Thursday, May 23, 2013

Familia Para Siempre

In 2 weeks it will mark 4 months since we welcomed 2 girls into our family forever.  Has it really been that long?  In some ways it seems to have gone by so quickly, in other ways it feels like our time in Colombia was a lifetime ago.  Some of you may be questioning why it has taken us so long to update our blog and part of the reason is life never slowed down long enough to afford us the opportunity to blog! The other reason is the topic of our blog post today.  Let's take it from the top...

On Wednesday, February 6, at 10:50 a.m. we boarded a plane and embarked on the journey known as parenthood.  We landed in Bogotá, Colombia late Wednesday evening and laid our head on the pillow for the last time as a family of 2.  Early the next day, on February 7, we saw our girls face to face and held them in our arms for the first time.  It was the most surreal moment I have ever had in my life.  It was the day we had always imagined, the day we had waited for for over 16 months, the day we thought would never come, and that day was finally here!  It was the first day of 42 that we spent in Country.  The first 11 days was a period of bonding for our family, where nothing related to the adoption took place.  On the 12th day, we met with the defender of minors for a brief interview to ensure that everything was going well and that the entire family was happy and willing to move forward.  After the interview, we all signed an agreement to move forward as a family and so began the waiting period to pass court.  We passed the time by swimming in our apartment pool and sight seeing in and around Bogotá.  Some of our favorite places we visited were Monserrate , La Candelaria , Catedral de Sal , Iglesia de San Francisco , Museo de Santa Clara , Iglesia del Carmen , Cascada la Chorrera , and  DiverCity. Some of our favorite restaurants were Crepes and Waffles and  Mi Gran Parrilla Boyacense.  There is so much beauty in Colombia, it would take a lifetime to see it all! Although we enjoyed seeing a new part of the world and experiencing the culture of our girls, it didn't take long for us to become desperately homesick. Nothing can prepare you for being away from everything and everyone you know for 6 weeks.  After our bonding interview we waited 3 more weeks for our court date.  On March 13, we met with the judge assigned to our case to sign sentencia.  He was truly one of the kindest men I have ever met.  He went above and beyond his "duty" and made our day in court a true celebration.  It was a very special day we will never forget!  We could never say enough about his kindness and dedication.  After sentencia we scurried about to have new birth certificates made so we could apply for the girls' passports and visas.  Because the girls were born outside of Bogotá a courier was sent to have the new BCs made in their place of birth. We received the new BCs the Saturday after sentencia and applied for passports on Monday, March 18th.  Thankfully, in Colombia it only takes 24 hours to have passports made so we received those the next morning.  We were able to get an appointment with the U.S. Embassy for Wednesday, March 20th, which was the final step before we could head for home.  We received their visas the very same day, in fact it only took about an hour! With visas in hand, we were able to book our flights that very night.  We quickly packed up the entire apartment and managed to make it to the airport just in time to board the plane to Panama where we spent the night waiting for our next flight to Houston, TX.  When we landed in Houston we went through immigration with no delays and made our final connecting flight to Baton Rouge.  On the evening of Thursday, March 21, 2013 we were finally HOME!

We have been home for exactly 9 weeks.  We have experienced ups and downs, joys and sadness, but through it all we are being conformed to the image of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Although we feel privileged to serve our Lord in this tangible way, nothing about this is easy.  But, in the difficulties, in the times where we are overwhelmed, we learn to trust God.  We learn to depend upon Him and we walk with Him unlike we ever have before.  All along we have known the obvious purpose for adoption: to care for those who have been abandoned that they might experience the love of God, but the purpose that was unknown to us before, that has become so apparent now, is the change that God intended for us.  God chose us for these girls, but He has also chosen them for us.  He chose them for us that we might experience Him in all of His glory and learn to love as He loves.  His purpose has always been two-fold.

