Thursday, December 22, 2011

another update

Got this email just today!

It reads:

I just wanted to let you know a brief update which we heard from China this morning. Your paperwork for the agency Letter Seeking Confirmation was sent to the Consulate today (12/22 in China) and we expect that the Article 5 will be issued by the Consulate on January 5. Usually the Travel Approval is issued about 2-4 weeks after the Article 5.  At this stage my rough estimate for your Travel Approval would be early February.

It's really happening.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

two things

Two things to share really quick before my spaghetti water boils...

1.  A family has committed to adopt Jonathan!  Excellent!  Keep up with the progress here.  And please, if you feel led, continue to pray for this sweet boy.

2.  Our DS-230 was express mailed to the US Embassy in China yesterday.  When I asked our social worker how long from now (it seems I can't get enough explanation!), she said 2-3 months until travel approval.  Not 2-3 months until travel.

But you know what?

It's fine.



No matter.

If I've learned anything about this timing thing it's that God really does know best.  What in the world was I thinking by wanting to travel before Christmas?

So, so glad we've stayed put.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

moving right along...

We got our letter from the National Visa Center on Friday!  We should have our Article 5 in a month or so and then our travel approval after that!

Most excellent.

Friday, December 16, 2011

no words

just a couple of things...

We didn't share with anyone that there was a potential glitch headed our way.  A glitch that could've delayed our trip to China by another two to three months!  Oye.

We just didn't want to get everyone (including ourselves!) in a frenzy if it didn't pan out.

I only mention it now because a soft, quiet Voice said, 'Just ask your agency again if this precaution is really necessary before speaking with the folks at Immigration.'

So last week, I went to our social worker and asked if we really needed to go back and cross that 't' from months ago.

'Is it really necessary?  Or just a hunch?',  I asked.

So our social worker sent an inquiry to the US Embassy to double check.

And we waited.

Just a day or two, but still...the waiting.  Always some kind of waiting.  Believe it or not, I am getting better at it!  Go figure.

And then the email came.

"The embassy said everything looks good and we don't have to go back and file the such-and-such."


God, thank you for whispering to me.  Thank you that sometimes I actually hear You because so often I'm just deaf to You.  Plain old not-hearing, not-noticing, too busy, too distracted, too frazzled.  So thank you that there are times when I do hear Your soft voice.


A knitty-gritty update: We should be getting a letter any day from the National Visa Center confirming that our approval cable has been sent to the US Consulate (embassy) in Guangzhou, China.

Then our agency will file the DS-230 with the US Consulate asking them to issue and send a document called the Article 5 to the Chinese authority for adoptions (CCCWA) that states that our adoption complies with US immigration law.

This should all occur in the next month or two.  Then our travel approval will be issued by the CCCWA and we'll travel within a month of receiving our travel approval!

I'm still 'feeling' February...


I found this blog a year or so ago when I googled 'Ethiopian adoptions.'  I have found Missy's way with words funny, light and on-the-mark.

I found this post especially poignant today.  Never thought much about Mary.  I do now.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

if only, if only, if only...

If only we could adopt them all.

Stories such as these break my heart.

God is big enough for this.


Please feel free to share about Jonathan with anyone and everyone.

What an amazing kid.

Friday, December 9, 2011

60 days and counting?

We experienced something neat on Thursday night.

We had our 'travel conference call.'  Meaning, we're far enough along in the process that when our agency had their monthly travel call for families who are approaching travel, we were included!

So there we were with five other couples on an hour-and-a-half long conference call talking over all of what to expect when we travel.

Others with our agency who are gearing up to travel were from Texas, upstate New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington DC.

It was so cool.

It really made it feel real.

Because of the Chinese New Year (I think she said it's January 28th?), our agency won't allow any families to be in China for several weeks in January.  Things virtually shut down there (including government offices, of course) so there's little reason to try to complete an adoption during that time.

So, if we're not ready to travel by January 6th (which we won't be), then we'll definitely travel sometime after February 2nd.

These are real dates!

It really looks like we'll be traveling in February!

That's like 60 days from now!


And...we got a new video the other day of our boy.  Man, oh man.  To think that'll his little body will be in our arms is...well...I don't know.  I'm at a loss.  No words.

Thanks for hanging in there with us!  The time has almost arrived.

modern day drummer boy

Have y'all seen this?

So cool.

Some of the youth today so, so encourage me for tomorrow.

Here's a brief article about this modern day drummer boy.

Who just wanted to play his drum for Jesus.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


My goodness.

This little TJ is our James!

So much hope!

So much promise!

What a gift it was to read this story.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

the rich family in church

I learned of this story recently and read it to our children.  And plan to read it to them a few hundred times over the years to come.


