Friday, December 28, 2012

Year-End Update

Well, as the year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on what has happened this past year. The beginning of the year started out with a bang. We finished our home study (despite all the “additional” information needed last minute) in the Spring and completed our Dossier/BigFatFile and even submitted our USCIS paperwork for approval by the end of the summer. Even with resubmitting our USCIS paperwork to change our age range from 0-4, we were optimistic that we would be on the wait-list by December.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. On Christmas day, as we were driving to my Grandma’s house, tears slowly started rolling down my cheeks. This is the 3rd Christmas since we decided to adopt. It’s the 2nd Christmas since we actually started the process. I’m praying with everything in me that we don’t go another one without her. But that’s only a piece of our tough times this year.

KC started a new job (hallelujah!! PTL!!), but that created its own series of setbacks. You are only allowed one free update to your home study for USCIS (the immigration department). We used that free update early this fall to change our age range. Now, to update our “financial status”, we have to resubmit our file and pay the fee again. This is not a minimal fee of just a couple hundred dollars. This fee is just shy of $1,000. I found myself sobbing, er crying when we found this out. It’s like that first thousand was just thrown away. When you’re working your tushy off to raise and save $20,000+, that is a B-I-G deal. Luckily, my meltdown only lasted about 20 minutes before I received encouragement from a few different friends directly and indirectly (thank you Desiree, Tia, and Maddi). From each of them, the message was the same: Don’t give up. God is faithful despite our roadblocks. And I know with everything in me that they’re right.

I mean, what a fantastic reason to have to redo our home study: KC has a great, steady job doing something he really enjoys. We will be able to put more to the adoption than we did before! We’ll make it through, we always do.

I’ve talked to our social worker to find out exactly what we need to do. I am ready to get this ball rolling again! Effie’s out there. Waiting. She may not know this, but her journey has already started. She won’t know it until we come get her, but we are fighting tooth and nail to bring her home. I’m not giving up.

{From the ends of the earth, I cry to You for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge… -Psalms 61:2-3}


~Sandia




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My BIG Picture

Some days I need to remember the big picture. Even though some days are harder than others, we still have it a lot better than most.

When times are rough and things get tight, you begin to realize all of the things you can do without. Material things you thought you HAD to have. Silly little items that I don’t need.

It’s moments like last night when my oldest got in trouble for dumping out his entire lunch in the school trash because I made him leftover chicken tacos instead of a PB&J. When we told him there were children all over the world hungry, we realized it’s likely that the village where Effie is would likely be on that list.

We may have chicken tacos multiple nights, or are only able to make potato casserole for holiday meals (because potatoes are cheap and we’re watching every cent); but our rough times (as rough as they are to us) are times of plenty to many in the world.

I may not be working at my dream job (not many do), but I have a good job with a steady income. The van might only heat up the back half 100% of the time and the front 30% of the time, but at least the boys are warm and we have vehicle.

We might not have had the chance to go to the Christmas tree farm like I wanted and cut down our own tree, but we have a beautiful tree we got from the tree farm at the Gator Golf lot. We may not be able to go all out for Christmas for everyone or for our boys, but they will still have something under the tree.

As “tight” as things have been, I’ve never once gone without. I’ve never once wanted for a necessity. God has been incredibly gracious and faithful to our family. Our perspective has changed. Every thought surrounds how it will affect bringing Effie home.

If you were to make a list of the bad things that are going on in your life and then one of the good, I can almost guarantee that the good would be longer. We need to remember the good, the blessings. Even the tiniest things – like being let out on a busy street by a polite driver – can turn your day around. Look at the big picture. There truly are more good things than bad in our lives and in the world. It’s which one you choose to give more attention to that determines how your day will go.

So even though times in adoption-land are slow, I have a daughter. And we – with help from our amazing friends and family – are wokring our hardest to bring her home.


-Sandia





Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming....

THAT is our new family motto. Well, it’s been our mantra since this whole process started, but KC and I have decided to make it official. I’m even going to paint it on a piece of wood or something and hang it in the house! Haha! Just. Keep. Swimming. It’s been perfect for our life the past few years. No matter what happens, good or bad, *singing* just keep swimming.
 
In case you live on Mars OR don’t have kids, that little blip is from Finding Nemo. Watch it if you haven’t. It’s fantastic. That is Dory’s response to anything bad that happens. Your son is kidnapped by weird aliens?! Just keep swimming... We’re in a sunken ship bordered by mines with 3 “vegetarian” sharks?! Just keep swimming… We’ve found ourselves surrounded by thousands of deadly jellyfish?! Just keep swimming… Lost in the Big Blue swimming in circles?! Just keep swimming….

You get it. Dory is always the positive one even though Marlin is constantly thinking the ABSOLUTE worst of every situation. I want to be Dory. Actually, I’m already like her in a few ways. Shiny object anyone? As far as a fictional character goes – she’s just awesome. (Don’t even get me started on Ellen DeGeneres – she was perfect to voice Dory. Seriously. Don’t argue.) No matter what came her way, she just kept on swimming. So that’s what we’re doing. Plugging away.
 
In case you didn’t read about it on Facebook, KC got a job as a recruiter for JB Hunt. *cue crowd cheering* A HUGE deal for our family. He’s been working from home as a trucking recruiter, but things have been slow. This season – has just been slow. This was a BIG blessing from God. In retrospect, it’s almost like this is where we were heading all along. Just the events that have transpired and led up to this point – it was all God. I mean, from KC leaving his job at Benton County, to living on one salary for 6 months, to my brother-in-law Mike offering KC a chance to work from home as a recruiter, an opportunity that gave him almost 2 years of experience – … it had to be God. This is definitely not a job KC would have picked out. He’s been military and law enforcement for, well… ever. The corporate world wasn’t something he ever thought he’d venture in to. But after interviewing with them on Monday and expecting to find out within a week or so if he got the job, they called him first thing the next morning and offered him the position. Yeah, amazing right?
 
