bunk every night, and most nights do.  Having twin three year olds meant some of the best days so far, and some of the hardest.  We made it though!  We gave away your double stroller a week ago – whoa, that was a milestone.  Big kids!

We love you, Cullen Wayne & Lane Davis, and thank God for your little lives!  We are praying he does great things through you – he sure has taught us so much already through being your parents.

IMG_5594

10 months waiting

10 months DTE today. We cooked azefa and gomen (ET collards-perfect for this Southern bunch! Lane took down three bowls by himself). Spent some time in her room praying hard for our girl and thanking God for the work he’s done in us over the past ten months.

We love you, sweet girl!

20130902-193341.jpg