Clearly, this time of year is quite 'materialized.'  The effort on the part of parents to de-materialize Christmas is an uphill battle -- I know it is for us.  The commercials.  The catalogs.  The circulars.  The flyers.  The store windows.

Don't get me wrong.  We haven't gone to the mall yet, but will!  Although I do love to 'get out in it' during the Christmas season and be amongst the hustle and bustle and Christmas shoppers, we don't shop at the mall.  We just get our coffees and hot cocoas and stroll.

This is a great story to drive the point home that the state of our hearts is what's truly important.  And, frankly, my heart isn't always well-ordered.  I struggle.  I want.  I yearn.  I strive.  And then (often times) I come to my senses.

I'd like a heart state like this family had.

It's truly remarkable.

The Rich Family in Church
by Eddie Ogan

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the paster of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.

When we got home we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and we babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three potholders to sell for $1.

We made $20 on potholders.  That month was one of the best of our lives.

Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At nigh,t we'd sit in the dark and talk about how much that poor family would love having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in the church, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked up to the grocery store and got the manager to us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change.

We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.

That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.

We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart and her feet got wet.

But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in  the $10 bill, and each of us put in a $20.

As we walked home from church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 bill, and seventeen $1 bills.

Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whoever got the spoon or fork that night.

We had two knives that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.

That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we  must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn out shoes and felt so ashamed-I didn't even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!

I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way.

Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but needed  money to buy roofs. He $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?" We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week.

Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering.

When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church."

Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100."

We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!

So, I asked a friend recently, 'Is it possible to be poor in America today and not know it?'  I wonder.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

amazing things

Love Without Boundaries is doing some amazing things.

And was recently part of a documentary called 'One Day on Earth.'

The video below is about 9 minutes long, but worth watching.

 I've heard it said before.  

And it's so true.

The nannies are the unsung heroes in these children's lives.

No wonder James is so attached to his.  

She's his mother.  

For now.

Boy, do I have my work cut out for me.  

Some shoes to fill.

But I'm up for the challenge.  

I cannot wait to love on that boy -- for him to receive love from all of us!

Watching this video made me more excited than ever to travel.  To see James' land.  To experience the wonderful Chinese people.  

China gets a bad rap.  Just like America gets a bad rap.  But it's the individual people.  Not all Americans are represented well by Jerry Springer.  Well, not all Chinese are represented well by their government's decisions (like the one child per family regulation).

**We got the second part of our 1-800 approval in the mail!  James' visa is being applied for.  We're hoping to have our travel approval in the next six weeks -- maybe, just maybe?  That means we could be traveling sometime in the first quarter of next year (thanks, Steph!).  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

missing james

Was looking at some old photos of James today and yearning to hear about him again.  We had a little stretch there where we were receiving photos and videos of him frequently.


It's just quiet.

Sometimes, frustratingly quiet.

Don't get me wrong, I'm doing okay.  As are the rest of the Beam Team.

I just want to know how he's doing.

Is he getting stronger?

Is he standing better or still scooting around on the floor?

Is his hair freshly cut or a little on the long side right now?

Is he still okay being separated from his nanny when he goes to preschool?  Or is he struggling being apart from her?

Does he have a clue that it's Christmastime?

To look at his photos -- and into his little eyes -- and know that he doesn't even know we exist makes me sad.

He doesn't even know that we talk about him everyday.  

Every single day.

He doesn't even know that he's already part of our family because he's in our hearts.

This weekend, JD was cleaning out our little attic space and stumbled upon an old 'Tennessee' Christmas tree that his mom had given him years ago.  In true UT fashion, it's a white tree with orange lights, UT ornaments, orange bulbs and a big orange-and-white bow for the top made out of UT ribbon!  It really is fun.  When we were first married we used to put it up in addition to our more traditional tree.  But we haven't pulled it out in the last couple of years.

Well...once Jackson and Brooks learned that it was a Tennessee tree, they were beyond excited at the idea of putting it up in their 'Tennessee bedroom' (this is what they call their bedroom that's trimmed in orange and white and plenty of UT paraphernalia).  JD, being the awesome dad that he is, put up another Christmas tree in this house!  While they were unwrapping the ornaments, Jackson came to me with a bulb that is a picture frame but didn't have a photo in it.

'Momma, we need a photo in here!'

'Okay, what photo do you want to use?  Do you want me to find one that has you and Brooks in it so you both can be on the bulb?'

'No, James.  I want a photo of James in it.'

Huh?  Did his little mind just go straight to James?  He didn't even think of the obvious -- him and Brooks.

'Aww, buddy, that's so sweet.'

So we looked at the various photos and he chose the one he wanted.  I told him it was printing on the printer upstairs and next thing I know I see the back of him as he tore out of the room to go get it!  Then  he's back with scissors and the photo is in the ornament and hanging on the tree in a matter of minutes.


