It's a bedtime tradition that began with Little Nutbrown Hare, and each night we try to outdo the last...I love you to the moon and the beach and the mountians...and one of my favorites, "to Jesus and the angels" and back...We never imagined we would be saying, I love you to Africa and seems like the furthest imaginable place, but yet in God's perfect timing, we plan to go.... to Africa and back!!! And when we get back, we will have another little cheek to kiss goodnight...please keep us in your prayers and enjoy this journey with us!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What it Means to be Blessed

One year ago today my life and the way I would look at the world changed forever. As I remember the sudden awareness that we had to move quickly, grabbing my sleeping daughter and running for the basement, prayerfully holding her in my arms, listening to the sound of the wind twisting overhead as our roof was swept from our home…slowing coming upstairs, the sound of water running in, destruction all around us. Feeling His presence, a new awareness of all that I have and all that I have to lose. A new awareness of my need for Him and what it means to find peace, in the storm. I am BLESSED.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Looking Up - Part Two

2trust verb \ˈtrəst\
: to believe that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. : to have confidence in (someone or something)
: to believe that something is true or correct

: to hope or expect that something is true or will happen

We felt, after a month of waiting, something needed to be done to learn all we could about the children's situation. We felt that there were 4 children living as orphans in an orphanage, while their mother was waiting for them to be released back to her care. A heartbreaking situation in which something needed to be done. The visit to the orphanage took place. More answers, more confusion…

They arrived and eventually were allowed inside the orphanage. I am told, what they saw were police in lieu of security, a number of kids walking around in shirts with no diapers or pants, a child sleeping in the middle of a dirty floor, the mamas all sitting on the floor and the police had children in their laps. They inquired about our children and were surprised when the children were brought in along with their biological mother. They were told that the majority of the mamas working at the orphanage are actually children's biological mothers. They work there and do so in order to be there with their children while the children wait to be adopted. Unsettling information… How is it that children are being deemed abandoned while their biological mothers care for them while they wait in the orphanage as orphans? Confusion…

They were able to speak with the children's biological mother. The children were taken out, but the baby had to be brought back in, she was too upset when she was taken out of her mother’s arms. There was an obvious bond between the mother and her children. When they questioned her about being there she stated she was there so she could be with her children. She stated she still wanted them to be adopted, but she also stated that if she could care for them financially she would not want them to be adopted. She stated that she was very upset that her son had not received needed post operative follow up care. She stated that she was told that he had not been taken to the doctor because his adoptive parents refused to pay for the appointment. This was heartbreaking to hear. We had not been notified by the agency that any action was needed on our part in order for him to receive the needed care. We knew he had a scheduled post operative appointment, when he was discharged, and we had trusted that once back in the care of the orphanage staff, they would make the needed arrangements for him to attend this appointment. We also knew that we had previously made a payment to our agency to cover medical expenses that had not been used, we had trusted this would be made available for his care when needed. We had trusted…

I've learned a lot about trust this year. All we could do was trust what we were told by our agency. We were aware, when we began an international adoption that it might be challenging to find out information about our children and we were prepared, not to know. But, when a mother can be contacted when her son is in the hospital, why couldn’t she be contacted to obtain information as we questioned? Each time we learned new information, pertaining to the adoption of our children, we were left to trust. To trust the information they gave us to be truth. To trust that there was no way of finding answers. While we may have had no concrete evidence, we chose to trust their word. As we obtained paperwork that didn't correlate with information we had been given, we began to question, our trust wavering. In October, when my friend's sister met with our children's birthmother, all I could do was trust the information she gave me to be truth and compare it to the information we had been given by our agency. There I was again, at a place where I must trust that another persons words are truth. I must trust. I trust her when she tells me, this mother asks that I ask our agency if she can have a job working for the orphanage, as many other mothers, so she can be with her children. I trust her when she tells me, this mother loves and cares for her children, and she initially had no intentions of giving up her children permanently for international adoption. I trust when she tells me, this mother allowed her children to go to the orphanage out of love for them and a chance for a better future, when she believed they were coming to America to receive an education and would return to her. I trust when she tells me, if she were financially able, she desires to parent her children. All I have are the words I have been told by this Congolese lady, who went above and beyond to help me, an adoptive parent in America, and a fellow Congolese lady and her children. I have the words of this friend and the words spoken to me so clearly by the mother of my adopted children. As I spoke with our children’s mother, through an interpreter, I told her that if we adopt her children she would possibly never see them again, their names would be changed to our family name and she would no longer be their mother, is that what she wanted and she said, "No, No." Her words echo in my mind, “Thank you for telling me the truth, thank you. You are a Godsend." ...

