Wednesday, January 20, 2016

LOA!

We received an email from our adoption agency yesterday that our LOA “Letter of Acceptance” is on its way! This important document, which is officially called the "Letter Seeking Confirmation" (LSC) is not in our possession just yet, but it is in the database of the CCCWA (China Center for Children's Welfare and Adoption).

What does that mean? It means that China has officially said, "Yes" to our request to adopt Lulu and we have "soft LOA" until that precious hard copy is in our hands! 

So, what is next, you wonder?  Here are the remaining steps in this arduous process:

We file for the I-800, which is request for US immigration approval to adopt this specific child.

After I-800 approval, we file VISA paperwork: DS-260 for Lulu, and send our passports for Visas.

“Article 5 drop off”: Our agency rep in China drops off several pieces of paperwork (visa confirmation, etc) at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou.

About two weeks later, the “Article 5” is picked up and the paperwork is sent to the CCCWA offices in Beijing.

Travel Approval is then issued by the CCCWA.

We request a date for our Consulate Appointment (CA) in China.

Travel plans begin!

And how does all of this translate into the 2016 calendar, you ask?

Well, we could be in China by mid-April, if not sooner.

It feels so good to finally post a picture of our pretty girl on this page. Thank you for your continued support to bring Lulu home.  We're so very blessed by your outpouring of love.



If you feel led to help with Lulu's adoption costs, we have a YouCaring page set up, and we have partnered with MudLove once again for a bracelet fundraiser of our two best-selling bracelets the first time around:  loved. and blessed. Thank you for your support on our little one's behalf!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Annie Jr.-with a twist!

"I didn't know exactly why God was calling me to this play," she said to me about the school's production of Annie, Jr. "And I didn't know why I chose November, other than the fact that it seemed like a good month with the school's Grandparent's Day celebrations and Thanksgiving, too."

And I didn't know exactly why God had delayed my Orphan Sunday presentation to the Masses of St. Vincent Ferrer by one week. I was frustrated, for sure, but I knew--in my heart--there was a good reason and that it was more than I could possibly understand.

Then Mrs. Delgado, the Principal of the school, heard my cry for the least of these at the Masses in recognition of National Adoption Month and Orphan Sunday. The Holy Spirit had worked through me, I was assured, when I witnessed with my own eyes the outpouring of support in our Catholic faith that weekend. I'd walked in with a message of hope and boxes full of brochures about orphan sponsorship, adoption information, and foster care resources, and I walked out with practically nothing left but a feeling that something big was brewing. (We were blessed by some donations for Lulu, too.) Mrs. Delgado said that it all came together at that Mass she'd attended, and she knew precisely why God had called her to that play about orphans. It was His perfect timing.

I reached out, the week after, to the Director of our local Birthline/Lifeline chapter here. I know her well as I've been a part of the Adoption Speakers Guild for a couple of years now. I shared the feeling in my heart and asked for guidance in planting the seeds for an orphan ministry in our Catholic faith. A meeting was set for Tuesday, December 1st.

Stay with me...

The next weekend, on the opening day of the school's play, I received a Facebook message from Mrs. Delgado, the school principal:

"Nothing happens by chance...I just want you to know that we will be donating 15% of our box office sales tonight from Annie Jr. to your ministry for orphans. Thank you for your wonderful message. You and your husband touch so many through your examples."

We were floored--stunned that the Holy Spirit had worked in this way! But, then, why wouldn't He? Our Heavenly Father adores all of His precious children. Mrs. Delgado invited me to attend the school's community showing of Annie Jr. on December 3rd, at which time they wished to present a donation check for our orphan ministry--you know, one of those "big checks" that are given to charitable causes. Yeah...that's a first. I was pinching myself and celebrating the fact that our ministry would now have seed funding.