My heart is just pointed to Jesus in every moment like this.  I am just in awe at the way God is moving in all our hearts.  It amazes me to see how we love this little boy that we've never met.

I admit that I'd heard it many, many times from adoptive parents.  They'd say how much they love their adoptive child.  How the love's the same as their biological children if they have any.  I hoped it was true.  I wanted to believe it was true, but I wasn't sure.

I'm sure now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a little clarity

I know how quiet it's been over here.  I've felt bad not posting anything.  But there's not been anything to report.  Ick.

But today I got an email from our agency (WHFC) with a timeline that's for families adopting through the China Special Needs program.  Sure, these timelines are generic, but it's still helpful.

I was rather, a-hem, frustrated with the confusing and very different timelines we were receiving from different social workers and was told at the time that they were going to try to streamline their estimates and better communicate them to their clients.  I believe this is that attempt and I did actually find it helpful.

So here's the nitty gritty of what you really want to know -- and what we really want to know!  Not necessary to go back to the beginning -- just where are we now and what to expect in the coming months.

For clarity sake, we've received our preliminary approval (aka 'letter seeking confirmation'), our I-800 has been filed, so we're in that 3 to 8 weeks stage.


Preliminary Approval/Letter Seeking Confirmation (2‐4 months)
CCCWA will carefully review your entire profile and confirm it is an acceptable match with the child. Then, CCCWA will issue an official document called Letter Seeking Confirmation (LSC) or often referred to as “Preliminary Approval”. This document may take longer to be received if your dossier was recently sent to CCCWA soon before the child match. The original LSC will be sent to your family to sign and return to WHFC.

I800 Approval (3‐8 weeks)
Upon receipt of receiving your signed LSC, WHFC will submit your I800 paperwork to USCIS. Approximately, 3‐8 weeks later USCIS will issue a Provisional Approval of your I800 petition. Please provide WHFC with a copy of your I800 approval immediately upon receipt.

National Visa Center (NVC) Letter (1‐2 weeks)
Soon after receiving the I800 approval, you will receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming your approval cable has been sent to the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China. Please provide WHFC with a copy of your NVC letter immediately upon receipt, as we normally do not get a copy from NVC directly.

File DS‐230 & Obtain Article 5 (1 month)
Upon receipt of the NVC letter, WHFC will file your DS‐230 paperwork with the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China. The DS‐230 paperwork requests the US Consulate to issue and send a document called the Article 5 to CCCWA confirming that your adoption complies with US Immigration Law and the Hague Convention. WHFC does not get confirmation when the Article 5 letter is issued.

CCCWA issues Travel Approval (1‐2 months)
Soon after receipt of the Article 5 letter, CCCWA will issue your Travel Approval. The Travel Approval Document is an official document that is sent to WHFC from CCCWA. This is the last of the 3 approvals needed from CCCWA. It is now time to schedule your travel to China.

Travel to China (1 month later)
Most families travel to China about 1 month after their Travel Approval is issued. Your total trip will be approximately 2 weeks. WHFC will schedule all the in‐country travel arrangements including adoption processing appointments, guides, hotels, in‐country transportation, and sightseeing. You will be responsible for purchasing your international air tickets and obtaining our Chinese Travel Visas. WHFC will provide detailed information about travel during a required Travel Preparation phone meeting and written China Adoption Travel Guide.

Total Estimated Wait Time from Program Application to Referral Acceptance: 1‐12 months

Total Estimated Total Wait from Referral Acceptance to Travel: 6‐10 months


So, for all those who ask when, when, when?  This is a slight answer.  But we still don't know for sure.  I'm still hoping for early next year -- maybe February or March.  And that'll be here before we know it!

Woot!  Woot!

I'm itchin' to do a post soon about the impact that our sweet baby James is having on people all over -- who don't even know us.  It's incredible, y'all.  I mean, move-me-tears incredible.  

This little boy, oh-so-far-away, is touching people's lives.  He has no idea.  If this is the case now, I can't imagine what our experience is going to be like when we are living life with him. 

Praise You, Lord.  :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

want to be notified?

Also, I just added a new feature to this little blog of ours.  If you would like to be notified by email when I do a new post, just enter your email address in the box on the right.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

fill their stockings

If you follow blogs at all, you may notice that blogs are becoming ways to advertise, ways to earn income (for some, but not this 'some'), and avenues for God to do some amazing things.

My reason for this post is nothing more than to possibly help some amazing things happen for children who are near and dear to our hearts...orphans.  And, more specifically, orphans in China.

There are some incredible ministries and organizations that act as His hands and feet in China.  And I just learned of a way to perhaps assist such entities for just $5.  Man, that's about as much as a scone and pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks!  And you could end up with a little something for yourself or for someone else for Christmas.

Check this out.

