Submitted for PAIR!

It’s about time –  we’ve got some news on the adoption process front!

We finally received T’s re-translated paperwork last week and were able to submit to USCIS for her PAIR review.  This is the US Embassy’s pre-screening, which is part of the new process.  This way we will be pre-approved to pass embassy BEFORE we go to court.  Ethically and logistically, this is the way they SHOULD do it – so we are glad they’re changing it.  We just don’t know our timeline since no one has ever done it. 🙂  Jeff got to experience the full guinea pig effect when we had to reprint her ET paperwork several times in various sizes to make the print quality work!  (Before, it didn’t work like this, so our agency is learning right alongside of us!)

We also simultaneously submitted for an updated I-171H (our old approval was for a child 0-3 since that’s what we’d thought we were open to – HA!) and fingerprinting (ours were expiring).

So now… we wait to receive our PAIR approval letter.  The “very estimated” timeline from USCIS is 8-12 weeks, but we have heard it may be moving more quickly!  We also found out some exciting news that the judge in Ethiopia has ruled that families can go ahead and be submitted to the Ethiopian court while waiting on their PAIR letter (instead of once you have it in hand) -this should speed things up a bit!  So, on the whole, we’re certainly feeling encouraged about things lately.

We’ve gotten a few more reports & pictures of our girl from families traveling to pick their kids up – I wish I could share them online!  She had a new hairstyle and it is amazing.  Girl has some curls!  We also got her little note in the mail (the one we had shared a photo of – the family had sent a photo of it but we got the actual paper in the mail today).  It was so surreal to be holding in my hand a note she had written us with hers.  Whoa.  From ET to NC!

Keep praying… things are finally moving and we’re so glad!  Now we wait again – but at least we’re headed in the right direction.

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1 month {really} waiting.

Today marks one month since our referral date. We’re continuing our tradition of cooking/eating Ethiopian food on this date each month. Tonight we had Berbere-rubbed chicken thighs and spiced lentils. I’m getting to the point where I crave Ethiopian food… I’m sure we’ll be making a lot of it when she first gets home to help ease tube transition!

We had family prayer time for our girl, praying God would take care of her and bring her home soon. Listening to Lane and Cullen pray for her is so precious to me.

Come home soon, Sweet T!

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surprise message

We got a message today from a sweet woman in our agency who was on a missions trip to Ethiopia & spent the afternoon at the transition home.  She said once they found out she had connections to several of their families, they got mauled by the older kiddos wanting to send messages to their parents. 🙂  This was what T said to tell us:

“Come very soon.  I will pray.  I love you mother.  I love you father.  I love you brothers.”

She also had to tell us that T is SO proud to have a family.  She kept saying “photo. Mom. Dad.” and finally took the woman’s hand and led her to her bunk bed.  She has our photos hidden under her mattress to keep them safe and couldn’t wait to show her family off.

Tears.  That’s all I can say.

Our homestudy update and dossier documents were finalized, so we are now working on the new PAIR process.  They are letting us apply for our PAIR letter and update our USCIS clearance at the same time (praise the Lord!) so that won’t delay us even more – but please pray it won’t take as long to get the PAIR letter as they are anticipating.   Once we have that letter, we can then open court and will wait for a court date to go meet her.  Today felt a little overwhelming figuring out all the new procedures and possible issues and trying to dot all our i’s and cross all our t’s to make sure we don’t mess anything up and delay things even more.  I have to remember God is still in control, and his timing is perfect.  But we are already dying to be with her, of course.

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The boys writing letters to their big sister to put in a care package for her. I wish I didn’t have to blur out her name-it was so surreal and sweet to watch them write it!

reunited and it feels so good.

My college roommate and one of my dearest friends, Tina, lives in Colorado… which makes for a seriously unfortunate situation in which we hardly ever get to see each other.  Her family was vacationing in SC this summer, so she and her adorable little girl Lily flew out a week early to hang out with us (and borrow baby stuff…2 birds, one stone!) before they went.  It was SUCH a great week.  It had been over THREE AND A HALF YEARS since we had seen each other.  Far too long.  And yet it was as if we never skipped a beat.  Those days were precious to me, just hanging out – going out a few times thanks to Aunt Ash, babysitter extraordinaire, but mostly just talking and talking as we hung around the house due to various nap schedules (we’ve gotten so glamorous since college!  oh but we wouldn’t change it).

She also happened to be here the week we accepted T’s referral!  I know that was a gift from God because I was a hot mess the last few days leading up to the big decision.  I knew we were supposed to say yes, I was honestly just scared of the unknown.  After Jeff & I spent some time officially deciding, we came back to celebratory champagne (my girlfriends who know me best know this is #1), salted caramel gelati, all kinds of surprises!  It was perfect.  Tina is a counselor and boy did I lean on her advice and wisdom during that time.  THANK YOU precious friend for being there for us and being so excited and encouraging!

My boys and I fell in love with Lily… I wonder why 😉

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Miss you already, sweet friend!

tennessee family weekend.

We spent the weekend together in the Smokies, just the four of us. We were basically given a free trip, so who can turn down some quality time together? (and a new state for the boys!)

