Friday, April 29, 2016

Another Mother's Day

This will be my 2nd Mother's Day as a mom. Oh, how I love being a mom.  I am so grateful to be able to spend this day with TWO precious girls this year! Our 2nd biological daughter, Hattie Rae, was born on March 24 at 6:52 PM. She weighed 6 lbs, 10 oz and was a whopping 22.5 inches long. We are adjusting to being a family of 4 and loving every minute of it.  

Simultaneously, this will be my 3rd Mother's Day as a "waiting mom." As much as I will love spending the day with my girls, I long to spend it with a little boy as well. We long to be a family of FIVE. For over 3 years, we have prayed and worked and hoped and planned and dreamed of completing an international adoption from Ethiopia. 

Mother's Day can be so difficult for so many women: those who have lost a mother, those struggling with infertility, those who have experienced miscarriage, those who have suffered the loss of a child on earth, those who have stared at a photo of a child but have not been able to bring him/her home yet, and (like me) those who are still waiting for a referral but are already in love with a child they've never seen. We may not be experiencing the exact same emotions or thoughts or feelings, but we all have some things in common: a child-sized hole in our hearts and a feeling that our family is not complete. 

I can't pretend to know how each one of you feels. I can't promise you a miraculous pregnancy. I can't promise that your adoption will be completed. I can't bring back your loved one. What I can do, though, is offer hope- the hope I cling to in the midst of this ever-changing, unknown, difficult adoption journey: 
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging… He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10)
The Bible says that God knows the desires of our hearts, and we know He works all things together for good for His purpose. While I can't promise that things will work out how we hope or want them to, I can promise that God has a plan for us. I can't promise that it will be easy, but I can promise that we can trust Him and lean into Him. 

You see, it has been 3 years and 2 months since we began our adoption journey. Sometimes we don't feel any closer to completing our adoption than we did 3 years and 2 months ago. It seems like each month we wait, the estimated wait time to completion also jumps up another month. Current estimated wait times (for a healthy child between 0-3 through our agency) are now 48-60 months from the time your paperwork is submitted in Ethiopia. Our paperwork was submitted 30 months ago. This means that we could potentially be only halfway through our waiting process.

In the past several months, a lot has also changed in Ethiopia. There have been changes in leadership, changes in stability of the country, and proposed changes to the international adoption process. All of these things could impact our wait times even more. 

Our biggest concerns at the moment are the proposed changes to international adoption requirements in Ethiopia. A draft was written and submitted to their government back in February. These proposed changes have to do with the requirements families have to meet in order to adopt a child from Ethiopia. Thankfully, we would still meet most of the proposed requirements to adopt from Ethiopia: age, income, health status, marriage requirements, etc. There are a few proposed changes that could impact our adoption process and our family, though. 

One of the proposed changes states that a family cannot have any more than 2 children in the home before bringing an adopted child home. Currently, we meet this requirement. We have 2 beautiful daughters. That means, however, we cannot expand our family any more. We aren't sure of our family building plans other than having 2 daughters and adopting our son, but this change could make that decision for us. Another proposed change would require post-adoption reports to be submitted every 6 months until the child is 18. That is a LOT of paperwork to complete, but we would happily do that if it means bringing our son home. The most concerning change, however, would require adoptive parents to remain in country for 6 months prior to completing an adoption. If this proposed change passes, Marcus and I have no idea how we can stay in Ethiopia for 6 months with our jobs and our 2 kids. We are praying that this requirement, specifically, would not pass. If it does, we are praying for God's guidance and direction on how to proceed. Please pray with us. 

These changes have been submitted and reviewed, but no decision has been made. We have no idea when to expect a ruling, but we do know things in Ethiopia move at a very slow pace. We also know that changes like these have been proposed several times over the last 10 years, and nothing has come to fruition. Our agency, however, does expect to see some changes in the adoption process. We just have to wait and see what those might be. 

Due to the unknown and instability in the Ethiopian adoption program, our agency has offered its families a chance to switch to other country programs. However, we feel like God has led us to Ethiopia and that we have a son there.  We will continue waiting and working to bring him home until God completes this adoption or completely closes that door. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. 