Fill Their Stockings

Some folks are so creative, aren't they?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

to be educated

In light of our recent decision to start homeschooling, clearly education has taken on a new form for us.  One that, frankly, I love in too many ways to explain here.  But also one that stresses me out because it's pretty counter cultural, so I find myself having to constantly shut out the lie that I'm failing our kids.

However, this encouraged me!  Thank you, Sharon, for sharing this.  I needed to read it today.

God is so good to send these little nuggets of encouragement whenever I need encouragement.

To Be Educated

By Carolyn Caines, Columbia Heights Christian Academy

If I learn my ABC's, can read 600 words per minute, and can write with perfect penmanship, but have not been shown how to communicate with the Designer of all language, I have not been educated.

If I can deliver an eloquent speech and persuade you with my stunning logic, but have not been instructed in God's wisdom, I have not been educated.

If I have read Shakespeare and John Locke and can discuss their writings with keen insight, but have not read the greatest of all books--the Bible--and have no knowledge of its personal importance, I have not been educated.

If I have memorized addition facts, multiplication tables and chemical formulas, but have never been disciplined to hide God's Word in my heart, I have not been educated.

If I can explain the law of gravity and Einstein's theory of relativity, but have never been instructed in the unchangeable laws of the One Who orders our universe, I have not been educated.

If I can classify animals by their family, genus and species, and can write a lengthy scientific paper that wins awards, but have not been introduced to the Maker's purpose for all creation, I have not been educated.

If I can play the piano, the violin, six other instruments, and can write music that moves men to tears, but have not been taught to listen to the Director of the Universe and worship Him, I have not been educated.

If I can run cross-country races, star in basketball and do 100 push-ups without stopping, but have never been shown how to bend my spirit to do God's will, I have not been educated.

If I can identify a Picasso, describe the style of Da Vinci, and even paint a portrait that earns an A+, but have not learned that all harmony and beauty comes from a relationship with God, I have not been educated.

If I graduate with a perfect 4.0 and am accepted at the best university with full scholarship, but have not been guided into a career of God's choosing for me, I have not been educated.

If I become a good citizen, voting at each election and fighting for what is moral and right, but have not been told of the sinfulness of man and his hopelessness without Christ, I have not been educated.

However, if one day, I see the World as God sees it, and come to know Him, Whom to know is life eternal, and glorify God by fulfilling His purpose for me, then , I have been educated. 

I so wish...

...I had something to report.

Oh how I wish there were some great news to share.

Perhaps soon.

Perhaps not.

I may not have any news to report on when we're going to travel, but I can share that I've had some glimpses of James lately.  A photo here and there.  Even in all his pink, little-girl-clothes glory, he is adorable.

Actually, I did get an email recently from the travel coordinator with our agency that was sent to all families who are 'getting ready to travel.'  Should we be excited about that?

I doubt it.

We're just hanging out.

Here are some photos of some of what we've been doing over the last couple of months while we're 'hanging out.'  One of the great blessings during this time is that life is full in the waiting so it makes the waiting bearable.  I'm really grateful for that.

We've been doing some of our most favorite things!

Like going to fall festivals...which we look forward to all year!

Watching homecoming parades.

Ahhh...caramel apple making.  Man, were these ever good!

And fun times to be creative and discover our artistic sides.

And cool little items that become fun ways to get organized.  Or at least try to get organized.

And trying something for the first time!  Like the Tough Mudder.

I find myself wondering often, 'What will James think of this?'  

And we have many conversations around the realization that when we do these things next year, James will be doing them with us.  What an amazing thought!  

He will be ours.  

He will be here.  

Thank you, Lord.

Friday, November 11, 2011

adoption awareness month

November is Adoption Awareness Month.

Here's a beautiful adoption story created by God and Focus on the Family.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

good wisdom

My brother sent this to us.

This adoptive mother makes some great points.

I love her statement: Gradually, we stopped being an adoptive family and just became a family. 

Why I Chose To Stop Preaching Adoption

Posted: 11/7/11 07:44 AM ET

I'm the stranger in the Macy's line who offers to share her extra 20 percent off coupon with you. It comes from a need I have to share my great discoveries with anyone within earshot. For the most part, I think I spread more good than do harm -- with one possible exception: the years I spent convincing the world to adopt older children from abroad.

There are different ways to build a family and we chose to build ours through adoption. My now 14-year-old daughter was 5.5 years old when we brought her home from China and my son, now 11, was 4.5 years old. Beyond that, their stories are theirs to share and you won't be hearing the details of their early years from me. At least not anymore.