As I mentioned in a previous post, it feels like God has had us walking (Isaiah 40:31) through all of this. From the adoption, to work, to life in general, progress has been slow. But now, we can see the end of at least this portion of it. I know we still have many battles to face, but this has definitely renewed our spirits.

So until God puts that last piece into place, we’re going to do just what we’ve been doing – just keep swimming.
 

Here's a little clip from the movie - it'll motivate you  or at least make you smile.   :) 
 

 
-Sandia
     
 
 
 
 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Most Commonly Asked Question....

I would like to preface this post with a warning - this will be long, in depth, and full of facts. So, please stay with me.

Do you want to know what the most common question people ask when they find out we are adopting from Ethiopia is?

........Brace yourselves........




"But she won't be, like HIV+ right?" Then, before we can answer, they continue with some form of the following: "That would be a deal breaker for me." or "I don't know if I could expose my family to that!" or "There's no way - she'd just be sick all the time and likely, you know, die." And I believe there was something else about spending so much to bring her back thrown in with that last one.

I'd like to point out that we've actually heard all of those comments. And you know what? It breaks my heart. Because I at one point, would've have thought those things. I likely would not have spoken them out loud to that person, but I'm sure I would have thought them. Why? Because HIV+/Aids is taboo. We don't talk about it. Please, don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way. But most people think HIV+/Aids and homosexuality go hand in hand.

So no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to learn about it. No one wants to help those who have it - no matter where they live.

One thing about choosing International Adoption is, we have a lot of training and classes we have to take in order to be as prepared as possible for the changes coming our way. And one of those things we learn about are common special needs in the region you're adopting from.

     -Ethiopia has 10-18 percent of it's adult population living with HIV/Aids.
     -There are 650,000 orphans who have lost one or both parents to HIV/Aids.
     -An estimated 67,000 people die every year in Ethiopia due to HIV/Aids

So what exactly is HIV/Aids. Well, first of all, HIV and Aids are not quite the same thing. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. According to the Project Hopeful   website:

-HIV is a virus which needs cells of a living 
organism in order to make copies of itself. 
HIV attacks the cells of the human 
immune system by using its cells to 
reproduce. The HIV virus causes AIDS.

Aids is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.


-AIDS is a diagnosable medical condition. 
A person is diagnosed with AIDS when 
their immune system is weakened by the 
HIV virus to the point where it can no 
longer fight off infection.


So to put it plainly, HIV is a virus. When it goes untreated, it becomes AIDS. How do you treat it? Just like anything else, with medicine. Medicine called ARV's - antiretroviral drugs that you take at the same time every day. Sometimes, only one is required, sometimes a combination of 2 or 3. But that's pretty much it. Daily medication and checkups with a specialists a couple times a year to make sure the virus levels remain low.

Hmm, what else requires daily medication to keep it in check: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, women take birth control daily to prevent pregnancy... That's. It.

Oh, why of course! I'll answer those questions likely buzzing inside your head. Is it contagious, isn't she just going to die prematurely anyway, won't it costs a lot for "upkeep"? To answer these questions simply and straight forward: No to all three. From HIV to Home explains it a lot better than I can.


  • But isn’t HIV contagious? HIV is a very fragile virus, and there are very specific ways that it is transmitted. HIV is only transmitted when the virus enters the bloodstream. This only occurs through sexual contact; through the use of contaminated needles or other sharp instruments, or receiving a transfusion of HIV-infected blood products; and from a mother who is HIV-infected to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, labour and delivery, and breastfeeding. HIV transmission does not occur with normal household contact. It is not transmitted through tears, saliva, mucous or other bodily fluids. It is considered a “communicable” disease – meaning you can’t simply “catch” it. In addition, when an infected person is on treatment, the levels of HIV in the blood are brought so low that they are considered undetectable – meaning the possibility of transmission – even through contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluid – is that much more remote.

  • Aren’t these children going to die after their families bring them home? Many people don’t realize that the prognosis for children on treatment for their HIV is excellent. They are expected to live long, normal lives. In fact, in the west, HIV is now considered a chronic illness rather than the terminal disease it used to be. Sadly, this isn’t the case for those HIV infected children living in resource-poor settings, where 50% of infected and untreated children are not expected to live past the age of two.

  • What if no insurance company will cover my child? Here’s the great news! It is a legal requirement that all adopted children be added to group insurance plans without pre-existing condition clauses in all 50 states! And many states also require that private insurance plans do the same! In addition, all 50 states have funding programs that will assist with the costs of HIV treatment within specified income guidelines.



Pretty interesting eh? I bet you (like I did) thought it was this horrible awful disease. You can't catch it by giving hugs and kisses, sharing a soda at the movie theaters, or snuggling with them when they're home with the flu. And contrary to popular belief, HIV+ children do not get sick more often than those without it.

What about when they get older? What if I adopt a daughter, what happens when she gets married and wants to have kids of her own? Won't it just continue in a vicious cycle? Again, no. As long as a woman stays on her ARV's continually and consistently, mother to child transmission has been virtually eliminated. Meaning, she can have healthy children that are not HIV+.

So what are we so afraid of? A stigma? Ignorance? That was me. When we went through this training, I was amazed at how ignorant I was of all the facts. I never thought to look them up. I had no need to.

But who am I to decide what she has? I understand that there are some people who are unsure about adopting "special needs" children. But let me ask you, if you had children biologically, would you have been given a form with a checklist of needs that you would or would not accept?