Fast forward to this week. Accompanied by the Director of Birthline/Lifeline, I met with Catholic Charities. We prayed together before our meeting not sure how this heartfelt message--and request for a ministry--would be received. But our God is bigger, and our words were met with smiles and receptive expressions. In fact, the director made mention that her own mother had done mission work in Guatemala, and in orphanages! Suffice it to say, the Holy Spirit was in that room, and the proposed goal seemed attainable even. We walked out in awe of what had transpired. A new meeting has been set for mid-December, and a Novena of prayer is now being shared for the intentions of our ministry.

After the meeting, I came home to another message from Mrs. Delgado. She inquired about the name of the foundation to write the school's donation check to. I picked up the phone knowing there was so much to explain and, of course, wanted to fill her in on all of the beautiful details that had unfolded. I rambled on and on about the infancy stages of this Catholic ministry for orphans and named which organization the donation check could be made payable to.

There was silence. Then Mrs. Delgado said, "But we want to bless Lulu with this donation."

I was speechless. Well, you know me...I'm rarely speechless (ask Jimmy), but I assured her, with confidence, that God would provide for Lulu's adoption if they chose to give their donation to our rising orphan ministry. 

Silence.

And then Mrs. Delgado replied without an ounce of  uncertainty, "We want to give this donation to Lulu. We would much rather be a part of Lulu's story than to donate this money to a foundation."

Boom. The tears fell. It was an unexpected twist of a blessing!

I showed up yesterday morning, with dear friends, to watch a very talented group of children sing their hearts out and give one heck of an amazing show. Of course, Annie Jr. struck so many chords about the reality of the world orphan crisis, and it was quite an emotional morning. After the play, they invited me onto the stage and presented the "big check" for Lulu. I was given a few minutes to share my heart and to thank the cast of Little Orphan Annie for blessing Little Orphan Lulu.

I am constantly in awe of the Holy Spirit, and how His plans are orchestrated so perfectly, and so beautifully, despite our own personal desires and plans. We're just so thankful, always, for the many blessings we've received for our children--for His children. For they are the worthy and deserving of love.



Friday, November 6, 2015

Does it matter where they are?

Does it?

I have to vent.

About two months ago, Jimmy ran into someone who's been supportive of our past adoptions. But this time, not so much apparently. Jimmy was asked why we would "go there and save one of their kids again."  My eyes tear up as I type this...excuse me while I catch my breath.

SERIOUSLY?

There are over ONE HUNDRED MILLION ORPHANS IN THE WORLD. Why, oh why, does it really matter WHERE they are?

Jimmy hid this conversation from me for obvious reasons...he knew I'd be upset. And I am.

I don't get it. I don't get why there are sides. Jesus--thank God--didn't take sides. He defends ALL OF US. With all of our complete mess and brokenness, he still loves us. He doesn't care what we look like. He doesn't care what color skin we have. And He doesn't care about the map. AT ALL.

Doesn't EVERY KID deserve to be loved, for crying out loud?

Doesn't EVERY KID deserve a family?

I need my tissues.

Jimmy went on to ask this person what they are doing to help the orphan crisis, and there was no answer. And I must include the fact that the person came later to Jimmy and apologized face to face. But I know there's still people out there with this mindset.

Not only do we forgive, but we pray. In this National Adoption Month and Orphan Sunday upon us, we pray for hearts to be stirred for the orphan. It's the Gospel. Because EVERY CHILD MATTERS. Will you please pray for these precious children, too?

Rant over. Thank you to those who have chosen to help us bring our daughter HOME through provision and prayer, regardless of where she was born. We are so grateful for your support...more than you'll ever know.

And for the record, that person had it completely wrong. These kids have saved us...not the other way around.



Thursday, September 3, 2015

Seeing the Signs

I found it so funny that when I was praying about this adoption over the Summer, God put an extra child (girl) in our church pew with our family two weeks in a row (one week a friend of Madi's, and the other week, a dear friend's daughter). And one of those times, a woman remarked to Jimmy what a beautiful family we have. I chuckled when I saw that God wink.