(Photo credit: Jessie Ann Photography)

Friday, November 27, 2015

1,000 Days

It has been 1,000 days since we signed the initial paperwork for the Ethiopian adoption program with our agency. It has been 1,000 days since we began praying for, hoping for, and waiting for our son. 1,000 days ago we knew that we were waiting to be matched with a little boy between 0 and 3 years old, and today that is still all we know. So much has changed, though, in the last 1,000 days: 

•1,000 days ago, the estimated wait time for being matched with an infant/toddler was 18-24 months. Now, the estimated wait time (which recently increased--again) is 48-60 months.
•1,000 days ago, the estimated cost of completing an adoption from Ethiopia was $28,000. Today, the estimated cost is $35,000+.
•1,000 days ago, Marcus and I were "homeless" (living in church housing) so we were unable to complete our Home Study. Today, we have been living in our home for 2.5 years, and we have completed and updated our Home Study twice. Good news: we get to update it again in the summer.
•1,000 days ago, it was just the two of us (and our dog), waiting for our son. Now, our daughter is 15 months old, and we have another daughter due to arrive mid-April. (Don't worry, we still have the dog too.) We have filled out additional paperwork and have been approved for concurrent family building plans twice in the last 1,000 days- such wonderful blessings!

Although so much has changed in 1,000 days, one thing has always remained constant: The longing we feel to bring our son home from Ethiopia. 

We will continue waiting, even if it takes another 1,000 days. We will continue to believe in God's perfect timing. God has been faithful for more than 1,000 days, and we know He will never change. He is still knitting our family together, and we are hopeful that we will meet our son in 2016. 

Some of you have been praying with us for 1,000 days, which means more than words could ever say. Thank you. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Waiting [Im]patiently

"So are you still adopting?" We get that question a lot in regards to our Ethiopian adoption. We understand, though. It seems like we've been waiting FOREVER. Believe me, we feel each day pass, and we have ever since we started the process in March of 2013. We ARE still in the adoption process, and we will keep waiting...and waiting...and waiting. 

We recently found out that things are slowing down in Ethiopia...again. Estimated wait times for adoption from Ethiopia (for a healthy child between 0 and 3, with our agency) are now 36-48 months once paperwork arrives in country. (Our paperwork has already been there for 22 months.) There are several reasons this slow-down is happening:

1. The PAIR process, which began in 2013 to ensure ethical adoption practices, has added several steps to an already lengthy adoption process. There are a limited number of officials who can carry out and process this paperwork. Paperwork is also scrutinized and simple clerical errors (such as spelling errors) could cause paperwork to be rejected and the need to start completely over. Initially, it was hoped that the PAIR process would streamline and speed up the adoption process. Instead, it has sort of bottlenecked the process. 

2. The PAIR process requires the country to prove orphan status of a child. This is wonderful because it protects against human trafficing, stolen children, and biological parents who don't really understand the terms of adoption. However, this makes things extremely difficult when a child has been abandoned. There is no one to relinquish rights of the child. There is no one who knows the child's story. This makes proving orphan status difficult. Ads about the child have to be placed in newspapers several times in several places before anything can move forward. Typically, no one comes forward with the child's story because abandoning a child has severe legal consequences. The next step is to launch an investigation and oftentimes, these cases are not resolved, leaving an orphan stuck because they cannot prove orphan status. 

3. Government officials in some areas of Ethiopia are refusing to sign final documents to complete international adoptions. Some officials believe that the country needs to preserve Ethiopian culture by pushing for domestic adoption in Ethiopia. I love all forms of adoption, and I would love it if Ethiopian children could remain in Ethiopia, but the country does not have adequate funds or resources to rely solely on domestic adoption to solve the orphan crisis. Because of the refusal to sign documents, adoption agencies are forced to work in other areas of Ethiopia, which limits the number of orphanages they can work with successfully. 

4. International adoption is a lengthy process with several hoops to jump through and red tape to overcome. Combine that fact with the fact that Ethiopia runs on "Africa Time," and the result is an even longer wait. Government offices shut down several times a year for  holidays, the rainy season, etc. It is also perfectly acceptable in Ethiopia for paperwork to remain on desks for months at a time awaiting a single signature. 