Don't get me wrong, KC and I sat there looking at this medical list, and there were some needs we knew we had to say no to. And it broke my heart. But for the most part - we checked WTD on 85%-90%. WTD: Willing to discuss. Because we are - we are willing to discuss them. It's been my experience (with wanting to find out more about a little girl we saw on our agency's wait list), that most of those big words on the list are just that - big words. And we're willing to follow God's leading on this.


With all of that said, it's time to answer the question most commonly asked:
Well, we don't if she will be HIV+ or  not. And even if she were, that's likely something we would not share with the general public. Due to such high public ignorance, I wouldn't blame her if she chose to keep this (or any other medical conditions) to herself.

So for those of you with friends just starting out in the process, please, PLEASE do not ask them such a thoughtless question. Because would she be any less worthy of adoption if she were HIV+? I don't think so, and I'd like to think others would feel the same. Y

                                                                    {Photo courtesy of Project Hopeful}


.....My only hope is in you.
                                                 -Psalm 39:7


-Sandia

  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Worth the Wait

Today I read a blog entry by a fellow adoptive momma entitled “Lessons from my son: Adoption is worth the wait”. I knew what would be in this entry before I even read it (well, most of it since we’re not quite finished yet). It was so funny to read phrases in her post that I’ve used over and over again . Waiting – it’s the common thread with adoptive families. No matter if you’re adopting domestically, internationally, from foster care or from an orphanage – even a momma pregnant in her second trimester with her 1st or 3rd child. We’re all subject to waiting.

But with adoption, it looks a bit different. First we wait are “actively waiting”. A time filled with paperwork, preparation and waiting for more paperwork from our agency, doctors, US government, agency again, Ethiopia, etc. all to just be “wait listed”. In Lauren’s perfect words “we were waiting to wait”. As I’m reading all of this, it kicks in hard. ‘Yish! We still have a looootttt of waiting to do’. But as I read further down about how hard it was in different ways for each step – waiting to be wait listed, waiting for a referral, waiting for that first trip – my heart wrenched when she got to the most difficult one: leaving Ethiopia after trip number 1 without your child and waiting on your final court date. You’d think it was hardest waiting for a referral, or waiting for that first trip after seeing their picture. But I agree with her, I think that wait before the 2nd trip will be the most difficult.

You see, the first trip is filled with joy and excitement, introductions, loads of new sights and sounds… and lots of bonding. But it will end on a somber note as we walk out the doors of the orphanage and make our trip back home – with empty arms. You see, in the eyes of the Ethiopian government, we will officially be Effie’s parents with that first trip. But unfortunately, the US Embassy still needs to perform their part of the process. So we go home to wait for our appointment with the US Embassy. We could be waiting only a few weeks or a few months.

But that’s not what this is about. This is about how excited I got just at looking at their homecoming pictures and realizing, that will be us. I will completely forget everything about how hard this process was when I’m standing there for the second time in the orphanage holding her in my arms. She will be ours by Ethiopian AND American standards. None of it will matter when I’m finally holding this little girl who has captured my heart before I’ve even laid eyes on her. That moment, that is what it all comes down to. And just seeing the sheer excitement in my heart seeing someone else’s homecoming pictures tells me one thing: I will be an utter mess between trip one and trip two. Lol. But after trip two, I’m sure I’ll just be beaming…. <3


-Sandia


Friday, November 2, 2012

Finally Friday!


It's Friday! Praise God because this has been a rough week. But none of that today. Today is a fun-day post! Wednesday was Halloween so I thought I'd share some pictures from our fun.

The boys dressed up as Sam and Frodo from LOTR. Caedmon got to dress up for his schools Book Character Day, so it worked out perfectly since both boys asked to be Hobbits. I love our little geeky family!

Caedmon was Frodo. His costume was made complete with a ring on a chain hanging about his neck. He was so sad when he got home because the cheap chain broke during recess. Luckily I had extras.


Oliver was his trusty BFF Samwise (also the name of our Golden Retriever haha!). His costume was made complete with his kitchenware weapon. We settled for a pot as the skillet was too heavy.



They both had cloaks, the Elven Leaf brooch, and even furry hobbit feet. I even messed up Caeds hair and smeared mud on his face. Hehe. They had a lot of fun and I love that the cloaks can be used again! And a BIG shout out to my Ma for helping me out by sewing up Oliver's. Our community sewing machine (okay, it's really hers but she lets us girls borrow it a lot) was kinda on the fritz. So we did it by hand. Thankfully, we took the easy route and only had to really sew one long line and lots of stiches to keep strings and such in place. So it was fun cheap project. All the supplies and material cost me between 15-20 bucks. Not too shabby!

I decided to dress up for work this year. Another homemade costume. I went as Rosie the Riveter. All I had to buy was 1/4 yard of red and white polka dotted fabric. And wah-lah! Rosie. I had way to much fun with the bright red lipstick. hehehe.


 KC was going to go as Tolkien - just by carrying around his pipe. But in our rush to get out the door, he forgot it. But we had a lot of fun with Halloween this year, as you can see. Not many pictures of Mr. Collins - he's a bit camera shy.  ;)


And now that it's November, that means there's only 20 days until Thanksgiving and turkey and pumpkin pie! And then, on the 23rd day of November, we start decorating for Christmas. This is hands down my favorite time of the year. I can't believe another year has gone by so fast. I bought a stocking for Effie this year. I think it'll be too hard to see her empty stocking holder another year. I don't even want to think about what it will be like if we experience another Christmas without her. But, enough of that. This is a happy, fun, Friday post! And so, I end it with this hilarious video: #$%@ (Stuff) People Say to Transracial Families. It's quite amusing - and a bit sad that we still think this way. But for the most part, maybe it will be an eye opener in a fun way. I know a lot of people are just curious, but I'm sure we can find other ways to ask questions. I know I've been guilty of saying at least one of these things. Lol. Mostly because we were interested in adopting and I didn't quite know how to bring it up - I'm sure I'll think of a better way now that we'll be the ones getting funny looks. 


