God opens the doors that no man can shut

I tried to send our daughter a care package in mid-March, right after we got our LOA.  I was hopeful that if we sent a package, we could get an updated report and photos of our daughter.  At this point, all we have is information and photos from when she was 4 months old; she will turn 9 months old next week.

The care package service let me know that although they would be glad to send a package, I shouldn’t expect to get anything back.  She said that our orphanage doesn’t cooperate with sending out photos or information except through official channels. That was such a disappointment, as many people can get regular updates on their children through the care package service, but that door was closed to us.

I looked into other ways of possibly getting information, but that was a dead end, too.  It seemed unlikely that we could get any more information except through official channels.  We can request an update after we get our LOA (our next milestone) and one more right before we travel to get current clothing sizes.

I have met some women on Facebook who are currently (or who have recently) adopted from China.  In fact, Facebook has been an incredible networking tool during the adoption, and the adoption related groups I have joined have provided an amazing amount of support from people going through the same experiences we are.  I joined a group for families affiliated with our daughter’s orphanage, a group of moms who adopted babies from China with cleft lip and cleft palate, and multiple groups of people who are at a similar point in the adoption process or who are slightly ahead of me (I have gained much practical advice from these groups).

One of the absolute best things has been networking with moms who are going to China before we are, to adopt from the same orphanage.

I was able to make contact with two moms who traveled to China in March to adopt from our daughter’s orphanage.  We weren’t sure if either of them would be allowed to visit the orphanage, as it seems somewhat arbitrary with some people being allowed and others denied.  We sent a photo and our daughter’s name to each of the women and asked if they would please look for her if they did get in. Then we prayed and prayed that at least one of the women would be allowed in and that she would have the opportunity to see our baby.

We were thrilled, humbled, amazed, and blessed to find out that BOTH of the women were granted permission to visit the orphanage and BOTH of them were able to see our daughter!

We gained valuable insights from them, that we will always treasure.  The first woman to go in adopted a daughter from the same room, who was just a few months older than our daughter.  She was able to see our daughter as she lay in her bed.

This is what she wrote:

“Hi Molly!!!!! Good news! I did get to see your little girl! And talk to her and hold her hand! I kissed her cheek and told her her momma is coming and she smiled! She is a happy little girl! THEY DID NOT LET ME TAKE ANY PICS IN THAT ROOM! It was sad for us but they did let us get one pic of our little girl’s bed. I was disappointed for you:(

We told the director you were our friends and you were coming soon for her but she said no because they didn’t have a scheduled date for you to come yet. If you have any questions, I will answer them best I can. Your little one’s bed was one row and two down from my little girl. The orphanage is bright but chilly.

Your little girl was bundled up in a blue outfit and it was snack time. She had a nanny right by her when we came in. She is next to this little boy with downs that is soooo sweet. She stared straight in my eyes and kept eye contact the whole time I talked to her! Very impressive as most of the children in there do not even look at you when talking. She is much smaller than I could see in her pictures. About the size of a 6 month old though. Very cute cheeks. I know this doesn’t make it any easier but she is doing very well and I know those nannies really do love them well. You can see it in their smiles!

She did not make any sound but when we walked up and started to call her name she did look at us. She has the cutest soft fuzzy hair and a little bald spot on the back like most of the kids there. The way she studied our faces was so sweet. I can’t wait to see pictures of you with her someday. The nanny that was with us in her room tickled her cheek to get her big smile.

She is a happy little girl and kept studying my face intently. So excited for your journey!”

It was snack time when she got there, and she let us know that the babies all eat snacks in their beds.  She also  told us that the babies are taken out of bed twice a day for two hours at a time.  The rest of the time they lie in their beds.  This was hard news to hear, but good to know.  It has spurred me on to even more prayer (if that were possible!) that the Lord would be gracious toward her and shorten the time she has to spend there by allowing us to get to her as quickly as possible!

The fact that our daughter made and maintained eye contact has given us great hope that she is being cared for and spoken to.  We have been praying that the Lord would cause the workers to look on our daughter with favor, that they would speak to her and pick her up more often than just twice a day.  We know her orphanage has Half the Sky, a program that provides love and therapies to selected children, and we hope and pray that she is part of Half the Sky.

We are happy to have this glimpse into her personality that she is able to interact and seems to want to.  That is a great answer to prayer!  I pray we can get to her before her little spirit is bruised more deeply by the long, lonely hours in bed. This news from a distant land refreshed my spirit.

