Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's Next?

I am OVERJOYED and overwhelmed! Since I shared our wonderful news on my blog and facebook, we've had over 400 "likes", 70+ comments, and almost 400 blog views. WOW! Our baby girl is so loved already, and she's not even here yet!

We are still so thrilled, and so grateful to God for this incredible miracle! We can't thank you all enough for celebrating and REJOICING with us! Thank you for understanding how special this news is, and for being a part of it through your prayers and your comments. I wish I could hug you all and respond to every kind word you've posted! We feel truly BLESSED to have such wonderful friends, and we can't wait for sweet Kate to meet you all!

So... what's next?

Now that we got our approval, we are officially moving forward with our adoption! We have already applied and been accepted by our agency, and we were just waiting on this approval to take the next step. That means we're officially "paper pregnant" as they say in the adoption world! I know many of you are wondering, "what's next" and the most important question -  "How long until she's home?!" I was kind of emotional on our last phone call with our adoption agency, so I might be missing some details - but here is our best understanding of our timeline and our "to do" list!

Home Study & Dossier
Right now we are waiting for our contract to come in the mail from our adoption agency. Once that is signed, our next step is completing our home study and dossier. The home study will be done with a social worker through a Hague approved adoption agency in our state (Alabama). If anyone has any advice for us deciding between Villa Hope or Lifeline (or another one we might not know about) please feel free to share it! We're hoping to find a social worker that has experience working with Thailand, but we know Thai adoptions are rare. Our home study is extremely important, so we want to be sure we choose the right agency!

The dossier is a fancy word for "a lot of paperwork" that is needed for our adoption. I don't even know what all we need for this - we should get a list some time in the near future. From what I understand, completing both the home study and the dossier should take anywhere from 3 months to 6 months. Then we'll be waiting for a referral!

A referral is a photo and file of a child available for adoption. It will likely be around 1 year (after our home study and dossier are complete) before we get a referral - though it could be sooner. Our adoption agent said she's seen some happen in 6 months. Once we get a referral, we will have it reviewed by a doctor from the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham. The doctor will be able to explain any health issues or concerns we might have. We have been approved to adopt a "healthy infant" (from birth to 2 years old) or a child with mild special needs (for example, a child that was born premature). We could get a referral for a child up to 3 years old. Then we'll pray about it, and if we feel peace about that referral we will accept it and be "matched".

Once we are matched, she said to expect a 4-6 month wait time before we can travel to get our little girl! At that point we'll prepare to meet our sweet Kate, and when we get the call, we'll travel to Thailand and bring her home!!!

Our Adoption Agency
We'll be using New Beginnings Adoption Agency in New York. We have had a wonderful experience with them so far and we are so excited to be working with them! The orphanage we'll be adopting from is Pattaya Orphanage in Thailand. They are a Catholic run orphanage in Southern Thailand, and everything we've seen about them is just incredible. You can see their website here, including photos of the children who have been adopted from this home (just scroll to the bottom of the page). I have stared at those precious little faces for months and prayed for our Kate. And now we finally have the opportunity to adopt a child from this home!

The Timeline
Adoption timelines are tricky, because a lot of it is out of our hands. We have to file a lot of paperwork and wait on approvals from different government offices.... have fingerprints done and wait on clearances to get back from the FBI... wait on referrals to come from overseas (which depends on how many children are available for adoption), and the list goes on! We believe that our best case scenario would be around 14 months - though that is not likely at all. We are more likely looking at an 18 month - 24 month timeline (2 years) until she's home. It could even be longer than that. We are of course praying for things to go as quickly as possible, but we are also trusting that God knows what timeline is best for us and our little girl!

***Adoptive Moms - if there is anything I've missed or any important questions I should be asking our agency right now - please feel free to comment and give me your advice! 

I'll keep you all updated as we get more details and move forward with our home study. Please keep us in your prayers as we work and wait to bring our baby girl home!

Monday, February 25, 2013

We're APPROVED!!!!!!!

"Come close and listen, all you who honor God; 
I will tell you what God has done for me..."
Psalm 66:16 (CEB)

Today, we got the most wonderful phone call of our lives. We have been APPROVED to adopt our little girl from Thailand!!!!! After a year of closed doors and disappointment... a year of "no's" and "why don't you try a different country"... a year of tears and discouragement... we have a YES!