Not only is God's purpose two-fold, but our story is now two-fold, actually it is four-fold.  Which brings me to the point of my blog post today.  There are many stories I could tell about what our family has experienced in the last 4 months, but the stories aren't only mine to tell.  You see, now our story involves 2 others and we have to give them the choice of telling or not telling it.  It would be unfair to them for me to bear it all on the world-wide-web for anyone who comes along to read.  So, Blaine and I have chosen to protect them and to keep our family matters just that.  One day, when our girls are old enough, should they choose to tell the story of their adoption, the story will be theirs to tell.  Until then, the book will remained closed.

You may still see a blog post from time-to-time, an update here and there, so be on the look-out. :) Until then we leave you with our heartfelt thanks for all of the prayers and support you have given.  Our family is forever changed because of your kindness!

Monday, February 4, 2013

the Precious

January 14th: I-800 approved
January 24th: received our visas and our girls were transferred from their region to Bogotá
January 25th: saw our girls for the first time, via Skype
February 6th: TRAVEL

As we continue to see God's grace unfolding before our eyes, it causes me to reflect back on the last 5 months (and even years) and everything God has done to bring us to this very moment in our lives. Standing, as it were, on the hill top looking back over the journey that brought us here (the valleys, the pits, the rocky climbs) I stand in pure and utter amazement at the work God has done.

It is no secret that when we began our adoption 16 months ago, we had an infant in mind. God quickly began to change that as He reminded us of the worldwide need for all ages. We settled in to our commitment of siblings: up to 3, but under 8 years old. What I realize now, that I didn't then, is that I was still holding on to age. I had never really let go of it, I only thought I had. As it seems, God would not let me rest until I had surrendered all to Him - ALL, not some. It wasn't until these 2 girls came across our path that I came face to face with this reality in my heart.

It is true that we felt compelled to help these girls. We wanted to be the ones to provide a loving home for children who had been cast aside. But to be totally honest with you, even in the midst of compelling feelings, I was terrified to let go of "my picture" (ya know the one with little ones toddling around). I wanted to be the one to say "YES, God, I WILL GO" no matter what the question was. But, there was a weakness in my heart that wouldn't afford me that courage. So began the wrestling match between the two sides of my heart; the one side who desired greatly to be bold for the Lord and to follow Him anywhere, and the other side who drowned in doubt and thought of every excuse. I remember literally walking and talking with the Lord concerning this decision. I walked and prayed, walked and prayed, walked and prayed, until I found peace. God used the story of Abraham to speak peace to my heart. When God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, He was calling him to sacrifice what was most precious to him. It was only when he was willing to give up what was precious to him that God gave it back to him. Sometimes we have to give up our precious thing in order to be obedient to God. My precious thing was the longing to watch a child grow from infancy - to experience the joy of first steps and first words. But giving up my precious thing was the requirement for obedience. If I could paint a picture of my personal journey throughout this adoption it would be the Lord stretching out His hand to me, and in my hesitation to take His hand, The Lord saying to me Don't fear, I won't leave your side, take My hand, trust Me. I have great hope that, like Abraham, God will return what is precious to me in time.

In the meantime, God has given us a new kind of precious in the form of 2 beautiful girls, ages 10 and 12. It is beautiful to consider that at the time God was bringing Blaine and I together, one day to be husband and wife, He birthed our daughters into the world 2,000 miles away. Only God could write a story that beautiful! We are looking forward to turning the page and entering the new chapter of our lives as parents. After 7 years of waiting, it all comes down to 2 more days. In 2 more days the parent chapter will finally become a reality. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Different Picture

It has been exactly 4 months since we've written a real update. There's so much to say, I don't quite know how to begin. In our last post we shared about our struggle with waiting on the Lord and His timing. We were desperate to fit this adoption into our own timeline instead of yielding fully to Him and whatever timeline He chose for us. Even though it's apparent that we didn't finalize our adoption in 2012, God did answer us within 3 weeks, just as we were hoping. 