In response to my sharing my initial blog post about our unexpected findings, I was contacted by the director of our agency and their attorney. I was asked to take down my blog post and to refrain from sharing any information about their agency that could be perceived as negative and untruthful.  I did not take down the post, feeling that is it our story to share. The purpose of my blog all along has been to share all aspects of our adoption journey, the good and the bad, the facts as we’ve been told and my feelings and perceptions. I have no intentions of misconstruing information in order to make the agency  look bad. I am stating our story from our perspective. The information that I share about our situation and that of our adopted children, is what I trust to be true. While there may not be concrete evidence supporting what I believe, I choose to trust.  Again, trusting my source. We began this journey, trusting. Trusting our agency and the information they gave to us. As conflicting information arose we were left questioning what we had trusted. It left us with no other option than to trust again. We again chose to trust someone whom we had never met. I have no reason to believe that words which I was told by my friend in Kinshasa or the words spoken to me by my children's birthmother are not true. Therefore, we continue to trust. We will hold firm in our belief that children belong first with their biological family, whenever possible. We will trust that God will help us make this a reality for this mother and her children, whom we’ve grown to love.

 As I reflect on the last year, and look forward in anticipation of the year to come, I realize that both are filled with uncertainty. Therefore, trusting, I choose to look up, to the One who sees from the beginning to the end. If I look back I see confusion and heartache, if I look forward I know the future is so's only in looking up that I can see assurance. Not assurance that I will understand the events of the past year or assurance that I will see what I expect in the next year, but assurance that whatever comes my way, I am not alone. Assurance that He is in control. Assurance that it is in the pain and confusion, He is glorified. We will continue to trust...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Looking Up - Part One

2trust verb \ˈtrəst\

: to believe that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. : to have confidence in (someone or something)
: to believe that something is true or correct
: to hope or expect that something is true or will happen

A blog post titled “Reflection" could be expected for the first post of the new year. But I'm not there yet, I'm not at the place where I look back to reflect. I'm still assessing the situation. I'm still right here in the middle of it. It's not yet time to reflect. When I reflect on the last year, I see confusion and heartache, if I look forward I see uncertainty. I am learning to realize that it is in Him, I must Trust. I'm reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses, Romans 5:3-5, "We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts." So I feel like we are here, learning patience, developing character, clinging to hope and learning what it really means to trust. 

In looking back I see confusion...It was almost a year ago that we saw the first glimpse of a little boy, who would change the way I look at the world. It was the first step in trust. There were so many unknowns. We deliberated and scrutinized looking at his picture, asking for any shred of information to help us have a better picture of who he was. We were told very little, assured that if any more information was gained, we would be told...

A month later, we were told that a little more information had been found out about our little boy. He was the oldest of four siblings at the orphanage. It was believed they had been brought in together and were living together prior to arriving at the orphanage. On our son’s intake form it stated he is loved by his brother and sister and that he was found without biological family (Mother). The information stated on this form was given by his biological mother. We were confused by this mix of information, but we trusted...We were told their mother's name is on the form because she was the one who brought them in and abandoned them. They assumed she just could not provide for them. We were told that the children had been referred to 3 different families, the staff didn't know they were siblings when they were first brought in. The middle 2 were twins and would be staying together and the youngest baby was referred to another family. Although they were being adopted by different families, we were told this was good information to have, so we could possibly keep in touch once they were all over here. This didn't sit right with us. We had been clear with the agency staff from the beginning that we would consider adopting siblings, if our child had known siblings. We asked if the other families had been informed of this and we were told if they hadn't been told, they would be informed soon.  We wanted to know what the siblings referred families were feeling. We continued to question...

Could the twins go to one family and the baby & oldest be kept together, to at least keep the children in pairs? The response was no, the baby was possibly a cousin, and was already referred to another family. Confused, we trusted this to be truth. We prayed. We offered to let the family of the twins have the referral of our son, if they would consider, in order for him to stay with the brother and sister that love him. We had already fallen in love with our little boy but we didn't feel that we could ask them to give up the referral of their children. We would offer to do what we felt was right. At almost midnight that night, I got an email from the director of our agency, that there actually was no "other family" and if we wanted to consider adopting the twins we could do so...we were confused, but hopeful. 