I spent the first few years of motherhood using my kids as poster children for older special needs adoptions. I think I, in part, fell into the role because unlike the 15 percent of the population that is adopted but you can't tell by looking at them, it is obvious to all who see us that ours is an adoptive family. This, combined with my natural inclination to share advice with the world, propelled me to become an adoption ambassador -- and I dragged my kids along for the ride. I advocated adoption publicly, showed off my children often, spent hours talking to families who were on the fence and posted in online communities wherever I could to encourage people to do what I'd done.

On more than one occasion, I invited a family struggling with infertility to dinner and let my kids charm their socks off. Oozing adorableness, my daughter would give them a tour of her room, showing off her precious music box . She'd tell them how it came from China "just like me." She'd give hugs freely and I could see our guests melt to her sweet ways. It worked so effectively that we know at least three little girls from China who found their forever families because of my kids. And I certainly have no regrets there.

I saw my role as educator. I could spout the 411 on every country's adoption policies, answer every question, calm fears and address every argument anyone had. I never took offense at the intrusive questions every adoptive family gets. (The most absurd was always: "Are they yours?") But invariably, I would steer the conversation back to where I could determine the motive behind the question. If they weren't sincere potential adopters, I would cut my answer off quickly. If they were, I moved in for the kill.

And then something happened. Gradually, we stopped being an adoptive family and just became a family. Not every school project has to be about adoption or China. When we celebrate Chinese New Years or the Moon Festival, we do it as a family without announcing it to the world. I stopped seeing us as a good idea I needed to share and I allowed my family to become just a family.

I also gave my children the right to their privacy. While becoming a mother to them altered my life in many ways, the bulk of the adjustments fell on their small shoulders. They are the ones who had to move half a world away from everything familiar and everyone they had ever known. With what were the purest intentions, I plead guilty to adding to their load by asking them to show the world how perfect they were, how smooth their transition was, how easy this was - when in fact, of course it wasn't.

So yes, I'm not altogether proud of how I approached this aspect of parenting those first years. But a few months ago I realized how far I've come. At my daughter's Bat Mitzvah ceremony this summer -- where she chose to share a small part of her adoption journey in her speech -- a guest later asked me a question that I used to get all the time: "Why did you go to China to adopt?" In the past, my answer had always been an informed rundown of each country's adoption programs, including what the requirements were to qualify.

This time, I finally knew the real answer: Because China is where my daughter was.

orphan sunday 2011

This past Sunday (November 6th) was what's known as 'Orphan Sunday.'  A day when we try to give a voice to the orphans of the world and make others aware of their very real plight and what each of us can do about it -- and it's not just about adopting them.  Although, we're fans.  ;)

Orphan Sunday 2011 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

I've experienced, heard, watched, and just generally been a part some amazing things this week.  Just thought I'd share.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Throughout my days, I think of so many things I need/want to pray for.  Some are so obvious.  Others, not so much.  If you're the praying kind, I thought I'd post a list of things we could really use your prayer over.  If you're not so sure about prayer or not totally comfortable with it, God will honor it any way you choose to communicate with Him: riding in the car, sitting at a stoplight, during your time on a treadmill, walking your dog, pushing a stroller, riding on a train or plane, or perhaps curled up on your sofa.  You don't even have to speak out loud!  There are no rules.

1.  Pray that God will be near to James -- and us -- as we wait.

2.  Pray that God will give James the images of our faces in his dreams at night.  Let us be divinely familiar to him so he's not terrified of us when we meet.  May his little heart say, 'Oh yes.  Them.  I know them.'

3.  Pray that we're able to slow down, unplug and do the possibly difficult (or possibly wonderful!) withdrawal from things that will be required after he's home.

4.  Pray that there's an instant connection between James and our biological children.

5.  Pray about the idea of taking Payton and Avery with us to get James.  They weren't interested several months ago, but now they are.  Actually, 'interested' isn't really the right word -- 'begging' is more like it.  We don't know if we can swing it, but think a trip like this could be seared on their little hearts for a lifetime -- not in the 'I'm-a-world-traveler' kind of way, but in a 'I'm-on-this-planet-to-serve-God-mightily' kind of way.  Not sure what to do.

6.  Pray, pray, pray that we will have complete and utter peace at God's timing for us to go get James.  Pray for peace as we ride this very real emotional roller coaster.  After getting our preliminary approval and thinking we could travel as soon as two months later, we're now being told 4 to 6 months from now.  I'm in denial and am saying 3 to 4 months.  Perhaps not very helpful?  Ugh.  

7.  Pray for cover for us as we need all the cover we can get.  :)  Still no sign of anxiety or vertigo in sight!  Crazy.

8.  Pray in advance for how much we'll miss our children while we're gone.  JD was gone for two nights this weekend and Brooks said after one night, 'I miss Daddy.'  And they were home with me!  :) I know, Mommy's not very exciting sometimes when you've been with her all week!  

