Finally!

After weeks of being at a standstill with the adoption, things are finally moving along again. Our home study was notarized yesterday!  This is what we have been waiting for.  The I-800A is the next step and it usually takes around 6-8 weeks.  A notarized home study must accompany the I-800A application.  So when we heard the home study was ready, Steve hopped in the car, drove to Modesto, picked it up, and went straight to the Fed Ex store.  He mailed off our I-800A application, complete with the notarized home study, and it arrived safely at its destination in Texas at 10:30 this morning.  We are so relieved and thankful to be onto the next step.

Now the countdown begins.  We need this step to take less than 8 weeks in order for our dossier to make it to China before our medical forms expire. The timing is in God’s hands and we will trust Him.  But I’m sure a bit of stress will be involved as the weeks go on.  Right now we are breathing a sigh of relief that the countdown has at last started.  

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A Legacy

For the past few years our family has been so blessed by our friend named Jane.  She was a big fan of our boys.  Each time she saw them, her face lit up.  Before we went to China to get Nathan, she gave us a stack of handmade bibs.  Peter and Nathan loved to pick out which bib they would wear for which meal.  Their heads were kept warm by hats knit with love by Jane.   And last winter they were thrilled to receive pajama pants sewed by their special friend.  

Adoption is both wonderful and very hard all at the same time.  This was something Jane knew well.  She was adopted too, and so she understood.  When we told her that we were adopting another little one, she was so excited.  She got right to work sewing bibs for us to sell for our upcoming craft boutique fundraiser.  She encouraged us in the adoption process in a way that only she could.

A couple of weeks ago, Jane went to Heaven to be with Jesus.  We are so sad to be without her here.  But we continue to be blessed by her.  

The road to our new little Eby has been a tough one with lots of bumps in the road.  A few weeks back we were feeling really discouraged.  I prayed and asked God to encourage us in some way.  We needed it.  That afternoon I got a text from Jane’s daughter.  She and her dad had been talking about Jane’s heart for our little guys.  Jane wanted to see us bring another little one into our family.  So they decided to ask people to give towards our adoption in lieu of flowers.  

I cried, realizing that our friend Jane was continuing to cheer us on, and just when we needed it most.  Jane’s friends and family have given generously to help us bring our little one home.  Her heart for adoption is continuing on through those who loved her.  We thank Jesus for our friend Jane.

Discouraged

Steve and I are planners.  We like lists and schedules.  If there is a job that needs doing, we like to do it in a timely fashion and check it off the list.  So when we began this adoption, we made a list for each of us.  Steve was in charge of scheduling appointments: police department, doctor, traveling notaries, bank, live scans, and so on.  I am the paperwork person.  For each of the boys’ adoptions we have two five inch binders full of paperwork.  Our entire life is basically transferred onto paper.  With our jobs divvied up and lists in hand, we set to work.  We cruised through the mountain of tasks, spent our evenings watching mandatory adoption training videos, and within a month we were done.  Check.  Check.  Check.  And we were feeling pretty good about our efforts.  This was the third time around and we knew what we were doing.  We were quick and efficient and had everything pretty well mapped out.  

Next up was the homestudy, which would be no problem at all.  Our social worker had visited our home many times before.  Peter’s and Nathan’s homestudies and post adoption visits were all done by him.   We would enjoy seeing him and he would get the job done in no time.  And even if it wasn’t super quick, that was alright because everything else was done.   However, we ended up with a new social worker (who is fabulous) and the process took six weeks.  It was longer and different than we had expected, but we were okay with that.  We figured God was working in the timing of the whole thing.  There wasn’t really any hurry anyway.  Our paperwork just needed to make it to China by January 6.  There were three steps more to go, and still plenty of time.    