Then, on July 12th, there was a traveling priest giving the homily at Mass, whom we'd not seen before at our parish. During his sermon he spoke of Jesus sending out his disciples to do his work with him and on his behalf. At the end of the homily, the priest loudly--and with conviction--said, "If God is calling you to do something, and it is for good, then you must do it!" That's where he ended it. You know how sometimes you feel like God's talking directly to you? Yeah...this was one of those times. I could hardly wait to approach the priest after Mass to thank him and asked him once more about his message. He looked at me and said, "If God has something planned for you, he will make a way for it to happen."

The week leading up to our decision to adopt Lulu, I received a number of what I'm calling "Hearts from Heaven" delivered by hearts here on earth. I received these little confirmations from all over the place that week, mostly from people who didn't know a thing about our adoption plans or about Lulu at all.

The first picture, taken by a dear friend on her honeymoon, was sent to me the day before we needed to give our decision to the agency. Marissa found this heart in the pavement at a place called "Angel's Landing" in Zion National Park. "Angel's Landing" was given it's name originally because it was thought to be so high only angels could touch it. Call me crazy, but that heart felt like it was a confirmation sent straight from our angel, Daniel.



On the same day, my friend, Nikki (who has been extremely connected to Daniel since first reading his story), posted this picture of a heart on Pluto on the With an Open Heart Facebook page.


This is Milo, a little boy who came from the same orphanage (Shanghai) as Charlie. He found this heart in his potato chip bag, and his Mom sent it my way on the day that we gave our decision to the agency to adopt Lulu.


Amanda, Daniel's anesthesiologist, sees and sends hearts all the time. I swear she has a direct line to our son in Heaven! Amanda knew about Lulu's file...she was one of the first, since she's one of our *key* medical file reviewers. Amanda did not know, however, that we were making our decision to adopt Lulu that week, and she sent all three of these our way.

,



This potato chip heart was posted on Daniel's book page that week by a friend, Jennifer, who we met in China last year while adopting Joseph. She found it in her potato chip bag and thought of us.

.

Thank you, friends, for being the messengers of these special hearts.
They will always be a part of Lulu's adoption story.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

To Change a Heart

Some of you may be familiar with this verse from Proverbs 24:12, others not. In the adoption community, it is widely known...

"Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows we know and holds us responsible to act." 

I knew we would go back to China. I felt it. I swear I even knew when we were there to adopt Joseph last year. You see, I saw my husband hold babies. I saw the look in his eyes when he peered soulfully into the eyes of children who weren't born from his blood. He loves them all. And loving them for mere moments can bring that strong man down to the brink of tears.

I let it go, though, for months, while listening to him claim "we are done" to others. I shook my head in disbelief because I felt it in my heart. I knew there was more love to give, and somehow I knew we had room for one more.

Time didn't allow me to write much at all during our busy Summer, but I believe God used this season, once again (I swear He calls me out during Summer) to stir my pot more rapidly. We were running short on time to reuse our dossier (you have one year from the time you come home) through Holt, and I knew the time was coming near.

And then, I saw her. It was June 18th, and her face randomly crossed my Facebook feed in the China Waiting Child Advocacy group. Lulu. My heart skipped a beat. I watched as people commented how beautiful she was, and I read the comments about her needs. They seemed so manageable to me. I almost instantly wrote to the Facebook friend who was advocating for her and asked how I could obtain more information. She replied that the agency contact was off to China but that she'd be back the following week and would respond to my request. She also mentioned that other families were interested in pursuing Lulu's file. I wrote back how I trusted wholeheartedly in God's plan, and that if it were meant to work out, it would.

My hopes weren't dashed, but we hadn't used this particular agency before, and let's face it...our comfort level is with Holt, the agency who's delivered our three beautiful boys. But I had a strong feeling, and I quickly filled out the agency's request form for more information.  To my surprise, I heard back from the contact the next day, to say that she was in China meeting some of the children, and Lulu was on her list of children to meet! There were some questions about the accuracy of her file, and her medical condition, but the contact was kind enough to let me know that she'd reach out once she had all the information. That weekend, Joseph opened a fortune that read "A journey must begin with a single step," and, to me, it felt like confirmation of new beginnings. But I knew I needed my husband to feel the same way.