Khun Toy reviewed our Adoptive Family Profile and was (according to our adoption agent) "very impressed" with us! She agreed that we would make great parents for a Thai child, and even said she'd like to meet us next time we are in Thailand. She also looked at our website for The Sound of Hope and loved our work and our organization. (More evidence of God's hand in this process there - because our new website just went live in December! If we had applied last year, she wouldn't have been able to see it! He is in EVERY detail!)

We have laughed and cried and praised GOD over and over again since we heard the great news! We knew from the very beginning that God was leading us to adopt a little girl from Thailand, but we have had to fight every step of the way up until now. It would have been easy to doubt (and we have at times) and easy to give up. But God has renewed our strength step by step, confirmed His plan to us day by day, and surrounded us with WONDERFUL people to encourage us along the way!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts to every person who has prayed with us (and fasted with us) over this decision! We are so humbled by your love and encouraged by your faith. We could NOT have done this without you! They say it "takes a village" to raise a child. I don't know about that - but it definitely took several "villages" worth of people praying to get this approval - which gets us one giant step closer to bringing our daughter home!

This all seems so surreal. As much peace as I have had, and faith that we have had that we would hear a YES, it is still extraordinary to know that God has done this for us!!! He has made the impossible, POSSIBLE and He gets ALL the GLORY! No more doubt or fear for us now... just lots of working and waiting! I pulled out some books we bought for Kate today, and a couple of little dresses a friend in Africa gave us for her that we've had packed away, and I have just looked at them and cried happy tears. God has made a way for our family - He has done a miracle for us! No longer will I have to say, "We're trying to adopt." We ARE adopting, and we couldn't be more thrilled! 

If you are reading this right now and struggling through your own "impossible" journey, then I hope God will use this to encourage you. We have been there and we know the heartache and doubt you're feeling - but you must TRUST and BELIEVE that God is working "all things together for your good" behind the scenes! I told Liz (our adoption agent) today that I am grateful now for all the closed doors. We are SO excited to be working with this specific adoption agency, this specific orphanage in Thailand, and adopting a child from the specific city where Rusty's cousin Sam lived. I can see now why this direction was BEST for our family - but God had to close so many doors to get us here. The song lyric "God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you" definitely applies. It has been a broken road but it was necessary to get us to this destination. Through all our heartache and disappointment the past year, He was working "all things together for our good"! (Romans 8:28) We just couldn't see it until TODAY! 

Please keep us in your prayers as we officially begin this process! Pray for wisdom as we choose an agency for our home study, for favor for all the documents we have to have approved, and for this process to move as quickly as possible. And of course, please pray for our precious little girl! There is a good chance she has already been born. Please pray for God to protect her, to keep her healthy and safe, and to let her be loved and cared for well until we can bring her home!

"Those who hope in Me, will not be disappointed." 
Isaiah 49:23

"I will sing about the Lord's faithful love forever; 
I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations with my mouth."
Psalm 89:1

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

He Is On Our Side

For those who aren't friends with me on facebook - the latest update on our adoption is that our paperwork is definitely in Thailand, and it could be being reviewed at this very moment! It's crazy to think we could have an answer as early as tomorrow (though it may take a few more days/weeks.)

As I shared in my last blog, I have surprisingly felt a lot of peace the past few days. We have had so much confirmation that God was in this whole process, and I really believe this is the moment He's been leading us to all along! And of course, it's been amazing that we've had SO many people praying for this process and for us. I believe we will be approved and that GOD will get ALL the glory for this miracle!  But I have had my weak moments - when my flesh took over and I felt that all too familiar fear and panic set in. In moments of doubt and anxiety, I've had to remind myself that He is on our side!

This song has really comforted me today, as has the TRUTH that God is for us, and God is for adoption. He created adoption after all (read Ephesians 1) and He makes it very clear in scripture that He will love and care for orphans. His heart is for the least of these, and He blesses us when we care for them.

So when I wasn't listening to Bethany Dillon today, I've been burying myself in scripture. I'm continually reminding myself of TRUTH when I doubt, and these verses (many from friends) have really blessed my heart today. I thought I would share them here for anyone else out there who might be struggling with doubt or fear on their adoption journey! I hope these verses speak TRUTH and PEACE to you today!