Because of these issues, several adoption agencies have closed their Ethiopia adoption programs. Ethiopia is an expensive country to operate in, and the added wait times and added steps make it even more expensive. We are thankful to be working with an agency that is committed to staying on the ground and working in Ethiopia when so many others have pulled out.

The orphan crisis in Ethiopia is greater than ever. Agencies have closed their doors, officials refuse to sign paperwork, and people don't want to wait 3 to 4 years and pay thousands more dollars to adopt a child. Many people at our agency are transferring to other country programs. The effects of these things are millions of children who are stuck, without hope, without the love of a family. 

We firmly believe that we have a son in Ethiopia, and we will continue to wait and hope and pray, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many hoops we have to jump through. God puts families together, and he is still working on our family.

Pray with us. 

On a more positive note, last night we were able to celebrate Ethiopian New Year (a day early) with some dear friends who are also waiting to bring their son home from Ethiopia. We have been amazed at the number of people God has brought into our paths who are traveling/have already traveled the same journey. I tried my hand at Ethiopian cuisine for the first time, and it was delicious: doro wat (spicy chicken stew), kik alicha (split-pea stew), and injera (pancake-like bread used to eat with instead of utensils). Our house still smells like Ethiopian food this morning, but it was definitely worth it! Someday we will be able to celebrate the holiday with our son. Until then, we will celebrate in honor of him. Happy New Year! It is now officially the year 2008 in Ethiopia. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Quiet

Have you heard anything about your adoption? When will you get your little boy? Why does it take so long?

We hear these questions almost daily. We really wish we knew the answers to these questions. Heck, if someone could answer those questions for us, I'd throw a few more their way - like: What size clothing (or diapers!) should I stock up on? How long do we have to convert the basement into a guest room? What will it be like in our house when the adult:child ratio is equal? Or most importantly: When can I get my arms around that little boy?!

All we can tell you is the way our agency works and the estimated wait times (36-48 months) they are giving for families in their Ethiopia Adoption Program. Each agency is different. Each program is different. Each country is different. 

Our agency does all the groundwork to ensure orphan status before referring a child. They launch a full investigation for each child and attempt reunification of biological families first. That means that once we are matched with our son, we can be confident that he truly needs a family, that there are no loose ends, and that he will be cleared for immigration. Because of this, there is more initial, up front, SILENT waiting for us. However, once we find out who our son is and we accept our referral, we are submitted to court in Ethiopia and get to travel as soon as our court date is scheduled. We will get updates about him at that point, and we will (hopefully) be able to travel to Ethiopia within 6 to 8 weeks of seeing his photo for the first time. This is not the way all agencies or programs or countries operate. Some people are matched with their child very quickly but then have to wait longer periods of time for clearances and additional paperwork. Some people know who their child is for months...or even years...but they are not able to bring him/her home yet. 

There are pros and cons to the way all agencies do things. While it is difficult to wait years without knowing who we are waiting for, I truly believe it is better for my heart and soul. Seeing time pass, watching months go by, knowing our son is still in an orphanage would be difficult for me, as I'm sure it is for anyone in that situation. I know deep down that our son (whoever he is) is getting older each month and we are most likely missing those precious milestones that we've been able to experience with our daughter, but our waiting feels different somehow. We still long for him. We still love him. But the waiting and passing of time doesn't seem quite as heavy.

Some agencies also tell you your spot on The List. For example, some people might know that they are number 5 on the list to be matched with a boy. Their agency updates them each time their position changes, which happens intermittently and may take months to move one spot. But, at least they have an answer that satisfies those question-askers more than our typical, "Well, we're not sure, but we are praying we meet him this year." You see, our agency is not one of those agencies that tell you that piece of information. Sometimes I wish I knew our place in line, but I'm not sure that would be good for my anxious, (sometimes obsessive), sensitive personality either. God set our course the way it is for a reason, and we will continue trusting him through the silence, through the waiting, and through the longing. 