We prayed, we shared our story and we watched God bring the needed funds to be able to accept the referral of the twins. We had to pay fees as if the twins were not related to the oldest because we were told that although they shared the same biological mother, they had different biological fathers, therefore they would not be categorized as siblings, as far as fees. We were confused, we were not told they were half siblings until the question of fees came up, therefore we had a hard time understanding this new information. Why they had been presented to us as such, but could not be processed as siblings, requiring our agency fees to be higher. We were told this was because they would be processed separately.  As they all passed through court at the same time it was hard to understand why they had to be processed separately. We continued to ask that our information be shared with the family of our children's baby cousin, so if they chose to contact us, they would be able. We were told this could not be done. We know nothing about the family of our children's baby sister other than their last name and that they are Canadian. We originally wanted to be in contact with them to keep our kids in contact over the years, we now pray to make contact to help them maintain their sibling relationship. 

In July, when we reviewed our court paperwork, we noted that the abandonment document for our oldest son stated an address at which he had been found, and the twins document stated they had been abandoned, as opposed to being brought in by their mother. We were again confused…but we trusted.

As the summer drew to a close we awaited final documents to be able to file the I600. In order to have everything lined up and ready to file as soon as possible, I contacted USCIS to determine how we should file for the children. We knew that a new procedure was in place to file separately for each child, regardless of sibling status, but our understanding was that only one fee needed to be paid to process all of their I600's. We received a notice from our agency that we needed to pay separate fees for each of the children's I600's, keeping with the standing that they were not being processed as siblings. In an attempt to avoid paying an additional unnecessary $1400 to USCIS, I began a series of emails with someone from USCIS. They informed me that if the children were known siblings (regardless of paternity) only one fee was necessary. If there was any question of true sibling status, separate fees would be needed. If we attempted to process them as siblings and through their investigation it was determined they were not actually siblings, our case would incur delays. I questioned the agency, asking why they recommended filing separately. Did they question their sibling status? They had been presented to us as siblings and we had never been told otherwise. When we questioned this, we received the explanation that we would not be able to prove they were siblings since the children are abandoned. We were told that once a child is declared abandoned, the child is made a ward of the state and the parents names are no longer on the paperwork. Because of this, there is not enough evidence to satisfy USCIS of the biological relationship. We were confused. The intake form states the mother provided the information, so why were they declared abandoned and the mother's name removed from the paperwork? Wasn't her word, which was given on the intake form, enough? We were told the intake form is not an official document and cannot be used as evidence to support form I600. Often in abandonment cases there is not a document such as a parental authorization or an original birth certificate that could be used as evidence. Again confusion…we had not yet resolved how we would file the I600's when our son was hospitalized, leading to what we believed to be answers. Answers that we felt brought light to many things that had not made sense to us over the last year...

But did the information that we learned, as I recorded in my last blog post really bring answers, or just more confusion? For the first time since we learned about the children we felt like we had real answers as to who they really were, where they had come from and where they truly belonged. Two paths intersected, worlds meshed and we felt answers were found. We had a outpouring of support. Countless people began praying, not for us to be able to quickly bring our children home, but for us to be able to get our children home. We shared the discovered information with our agency and we were told that they would do their own investigation to determine what was in the best interest of the children. If it was determined the best situation would be to be for them to be placed with their biological family, they would help facilitate this. We were hopeful. We knew our friend’s sister had spent many hours, over several weeks, with the children's birthmother. Not only at the hospital at our sons bedside and in the waiting room while he was in surgery, but also at a restaurant where they went to lunch together. They had had the opportunity to have multiple, private and in-depth conversations in their native language, and we felt sure of the children's birthmother's desire to parent her children. We eagerly awaited the agency to complete their investigation so we could work together to help the children, whom we had considered to be our own for the past year. A month passed and we heard nothing from the agency, except for a request to take down my previous blog post. While we waited, we came in contact with some people who stated they were willing to help us find more answers. Through a sequence of events, they were able to visit the orphanage on our behalf. What they discovered brought more answers and more confusion...

(to be continued…)