Also, I've added a few new details to my page. Have fun finding the new little items.  :D 


Happy Friday!!

-Sandia


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sometimes He wants us to walk

I just have to share what spoke to me from a word our pastor gave last Saturday. One I've been mulling over this whole week. This week of roughs and more downs than ups.

{Isaiah 40:31 - But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.}

Trust.

Sometimes God allows us to soar over our problems and our trials. He picks us up and moves us from point A to point B. He allows us to be above our problems, not in the midst of them. (This is the way I'm sure most of us would choose.)

Sometimes, we'll just run straight through our problems. We'll experience them, but we go through the time quickly and come out on the other side still energized and raring to go.

And sometimes….

Sometimes He has us walk through the situation slowly. He could do it the first or second way, but more often than not, it isn't about the outcome, but about the life lessons learned. It's not about the adoption so much as it is what I'm learning. About how I'm growing in Him.

I'm walking through this slowly. I'm experiencing every lesson and every emotion slowly, thoroughly, and deeply. And I'm tired - but I've not fainted. I'm exhausted, but not defeated. Even though the process is going slower than what we hoped. We trust Him. God, Your way is better than mine.

So I continue to pray for renewed hope. In Him. To pray for wisdom. To pray that I have the strength to make it through to the end. Tired and worn out, but undefeated. This time of walking seems so long. But I know that as soon as we begin to crest that wave, we'll realize it went quicker than what we thought. My spirit will find new strength. I will continue to walk. I won't give way.



  
  
  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I'm waiting. But eventually....


{God kept me in the waiting. And while I am waiting, He keeps me.

He holds me back and He holds me close.

He keeps me from running ahead of His plan and His plan is to keep me near to His heart.

It all feels better when I think about Him waiting with me, arms wrapped tightly around me, whispering something in His Father voice about how the wait will be worth it, how He is here, and how He won’t let me go.}


Gosh how this resonated in my heart. He is keeping me waiting. He is holding me close, trying to quell my trembling spirit. The theme of what He is whispering to me this week? Find joy in the now, in this wait. I don't think this devotional could have hit the nail on the head any harder. This, in conjunction with our class on Sunday night has just jolted me into awareness. Rest. Take a step back. Don't allow this to steal your joy. All things easier said than done.

There is absolutely nothing easy about adoption or choosing Him. But oh the rewards. I'm sure by now you're thinking, this all seems to echo the same theme. Well, I'm human. And I forget. A lot. :) He has to remind me constantly. I need those reminders because some weeks, I can't see the forest for all the trees.

I need to appreciate the gift of now, while I'm waiting. My boys…. they're not getting any smaller. Unfortunately it feels like they're mutantly growing in leaps and bounds before my own two eyes. I'm getting so caught up in worrying about waiting, I'm going to miss it. Effie will be a part of our family sooner or later, but I won't get this time back with my boys. I need to wait, hold them close to me while I still can. I won't let them go, but just like I run away from God's loving arms, they'll eventually do the same. They'll come back for a bit, but they're growing boys. Just today, Caedmon kissed my goodbye on the cheek - not on my lips like he's done before.

Time slips away so quickly. And if I'm not careful, I'm going to miss it. I need to take joy in the now. Because we won't be a family of 4 much longer. And if the adoption is any indication of what KC and I feel like our life will be, I need to learn to live in the moment. <3 data-blogger-escaped-br="br">



  

  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'm not sleeping.

No new news yet in regards to the adoption. We're waiting on our new birth certificates and marriage license to get here so we can overnight them to USCIS. Once they receive them, they'll be able to approve our I-600 form. Then, we will be sending that to Little Rock to be state sealed with the rest of our dossier. After that, it'll be headed off to Ethiopia! I'm giving myself lots of time and am praying we get our dossier sent off by the end of the year. Hopefully it won't take another 2 months, but ya never know; especially with our track record. Haha!  ;-) 
  
Well, other than that little adoption related tidbit, I thought I'd share something else I came across last night that got me thinking:

If you are even attempting to be faithful to James 1:27, you will experience weariness, stress, fear, doubt, anger, attacks from the Evil One, and sometimes even bone-deep despondency or despair. There is absolutely no such thing as orphan care and adoption without suffering. Period. If you are involved in caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, or in fostering or adopting a child, you will find yourself in great need of refreshment and renewal many times over.
                        -Together for Adoption website

This was actually refreshing to read. As Christians, we try our hardest to stay positive and upbeat through the good times and the bad. But wouldn't it be so much better if we just admitted that things are "kinda crappy" right now and we could really use some encouragement and uplifting? This isn't just for people going through adoption, but just any tough situation in general. (I know why I try to give a positive spin on everything adoption related: I don’t want to scare anyone away from adopting or fostering. Lol.) Yes, sometimes it's hard, darn near unbearable, but can you even try to imagine the end result? The end result is what keeps me going. This goes for those experiencing adoption, break-ups, divorce, loss… LIFE in general. It's hard, and sometimes it's only His tight grasp that keeps me hanging on. But when I think about the end result, it makes it all worth it.

One day, I'll be holding her in my arms and we'll be a family of 5. One day, we'll be making pancakes and hanging out at home all day on a Saturday. One day, I'll have my little girl. And that day can't get here soon enough.

But until then, I have to push my pride aside and ask for prayer - in everything. We have to have a support system. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are told to encourage and build each other up daily; not once a week, not when things are crazy difficult - but every single day. We've grown so accustomed to thinking that we have to be strong/bear the load ourselves/be independent/pull ourselves out of the muck by our bootstraps/be a man, rub some dirt in it! We don't! As Christ continually encourages and uplifts us, we need to do the same for others.