The other mother was able to see her, too!  Here is what she had to say:

“Molly….We got to see your little girlie today and she’s absolutely beautiful!!!! They brought her out when I asked about her, she had been laying down for a nap but had not fallen asleep yet. She’s got the softest hair and cheeks and pretty little fingers, everything else was bundled and she had a blanket wrapped around her!

It looks like a very nice orphanage and they were very nice to us, they even fed us lunch and ate with us. They have beautiful activity rooms!!”

She told me that this orphanage has special baby bottles that are for cleft babies, so now I know why our baby has gained so much weight and seems to be feeding well, when so many babies with cleft lip and palate struggle with failure to thrive.

She let me know that her guide recognized our baby’s name and knew about her from submitting the request that they wouldn’t do her surgeries in China.

A few weeks ago, I was able to speak with our adoption agency’s China contact, who was visiting for a short time in the United States.  I asked her whether she thought the orphanage would honor our request to perform our daughter’s surgeries in the states and she told me that yes, the orphanage had already indicated to her that they would honor our request.  This is another HUGE praise!!  We submitted that request before we even got our PA and never knew if it would be honored.  I praise God that He is blessing her in this way, as it will be much better for her to endure these painful surgeries with mommy than all by her little self.

And now I have made contact with another mom who leaves for China in about 2 weeks.  She was willing to take a small care package for us, so we sent a little blankie (which a friend embroidered with our daughter’s Chinese nickname).  We also sent a disposable camera, in hopes that they will take some pictures on it and give it back to us when we go to China.

I plan to send another care package after we get LOA through a care package service.  We will probably send another disposable camera along with some  family photos in a little baby album for her to look at.

I am grateful that the Lord provided this network of moms to help us on this part of the journey.  Knowing that He allowed two women to see her was such a comfort and blessing to me, and one more sign of His faithful care.

Our prayers have been emboldened, as the Lord has answered all of our prayers regarding the adoption above and beyond what we hoped or expected!  We saw so much answered prayer through the referral process, and then more answered prayer about these mothers getting to see her.  Now we have answered prayer that China will allow her to get her surgeries here!

Our current prayer request, of course, is to get that LOA quickly so that we can get to her in time for her birthday.  In fact, I would love to get her HOME in time for her birthday, so the whole family can celebrate it together!

Our pastor preached a sermon recently encouraging us to pray big and specific prayers.  We have been doing that, and we intend to continue!

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Where things stand today…

We are 45 days in to our LOA wait.  The LOA (aka Letter of Approval or Letter Seeking Confirmation) is a document that China will send to us, asking us to sign and make a commitment to adopting our daughter.  We already signed one document to this effect (the PA or Preliminary Approval) but this is the one that truly counts the most.  This is that one that means you are “paper pregnant” and that the adoption has been officially approved by both China and the U.S.

Some people wait as little as 20 days or so for their LOA.  Those people typically were matched to their child before their dossier was logged into the Chinese system, so their paperwork is expedited.  There are others who have a quick turn around time because they got approval a LONG time after getting logged in.  By the time they are matched to a child, their dossier has already been translated and reviewed.

Then there are the people in our situation.  We received a referral one day after getting our dossier logged in, and our PA came about 2 weeks later.  We aren’t in the “expedite” line, and our dossier did not have time to be translated or reviewed during that two weeks.

It has happened that some people have waited as long as 120 days for LOA.  And rumor has it that you can wait up to 150 days for it, though I haven’t personally heard of anyone waiting that long.  An average wait seems to be about 65 days.

So here we are, still on day 45.

In some ways, I can’t believe how quickly we have gotten to day 45!  On the other hand, it has been an agony to wait.  I often find myself crying when I think of my little girl, lying alone in her bed for 20 hours a day or more (this is based on a report from a mother who just got back a few weeks ago from China with her little girl, who was in the same room with our little girl.  She found out this information during their orphanage tour).

We got our referral on March 1st.  I truly believed it was “do-able” to get to our little girl before her birthday the first week of August, and I still do!  I have prayed to that effect daily, many times a day, ever since getting the Preliminary Approval for her.  That is still a possibility if we can get this LOA within the next week or two.  After that, it becomes much harder to get there before her birthday.  Please join me in praying that the Lord will be merciful to her, and allow us to get to her before her birthday!