I was amazed at how God paved the way for our date the next week. Grandpa Murphy and Suzanne had swept Madi away on a Disney cruise for five days, Jimmy's sister, Kathy, had given us a voucher for a hotel room night that she'd won in a silent auction, my parents offered to take the boys for a sleepover, and the sweet couple who'd bought our house when we recently moved offered to buy us dinner in exchange for some stereo equipment we'd given them. The way it all came together was so perfect..suffice it to say that I knew the Holy Spirit was giving me the quiet opportunity to talk about Lulu.

"Do you know why I've called you here to this meeting?" I asked Jimmy as we took the first sips of our cocktails. (He always uses that line with the kids at the dinner table.) "No," he replied confused and questioning where I was headed. I nodded my head with all seriousness and said, "Yeah, you do." To which he looked into my eyes, and I knew that he knew. "NO!" he said. "Yes," I retorted, "and let me explain why..."

We spent the next three hours discussing and dreaming after I broke out the pictures of Lulu on my cell phone. The idea became so real, and so feasible. Why not? We have the space in our new home (with a renovation), and we could see how it could positively affect our kids. We pictured Charlie as a nurturing big brother, we could see Madi loving on a little sister, we knew that Joseph would be blessed by it...my goodness, he knew what it was like to be without a family for so long. The more we talked about it, the more we realized that it would be a blessing for all of our kids...to take part in putting faith into action and giving this child our love. At the end of the night, Jimmy claimed he was 75%/25% with the 75% being against the idea. But I knew he was full of baloney. He did too. We walked back to the hotel and happened to pass by the bar in the lobby only to find a bartender fumbling with an opened bottle champagne that was bubbling over. When she asked us if we'd like a complimentary glass, how could we say no? After everything that had happened that evening, now the Holy Spirit was giving us a champagne toast. It felt like a celebration.

A couple of weeks passed, and I had reached out to various medical sources for opinions. Jimmy and I hadn't discussed Lulu again since that night, and I was beginning to feel like maybe things were slipping backwards. I called upon a couple of my devout sisters-in-Christ to pray for his change of heart.

On July 15th, I emailed the adoption agency with a question, and received a reply the next morning that stopped me in my tracks. The email was asking where we were in our decision making process. The message wasn't pushy, but rather purely focused on securing a family for Lulu and very understanding if we weren't ready to commit. I completely agreed that we did not want Lulu to have to wait any longer for a family, and asked if we could give them an answer the next morning.

The timing was once again interesting, because Jimmy and I had been on a cleanse for the ten days prior. Not that all of our cobwebs were swept clean, but we were certainly in a state of clarity without alcohol, processed foods, caffeine, and sugar for that time! It was the last day of our cleanse, and they needed an answer the next day. Our social worker, who'd been notified about Lulu, urged us to pray together. Jimmy and I talked and talked. We took time to ourselves, and we prayed and contemplated. By that night at bedtime, Jimmy voiced that he had complete peace about this adoption.

Unexplainable. Complete. Peace.

Proof that God can change hearts. The next morning, I promptly emailed our new agency and gave them the news of our decision to make Lulu our daughter, and we submitted our letter of intent.

Friday, May 29, 2015

These boys.

Charlie and Joseph's preschool graduation ceremonies took place today. To see these boys--dressed in red, white, and blue--in a chorus of patriotic songs, including God Bless America, well, it was quite moving to say the least to hear them singing passionately about the "land that I love," especially Joseph, who has been a U.S. citizen for just eight months. They've come so far to be here in our family. Thank you, Jesus.

Preschool has been a part of our family for such a long stage that it truly is difficult to imagine life without it. And this little gem of a preschool called First United Methodist has been our home for so many years. I simply can't imagine not being there with my kids anymore. The teachers are amazing...the love they give is second to none. They've embraced all of our babes, and now Joseph, with open arms and he has done nothing but thrive in their care. What a treasure; what a blessing.

