Tuesday, December 30, 2014

An Update from China and Glimpses of Love

Yesterday we received our final update about Hannah.  In that update we found out about an accidental injury involving Hannah's index finger.  While we were so sad to hear this news, it allowed us to communicate directly with the orphanage and foster parents to ask some questions in follow up to that piece of information.

Chris and I talked and came up with a list of questions, to ensure Hannah was getting the best medical care possible (we are not talking about a small scrape here....I did not share the photo, but this is a pretty significant wound).  We got the answers to those questions today!

Hannah is receiving outstanding care and all the things we would have wanted to happen here, are happening there.  God is loving our girl and protecting her!  They were not able to do stitches due to the nature of the injury, but it is being kept wrapped well with a special ointment on it.  Her foster parents take her to the hospital every other day for the doctor to change the dressing and ointment.  The nail has fallen off, but the doctor feels confident that it will grow back in with time.  She was given antibiotics at the time and for a few days afterward.  They are now monitoring her for a fever and if there is any sign of infection, they will start the antibiotics again.  She was also given an updated tetanus shot at the time of the incident.  All wonderful news!

When we got the news, there was a word or two from the foster parents included.  They were apologizing to us for being negligent and letting this happen to her.  They were very concerned we would be upset by it.  Since we got to communicate with China about the incident, we also got to send a message to the foster parents (what a rare gift!).  We could tell from the first message from them that they care a great deal for Hannah.  We were able to send a note telling them we were not angry at all and that we were so thankful they responded quickly to get her medical care right away and that they were with her for us through the ordeal.  We are grateful for the care they are providing. 

Well, that message was relayed to them and they responded back.  They said they were thankful for our understanding, but that they continued to feel so bad about it.  They look at Hannah as their own baby and feel so painful about her finger and they hope it will be better soon.  Y'all these people love our daughter.  I cannot tell you what this glimpse of their love for her does for my heart.  While the waiting is hard for us, it helps me to realize that while I wait, they are counting down precious last days with her.  This is going to be so hard for them.  What a blessing.  They love her.  This shows me all the more that Gotcha Day is going to be a glorious mess of brokenness and heartbreak for so many people and on so many levels.  These foster parents are giving up a child they view as their own.  She has been with them since October of 2013.  Would you join me in praying for them?  I know their hearts are going to ache with so much emptiness.  My heart is aching for Hannah now, but I get to go get her, and keep her...forever.  They will likely never see her again.  I can't imagine.  If they seem to love her as much as they do, Hannah is going to grieve over them, as well.  I cannot be them.  I cannot replace them.  So much brokenness.  It weighs heavy on my heart.

This brings me to some new prayer requests:
  • Pray for Hannah's foster parents--to prepare them to say good-bye and make some special memories with her in these last days and weeks.
  • Pray for us to have the opportunity to meet her foster parents.  This is not a guarantee, but does occasionally happen.  I want very badly to meet them.
  • If it is at all possible, I would love for God to pave a way for us to remain in contact with them--sending photos or updates.  I do not know if this is even possible or permitted, but I will be bold and pray for it.
  • Pray for Hannah's heart.  It is going to be hard for her to leave them.
We are getting so, SO close.  There are several families that got their LOA the same day we did that got their TA and CA yesterday and today.  They are leaving next week!  We got a little delayed in processing, but we are right behind them!  Our Article 5 should be picked up from the consulate this week or Monday at the latest and then we will be waiting for TA.  TA time frames vary...anything from several days to a couple weeks.  Once we get TA, things are going to move very quickly.  I guess that means I need to get to work on my "to do" list and get some shopping accomplished!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Big Day!