Once we get the LOA, things will start to shape up and our timeline will become more predictable.  Many people are traveling in as little as 8 weeks after their LOA.  Most can expect to travel within 3 months from the date of LOA.

I made a list for myself of things to do to keep busy until we can leave for China.  I have some goals I’d like to accomplish before things get crazy around here, adjusting to baby #6 and the medical needs she will have.

One of the top things on the list was to potty train our 2 1/2 year old daughter.  I wrote it at the top of the list, but decided to wait until school ends in May, when I would have more time.  But the Lord just moved in her little heart and mind and she decided within a couple days of me writing that list that she was ready.  She hasn’t had an accident since, and it has been 3 weeks ago since she set her mind to stay clean and dry!  And for the past 5 nights she has been dry all night, too!  What a precious little sweetie she is, and I give thanks to God for making this the easiest potty training experience I’ve ever had.  I know it will be much easier for her caregivers when we are in China now that she is trained.

 

 

Answered Prayer

I wrote the following prayer requests to a friend on October 31, 2012.  The Lord has already answered our prayer for an expedited timeline with a quick referral. It remains to be seen how the timing will work out as this is day 45 of our LOA wait.  Bringing home a little girl in August is still a possibility….in fact, I am praying it would be in July at this point.  We’ll see, only the Lord knows!

The newest exciting thing the Lord is doing is that He has led us to pursue adoption.  This was not something we ever considered we would do before, but last November we held a movie and prayer night for friends who were adopting, and showed the movie Rescued (sight unseen).

We were surprised that the Lord touched our hearts powerfully through the movie, and He led us to begin praying about adoption.  In July He led my husband to another adoption movie, Grafted, and after watching that movie we were convicted that the Lord was, indeed, leading us to move forward with adoption.

He has laid a burden on our hearts for the plight of the orphan, and we are moving forward with adopting a little girl from China.  We recently finished our home study and are in the process of getting immigration approval.

Then we will be matched with a child.  We are hoping and praying it will be sometime in January or February, though we have been told it could take much longer.

Our biggest prayer requests regarding the adoption are that the Lord would expedite our paperwork and that the Lord would give us wisdom in accepting the referral of a child.

We will be accepting a referral for a young girl with “minor, correctable” special needs and we are in the process right now of deciding what special needs we feel our family can handle, in light of the resources the Lord has given us (time, energy, financially, and what is available in our community).

We need much wisdom to make this decision, and we need the Lord to give us wisdom in accepting the right referral, as there are so many unknowns in the process.  We trust His sovereignty, but it is  certainly stretching our faith as we move forward with what we believe He is leading us to do, in spite of the unknowns and potential challenges.

Another prayer request is regarding the timing.  We were hoping we would be able to get through this process quickly and bring her home in August 2013 (that is about the quickest that this process can work since we began in August 2012), but that may not be possible.  It seems like things are slowing down with the referral process in China and it could take much longer.

Next year, (2013-2014 school year) will be our oldest son’s senior year.  It will likely be particularly challenging and time consuming for the first few months after bringing our adopted child home, in light of not only the travel but also dealing with her medical and emotional needs (both of which could be great, considering she will be coming from an orphanage and possibly having been very neglected, with medical needs, etc.).

Only the Lord knows what the optimal timing will be and we need to trust Him with it, and be sensitive to His leading.   We trust His sovereignty, that He led us to this decision at this time.

Inspiring Thoughts

I often find encouragement and inspiration on other adoption blogs.

One of my favorites is My Life in God’s Garden.  This already large family recently adopted two fourteen year old girls who were aging out in China.  I am so grateful to Diane for openly sharing about her adoption experiences, and what the Lord is doing in her heart and in her family.

Here are some of Diane’s thoughts that I want to remember and return to again and again.  She expresses so much of what I feel….that the unknowns of adoption are the scariest thing about adopting, but we know that God uses the hard things to do a gracious work of sanctification in our lives.

Today I am in a season of unknowns as we wait to see all that will transpire when the Lord brings our little girl home.  But these are not the hard days.  The hard days are yet to come, and Diane has written some powerful thoughts and shared some wonderful words from Scripture to cling to and ponder when the going gets tough.