Then things started to get crazy.  Our adoption agency is based in Virginia and they also had an office in California.  Everything for the adoption is done through the Virginia office, except the homestudy.  The homestudy is conducted here and must be notarized with the credentials of the California branch.  Once our three visits with the new social worker were complete, she wrote the homestudy and it was soon to be notarized and sent to us.  This meant we were just about ready for the I-800A.  This is when we send a packet of paperwork, including the notarized homestudy, to the Department of Homeland Security.  This step usually takes 6-8 weeks, sometimes less, sometimes more.  It was at this point that our agency’s office in California closed with no warning. 

This meant that our homestudy would not be able to be notarized.  We were at a standstill.  Our agency in Virginia worked quickly to find a solution.  They found an agency here in California that was willing to hire our social worker so that we could still use her report.  In order to use the new agency our family had to start the process all over again by applying to the agency, getting new live scans, filling out new forms, doing 7 1/2 hours more training, and having another social worker visit.  

This brings us to today.  We have been working with this new agency for three weeks now and we still do not know when we will have a notarized homestudy in our hands.  Now we really are in a hurry.  The next step, the I-800A, can take up to 8 weeks.  Then we need about 1 week to get all the documents certified and authenticated.  After that, all the paperwork can be sent to China.  With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year in the mix, we are down to the wire.  Taking into account that the I-800A could take the full 8 weeks, we need to have the finished homestudy in our hands at the beginning of next week.  If our documents do not get to China by January 6, we will most likely have to redo our medical forms.  This will mean new blood panels and check-ups for Steve and me, costing almost $3,000 and making the $3,000 we have already paid a waste.  This makes us feel stressed!  


And very discouraged.  

However, we have learned something.  We were feeling pretty confident in our own efforts.  Too confident.  God always wants us to realize that we are not in control.  He is.  Through these circumstances He has humbled us.  We needed it.  We need to be in a place of dependence on Him.  And He has brought us to this place.  The situation is completely out of our hands.  I want so badly to control it.  But I can’t.  We can only remember that God is trustworthy and faithful and do our best to trust Him, to leave it in His hands.  But it is hard.      
   

    
      

A New Eby and a New House

Back in January, I had my tonsils removed.  After back to back episodes of strep throat, it seemed like the thing to do.  Person after person told me how horrible it would be- two weeks of torture recovering.  Who knew it was so different for adults than for kids?  Peter had his tonsils taken out last summer and he was good to go the next day.   All this talk of pain scared me, but I figured two weeks of agony would be better than continuing on with seemingly endless cases of strep throat.  So I went for it.  Not much more needs to be said, but all the stories were true.  It was ridiculously painful and it took forever to recover.  Needless to say, I had many sleepless nights.  And during those long nights, I got to praying.  The middle of the night is a fabulous time to pray when you have a large family.  It is quiet and still and perfect for talking and listening to God.  Now at that point in time we didn’t have any plans to adopt again.  We weren’t closed to the idea, but we were feeling settled and content with life as it was.  But somewhere in the middle of those long quiet moments with God in the night, He began to put another little one in my heart.  I began to pray for this little one, all the while feeling a bit crazy and wondering if I was just sleep deprived.  I told no one.  They would think I was crazy!  But God was stirring my heart.

A number of months later, in May, I mentioned the idea to Steve.  He wasn’t particularly feeling it, but he was happy to pray about it.  Then God began to work.  Gently and quietly He readied each of our hearts to follow Him into the unknown once again.  However, in June, when our whole family was on board and ready to take action, I began to worry.  This would really push us over the top.  We would need a bigger vehicle.  The minivan would no longer suffice.  Steve would want a passenger van and how embarrassing is that?!  But more than this, I was wondering how I would handle being a bit more smooshed in our house.  I felt selfish even thinking such a thing.  So very many people live in much smaller spaces than us, and God had given us a beautiful home.  But I felt crowded.  We loved our house and never planned on moving.  I had always wanted a house just like the one we had.  But adding another person made me wonder how my sanity would hold up.  I told God that I would love to be able to add as many children to our family as He wanted and not feel limited by the size of our house.  I was feeling a just a tad nervous, but even so, we were ready to follow Him wherever He would lead.