Today was a very, very big day!  We started it off with a call this morning from our social worker notifying us that she had received our final update on Hannah.  Yay!  We got new pictures, measurements, and a video!  Hannah has grown some in the last six months, but not a lot.... only gained 0.7kg, grew 3cm in height, and added two new teeth.  She did not change in foot size, head, or chest measurements.  This means that likely my clothing I have out for her should fit.  We're planning on about size 12 months with a few 18 month items thrown in for just in case.  She continues to look happy and well loved.  I am thrilled to see her "playing" with a cell phone in the latest photos--so many of these kids aren't even really exposed to toys or know how to play.  I also love that she is playing outside.

As an added bonus we got new video footage!  All 27 seconds of it! 

We also found out some sad news.  On December 21st, Hannah was climbing on a folding chair to watch TV (she was alone).  Somehow she got her index finger caught in the folding mechanism of the chair and injured her finger significantly.  The fingernail has fallen off completely and she had to go to the hospital for treatment.  They did x-ray the finger and the bone is fine, but there is significant damage to the tissue.  I will spare you the gory photograph they sent us of it.  The email indicated the foster parents were very sad this happened and apologized to us a great deal for "their negligence."  It sounds like she has some very loving foster parents and we are so thankful they were there for her and got her treatment immediately for this!  I will be in contact with our international adoption clinic here and see if there is anything we should do further.  We know it is currently kept wrapped up, but we do not know the extent of treatment beyond the x-rays.  It is always sad when a little one gets a boo boo.  I wish we could have been there to love on her through it!

So that made for an exciting morning!

Chris has spent the better part of the day assembling a dresser for the girls' bedroom and I have finally moved all of Joshua's clothes into the closet and dresser in the room he shares with Jacob now!  I got to hang all of Hannah's clothes in the closet and will tuck away sweet PJ's and such once the dresser is complete.  Chris is humming a tune about us nesting.  It is nice to nest!

Then, to add to the excitement, we were notified today that we have been chosen to receive a grant from Lifesong for Orphans!  It is a matching grant, so they will match, dollar for dollar, what is given to us up to $3,000.  This is a tremendous blessing!  We cannot believe we were chosen!

So, without further delay, I will get to all that you are waiting for.  Hannah!

Goodness, I love this girl so much already.  This waiting business is really getting old!  Simply cannot wait to hold her!

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Today I was reflecting on all God is doing and has done for us throughout this adoption.  All of it is so clearly His hand on this, making provision each and every step of the way.  We've faced challenges and bumps in the road, but always, His presence has been very clear through it all.  I heard this song on the radio today and it so perfectly sums up how I feel:

Overwhelmed-by Big Daddy Weave

I see the work of Your Hands
Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice
All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross
Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God

All that You’ve done is so overwhelming
I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful
Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful
You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful
Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful
You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious
Oh God, there is no one more Glorious
You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious 
I find myself doubting, wondering, and worrying often at this point in the process, and then I remember Him.  He is in this with us.  He has ordained all of it.  He won't desert us now!
Praise God for all He has done to get us so far.  We are sooooooooooo close to having our adoption fully funded.  We are soooooooooooo close to holding our daughter in our arms.  It is overwhelming.  HE is overwhelming and we want always to praise Him for what He has done for us!  Praise God for getting us here.
Oh, and P.S.
Our Article 5 dropped today  at the US Consulate in China.  In approximately two weeks it will be picked up and we will be waiting on TA.  The best part of the Article 5 process?  At some point in the next two weeks we should get an update on our precious girl including final measurements and a couple more photos.  Would you pray that update comes soon?  This mama's heart is so desperate to "see" her Hannah again it almost physically hurts.  I simply CAN NOT WAIT!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Dear Hannah,
It becomes more real with each passing day.  You are going to be ours.  You are coming home.  There is a bed with blankets and pillows on it, chosen specifically for you.  Your great grandmama crocheted a blanket for you.  Your grandpa built you a bunk bed to share with your sister.  Grace picked out a stuffed panda bear for you to have.  There are stacks of beautiful clothes sitting in mommy's room waiting for you to wear.  You are really coming.  Soon.