Shortly after we were assured of God's promise in Jeremiah 33:3 "I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not" we received an email containing a link to a wait-list of children in Colombia. It contained the profiles of children who were unable to be matched (some due to age, others due to medical conditions). We glanced through the profiles, mostly out of curiosity at first. But, we went back to the list of children again and again, always to the same 2 sisters. Although the girls were outside of the age parameters we had initially set for ourselves, we still felt compelled to inquire about these sisters, and so we did. We received a document containing basic information about the girls (temperament, personality, etc.) and we found ourselves excited about the prospect of these 2 girls in our home. We took some time to pray about it and sought the counsel of our family and friends. It wasn't easy to sort through all of our emotions in order to come to a clear headed decision. After all, this picture looked a lot different than the first picture we had in mind. In some ways it was easier; 2 children instead of 3, in other ways it was harder, older children instead of younger. But through it all, we both felt the Lord giving us a heart for these girls. 

After some time to think things through, we contacted our agency to see what we would need to do to move forward with the girls. We were told that we would need to update our homestudy and I800A because of the age difference and number of children. As we began to wrap our minds around this change in our journey, our agency contacted ICBF (child welfare services) in Colombia to inquire about the girls. Upon their inquiry, they discovered that the girls were in a hosting program and were scheduled to travel to the U.S. over Christmas. Initially we thought ICBF would bypass the hosting program in order to place the girls with a family. However, we received word that they wanted to keep the girls in the program. They told us we could wait until they returned to Colombia at the first of the year, and that if the host family declined to adopt them, then we could proceed with adopting them. But, in the meantime we would have to wait. We were devastated with this news and became unsure of our next steps. Should we wait, in hopes that the host family would decline to adopt them? What if we waited 4 months only to find out that the host family decided to adopt? Then again, what if we chose to move forward with another sibling set and then discovered that the girls were available after all? It was an impossible choice to make

Many tears were shed and many prayers were prayed as we felt paralyzed and unable to make a choice. We both felt the Lord leading us to these girls... could we have been wrong? Did we misunderstand? In the midst of our confusion, one thing became clear... only time would tell. We would wait upon the Lord; if He sent another sibling set our way, we would know He meant them for us and He meant the girls for the family that hosted them. We could only trust HIM as we settled into His arms for comfort and peace.

Then out of the blue... on an ordinary afternoon in the last week of September, my cell phone rang. It was a call that changed our life forever. It was like time stood still as I heard the words from our case workers mouth... the host family fell through, do you still want to adopt the girls? We were absolutely stunned! There are no words to convey the joy we felt in that exact moment; joy that I'm sure will only be surpassed by the moment we see them face to face. There was no hesitation as we gleefully answered YES!!! And so began the final stages of our journey as we scurried to re-do our homestudy and I800A, which needed to be updated before we could proceed.

Initially Colombia wanted everything finalized before Christmas, but to our disappointment we experienced a few setbacks which prevented that from happening. Although the setbacks were frustrating, we were spared the ultimate set back of the judges strike, which took place during the time we would've been in country attempting to finalize. Many families were delayed in country for many weeks during the strike, and although our hearts went out to them in their struggle, we were inwardly thankful that God had spared us from this great difficulty. 

So what's happening now? You guessed it, we're still waiting! We sent off our U.S. Immigration paperwork just before Christmas and received word that they received it on Dec. 28th. Once that returns we will be able to travel to Colombia, which we expect will be around mid-February, but nothing is set in stone yet. ICBF has been on break for the holidays and won't return until next week, so we hope to know more when they return.

When you embark on an adoption journey you hear zillions of stories and receive unwarranted advice, but one thing is true... YOU MUST BE FLEXIBLE! Nothing ever happens how you want it to or when you want it to; it's always a little different than how you pictured it and little later than you expected it. But, it's a beautiful ride! :) This picture is definitely different than the one we started this journey with, but different as it may be, we couldn't be happier. We continue to covet your prayers. Our adoption journey may be coming to a close, but our journey as parents has just begun. We so appreciate your support thus far and we're eager to see what the Lord will do in the lives of our daughters.