We spent a day at the #1 aquarium in the US (worth every penny-3 hours in the morning, lunch & LONG naps, dinner & 3 more hours there and they STILL were just as excited/not wanting to leave!). You’ll have to ask Jeff (or Lane!) about accidentally dunking Lane in Stingray Bay while petting stingrays… hilarious now, but poor kid. And poor dad. 😉

The next day we went to hike at Great Smoky Mtns National Park…but guess what we discovered was closed due to the government shutdown?! Womp womp. We snuck in anyway (such rebels…ok, we weren’t the only ones) and hiked along some GORGEOUS trails. We also explored the town of Gatlinburg and these boys walked all over with us-they were awesome. Four is going to be a good age, I can tell. It was such a nice weekend together–reminding us how important family time is in this busy life. The only thing that would have made it better was our girl!

(of course I forgot my camera!  Thank goodness for iphones)

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Cullen Pyles is not impressed with the government shutdown. Lane’s face cracks me up.

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11 months…nope!

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Today is the 2nd, but we’re not celebrating 11 months DTE.  Instead, we’ve begun a much harder (but SO worth it!) wait–the wait to bring her home.  Our Ethiopian feasts will be on the 11th (our referral date) of each month now as we prepare to add sweet T to our little family!  Thank you, Jesus.

Our social worker came Monday night to finish our home study update.  She is always so sweet and supportive, we love her.  We’ve finished up all our doctor’s appointments and paperwork-running-around, so as soon as we get the (expedited) update in the next few days, we’ll mail it off to USCIS and then to Raleigh to be state-certified (uggghhh you only have to do this in NC!), and then to ET!  Hoping we can get it there right as courts re-open.  Still no real information on the new process, hopefully SOON.  Not sure being the guinea pigs is going to be much fun… but we will survive.  Praying our little girl home!

I came across this today and wanted to share it because it’s so true – and sometimes these are hard things to think about, but it’s important.  We know it won’t be all rainbows and butterflies when she gets home (in fact we’re pretty sure it’ll probably be one of the hardest things we’ve ever done–but we have confidence God will be right there to be our strength when we’re weak!).  We are humbled to have the opportunity to have her in our lives–we wish she’d never lost her family and could stay in Ethiopia with a loving family, but since that is no longer an option, we’ll do everything we can to help her heal.

Empowered to Connect: Healing the Wounds of Relational Trauma

Reposting this article by Michael Monroe from the Empowered to Connect website.

I remember the first time I heard it said. It came out of nowhere during a conversation with an adult adoptee, and I recoiled as the words made their way to my heart. “There is no adoption without loss,” she declared, “but sometimes adoptive parents tend to forget that.”

Such a categorical statement. So black and white. Surely there had to be an exception. Certainly there was some gray. “All adoption is born of loss?” I remember thinking to myself. All?

As I’ve become immersed in the world of adoption over the years I’ve come to realize and more fully understand how true this truth is. I’ve seen it first hand in the lives of my four children. I’ve heard it in the stories of countless adult adopted persons who find the courage and feel the freedom to honestly tell their stories. I’ve read about it in books and heard about it in conferences from experts who have dedicated their lives to serving kids like mine and families like ours.

At its root trauma speaks of a wound. In the realm of adoption and foster care we often think of trauma in terms of tragic events such as natural disasters, horrific scenes of violence or domestic chaos, or the response to prolonged exposure to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Each certainly qualifies as trauma and each is traumatic. But we sometimes overlook another wound that every adopted (and foster child) has experienced – the wound of relational trauma. True, not every child experiences the impacts of this relational wound in just the same way or to the same degree. But parents are never safe to presume that there is no wound.

No child becomes available for adoption or enters foster care unless something has gone wrong, terribly so. Those who gave life to this child, those who were supposed to take care of him, those who were supposed to be there to protect him, teach him, and support him either couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t. And so one of the most foundational and important of all earthly relationships – that of parent and child – was broken or severed.

If I’m honest I’ll admit that I don’t want this to be true for my kids, this idea of relational trauma and the loss that inevitably comes with it. I want our adoption story to be one of beauty and gain, not loss and pain. One of happy, not sad. One of addition, not subtraction. But God is not writing a fairy tale with our lives, no matter how much I wish it so. Instead, He’s writing a real life story that involves real people living in a broken world. But it is also a story of hope.

Adoption is an invitation to enter into a child’s world, into the trauma that he or she has experienced, and become an agent of God’s healing power. Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child, often reminds adoptive and foster parents that “our children were harmed in relationship, and they will come to experience healing in relationship.”

This reality of the healing power of relationships should come as little surprise. I was reminded of this just the other night as I sang the song I’ve sung to my children literally thousands of times while I tuck them into bed. As the words rolled off of my lips – “I once was lost but now I’m found; was blind but now I see” – I could not help but think of how God’s grace and redemption entered into the relational trauma of humanity. Into my own life.

The miracle of seeing is only a miracle because I once was blind. I only needed to be found because I was so very lost. And the miracle of adoption is that through loss, and not in spite of it, God chooses in His infinite goodness and kindness to make something beautiful. He is weaving the broken pieces of our lives together into a family where hope lives and wounds heal.