9.  Pray that when James gets home, we'll have wisdom around what doctors to visit and what course of action to take with his medical needs.  And just that we'll juggle well all the doctor's visits with the very real needs of the rest of our family -- including ourselves!

10.  Pray that God will be glorified through every, cotton-pickin' moment of this!  :)

Love and thanks,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

jen hatmaker post

So, this post was sent to me from friends who are 'in process' too.


I consider myself to be to-the-point, but Jen is TO. THE. POINT.

However, I have to say, this is right on the money.  I agree with 99% of what she says.  Perhaps my delivery would be a tad gentler at times, but I appreciate how thoroughly she explains the different stages and challenges of bringing a child home.

It will take you about ten minutes to read it.

But it would mean so much to JD and I if you took the time.  

When we bring James home, we will likely be in one of the most vulnerable, stripped-down, yet glorious places of our lives so far.  It will make all the difference to know that 'our village' gets us during that time -- and even this dreadful time of waiting.  Grrr...we heard Thursday that the wait could still be 4 to 6 months from now!  Lots of different timeframes given by lots of different people.  Grrr again.

Thanks in advance for reading this.  But moreover, thanks for loving us.  Truly.  Thank you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

gotta love it

Two funny stories to tell from the past couple of days.

The reality of James joining our family is becoming greater with each day.  It seems the kids are even living it out in their little consciences.  I could barely keep my composure during these two instances.

I was in our bedroom putting clothes away the other day and Avery, Brooks and Jackson were milling around the house playing.  These three are like triplets.  In fact, people often ask us if they are.  Avery's on the petite side, Brooks and Jackson are tall.  But more than that, these three play.  I mean, I can hear them all day long setting up scenario after scenario after scenario of make-believe.  They play 'Peter Pan' a lot.  So much so that sometimes Brooks is even Peter Pan's dog.

(Whatever floats your awesome-imagination-of-a-child boat!).

They build animals out of Legos and then build them homes with blocks.  They play with Barbies (in fact, they just walked in and the boys asked for 'men Barbies' for Christmas so they can really play Barbies with Avery!).

I digress...

So I'm putting the clothes away and I start hearing the word 'orphanage' in every other sentence.

'Orphanage' this and 'orphanage' that.

Then I hear Brooks exclaim:

'No!  I don't want to be adopted again!'

' always make us be adopted!  We're done being adopted!'

Avery pleads her case.

Now Brooks is full-on yelling, 'A-ver-y!  Nooo!  I don't. want. to. be. adopted. anymore!'

I just love that adoption and what they understand of it has entered their consciousness so much that it's entered their make-believe.  Our hope and dream for our family is that, for our children -- and for us! -- that being an adoptive family will be a new normal for us.  And eventually the new will fall away and it will just be normal.  I think we're on the right track.

Story number two:

So I'm sitting on the couch yesterday morning praying (writing my prayers in a journal).  Brooks wanted to eat a yogurt, so I told him he could do so only if he could sit quietly at the counter so I could finish my prayer time.  (He lasted all of two seconds).  Then he said, 'Momma, I think James is going to grow an arm one day.'

'Really?  Why do you say that?' I asked.

'I just think he will.'

'Hmmm.  Well, because people usually grow arms when they're in their mommy's belly, I don't think James can grow one now.'


'No, I think he will.'

Well, okey-dokey then.  He may be in for a rude awakening, but we'll take it in stride.

If kids don't have the most precious perspective on things, I don't know who does!

You gotta love it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

p and a

Many of you know that 'P' and 'A' are used a lot in our home.

More specifically, 'Sweet P' and 'Little A', in reference to our two sweet girls who are asleep in their beds.

But yesterday, the letters P and A took on new meaning!


We got our Preliminary Approval (PA)!


So cut to the chase, right?

Well...we could travel in one month (ahhhhh!) or two months or three months.  There's no way to know.  In the beginning, we were told that it would be about one to two months between our Preliminary Approval and our Travel Approval (TA) and then travel within a month after receiving our TA.  But we've talked to folks who've adopted from China who say these last stages whizzed by for them.

They too were hung up for a moment and then, boom, boom, boom...they were asked if they could travel in two weeks.  Not saying we'll be traveling two weeks from now, but the idea of traveling by the end of the year is back on the table.


I'm really fine if it's January.  I have come so full-circle to accepting that timeline that, watch, we'll be asked to travel on, say, December 12th.



We're completely along for the ride on this one.

Friday, October 28, 2011

where's that sweet smile?

As much as I love receiving new photos of James, getting ones with his delicious smile beaming wide is definitely my preference.

So these?

Made me a little sad.

Doesn't our boy look a little blue here?

Don't you think he needs a little hug?


My hands are tied.

But, don't you worry, little buddy, pretty soon you'll be getting more hugs than your little self will know what to do with.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

sometimes he shouts

I hear it said all the time:

God's voice is often a soft, subtle whisper.