Today Baba and I submitted the very last document we needed to submit in order to come get you.  Now we are just waiting to hear when we can come get you!  While I feel like I ought to be really rejoicing over that, I'm not.  I feel very sad and my heart hurts. How is that possible?  We've come so far and we've done so much and we rejoice at being so close to coming for you, but yet, my heart is so heavy.

My heart is heavy, dear Hannah, because I cannot stop thinking about the profound loss you are about to experience.  What will be one of the most anticipated and momentous days of our lives will be likely one the most emotional and traumatizing experiences of your life.  I want you to know, sweet daughter, that your loss and pain will not be lost on me.  I may be giddy with excitement at times, but I experience deep, gut wrenching pain when I think of the brokenness you are about to face and walk through.  I wish I could walk through it for you.  I can't walk through it for you, but I can walk through it with you.  You will not face the emptiness, brokenness, fear, or trauma alone.  I cry with you and for you already and I will cry with you and for you on that day when we finally meet.  I wish you didn't have to feel the pain of loss, but I am so thankful God ordained me to be the mama to wipe your tears.

I am praying for you, baby girl.  Soak in those snuggles from your foster mama in these last days.  Memorize the sights and sounds.  Taste the tastes and smell the smells.  Soon, all of that will change.  You will not understand and you will not know the end of the story, so it is going to be very scary, but if you will allow us to earn your trust, we hope to show you there is nothing that compares to the true, deep, always and forever love that a mama and baba can give.

Oh dear girl, your loss is not lost on me. 

We love you so deeply and profoundly already,


Done.  We are done.  Done, done, done, done.  I'm just trying out that word.  I like the way it sounds.  Done!

Late last night the computer system at the National Visa Center finally updated and showed our daughter's pretty little Chinese name, all listed in the correct order!  I was able to log in and complete her DS260 (visa application).  I sent confirmation of that to our social worker late last night.

This morning, I had an e-mail from Mary (I adore Mary at the NVC now!).  Our adoption letter was complete and had been cabled to the consulate in Guangzhou.  I forwarded this document to our social worker this morning.

What does this mean?  Our Article 5 is now complete and will be dropped off.  I am praying it will be dropped off tomorrow, but we may miss that drop.  If so, it will be dropped off Monday at the latest.

Now what?  We wait.  Again.  The Article 5 process generally takes two weeks, so in two weeks it will be picked up from the consulate and sent to Beijing.  Once in Beijing, we will just be waiting for the officials to grant us Travel Approval and we'll grab the earliest available Consulate Appointment.  Then we GO!

We do still have some minor pieces of paperwork to complete that are adoption related (some training to finish up and a travel form to fill out), but, all "official" paperwork related to bringing Hannah home is DONE on our end.  Our next round of official adoption related paperwork will occur with Hannah in our arms!

Done, done, done-itty, done.  Yup.  I still like the way it sounds.  DONE!

What's in a Name?

The last week has been one full of trials and challenges.  On Thursday, we received our long awaited GUZ# from the National Visa Center.  We could now complete the DS260(visa application) online.  Right?  Wrong.  Immediately upon opening the e-mail containing our GUZ# I realized that our daughter's name was not listed correctly.  After getting in touch with our agency about it, we quickly realized that what I thought would be a non-issue was about to become a really important, all consuming problem.

We began by making some simple telephone calls to the visa center.  The NVC is open until midnight each night and our work on this issue started very late into the night on Thursday.  I spoke to someone, got no where, and was transferred to a supervisor.  It really seemed like such a simple thing to fix.  All her names were there, spelled correctly, but listed in the wrong order.  After my conversation on Thursday night I really thought the matter was corrected and awaited an e-mail confirming the resolution from that supervisor.