Among other things, Joseph's teacher, Mrs. Bivins, had this to say about him on his progress report, "Joey has amazed me during the time he has been in my class. He fit in so well like he was meant to be there!"

 

Charlie's beloved teacher, Mrs. Avogardo, said this, "Charlie is self driven with high goals set by himself. He has wonderful quick thinking cognitive skill. In the past few months, I have watched his confidence grow so much. Charlie is a kind and thoughtful boy, well liked and a wonderful student."

 

Can you see me glowing over here?? It is such a privilege and a treat to watch our sweet boys come into their own and blossom. I am so proud of both of them. Charlie has such a huge heart, and Joseph's determination is amazing...he's come so far in such a short time.
 
Miss Gina, Joey's substitute teacher

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Big change.

Every year, Lent seems to bring fascinating change to our lives. This year was no exception. 

Let me start by saying that moving to a new home was never in our plans. We could have been happy in our old house forever. But something changed during Lent. I credit the Holy Spirit.

I guess it started when I called some closet companies for estimates. The kids' bedrooms were in need of some serious storage solutions. Reality smacked me in the face when I watched the closet representative scan the boys closet for a few minutes when he finally said, "There's really nothing I can do to help you here." Boom. Just like that, a seed was planted...these little guys are only going to get bigger.

I began to think about possible solutions for our current issues, and I also began to ponder some of the necessary home improvements coming down the line in the next few years. Of course, I questioned...is it was worth investing more into a house we are already outgrowing?

Something told me to go onto Realtor.com that night, and I found our house (though I didn't know it quite yet). There was something in the photos that looked and felt familiar, perhaps the color scheme. This house had been waiting for us for almost a full year. I asked Jimmy, since he's a realtor, if we could go take a look. I had been curious about that neighborhood for a while anyways.

My kind husband agreed, in order to appease me. We drove over the next day, and quietly walked through the house together. Neither of us said a word. But in my head, I was already hanging artwork and knew where we would put the Christmas tree! It was Jimmy who finally broke the silence and said, "Wow...I can totally picture us in here." Bingo...my sentiments exactly.

So, just like that, we'd found our dream home, but there was one little hiccup--we needed to sell our house. Jimmy had remembered, from his open houses, a nice young couple who had been looking in the neighborhood for quite a while, almost two years actually. He reached out to their realtor, and they came to take a look that week. They instantly fell in love with our house. How could they not? 

 

The rest is history. They begin a new chapter, and so do we. It happened so fast that we didn't have much time to process it all. That's probably a good thing. The last week in our house gave me crashing emotions of leaving so much history behind...memories of Jimmy's mom, DANIEL, our two cats, bringing home four beautiful children into that home, and leaving many neighbors and friends whom we love. Needless to say, I shed a river. I am so overjoyed, though, that the sweet kids moving in love our home so much, and we know they will take it to the next level. They can give it everything it needs and more.

Our new home is incredibly perfect for us! We basically traded in yard for house, which is our priority right now. It has four bedrooms, so the boys can still share their room, but now they have a loft area for all of their toys. About two weeks before we moved, Joseph admitted to me that he had been scared in the in the middle of the night, but he was too frightened to come to our room because he had to walk through the living room. I find God's timing amazing, because now our children are just a bedroom away from us, and Joseph is no longer scared.

Madi is thrilled with it all, especially that she has her own sink in their bathroom, and all the kids feel like they hit the lottery by having stairs. As a matter of fact, so do I! I look forward to the built-in workout!

Daddy has his own office, which is huge! Before, he literally had to run out into the backyard to take sales calls just to escape the noise. We are sharing this new office space together in hopes that we can keep each other on task for our businesses.

We love our new community already. It is very safe and family-friendly. It is an extra bonus that we are only five minutes away from our old digs, so the kids will go to the same schools, and we are still close to our friends. It is a complete win-win!

Bring on the next chapter...we are so READY for it. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.