But the further into the adoption community JD and I go, the more we hear stories like this one.

Sometimes God just shouts.

Love it.

FamilyLife - Moments With You
October 21
Known by Name
The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, ... even Your altars, O LORD 
of hosts.
Psalm 84:3

I heard the story recently of a couple who, by their tenth anniversary, had been unable to conceive 
any children. Those of you who have experienced this heartbreak can readily relate to the frustration 
they felt, the void that remained so senselessly empty in their lives.

On days when they allowed themselves to think about it, they'd ponder what they might name a 
child if they were ever to have one. They had always been able to settle on a boy's name, but they 
both had a different favorite for a girl. The wife liked the name Autumn; the husband preferred 

But still, no child came. Boy or girl. So they went to Plan B and decided to adopt siblings.

You can imagine how they prayed for this opportunity to develop. They asked God to work His 
perfect will, to bind their hearts with just the right children from just the right situation. One day 
the adoption agency called with the news that two sisters--ages three and five--had been relinquished 
by their mother. Though she wasn't a believer herself, the woman had requested that her daughters 
be placed with a Christian family. That had moved this couple's name to the top of the list.

When they asked the social worker to tell them more about the girls, here's what she said: "They're 
both green-eyed blondes. The five-year-old is named Autumn. The three-year-old is named Amanda."

How amazing it is when God mends a broken heart and parts the curtain at times, showing us 
beyond the shadow of a doubt that He hears our prayers and knows our hearts. If you've been 
praying for a similar answer to your need, know that He never loses sight of you, that He knows 
where you are ... that He knows your name.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Now this is my kind of direct sales.

Look, I tried direct sales once.

I thought, 'What a great product!  This is meant for me to sell it!  What fun this will be!  And what a flexible schedule!'

Okay, so it wasn't for me.

I couldn't stand the feeling of 'pressuring ladies' into hosting a show or making a purchase (therefore I never did -- really couldn't have cared less about 'building my business').  Just wasn't for me.


This is the coolest reason to ever to sell a product.  This brilliant company formed out of a desire to help others.  Pure and simple.

And I mean help others.  

All over the world.

I've never known a direct sales company like this.  This was not started as a money-maker.  Read the story.  It's amazing!

And it doesn't hurt that they're stuff is beautiful and well-priced.  Buy something as a Christmas gift (starting with the Whitney earrings!) and help a woman across the globe support herself and her family -- potentially preventing her children from becoming orphans!

So brilliant.  Yet so simple really.

Introducing Noonday.

Monday, October 24, 2011


We have news!

I've been fabricating a post in my mind about what life looks like for us while we wait, but before I got to posting it...


An email?

Late this afternoon from our social worker?

Woot.  Woot.

Our dossier is (a-hem, finally!) done being translated.  Her words were:

I wanted to update you to let you know that we have confirmation that
your dossier is finally out of translation and back at CCCWA. I am not
sure when the Preliminary Approval/Letter Seeking Confirmation will be
issued but I will be sure to keep you posted.

We'll take it!

We're pumped!

It just feels good to have movement.

I do not like the feeling of being stuck.

Not one little bit.

Of course I'll let you know just as soon as we hear anything more!  By the way, JD and I were high-fiving in the kitchen when I got back from driving Avery's carpool, and he quickly said in gest, 'Maybe we'll get our preliminary approval this week!'  Eeek!

Amazingly, my innards now flip-flop at the thought of traveling before the end of year.  Talk about a reversal.  To think that I was pining so painfully to have James here by the start of 2012 and now the idea of traveling in the next eight weeks makes my head spin!  However, I believe to my core that we'll travel when the timing's right -- even if we have two days notice.  Ha!  I say that now, right!?  And, by the grace of God, we have such incredibly supportive and loving friends and family that we could leave on a dime and all would be well in our absence.  That is H.U.G.E.  I can't even tell you.

Love you guys.  ;)

{I'll still try to do a post about how James' family -- grin -- is surviving with his void!}  

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Well, it's been over three weeks since we heard that our dossier was 'stuck in translation.'  We also heard there were 'autumn holidays' in China a week or two ago and that we shouldn't expect any movement during that time.

So, naturally, we inquired about its status this week.

Our well-meaning social worker offered to have a conference call with us.  She thought it might be helpful for us to hear all they're doing to advocate for us.

No need for a conference call.  We just want to know where things stand.

We want to assume our agency is doing everything they can to advocate for us (and for James).

We want to believe that this standstill isn't because of lack of attention and effort on their part.

So we asked...

Is our PA (preliminary approval) on the horizon?


Well, surely our dossier is at least being reviewed now?


Okay.  (sigh)  Then please tell us it's at least done being translated...


So there's been no change whatsoever?