I've found that on days that I can't do anything but fret, KC is in a great, pumped up mood and it's easy for him to help me out of my slump. And on days that he's sulking, I've found myself in a fantastic mood and can pull him out. But then, there are those rare days when he and I are both in a funk. Those days are no fun. They're rare, but we have them. Those days, we just have to grit our teeth so we don't set each other off. Yet all we'd need to do is ask for a bit of encouragement or prayer.

It's not even pride really. I guess it's almost - shame that we feel. Shame that, as Christ followers, we shouldn't have "off" days. It's silly to think that though. I'm sure Christ had those days. He experienced every human emotion on the spectrum - He felt weariness and despair too. The whole time He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion, He was praying for strength.  In the telling of the story in Luke, it says "An angel appeared from heaven and strengthened Him… He prayed fervently and was in such agony….".

He knew that what He had to do was going to be beyond difficult, and He needed to take the time to pray for confirmation and strength. He needed encouragement from God - and God responded. He sent down an angel. I'm sure had the disciples not been sleeping, they could have offered some words of encouragement. He was "overwhelmed with sorrow" and just wanted the disciples to be with Him, near Him as He prayed for strength. He even told them to watch and pray, and when He caught them sleeping again, they didn't even know what to say.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel shamed because you posted on someone's status or tweet 'Praying for you!' and you never found the time to? I'll be the first to say that I don't pray for others nearly as much as I should. And knowing how much I could use prayer, I should be praying for others every hour! It's not easy to do, we get caught up. But if we just made a conscious effort to look to God for guidance on who to uplift, do you know how big of a blessing that is? Do you know how huge it was to have a few friends from high school message me just to uplift me and send prayers my way? It was GINORMOUS! Seriously, thank you Lydia and Haley. You both deserve a public shout out for obeying God no matter how "cheesy" it might have been.  ;-)   I needed cheesy right at that moment.

S don't decide not to reach out to someone because you're afraid of rejection. They may not respond the way you want them to, but it's likely because they're still in the midst of a huge battle. I challenge you today to find one person to give some encouragement to or pray for. You don't even have to let them know you're praying for them - we're taking baby steps here okay? Any small gesture - sharing your devotional or verse of the day with someone, or maybe a song you heard on the radio that was uplifting - might be a BIG gesture to them.

…………..Just do something for someone to let them know you're not sleeping………….


-Sandia
 
  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Well.... Shootie Patootie.

We received an email from Lifesong today in regards to the adoption gran/loan we applied for. We're sorry to say that due to the high number of applicants and limited amount of financial resources, we were not awarded the grant. This was the larger one we applied for and it could have potentially taken care of a BIG chunk of our remaining fees. So, yes, it (for lack of a better word) sucks. It's not that we had all of our hopes resting on this grant, we were just getting a tad weary and would have been elated to get this because it would mean that this battle was over. As much as it "sucks", we're not brooding about it. Because all that will lead to is bitterness and resentment. And there is no way I'm letting those guys back into my heart.  :)

This just means that God is going about this COMPLETELY differently for us than he has for other families we've known. I don't know how He's going to do it, but He is. We're in this rough patch right now, a dry spell if you will. And it has nothing to do with anything we have done. God is stretching us, pulling us. There can be no growth without some discomfort.

You know, if I hadn't made a decision yesterday to pull myself out of this funk, I don’t know how I would've handled that email today. Actually, yes I do. I would've been having myself a big little pity party right about now. Complete with lots of ice cream and scenes of the wonderful Mr. Darcy. But KC and I promised each other to just move on. Let it go. No talking about it, no dwelling on it, no fuming about it. Because - again - it's out of our hands. So chin up, chest out, and keep trucking on. He has brought us TOO far for us to give up now.

And let me tell you, I'm actually pretty excited about the fact that He is stretching us. It means He is preparing us for something, something grand, something adventurous! So if I have to trudge through the quicksand of the Fire Swamp to come out on the other side, by golly I'm going to do it! I've dreamt of adventure! And here I am, smack dab in the middle of it. Silly me. And you know where this adventure is going to lead me? To a spiritual place of trusting God with my life. To a mental place of being happy with who I am and what I am. To the physical place of AFRICA. C'mon now?! How much more adventure do you need?? Walking hand in hand with God! A path of self-discovery and acceptance! Waking up one morning to foreign sights and smells and sounds. Gosh! Do you feel it? Do you feel the stirring in your own spirit? What grand adventure is He calling you on? And more importantly, are you brave enough to dare it?


  
  
  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blog Layout and USCIS

Yay! It looks all nice like now! Haha! I've updated my blog layout. Now, you can see tabs at the top that say Home, Our Adoption Story, Adoption Timeline, and About Us. I thought it would be easier to have quick access to those stories and tidbits. I'll be sure to update our timeline as soon as anything happens. I also added some new family pictures, and the Popular Posts column. I'm pretty excited about it! I feel all knowledged now that I figured it out. *wink wink*

Anyway, just a quick update about our immigration approval: We received a letter on Friday from USCIS stating that they needed copies of our marriage license and our birth certificates. Um, say what?! See, I'm a bit confused by the letter for "Evidence", because I sent those in along with our I-600 form AND our home study. So, according to the office that only handles the adoption cases, they never made it to them. So somewhere between the Dallas office and the adoption office, they've been lost. Go ahead, I know you wanna go "Say whaaaa?!" too.




So instead of instanly going to the Vital Records website and ordering new forms (costing close to 50 bucks including rush shipping), I called them. They were all pretty nice but not helpful what-so-ever. They had no idea where our certificates were nor did they know who to contact to find out! Needless to say, I was irked.

It just has been a hard battle you know? I mean, not only since we first started this process, but ESPECIALLY the last few weeks. It feels like we're being fought and fought hard. And I've been getting battle weary. I don't want this to scare you away from my blog OR from adopting if you've been thinking about it. But I want to be honest. Yes, it's gotten hard. No, I'm NOT giving up or blaming God.