Although it's "quiet," there are still things that go on to keep an adoption in process. As of recently, all of our adoption paperwork is updated again...for now. Each year we have to do a Home Study Update which includes: new physicals, new employment letters, new financial forms, an updated autobiography, our signature on a stack of papers, new background checks, and a meeting with our social worker. This year, though, there was a little more involved since we have a new person living in our house (our precious daughter, Eliza).

Side note- Did you know that your fingerprints can expire? Well, they can and they do...every year. I just wanted to warn you. I didn't want you walking around, being all attached to your fingerprints when they could just expire without warning. Okay, technically that's not true. I get a warning e-mail 6 months, 3 months, and 1 month before they expire so I can't really forget about mine. Don't you wish you were so lucky? Good news: we renewed our fingerprints for the year too. 

We just finished everything we needed to acquire our new I-171H. This is the paper that allows our son to immigrate into the United States. It expires every year and a half, and it requires completion of the things previously mentioned to obtain it. We are hoping that we do not have to update it that would mean ANOTHER year and a half will have passed without our son. (Also, this update was free...sort of like a BOGO thing they have going on...but the next one will be costly again.)

We just want to thank everyone who continues to pray for our process and for our son, even when it's quiet. Thank you to everyone who contines to ask about him, even though we don't have answers. Thank you to everyone who continues to encourage us, even when we appear patient. It means more than you know. We are praying that we will at least know who our son is in 2015 and hopefully travel to Ethiopia in 2016. BUT if God wants to move mountains (of red tape), we would happily embrace it all as soon as possible. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Now that our baby girl is 6 months old (WOW- time sure does fly), we now have the ability to actually get a referral for our son in Ethiopia. Our agency requires a 6 month difference between bringing children into your home. (Now that we've made it through E's first 6 months of life...and although we have loved every chaotic minute of it...we completely understand that requirement!) So now, we have the "green light," but unfortunately, there appears to be a traffic jam caused by ever changing laws and red tape. Don't get me wrong, some of these thing are good things, protective things, necessary things. But, they are also wait-time inducing things. When we started the adoption process, estimated wait times were at 18-24 months. Now, just 2 years later, estimated wait times are 36-48 months. So I guess we could describe this time period as more of a "yellow light" phase...or maybe a "yield sign" phase? Eh, basically, we know that we are in the correct lane, inching in the right direction, and that we will get to go at some point. (Thanks for putting up with my cheesy analogies, folks.)

In just a couple of weeks, it will be two years since we started the adoption process. Two years. We are so thankful for those of you who have been faithfully praying for our son over the last two years. 

OUR SON- I think sometimes we confuse people when we call him 'our son.' We don't actually know who he is yet. That is what we are waiting for: our referral. That is our next step- receiving the precious packet of information that will tell us who our son is, how old he is, his medical status, and give us the first glimpse of our expanding family. Once we receive this information, we will be submitted to court in Ethiopia and prepare for our first of two trips to the country. 

OUR SON- No, we don't know who he is or how old he is or where he is or if he's even been born...but we believe that God knows these things and that He is orchestrating it all for His good, His glory, His perfect timing. We believe that we do have a son living (or soon to be living) in Ethiopia. We will continue praying for our son and working to bring him home, no matter how long the process takes. 

Recently, several adoption agencies pulled out of Ethiopia completely or are now only referring children with special needs. This is due to an increase in adoption wait times and the increasing costs of operating in Ethiopia. We are thankful for an adoption agency who is committed to staying on the ground and serving in Ethiopia. We are thankful for an agency with a large presence and network in Ethiopia. We are thankful that we can continue working and waiting for our son. We pray that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. 

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:14

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Year Ago

One year ago, Marcus and I stuffed 1.5 pounds of paper, 8 months worth of work, and our dreams of expanding our family into an envelope and sent it across the ocean to Ethiopia. Our dossier has been there for a year now, meaning that we have been on the official waiting list for one year. We are still waiting to be matched with our son, a little boy between 0 and 3 years old.

One year ago, we went to celebrate "Officially Waiting" at the Blue Nile Ethiopian Cafe. This past weekend, we went back there with our church small group to celebrate our one year "Wait-aversary." As things continue to move slowly in Ethiopia, we wonder how many more years we will have to go back to that little cafe without our son. Looking at current trends and estimated wait times, it appears that we could celebrate 1 to 2 more anniversaries of "officially waiting" for him. We have no doubt, though, that it will be worth the wait. 