On Friday, no e-mail came, so we began calling again to inquire.  Calling isn't a simple process.  It is an automated system, you speak to someone new each time you call in, and you wait on hold a really, really long time (we're talking hold times up to an hour at a time), there is not a voice mail system, and if you want to talk to a supervisor and none are available at the moment you call, you cannot go back on hold.  You have to hang up and start the whole process over again.  At this point it was late at night and my emotions were running very high.  We'd made several calls and no one was helping us, no one was calling us back as they said they would, no supervisors were available, we were told things like "Oh, just fix it when you get to China" and "well, this is your problem" and "you are welcome to call back and inquire again for a supervisor to help you."  Honestly, things got rather rude on both ends of the telephone.  I completely lost my self control on someone Friday night, for which I am completely repentant.  If I knew his name I would call back and apologize.  Late Friday night we pulled our agency into the situation and requested support.  They were very quick to jump right into the deep end and get their hands dirty in this mess right alongside us.  The director of the China program actually stayed up until midnight on Friday night with us, making calls.  We always really respected and liked our agency, but this past week really brought them up another level for us.  While she wasn't able to get through on Friday night for us, just knowing we weren't calling alone made a world of difference for us!  Still no resolution on Friday.

The NVC isn't open on the weekend so we had all day Saturday and Sunday to chew on it and gather up any additional thoughts and information we think might help us to get this situation resolved quickly.  I am determined to have it resolved by Monday.

Monday morning and I went to work trying to call immediately at 7AM when they opened.  Our social worker along with the China director also were in touch with me.  By 8:30AM I was completely unable to get through....busy signals constantly.  I couldn't even be put on hold!  I contacted our agency and asked for help.  I needed to teach school and have three kids here who needed my attention.  I simply couldn't fight the NVC battle all day long.  They jumped right in and started calling.  Our social worker was able to get through around 10:30 in the morning.  She was advised that all name corrections had to be submitted via e-mail.  Interesting.  No one had told us that yet.  She was given a different email address than what I'd used to get our GUZ#, so we tried it.  And waited.  And waited.  We are still waiting to get a reply from the address that we sent that inquiry to.  Late in the day there was still no response, so our social worker advised we had best continue to try calling.  I tried a myriad of times at various times throughout the day and never got past the busy signal.  I began to think they'd blocked my phone number!  Ha!  Chris began trying to call when he got home from work and he also was not able to get past the busy signal.  I began to feel very defeated.  How could we fix this if no one would respond to e-mail and we couldn't get through on the phone?!  I really wanted to just give up.  Our agency China director stayed up with us again on Monday night calling until midnight.  Did I mention how much we love her?  As a last ditch effort I sent a second e-mail to the address I'd used to get the GUZ#, even though it was not the one we were advised to use.  I figured it couldn't hurt anything.

Tuesday morning I woke up with fresh resolve and pleaded with God to provide us with someone who could help us.  I spent about an hour hitting busy signals, but finally got through the line around 8AM and sat on hold only about thirty minutes.  A new record!  A friendly voice answered and her name was Sandy.  I got way more information from her than I'd ever gotten, though it was still not fixed.  She was actually kind and listened to me!  She saw where I'd worked with someone named Sylvia the week prior.  I remembered Sylvia and she was really very nice and seemed on top of things.  I knew she'd be familiar with the situation and I knew she'd call me back (because she had called me back once prior).  I left her a message, just praying.  Within about 15 minutes she called me back.  Immediately she recalled our case and quickly identified what was wrong and how to fix it.  While on the phone with her, an e-mail popped up from a wonderful woman named Mary.  She was responding to my e-mail.  The e-mail I'd sent as a last effort to the address I happened to have--not the one given to us by the employee at the NVC.  She also knew exactly what was wrong and how to fix it.  Together, Mary and Sylvia got to work and had the issue resolved within a matter of hours.  Mary immediately e-mailed me the great news and that is all I really expected.  I was floored to then later also receive a personal follow up call from Sylvia informing me that it was resolved.  They both told me they love adoptive families and really try to take care of them.  Praise God for people like Mary and Sylvia!  I was so touched by their help after this long trial that I actually sent a huge e-mail to their supervisors informing them of the impressive amount of work they did for us after so many others refused to help us or even try.  They let me know today that they were both publicly recognized for that effort and I am glad they were.  They deserved it.