Today was the turning point. I knew I HAD to do something differently. Otherwise, it'd just be a downward spiral. I then saw this on a blog. It was talking about a little girl who didn't realize that she was already adopted.

 


God is working right now. I don't see it, but I know He is! HE IS! And when I am finally in Africa holding her in my arms, I know I'll see it. And THAT is what keeps me going. I'll be able to see that He has been working on this for a very, very long time - and all the while, I. Had. No. Clue.


-sANdIa
 

 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Come and gone...

Well, our one year mark - September 23rd - has come and gone with little fanfare. I must admit, I'm a little disappointed. I had hoped that we would have received something that would have made it a great day. Granted, we've been in this adoption place since December of 2010, but our paperwork was approved on September 23rd of 2011. So we've passed the one year mark of being in this tedious paper chase and we're coming up on 2 years of accepting the call to adopt. Gosh, has it really been that long? It doesn’t seem like it.

I'm not going to sugar coat it. These last few months, weeks, and especially days have been incredibly rough. Many of you know the situation surrounding my dad - well, he was sentenced in court on Monday. He'll be serving out 20 months (in addition to the 10 he's already served) in federal prison. He'll most likely have his residency revoked and be deported after serving his time. This was one day after our 1 year adoption paperwork-iversary. So to say this week has been rough is a serious understatement. I think this has been the hardest week I've had in a very, very long time.

This week, everything just seemed to grate on my nerves. I tried to put on my happy face and go through the motions. But most everyone could see right through that. I'm clinging to God with everything I've got. No, scratch that, He's clinging to me. Because I don't think I've had the strength to keep holding on.

But KC reminded me of something last night: each time that our situation has become just completely unbearable, He shows up in a big way soon after. So I'm holding tight to that. This week was the pits. I think of the scene in The Holiday when Kate Winslet slaps herself in the face and says "Low point!" and shakes herself out of her despair. Then, a few moments later everything changes for the better. I'm hoping our moment comes soon.

I hate feeling like this and have been in constant prayer this week. I even got "irked" with KC last night just so I could point my anger and frustration to something tangible. So, I tried to pick a fight. Then I realized how utterly ridiculous I was being and had to apologize to KC. He kind of laughed about it, but I felt so horrible. I don't like being upset. I'm not na├»ve, but I like to see the positive in things - I like people telling me that they love that I'm always smiling. This week was just one of those times where I've been overwhelmed with taking 2 steps forward just to get knocked 4 steps back. And instead of remembering everything that God has done for us, I was content to just be …. frazzled.

So while I'm on the upward spiral, I'm still not quite to the top. So prayers would be more than appreciated. I've had so many people rallying behind us, behind me, that I feel awful that I'm still getting out of this muck. But some days, it takes a bit more effort on our part. It is only through God's strength that I'm able to continue traversing this mountain. It will all be worth it. MORE than worth it when we finally see a picture of her. The hard is what makes ALLLLLLLL of this worth it.




Because I will be able to look back and see that it wasn't through me that this happened, but through Him. That on this week, when I couldn't do anything but fret, He was still working for us. I can't see what He sees.

So while I'm in this place of 'bleh', I know He's working on making everything come together for us. Maybe not in the way I'd like or as quickly as I'd like, but in His own way (that is WAY better than my way) and His timing. Why? Because He adores me and hates to see me cry. Because He adores Effie and hates to see her alone.  ©


-Sandia

   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unfortunately, some things just don't work out….

  
You know that feeling you get when you allow yourself to get excited about something? How it's all you can seem to think about no matter how hard you try to change your thoughts? Yeah, it's easy to get that way in Adoption-Land; but sometimes I wonder if it'd be better not to.

You see, there was this little girl that grabbed hold of our attention, of my attention. She was on our agency's Waiting Children list. She stared back at me with beautiful brown eyes. But she was older than what our home study said we would accept. Then last Friday happened and we changed our acceptance age up to 4 years old. She was 3. KC and I talked about her Friday night. And Saturday. And Sunday. And we prayed about her. Looked up everything we could regarding a few of her "conditions". They seemed to be big words for little problems. Sunday we prayed some more and decided that our next best step would be to at least find out more information about her.

Monday I emailed our International Coordinator (IC) and requested more information on her. She replied back quickly with a "I'm so glad you're interested in one of our Waiting Children!!". Waiting children are younger children with "special needs" or children over the age of 5 with or without "special needs". Our IC gave us some more information about her. We prayed more and discussed all our options. KC and I agreed that after getting even more information on her that we would continue to pray and we would only move ahead if we felt peace about it.

Let me interject here and say, we don't want to force something that shouldn't happen. We don't want to be so eager to have a daughter that we charge recklessly ahead. There is a little girl that is meant to be a part of our family - and we have to be patient and trust in that.

After getting more information early this morning (we're choosing to keep a lot of the details to ourselves), we did not feel peace about it. The main thing holding us back was not any of her special needs, but the fact that she was from another African country. God led us to Ethiopia and as of right now, we don't feel like He's changing that. Also, each country has its own set of rules, paperwork, fees, travel times, etc. and that country was a lot different than Ethiopia. As a result, we had to say no. And it. was. HARD. It would have been a lot harder had I poured over her picture day in and day out and convinced myself that this was it.

So what about her? What about this little girl? Well for starters I have a new person to add to my prayer list. After this all happened, I asked God to please give me something for her (and for me). I pulled up my morning devotional and for once, it had nothing to do with what we were going through. Ha-ha. I thought, oh poo. Then, as I got to the bottom there was a paragraph that caught my attention. It had a few verses in it. I saw Luke 12:7 and knew I needed to look it up.