God cares for orphans.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
John 14:18

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
Psalm 68:5

“God sets the lonely in families…”
Psalm 68:6a

God is ABLE. Even the impossible, is possible to Him!

“For nothing is impossible with God.”
Luke 1:37

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit”, says the Lord.
Zechariah 4:6

 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth 
by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard or you.”
Jeremiah 32:17

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
Jeremiah 32:27

God hears our prayers.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, 
he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—
we know that we have what we asked of him.”
1 John 5:14-15

God fulfills His promises.

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment
of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” 
Luke 1:45

“Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
Joshua 21:45

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
Hebrews 10:23

“God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful.”
1 Thess 5:24

God opens doors that no man can shut.

… “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
Revelation 3:7-8

God will fight for you.

“Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them.
The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, 
all the way that you went until you came to this place.”
Deut 1: 29

God will give you PEACE.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
Isaiah 26:3

“Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”
Isaiah 26:12

We must PRAY and have FAITH.

“... I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 
‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, 
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:24

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”
Romans 8:25

Monday, February 18, 2013

Carry one another's burdens...

"Carry one another’s burdens; 
in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Galations 6:2

I've been thinking about this verse all day, simply because I've been seeing it lived out all day. From text messages, to tweets, to facebook msgs, and comments on our blog - people have been encouraging us and telling us that they are praying for us and with us all day. Here are just a few of the messages we've gotten (I want to remember them and share them with Kate someday, so I'm going to post them here!)

I don't know that we have ever felt more loved or supported!

This is a heavy burden... and a very serious time for us. The future of our family depends on this decision about our adoption. So I am so grateful that we have friends, family, and an incredible church family that is helping us carry this burden! What a relief that we do not have to do this alone! They are standing in the gap for us and for our sweet baby girl - and it is the biggest blessing! 

I've felt so much peace today. Last night before bed I told Rusty, "It's so terrifying to think that some woman we've never met, half a world away, has the fate of our family in her hands." And he quickly responded, "No she doesn't! GOD has the fate of our family in His hands." That wave of TRUTH washed over me last night and I have been at peace ever since. I don't see how (with so many people praying) we could get anything but a YES! I feel confident that God is at work in this situation, that He is hearing our prayers, and that He will move this mountain for us! 

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:7

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for 
and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1

"But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience."
Romans 8:25

"Blessed is she who has believed 
that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Luke 1:45

I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who are living out Galatians 6:2 for us this week! We are humbled by your love and so grateful for your support and encouragement!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Signed, Sealed... Delivered!

Happy Valentine's Day friends! I hope you're all having an AMAZING day, because I have some incredible news to share with you...

Our first round of adoption paperwork is on it's way to THAILAND!!!

That's right! There's a big packet of about 50 pages that have been signed, copied, sealed, and prayed over... and they should be delivered by 10 am this morning to an office in New York! There our packet will be reviewed and sent on to Thailand! 

For some people, that may not seem like a big deal - but to us it is a HUGE step. If you've been following our journey, then you know it has not been an easy one. We thought that by 2013 we would have our homestudy and dossier done and be on a waiting list for our little girl. But that was not God's plan. We have, instead, walked through many disappointing conversations and faced many closed doors. It would be easy to feel hopeless now, except that a truly miraculous opportunity has opened up for us!

The short story is this -  as we've pursued adopting a child from Thailand, every single door has been closed in our face for one reason: We do not have "documented infertility".  We feel very strongly that God's plan is for us to begin our family with an adopted child from Thailand, so we have not tried to have biological children. Therefore, we don't know whether or not we are infertile. But because we don't know, we have not been able to find even ONE agency to work with us. It didn't matter that we have lived in Thailand, work in Thailand, understand Thai culture, or that Rusty has a Thai driver's license. It didn't matter that we speak basic Thai. It didn't matter that we plan to return to Thailand regularly and that our daughter would have her home country as a huge part of her life. It didn't matter that we desperately wanted to adopt from Thailand! There were so many details we thought would make us great parents for a Thai child, but no one could look past the "undocumented infertility" (even though it's not an actual rule to adopt from Thailand).


We've finally found an agency in New York that is willing to advocate for us with an orphanage in Pattaya (a city in Thailand that is very special to us). Praise the Lord!!! The agency director agreed that ours is a special case, and that we would be an ideal placement for a Thai child. So he allowed us to fill out an application and an Adoptive Family Profile (which is like a mini dossier) to be sent to this specific orphanage. We've been working on this paperwork for the last 2 months. The agency director is also going to write a recommendation to send along with it!