A couple days later I told my mom that we were thinking of adopting again.  She lit up and said that in the days just before, she had been thinking that we should swap houses.  She wasn’t going to tell anyone because she thought it was kind of crazy.  She and my dad had never planned on moving either.   But their house was perfect for us and ours was perfect for them.  So we spent the summer packing and moving both houses and beginning the journey to our new little one.

God has blessed us more than we could ever ask or imagine, and we are humbled.  We have been given a new little Eby to love (even though we don’t know who it is just yet) and on top of that, a new house to spread out in.  We are thankful and super excited too!

Celebrating Nathan’s Gotcha Day in our new house.  Can’t wait to have another Gotcha Day to celebrate!

Jiang Qing Chu!!!!!

86 days. A little over 12 weeks. That is how long we just waited for our RA (referral acceptance). After we were matched with Nathan back in March, we began the unpredictable wait for the infamous “RA”. The RA is China’s acceptance of our match with little Nathan, and it can take anywhere from 1-4 months. When we began the wait in March we were told that people were currently waiting about 5-9 weeks, with the average being 7 weeks. That didn’t seem that bad. We did know that there were the outliers, the families who had to wait a whole 16 weeks, but that surely wouldn’t be us. We were sure that we would fall among the ranks of the “average” families. Never have we so intensely desired to be average.

Once we entered into the average 5-9 week zone, we began to jump a bit every time the phone rang. Could it be “the call”? But 5 weeks was on the early end. So we held ourselves together, knowing that the very average 7 weeks would surely be the time. But 7 weeks came and went and nothing happened. After the 9 week mark passed us by, we had had it. Enough of the waiting! And about that time, we learned that little Nathan had endured a surgery on his cleft lip which had not been successful. We longed to hold him and comfort him and know how he was doing, but there is no hope of any information or update until the arrival of the delayed RA. Ahhhhhh!

So waiting is what we did, and we finally got the call last Friday while we were camping. We never use our phones while we’re camping. But the destination of this camping trip was based solely on the fact that there was good cell coverage and it was close to home. At 8:45 in the morning the phone rang, and it was the news of our RA. If they weren’t already, all of our neighboring campers were wide awake after that phone call. We immediately hopped in the car and drove home to print the RA, sign it, add it to our I800 package, and send it off to Homeland Security in Texas. Then, feeling like a huge weight had been lifted, we went back to camping!

And now, we can tell you all about Nathan! :). Prior to receiving the RA, we are not supposed to share any pictures on our blog, and not too many details either. But now we can share up a storm! So here he is!

JIANG QING CHU
Born February 7, 2013 (he shares Mary’s birthday)
Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China

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We can’t wait to hold this little guy in our arms!

A Night Season

“Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.”

This is part of the second verse of “God Leads Us Along”. It’s been one of my favorite hymns since college, and I sing it to Peter each night before bed. The last couple of weeks have been rough. Really rough. And I’ve experienced the truth of these words in a deeper way, a way that can only be realized from the valley.

Adoption is amazing and wonderful, but it is hard. There are so many thoughts and questions that are unique to adoption. When each of my girls was growing inside of me, things were clear. The child growing inside of me belonged to me. She was my baby. I would keep her and love her, regardless of gender or health or anything else. For better or worse, she was my child. And that was that. With adoption, things aren’t so clear. You choose your child. You decide what kind of child you would like. There’s a list and you fill it out. You check “boy” or “girl” or “either”. You check off a particular age. The hardest part is deciding which types of special needs you will accept. Again, there’s a list, and you just check things off. The idea of choosing- it’s difficult.

Well, we checked things off the list, filled things out, made some hard decisions, and submitted our paperwork, because that’s just how it works. After four and a half months of jumping through the proper hoops (doctor’s appointments, fingerprints, home study visits, notary signatures, financial documents, homeland security approval, etc.) our dossier is now complete. It was sent off to China on February 28. Here is a picture of Steve with our dossier right before putting it in the mail.