  I love when I read a verse and in my head He's speaking directly to me. He told me He never forgets a single orphan. And not to be afraid because she is more valuable to Him than the sparrows of the air.

So even though it didn't work out, she's being taken care of. Not by me, but by Him. He adores her. I like to think that she's someones already. I pray that a family comes in to adopt her. I pray that they've already begun the process. One positive in this is that she has one more person standing in the gap and praying on her behalf.

And us? We're doing alright. It's never easy when something doesn't work out like you think it should. But KC and I are confident that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. And Effie, she's exactly where she's supposed to be right now. Waiting. That's the common thread of our family no matter how far apart we are. We are just waiting.   ©


-Sandia

 
 
       

Friday, September 14, 2012

Program Update - Wait Times

I checked my inbox this morning and saw an email from our agency with the subject line: Program Update. This is the update we'd been waiting 2 weeks for. This is the update that lets us know what the new wait times are. I ain't gonna sugar coat it for ya - it. was. ugly. The wait times have nearly doubled. Yep, you read that right - doubled. The wait time for a child 0-3 for someone who turned in their dossier in August (that's not even us yet) is up to 31 months. That's close to 3 years. There are over 150 families waiting for a 0-3 year old right now; actually, they're probably waiting for a baby.

KC and I put in our home study and dossier that we would accept a child 0 to 2 1/2 years old. We wanted her to be close to Oliver's age. But Oliver is quickly coming up on 4, so we're rethinking our acceptance age. KC and I never really thought we'd receive a referral for a "baby". We actually were hoping for a toddler, one closer in age to both of the boys.

After reading the update together, KC and I decided to email our social worker to see if we could change our age up to 4 years old. (I'll let you guys know once we receive a reply back on that.) If she's a little older than Oliver, that's okay. We just don't want her to be older than Caedmon. We're praying it won't be hard to change that information. Even if it is - we've not even been submitted to Ethiopia yet, so we're okay with waiting a smdige longer. 

One thing that the update didn't mention this time, was the wait times for those open to "special needs" children. KC and I prayed over that three page medical questionnaire and checked 'yes' or 'WTD' (willing to discuss) on a lot of the conditions. There were some that we knew we just weren't equipped to handle, but a lot of them were ones that God specifically laid on our hearts. Whether or not she has any special needs is up to Him, but we are obeying Him. We're also researching as many of those needs as we can so we are as knowledgeable as we can be. Last time they updated us, the wait time for families open to "special needs" was 11-13 months at the longest. That could have changed as well. They don't have as good of a timeline for special need adoptions, as there are fewer families open to that. So it's a close guesstimate I guess.

Anywhoo! KC and I calmly discussed our where our hearts were, and what our options were. I would love to have a baby girl, but I'm just beyond excited to have a daughter - so I don't care what her age is. I know that I'm in a much closer place with God right now, because this bummer news, didn't actually bum me out. It actually kind of excited KC and I. We realized, maybe this was the nudge we needed to step out of our comfort zone even more! I honestly did not think that was possible! haha! But as we were talking about it, we thought "How great would it be to have them all right around the same age? To do stuff all together and not worry that Effie can't do such-and-such because she's not old enough". So, it was decided.   J

Just a nice tip for you: Don't ever think you're at a place of "safeness" in God's plan.  J  We thought we were pretty much set on ALL of our stuff, then we get thrown another curve ball. But AGAIN, this curve ball has turned out to be a blessing! There are a few girls on our agency's wait list that I just can't get out of my mind. That might be because I'm just praying for a family for them, praying for my daughter and eagerly awaiting her arrival, or…....... who knows what God has up His sleeve? (Like how I'm bein' all sly like?) The absolute best thing KC and I can do is keep praying - praying for continued wisdom, guidance, strength, and grace. Yes, even for grace; because we screw up a lot.  J 

I'm not upset or sad. And that is amazing for me. God is molding me through this adoption. I don't react to disappointment the way I used to. I know now that God can use those "bummer bits of news" that we get and turn it around. We have to always look for the blessing or the positive in a situation. It's always there, we just choose whether or not we see it. It won't always be easy (trust me, I feel 100% entitled to throwing a fit and crying whilst eating 3 pints of Ben & Jerry's Half Baked ice cream in my pj's and playing on Pinterest), but it's so much better than always living in the shadow of the negatives; of almost expecting more bad news. It's only through His grace I've emerged from that trap.

Adoption is full of unknowns, LIFE is full of unknowns. So just take it one day at a time and remember to always choose joy.   ©







-Sandia

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The bad, the good, and the messy

Well, even though we don’t have any big big news, I thought I’d go ahead and update everyone on what’s been happening these last few weeks. First the not-so-great-news.

We had our fingerprinting appointment with USCIS yesterday.  It took a chunk out of our day; also, the people there weren’t very friendly so I forgot to take a picture. Boo.  L  I thought we might get in trouble since we weren’t supposed to have our cell phones in there anyway. But, no matter what the experience, at least it’s done! One more baby step! In doing some research, it looks like it could take about 2 weeks to get our approval! (This was per a lot of Internet research and experience based on our friends here in Arkansas.)

Our agency has our Dossier in Little Rock. They decided not to get it state sealed until we get our Immigration approval. So, I’m really praying that we get that in 2 weeks! So, that was kind-of another boo moment.  L  

We also found out from our agency that due to all the continued slowdowns in Ethiopia, they have decided to officially extend the wait times. They will give us an updated wait time list by Saturday. (Boo again) 

But, despite all of this, I did not have a breakdown. That was huge. Despite all of the “bad” news, all I could do was say “Well, that’s unfortunate” and continue on in my day. But please, don’t mistake this as me not caring. I do care. More than a lot of you can understand. I care deeply. But I also know that adoption is full of ups and downs and entirely full of unknowns. So there is no sense in me getting all upset and curling up in the fetal position wailing about something WAY out of my control. I’m upset. I’m sad. I want her to be home. But I know that right now, in this moment, all I can do is keep on doing what I’m doing: praying, working, taking care of the boys, hanging out with KC, preparing her room, finishing paperwork…. As much as it hurts that she’s not here, all I can do is continue to live our life in the hopes that she’ll be here soon.