Here is one of her great quotes from the above-linked post: “We cannot bear another’s burdens with out carrying the weight in our lives, with out making our own lives harder. Yet we are called to nothing less.  ‘

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’

~Galatians 6:3″

Click through for more encouragement!

She’s the one!

A few weeks ago a friend posed the question, “How did you know ‘she’s the one’?  How could you be certain this child was your daughter?”

I have been thinking about that question and decided it would make a great blog post.

As we were going through the adoption process, I wondered the same thing myself.  How did people “know”?  

We had looked at two files of special focus children as we were progressing through the adoption process and it hadn’t felt “right” in either case.  We didn’t have a sense that this child is “the one”.  These were files that we asked to see, having seen the child on an advocacy group or on our agency’s website.  In each case, we decided that it didn’t seem like the right fit.

The last file we looked at before accepting a child was a few weeks before we were logged in.  I had seen a little girl on Lifeline’s website and wanted to see her file.  She was so sweet and there was no reason not to accept her file, per se, except that we felt the Lord leading us to just wait for LID and see what Lifeline sent us.  

I was concerned that we might never find a child that seemed to be the “right one” since I hadn’t felt we should move forward with adopting either of the children we had looked at. These children seemed to match “on paper” what we were hoping for, but it hadn’t felt right in our hearts.

With that said, any time we have looked at a file or felt drawn toward a child, we have used it as an opportunity to pray for that child.  I think often the Lord draws our hearts toward a child, not because it is “our child” but because the Lord wants us to pray for that little one.

But once we got our girl, we did know it was right. It was very clear to us!!!

It wasn’t her photo or her file that convinced us, it was the way all the details came together in answer to our specific prayers. It was just so clear.

We had prayed three prayers: that she would be as young as possible, that it would happen as quickly as possible, and that her orphanage would have Half the Sky (a program in some Chinese orphanages which seeks to nurture babies and provide care which goes beyond meeting their physical needs).

All three prayers were answered: we received a referral for a 6 month old baby.  We got her referral just one day after our LID (just one day after we were “eligible” to receive a referral).  And her orphanage had Half the Sky.  In fact, not only do they have Half the Sky, hers was the first orphanage in China to get Half the Sky…it was the pilot program!

We believed this must be the child that God had for us, as He had answered our 3 specific prayers, the only 3 prayers we had been daily and faithfully asking Him about for months regarding our adoption.

But I had a sense of nervousness, too, as David was at work and although we had texted back and forth about her, we hadn’t been able to talk in person, to pray about it, or to even show her file to our doctor.  I felt nervous about making such a momentous decision in a split second like that.

At that time, I didn’t realize that we could “lock” her file.  

I texted our agency advocate, saying that we wanted to move forward but that we needed to at least make sure that our insurance would cover the care that her special needs would require.  Even though I said we wanted to proceed, I was still thinking, “the doctor hasn’t seen her file, we haven’t prayed about it, we haven’t even been able to really talk about it yet…”

But I also believed there wasn’t a moment to waste if we did want to move forward!  I was so worried someone else would snap her up before we could get the appropriate paperwork (LOI, Letter of Intent to adopt) done. It would take an hour or more to put together all the paperwork, and I was fearful that someone else might be looking at her file, too, and that they might get the paperwork done faster than I could.  

I had just prayed, “Lord, this is moving so quickly.  We can’t even pray about it or talk about it in person! Can this really be from you?” when our advocate called me to say we could lock the file if we wanted to. Locking her file would give us 72 hours to talk to our pediatrician–and to each other–to pray about it, and to get our paperwork done.

This was another immediate answer to prayer and I burst into tears of relief. In that split second, I realized that she was mine.  We could see so clearly that the Lord’s hand was at work, and that this child was His faithful answer to our many prayers.

We had a lot of questions about her file, as it seemed like she might be deaf. There were several references to how quiet she is, and we wondered a lot about her hearing and her voice.  We submitted some questions to her orphanage, but the LOI had to be done before we could get them answered.  

Of course, we sent her file to our doctor, but by then we were already convinced that this was our daughter.  David said that if she is deaf, we will learn sign language.

By the time they got back to us a week later (saying they had no concerns about her hearing) it didn’t matter. Of course, we were relieved!  But either way, we were already totally committed by that time.

We just felt like the Lord had shined a spotlight on her and said “she is the one I have chosen for your family”.  In light of that, everything else was secondary.