This was a trying experience.  It tested our patience and resolve.  It forced me to not use flowery filler language and just be totally direct and to the point about what I needed.  In the grand scheme of things it was a small blip on the journey to get Hannah, but I assure you, in the heat of those four days of working to resolve it, it felt much, much bigger.

So, today, we rest assured, our daughter's name is correct on her visa application.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Check and Check!

In a previous post, I listed the following items yet to accomplish:

  • Get verbal confirmation of I800 approval
  • Receive hard copy confirmation of I800 approval
  • Contact National Visa Center for GUZ#
  • Complete DS260
  • Contact National Visa Center for cable letter
  • Drop off Article 5
  • Await Travel Approval and confirmed Consulate Appointment
Today, I am happy to report we can check some items off that list!  We received verbal confirmation of I800 approval on Monday.  Today we got the hard copy confirmation of I800 approval in the mail and  were issued our GUZ# from the National Visa Center!

So what is left? 
  • Complete DS260
  • Contact National Visa Center for cable letter
  • Drop off Article 5
  • Await Travel Approval and confirmed Consulate Appointment
Really, I have to fill out the DS260 and request the copy of the cable letter...then we are done.   The ball will be out of our court then and our paperwork for this leg of our adoption journey (the side without Hannah in our arms) will be complete (aside from the pesky few training items we still have to complete!).  Sigh.  Relief.  Rush of emotions.  Getting sooooooooooo close to hearing them tell us, "Yes!  Come get your girl!" 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I-800 Approved and Mathematics

I called again today to follow up on our I-800 application.  Praise God, it was approved last week on Friday; however, it was not mailed to the National Visa Center until yesterday....  So, what does that mean?  Now I wait about five days and start e-mailing the NVC daily to get our GUZ#.  What else does this mean?  It means we have hit the point now where it is completely mathematically impossible for us to submit our Article 5 and await TA prior to the shut down on December 28th.  It also pushes our prospective travel dates much further back into January and quite possibly into February.

How do I feel about it?  Disappointed, but, I realize there is a much bigger picture to all this and I can only see a fragment of it.  God has a reason to give us this added week of waiting to refine and prepare all of us just a bit more.  Perhaps we'll have a sick little one in that time who desperately needs mama and Daddy, or perhaps He wants us to just slow down and really drink in this Christmas without the stress and craziness of preparing to travel. Maybe Hannah's heart just isn't ready and she needs these extra days in the arms of her foster mama.  Perhaps we'll receive a grant that we otherwise wouldn't have received prior to travel.  Regardless of what the reason is, we know He has a reason so all we can do is trust and faithfully wait (a little longer) till Hannah is home.

Please continue to pray for us: for me to manage these next few steps of the process fairly easily, for the finances to continue to come together, for us to appreciate this last Christmas as a family of five, for peace to overwhelm our hearts in the wait, for our TA to be one of the first ones issued after the shut down, and for Hannah to continue to prepare for us to come for her.  Pray that we make good use of this added time of waiting to really savor Christmas at a slower pace and enjoy fellowship with one another.

Never a dull moment in the journey....

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Baby Steps and Potential Set Backs

Things are really rolling right now on the adoption front and while the majority of the time it feels like it is truly flying by, there are other moments that it feels like things couldn't possibly move any more slowly.  If you recall, we didn't get our hard LOA the day we expected to get it.  That one slight hold up has translated to about a full week of delay.  In the grand scheme of things it wouldn't seem like much, but late last week we heard about another shut down coming in China.  For over a week.  And likely due to this one very minor delay with our LOA, we will be just simply twiddling our thumbs through this upcoming shut down.  This makes no sense to most of you.  Let me sum things up a bit.