If you're wondering "what does that mean"- here's the simple explanation: We get ONE SHOT to impress the Director of this Thai orphanage. She will review our paperwork, and she will say YES or NO.  And that's it. We have explored every possible option over the past year, and we are out of options. This is our only chance (that we know of) to adopt our sweet Kate. If the orphanage director says YES - then we will begin our homestudy immediately and we could have our baby girl in as soon as 2 years!

But if she says NO, then that's the end of the road for us. We don't know of any other viable options to adopt a child from Thailand. I cannot even let myself imagine this possibility because I break down in tears at the thought of it. It would be absolutely devastating.

So friends, we are BEGGING you to pray with us! We believe that everything about this opportunity has had God's hand on it. There are so many details I haven't shared here, but this orphanage and adoption agency is so incredible, that we believe that God leading us HERE could be the reason for all the closed doors up until now! But right now, we are facing something that seems to be impossible. We are asking the Director of this orphanage to make a huge allowance for us - and we believe it will be nothing short of a miracle if we get that YES!

Will you pray for a miracle with us?

We were told that our paperwork could be in Thailand as early as Monday. We will be fasting and praying for FAVOR and ACCEPTANCE from this orphanage this coming Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. We'll be doing a juice/liquids fast for these three days. If you feel led to join us in our fast - or in fasting anything (lunch, dinner, caffeine, anything!) it would mean the world to us. If you can't fast but are willing to PRAY FERVENTLY, we would also appreciate that so much! We need God to move a mountain so please - pray for us, share this request with your friends and family, put us on your church prayer list... whatever it takes to get as many people as possible petitioning God on behalf of our precious little girl!

"... I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. 
Nothing will be impossible for you."
                                                                                                                      - Matthew 17:20 

Here are some things to pray for:

  • Pray for Tim at our adoption agency.  He is preparing our paperwork to go to Thailand and writing a recommendation for us.
  • Pray for our paperwork - that everything arrives as it should and that it doesn't get lost or buried under other "to do's" in the Thailand office.
  • Pray for the woman reading our paperwork (we believe her name may be Khun Toi). Pray that God would soften her heart to our case. Pray that she will overlook anything negative and that her eyes will be drawn to all our positives! Pray that the Holy Spirit will move in her while she is reading. Pray that God will grant us FAVOR in her eyes, and pray that she ACCEPTS us to adopt a child from her orphanage!
  • Pray for anyone else who may be a part of the decision making process - that they would agree with FAVOR to our case.
  • Pray for our sweet Kate. We realized tonight that if this is our path to her, there is a good chance that she is already born (and could be 6 months old or older right now). Please pray for God to protect her and keep her safe!
  • Pray for us as we wait at home. I am trying hard not to be anxious but the truth is, I'm terrified. There is so much riding on this decision and while I trust God, my flesh is week. We have dealt with so much disappointment already in this journey. I am honestly an emotional mess right now... part of me doesn't want an answer because of the fear it could be a no. So please pray for PEACE and STRENGTH for us as we wait. Pray for God's presence to reassure us that He is in control!

"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a 
fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
                                                                                                                                             - Luke 1:45

*To read more about our Adoption Journey, click here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter Giveaway Winner!

First of all, let me just say THANK YOU to everyone who took part in my Winter Giveaway of "A Few of My Favorite Things!" It was really exciting seeing you share your tweets and facebook statuses about The Sound of Hope and our new online store. Thanks for helping us get the word out! I really loved hearing about your favorite things in our online store. Almost everyone said they liked something different - though our scarves and Hands of Hope necklaces definitely were in the lead. Glad to know we have a little something for everyone! ;)

And now, it's time to announce my Winter Giveaway Winner! According to Random.org, the winning comment was #16....


Whoo hoo! Congrats Grace! I'll be contacting you soon to get your mailing address. I hope you enjoy these fabulous goodies!

For everyone that's sad because you didn't win... you should probably make yourself feel better by taking a little shopping trip HERE.... (*hint hint!) Sometimes you deserve a little something special. And it's guilt free shopping when you know the proceeds are helping give HOPE to orphans! ;)