We believed the Lord was saying “I have shown favor to this child!! I have chosen her, and you will be the vehicle through which I will bless her!” How could we say no to that? We just knew that she was His choice, and we were the blessed participants in His plan!  

So that, in essence, is how we knew.  It wasn’t her file, even though it matched what we were looking for on paper.  It wasn’t her photo, either, even though I loved her chubby cheeks from the first moment.  It was the Lord, confirming in our hearts, “I have chosen her for you!”

As we move forward, we trust that the Lord will use us in her life, and that He will use her in our lives.  He is bringing us together as a family, to fulfill plans He made for each of us before the foundation of the world.

It’s pretty awesome!!

As the hours passed that first day, He showed us other things that continued to affirm in our hearts that this was His choice. We already were convinced, but it was just amazing to see His hand at work!

We discovered that our daughter was born the same week we started filling out our initial paperwork. We also realized that she was born on the 1 year anniversary of my dad’s death and her middle name is very similar to my dad’s middle name.  These little details were further encouragement as we marveled at how the Lord had fit her perfectly to match our family.  We are so excited to get to know her and to learn all the myriad of ways the Lord was been working in her heart and in ours to prepare us for one another.

DTC, LID, LOI and more!

We have achieved some important milestones in our adoption process, with a few more hurdles left to jump!  Here is what it all means…

We finished our Home Study process in late November.  This involved several visits with a social worker in our home, and copious amounts of reading and watching videos about the adoption process, bonding and attachment issues, language acquisition, special needs, and lots more.  When that was done and our final set of fingerprints was ready to go, we got our Dossier together.

DTC:

Adoption D

Adoption T

Adoption C

Our Dossier involved all the most important documents we have gathered during this process; I think there were 13, if I remember right.  It included the report about our Home Study, original copies of our marriage and birth certificates, some photos of our home and family, passport pictures, our medical forms, and of course, some money.  Once that was ALL complete our agency sent it to China and we got our first great acronym:  DTC, Dossier to China!  Our Dossier went to China on January 31, 2013. That was a big milestone, meaning that the bulk of our “paperchase” was over.

LID

Adoption L 3

Adoption I

Adoption D 2

Our LID date is when our dossier was officially “Logged In” in China’s system.  For us, this happened on February 28, 2013.  Oftentimes it doesn’t take a whole month, but Chinese New Year slowed our process down a bit.

LOI:

We didn’t expect to receive a referral for at least 3 to 6 months, but we were stunned to get a referral after just one day!  You can read all about that here.  Once we decided to accept the referral we had to submit LOI (Letter of Intent to adopt), stating that we want to adopt this child.  Our LOI paperwork was officially entered into the system in China on March 4, 2013.

adoption L

Adoption O 3

Adoption I 2

PA:

Once we submitted our LOI, we had to wait for China to send us PA (Preliminary Approval to adopt a specific child). We got PA on March 14, 2013. The ten days of waiting for PA was an agony. I was soooo worried it would be denied for some reason, and then I would feel like someone else was being given custody of our child. I thought that would be the hardest part of the wait.

adoption P

Adoption A

When our PA came in, I burst into tears of joy!  I was on cloud nine!

LOA:

Adoption L 2Adoption O 2Adoption A 2

Now that we have PA, I think the LOA (fnal approval) is the hardest part…not knowing if it will take 30 days or 110 days…it is driving me crazy. I feel like my little girl needs me and I can’t get to her, and it is out of my control how long that is going to take.

My emotions about it are all over the map, so many ups and downs that it is crazy. I see someone gets a quick LOA and I am up, someone else gets a slow LOA and I am down. I am trying to step back from all of that and not obsess quite as much about the dates, as it was making me too stressed out and I can’t do anything about it! But I do feel like it shows that the Lord has knit my heart to this little girl. The fact that I would already care so deeply has been a surprise to me. I thought we would meet her and eventually the love would grow. But it has been like a pregnancy for me…the love is already there, because she is mine.

As of today, we are on day 29 of our wait for LOA.  We are hoping and praying that it will come soon enough to get us to China before our daughter’s first birthday in early August. Even as we hope and pray for a speedy LOA, we are trying to rest and trust that it is all in the Lord’s hands.  He knows when the right time will be.

I was encouraged this week by a fellow adopting mother who has been waiting a lot longer than I have.  She shared with me Lamentations 3:25-26, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.”