One year ago, God answered our prayers to expand our family with two kinds of hope: the hope of bringing our son home from Ethiopia and the hope of meeting another child - the one that caused those two pink lines to appear on the same day that our paperwork arrived in Ethiopia. We are so thankful for our baby girl, and we are thankful for the hope we still have of meeting our son someday. God brought our daughter into our lives at the perfect time. (Go figure, God's timing is perfect.) Per adoption requirements, we know that we cannot be matched with a child in Ethiopia until after the end of February, when our daughter is 6 months old. Looking at estimated wait times, we wouldn't have been matched before then anyway. So really, it changes nothing about our adoption process...except for the fact that he will have 1 more family member to love on him when he arrives. 

Last week, we heard rumors (for the second time this year) of Ethiopia threatening to close its doors to adoption. Thankfully, this time, they proved not to be true. It is our prayer that Ethiopia will remain open to international adoption for the next several years. We continue to pray that our adoption will progress quickly and that someday soon we will be able to meet our son. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Waiting on Him

She's here! Eliza Mae was born on August 21, weighing 6 pounds 15 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long. She is 2 weeks old today! Marcus and I are overwhelmed with love for this tiny little person. We had been waiting on her for 40 weeks and 2 days. We watched my belly grow as she grew. We saw her wiggle and move within me. We saw photographs and videos of her throughout those weeks. We had an estimated date to look forward to, to count down to, and now she's here! Pure love.

We are so excited and happy to welcome her into our lives, but we are still waiting on one more family member. We are still prayerfully awaiting the arrival of our son. However, adoption is different. There are no real signs of growth or development that I can actually watch. There are no photos yet or due dates to estimate arrival. There is just a stack of paperwork in Ethiopia and a timer, counting up the number of days we have been waiting. (Our paperwork has been in Ethiopia for 279 days now!) After my 37th week of pregnancy, I felt like our baby girl would NEVER arrive! I joked that she would most likely graduate high school within my womb, but deep down I knew that we had, at most, 4 more weeks until we met her. Oh how I'd love to know how many weeks or months or years it will be until we meet our son.

How I long to hold him like I hold her. I long to tuck him in at night. I want so badly to make sure he's taken care of, and I desperately want him to know that he is loved. That he has been loved and wanted for 17 months now, which may even be longer than he's been on this earth. 

Unfortunately, expected wait times for referrals (when we are matched with a child) keep increasing. When we started this process, estimated wait times for a healthy infant or toddler was at 24 months (once paperwork arrived in Ethiopia). We have seen that wait time steadily increase over the last year and a half. Current estimated wait times are now at 36-42 months. Part of the increase in wait time is due to a relatively new adoption policy called the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process, which went into effect about a year ago. 

The PAIR process is good in that it protects adoptive parents and children. This process determines eligibility for adoption (declares orphan status of a child after a full investigation) and ensures approval for immigration before an adoption is finalized. What it really means is that a child you have adopted: 1. actually needs a family, and 2. he or she will not be stuck in their country due to an inability to immigrate into the United States. There are heartbreaking stories of children who have been legally adopted, but who are unable to live with their new families due to issues surrounding these things. While I wholeheartedly agree with these precautions, the PAIR process is somewhat difficult for me in that it adds extra paperwork and extra time to an already lengthy adoption process. We have heard that there are only 4 ladies in the country of Ethiopia who process these forms for the PAIR process. As you can imagine, paperwork is backing up, causing increased adoption timeframes. I know, I know: patience. This process is a step in the right direction to help ensure more ethical adoptions in Ethiopia. 

Marcus and I find hope in knowing that we are not really waiting for an estimated wait time to pass or a person to process paperwork. Ultimately, we are waiting on The Lord and on His perfect timing. He already knows when things will be set into place, as it has already been prepared beforehand. He even knows the number of hairs on our son's head. (Luke 12:7). Thankfully, our son's days, like our days, were formed before he was even born:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

We continue to trust in Him to continue to bring our family together.