Now, don’t think we got ALL bad news.

We FINALLY got a call from Mrs. B at Lifesong for Orphans regarding our grant. She just needed clarification on a few things, and wanted to chat about our adoption. It was not nearly as nerve wracking as I made it out to be. Haha! She was super sweet and it was a nice call. She will be making her recommendation about our file to the Directors in the next few days. Then, we will find out in the next 2-3 weeks if we got it!

It looks like a lot of great things could happen right at our 1 year mark: USCIS approval, grant approval (prayerfully), Dossier state sealed and sent off for translation. So in the face of all the “unfortunately’s”, we are only a few weeks away from being on the wait-list. God has continued to be faithful to us, so I’ll continue to be faithful to Him.


Now, for some fun stuff! We had family pictures taken last Saturday with mi amiga Desiree. And man, did they turn out awesome!! We decided that since we’ve made the boys sit still for nice pictures twice in like 6 months (once was for our dossier), we’d have a fun shoot. I’m obsessed with Pinterest and saw pictures of a paint fight photo shoot. We. Were. Game! And luckily, so was Desiree! (she’s awesome, so if you’re looking for a photographer, check her out at Open Our Eyes Photography or ‘like’ them on Facebook OpenOurEyesPhotography Facebook) The boys LOVED it. They’re already asking when we can do it again. Desiree suggested mud next time. Our response? We take that challenge ma’am!  J

So, without further adieu, a sneak peek of our family fun paint fight!

This was our “angry war faces".

Kissy kissy!

This is one of my favorites. I jumped on KC’s back, so Caed tried to get Ollie to jump on his.  J

The final result.




-Sandia



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Into Wine

{During the miracle where Jesus turned the water into wine, there was a moment where Jesus’ mother told the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Those words grab hold of my heart. Because I realize, for the first time, those are the words that always come just before a miracle. Do whatever He tells you. When we say “I will do” our whole future will change. I will do whatever you tell me. Say those words and watch for water to turn into wine.}

As I’m driving down I-540 on my way to work this morning, I hear Keri from my favorite Christian radio station (KLRC duh) read an excerpt from my favorite blogger/writer/encourager: Holley Gerth. Random tidbit: The daily calendar I have on my desk has Bible verses and quips and quotes of encouragement from her. I love them. They always seem to speak directly to me. And this blog post that Keri read this morning was no different. That little blip above is her blog post condensed: the part that spoke to directly to my dear heart. Don't worry, I’ll add the link for the full post below.

I cried when I heard it because a few weeks ago, He told me to do something that made absolutely NO sense whatsoever - just like I’m sure those servants were a bit befuddled with the instructions given to them. He told me to send off our Dossier and USCIS paperwork. If any of you follow my blog or Facebook, you know about this. We were nowhere near where we need to be financially to finish this second step, still aren't. So I did what any normal woman in charge of finances would do: I. FREAKED. OUT. No really, I did. I picture you sitting there thinking ‘Sandia!? No way? She’s always so cool and composed!’ (That’s totally a joke BTW) But alas, it is true – and it was ugly. I wanted to step off into the unknown with Him. I mean, isn’t that what we’ve been doing the last 2 years??

But this was different – this involved a (in my mind) ridiculous amount of money that we hadn’t saved up yet. KC and I are very practical people – especially when it comes to finances. But He told me ‘Have faith. You don’t see it, but you need to do it’. So I did. And I was stressed to the max for 2 days until my wise old husband gave me the best advice. He told me to not think about the adoption, the finances, and not to do ANYTHING adoption related (research, checking our adoption portal or the waiting child list, etc) for a while. I obeyed because I knew I was getting overwhelmed. I even had to ask for prayer from you all about it. And you know what? It has been great. Not that I don’t pray for her, or still think about it, but I’m not allowing it to consume my entire day. I'm not allowing it to block my vision of His greater plan.

So when Keri read that this morning, I cried; then I laughed while I was crying. I’m not crazy, honest – but it’s because the last few days God has just been revealing to me that He will tell me “secrets about things to come” - Jeremiah 33:3. He’s been preparing my heart continually to just. trust. Him.

Do whatever He tells you
Not “Do whatever you want”
Not “Do what you feel.”
Not “Do what makes you happy.”
Do whatever He tells you.
That’s what invites the impossible into the everyday.
That’s what can alter everything for all of us.
I will do whatever you tell me.
Say those words and watch for water to turn into wine.

So I am. I’m doing what He’s telling me. No matter how crazy. No matter how “out there”. No matter how “outside the box”. No matter how “impossible”. I'm going to do it.

There’s a quote from Audrey Hepburn that I like. KC laughed when I told him about it. (Boys.) You may very well laugh too, but it makes it easier for ME to see. She said “Nothing is impossible; the word itself says ‘I’m possible!” I can’t help but smile reading it. So laugh if you will, but it makes me see the word in a whole new positive light. I can now look at a situation and see it with encouragement: ‘With God, I’m possible’.

Here I am. Saying those words. Watching and waiting for my water to turn into wine. Not just any wine, but the best He has.

Click here for the original Holley Gerth blog post



P.S. We received our state sealed home study in the mail on Monday! It had to be state sealed in Tennessee because that's the state where our agency signed/notarized it. But the rest of our paperwork is in Little Rock being worked on. Please continue to help us pray about this endeavor.