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While we were in the final steps of completing our dossier, I came across the sweetest little fellow. His picture was on the Waiting Child List with our adoption agency (AWAA). Every month AWAA receives new files for children who can be adopted. They match these children with families based on what the families have marked and checked off on their lists. If there are children who can’t be matched with a family, they post their pictures and some information about them on the Waiting Child List. Steve and I had agreed that we wanted to let AWAA match us with a child, rather than attempting to find one on a list. That’s the way it happened with Peter and that’s the way we wanted to do it again. Every once in a while though, I would look at the list just out of curiosity. And that’s how I found little Mark. He is 13 months old and has an unrepaired cleft lip and palate. He seemed pretty perfect to me. Steve promptly scolded me for looking at the list and warned me not to get attached. Our dossier wasn’t yet complete and we couldn’t request his file until the dossier was on its way to China. Steve didn’t want me to get my hopes up. I assured him that I wouldn’t get attached. I only wanted the child that God had for our family. So if it wasn’t Mark, it would be no problem. That’s what I truly felt.

But… Steve is always right. 🙂 My heart got just a bit involved and before long, I was attached. I didn’t know if he was the child God had for our family, but I hoped. I thought he must surely be, since I loved him so. After our dossier was sent off, Steve called AWAA and requested Mark’s file. They emailed it to us and we sent it to three different doctors for review. The file looked normal, but it’s part of the process to have it checked by at least one doctor. One by one, each of the doctors’ assessments came in, and each one was the same. They were all concerned that there could be a more serious special need not listed in the file, but evident in his pictures. In order to determine whether or not this need exists, there would have to be a panel of tests and such which are not available to an orphan in China. After talking with our family coordinator at AWAA, we were faced with the reality that there isn’t any way to obtain reliable answers. There is no way to find out whether or not little Mark has this more significant special need or not.

Steve and I prayed and prayed. We didn’t feel the peace that God was leading us to continue down this road with Mark. Steve struggled but felt sure that it was the right thing to return Mark’s file. He’s so steady. I agreed and didn’t feel God was leading us to continue on. But I didn’t feel peaceful like Steve. I felt horrible. I was devastated. And full of so many questions. Why did God fill me with such love for a little boy who we weren’t meant to adopt? If Mark were growing in my womb and we received the same news about him that we had just now received, there wouldn’t be any questions about whether or not his physical need was too big. We would love him and care for him and never question it. We wouldn’t question whether or not it was a good decision for our family to have a child with a large special need. But we question it now. Why??? Why don’t we just say that we’ll take any child, with any need, of any age- any child God gives us? That’s how it is when you are pregnant with a child. You get the child God gives to you, special need or not. Is our decision a lack of faith on our part? Is it selfishness? What if Mark is totally fine and there actually is no serious need? And my biggest question and fear- what if sweet little Mark never knows the love of a family? What if no one chooses him? The thought of that is too much for me.

I felt like there was a heavy weight on me and it was really hard to carry on. I cried every day for quite a while. I kept thinking of his sweet face. There were moments when I felt peaceful, but I felt so sad. So sad for Mark and for all the children who don’t have a family. However, through all the sadness and questions, God’s hand on me. He was there the whole time, quietly showing me that He has everything in His hands. I can let it all go and trust Him to take care of it. He loves Mark and sees him right now where he is. I don’t know whether or not he will be adopted- I probably won’t ever know. But God does, and I can leave it in His hands. When I rested in these truths and gave Mark to Him, I felt peaceful. But then I would take it back and start all over again with the questions. And I constantly felt sad. I’m an optimist- a glass is half full kind of person. So I kept waking up in the morning, hoping I would be finished with all this sadness (and especially with the tears). But to no avail. I was just struggling along.