So, currently we are waiting to receive our I800 application approval.  That could not be submitted until our LOA was signed and sent in with some supporting documents.  Our one day delay in receiving it caused us to wait the weekend for shipping it back to our agency, plus another business day for them to review our documents and send them out.  To give perspective, three other families got LOA the same day we did and all three of those families have received their I800 approvals (the week of Thanksgiving) and have already had their Article 5's dropped or will have them dropped tomorrow.  I thought we were about one week behind, so I called to check on the status of our application late last week.  When I called, I found out we had just been assigned to an officer who rather curtly told me, "It just got to my desk today and I've got 9 other I800's sitting on my desk.  I'm not getting to yours today.  Maybe tomorrow."  The Thanksgiving holiday has added a couple more days onto our wait.  Hopefully our I800 was approved on Friday of last week, which will allow us to move on to the next step this week.

Once the I800 gets approved it is mailed to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire and logged into a computer system there.  This will generate a GUZ# (assigning our case to the US Consulate in Guangzhou).  We should get our GUZ# about one week after our I800 is approved.  Once I confirm our I800 is approved, I will start e-mailing the National Visa Center daily to get the GUZ#.

Once we have the GUZ#, we can complete the DS260 application online (this is Hannah's application for her Visa to enter the United States).  We will also then start e-mailing the National Visa Center daily to get a PDF of the cable letter they sent of our case to the Consulate in Guangzhou.  We need all of these documents to start the Article 5 process.

When we have a hard copy of our I800 approval, GUZ#, completed DS 260, and a PDF of our cable letter, we can have our social worker submit the Article 5.  Our agency will send all of our documents to their representatives in China who will drop it off at the US Consulate.  The Article 5 process takes about 2 weeks.  Once it is complete, our information is sent to the Chinese adoption authorities where they will issue our Travel Approval and within forty eight hours of that we should have a confirmed Consulate appointment and we can book our flights and schedule Gotcha Day.

All of this together would likely take us about 3-4 weeks to accomplish.  Enter the next big Chinese shutdown.  Regardless of where we are in the process, nothing will move in China from December 28th through January 4th while they update their computer systems.  We were likely going to be looking at TA the week of Christmas or shortly after and now it will likely not be issued until after the shutdown on the 4th.  It just adds yet another week of waiting at a time when it feels like every moment is precious time wasted with Hannah.  I would so love to have TA prior to the shutdown so we can efficiently be using that time to book flights, prepare Grandparents, and start packing.

So, in a nutshell, here are things we need to check off the list:
  • Get verbal confirmation of I800 approval
  • Receive hard copy confirmation of I800 approval
  • Contact National Visa Center for GUZ#
  • Complete DS260
  • Contact National Visa Center for cable letter
  • Drop off Article 5
  • Await Travel Approval and confirmed Consulate Appointment
You don't really need to understand any of that (and you still may not....it is all very difficult to explain at this point in time--I'm not sure I even totally understand all of it!!), but we have had many, many people asking, so here it is.  Mathematically speaking, it seems near impossible for us to receive TA prior to the shutdown on the 28th, but there is still a slim chance we could squeak through (very, very, very slim chance--like record breaking slim chance).  Our previous experience with a shut down is that they try to clear as many desks as possible prior to a shutdown and push lots of paperwork through.  We certainly never dreamed we would get our LOA prior to the APEC shutdown in November, yet miraculously, we did!  While it is really easy for me to shutdown myself and feel rather discouraged with the likely delay, I also keep trying to view it as yet another opportunity for God to reveal His power and glory.  Honestly, the details can be consuming, the figuring of dates and seeing how many others are getting TA's and when, how long processes are for others, but really, all that truly matters is that God knows when Gotcha will be.  He's got it marked in red pen with a big star and circled on His calendar and not revealing that special date to us just yet is all part of His plan to refine our faith in Him.

So, for now we rest in Him, knowing He knows the details and that His timing is so very specific just for us and for Hannah.  And we pray like crazy that we get that magic TA prior to December 28th.