Well, okey-dokey then.

Here we are!

Just a-waitin'!

And if I do say so myself, waiting quite well, I think!  We have peace with God's timing.

It seems that with every day we wait, we grow to love that boy even more.  God's so smart.  :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

i'm a fruitcake

I wasn't sure I would ever publish this post.  I started writing it last week and it's kinda sat here.  Then I got an email from a friend who I'd confided in recently.  She was passing along a blog post she'd come across about a very real, yet difficult to put our fingers on, reality.

Spiritual battles.


It's true.

Despite the movies that Hollywood puts out there depicting evil, not everyone believes in good and evil.  Sure most of us agree that bad things happen.  And sometimes bad things happen to good people.  Actually, very often bad things happen to good people.  But are the movies just 'good entertainment' or is there some truth to it?

I'm a firm believer that we live in a physical world with a very real spiritual element to it.  I can't remember who to give credit to, but I've heard it quoted that we're not physical beings with spiritual natures, but spiritual beings with physical natures.  In other words, we're spiritual first.  Our spirit is who we really are.  Which is a good thing because with what's happening to this body of mine physically (a-hem), at least I can cling to the knowledge that my spirit will exist {unchanged} forever!    

What about the belief that spiritual battles exist?  I never used to give it much thought, but over the years I've grown more and more aware of this very real happening.

There is an enemy.  He wants to harm us.  He is out for no good.  He is evil.

There is a Friend.  He wants what's best for us.  He loves us.  He created us and wants to protect us.

The very character of the enemy is to create pain and suffering.  His mission is to remove all good in the world and eliminate any and all glory that God may receive.   He hates God.  And wants God to be small and he wants himself to be big.

God is BIG.

The enemy is small.

But if we don't keep our armor on, we're in trouble.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.                 

Ephesians 6:12-13

There it is.  This is not a physical struggle.  This is a spiritual struggle.   

Friends, I have been in a spiritual battle of late.  I share this because I want to be transparent here.  I want you to know that I'm human.  I have struggles.  I am someone who falls short.  I'm a mess and always have been!

I've been battling vertigo for the last couple of months.  And then I started experiencing anxiety around very regular, day-to-day activities (grocery shopping, going to church, meeting up with people).  I'd even feel anxious just being at home!  I've never been an anxious person.  I've never had vertigo.  I've had multiple appointments with an ENT, tests and more recently, an MRI.

As you know, our adoption of James is in its final leg.  We have seen God's mighty hand so many times through these months -- not just in our lives, but in the spirit of that sweet little boy I'll get to call my son.

There is no question in my mind that glorious, miraculous, mighty, powerful displays by God are something the enemy would like to cloud.  He does not want, for one second, God to receive the glory He's due for redemption efforts like James'.  He, frankly, would love to foil our plans to adopt James.  Or make me feel like a basket case who's ill-equipped to raise my current four, let alone another child with special needs.

But I know otherwise.

I know that God's Word says that with God anything is possible.  And that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Boy, have I felt his MIGHTY HAND on me over the last week.


In the last two weeks -- just in the last 10 or 14 days! -- I didn't know what was going on with me.  From what others describe, I likely experienced two panic attacks.  Once going to church (shortness of breath, heaviness on my chest and sweaty palms).  Then I almost didn't get through my MRI.  Suffice it to say, I prayed non-stop and sang 'Amazing Grace' off and on for 30 minutes.  I have never been so panic-stricken in my life.

I felt like I was losing it.  I was not Heather.  Period.  I was not myself.  And I didn't know who I was becoming.

Then a dear, sweet friend spoke truth to me.  I told her what had been going on over the last couple of weeks and the horrific experience that was my MRI.  She said she thought I was under spiritual attack.  That with all that God's been doing in my life, in my family's life, it made sense.  I burst into tears.  She and the other friends who were there prayed over me.  And I felt this immediate lightness.  I felt hope.  I felt empowered.  Because I know that once the source of suffering is identified as the enemy, I have the power of God on my side and He would ultimately have the victory.

Starting one week ago today, I have spent time praying and literally on my face on the floor asking God to take this from me.

I found these verses and they spoke to me in my time of need:

 5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
   “God opposes the proud
   but shows favor to the humble.”[a]
 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:5-11

I don't know what else to say, but it. is. gone.


No vertigo.

No dizziness.

No lightheadedness.

No anxieties.

No tightness in my chest.

No shortness of breath.

No sweaty palms.

No mistaking what just occurred in me.

The Holy Spirit intervened.

The enemy retreated because, frankly, it's not much fun to battle against God.

Listen, I know how weird this sounds.  I have been there.  I have been privy to these kinds of conversations over the years and thought, 'That person's a fruitcake.'

Perhaps you won't read this blog ever again, but call me a fruitcake then.  :)


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