Then last Thursday when I was praying, things changed. I was praying for Mark just like I have been since I first saw him, and I didn’t hurt so much. And when I prayed for Nathan (that’s the name we’ve chosen for whoever we adopt), I felt ready for him. Up to that point, I had been feeling very unsure about whether or not I was ready for a referral. After returning Mark’s file, we were put back in the line-up to be matched with a child. When AWAA gets new files and matches them with families, it’s called a referral. The referral call is when your family coordinator calls you and then emails you the file of the child they believe matches your family. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready for that. But that day I felt like I might be. To finally see the face of our little guy sounded pretty okay with me. In the next couple of days I realized the weight and the sadness were gone. God answered my prayers. I am so thankful.

I still love Mark and long for him to be adopted and loved. But I am at peace with God’s direction and guidance, leading us down a different path. Adoption and childbirth are two different things, but I was thinking of them as though they were the same. They’re not. In pregnancy, a child is born. There is no choice about the kind of child that will join a family. On the contrary, adoption is the choosing of a particular child. In choosing one child, you’re not choosing countless others. That concept has been so hard for me, especially when viewing it through the same lens as childbirth. God does give us a choice in adoption, but He also gives us the wisdom and grace to make that choice. There are millions of children who need a family, some with no needs, some with minor needs, and some with major needs. Families are needed for all of them. Steve and I both want God’s will for our family and God’s will for Mark. I was worried that maybe we weren’t really willing, deep down, to follow God into the unknown that would come with adopting Mark. I was worried that we were lacking in faith. But God knows Mark intimately and He knows our family. He also knows countless things that we don’t. And there is no denying that He did not give us the peace to continue. He was actually leading us in a different direction. We prayed for Him to change our hearts if they weren’t right and to teach us anything He wanted us to learn. But each time I prayed, I felt God telling me that He has a plan for Mark and a different plan for our family, having nothing to do with our faith or lack thereof. He was asking me to trust Him. Nothing more.

I don’t know why God filled me with such a love for the little guy. I may never know. But that’s okay. I give up. And I’m choosing to focus on what I do know. I know that God loves Mark. I know that He sees him right where right he is. I know He is sovereign and good. He is in control. And that’s enough. That’s all I need to know. So I will continue to pray for little Mark, and I would be thankful if you would too. While I’m doing that, I am preparing my heart for our Nathan. I can’t wait to see his face.

“Some thru the waters, some thru the flood,
Some thru the fire, but all thru the blood;
Some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.”

We’re Still Here!

As you can tell from the lack of writing on this blog, I still have a long way to go in the land of the internetters.  I want to put a new picture (with Peter in it) at the top of the blog and I want to make a new timeline on the side,  but I don’t know how and well, it just overwhelms me to think about it.  I would rather knit or bake cookies, or anything else.  So consequently, I’ve done nothing with the blog.  But I am knitting a really fun hat.  Today I decided to tackle the blog and I’ve just spent the last hour trying to figure out the timeline and header and such.  But guess what.  I still have no idea how to do it.  So I decided to just leave it and write a new post.

We are super excited about the new little person who is going to join our family.  Most likely, we will be adopting a boy and his name is going to be Nathan.  We really like to have a name and use it.  So when we refer to Nathan, that’s our new little guy.  And as for adoption progress, we’re moving right along at what feels like a snail’s pace.  We’re done with our physicals, TB tests, police checks, live scan fingerprints, financial checks, reference letters, home study and so on.  We just sent off our I800A (Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) to Homeland Security in Texas.  At this point in time, it is typically taking around 3 months to receive I800A approval, and that’s after another round of live scan fingerprints.  We will have a conference call with our adoption agency on Monday, and after that call we will be able to be considered when the agency matches children with families.  However, it is rare for a family to be matched with a child before their dossier is sent to China.  Our dossier will be sent in just as soon as we get our I800A approval (around the beginning of April most likely).

In the meantime, we loved celebrating Christmas with Peter this year!  Last year, we were so close to going to get him, but yet so far.  We were feeling awfully lonely for him at Christmas.  So it was fabulous to have him here with us this year!  We were so thankful to be together.

Getting our Christmas tree

Getting our Christmas tree