Friday, April 18, 2014

5 years...

5 years ago today I walked down the aisle while my dear friend sang this song
and I said "I Do" to the one I love. 

has been anywhere this man is... 

3 houses in 2 states 
and an apartment in Thailand


 ...the first few years looked like learning to love the people our spouse loved - 
those related by blood and those dear friends that we consider our "chosen" family

And family the last 2 years and 2 months has meant 
pursuing our little girl through adoption from Thailand. 
(we're praying this will be the year we are matched!)


 has looked like running a nonprofit full-time 
that's raised over half a million dollars 
(thanks to God, not us) 
And believe me - it's a miracle, 
considering our big personalities and opinions - 
that we still like each other after working together 24/7!


have included traveling to Canada, France, India, Africa, and twice to Thailand,
Seeing the Eiffel Tower, Niagra Falls, and the beautiful beaches of Koh Samet...
Visits to orphanages and slums and brothels and leper colonies...
Safaris and elephant rides and snuggling tigers...

There have been many lessons learned while working together, ministering together, traveling together... and even more lessons learned buying and renovating our first house together.

We have truly been on an adventure! We have been abundantly blessed! There have been many memories made in the past 5 years. We've experienced so much JOY, but also plenty of heartache, disappointment, and tragedy. We have celebrated together, and we have grieved together. We've learned not to take a moment for granted... and not to take each other for granted either. Marriage is hard, but beautiful.

It is such a gift to have spent the last 5 years by the side of my very best friend... in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, in joy and in sadness...

5 years ago today we had the most beautiful, sacred ceremony where we pledged our love and our lives to each other. 5 years ago we danced to this song, and in the years that followed we have learned what it means to truly "be here" for each other.

We have learned that life is sweeter when you don't walk alone. 

Thank you God for this blessing. 
We can't wait to see what the next 5 years hold!


*For a more detailed walk down memory lane, check out my anniversary post from last year -  4 YEARS

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I-800A to USCIS! (adoption update)

I know that for those of you who don't speak "adoption" (yes... at times it's like a whole other language!) that title might not mean much. So let me explain...

We just sent our adoption pre-approval papers (I-800A) to US immigration (USCIS) which is a big step in our adoption!

Even though we turned in our finished homestudy paperwork on December 16th, we didn't get our completed homestudy in our hands until March 10th** (from our contract agency). So that's why you haven't heard an update in a while. Once we had that though, the ball was rolling! On March 26th our placing agency was able to send off our I800-A application to the USCIS office  (U. S. Citizenship Immigration Service). We should get an appointment from them soon to have another round of fingerprints done, and then they'll review everything and (hopefully) approve us to adopt a child! This is the first half of the approvals we'll need from USCIS (they will also have to approve a specific child to be adopted by us and brought into the US - but that won't happen until after we're matched.)

So you're probably wondering, what's next?

Right now we're waiting on our 2nd fingerprint appointment, and waiting on USCIS approval of our I-800A. This should take around 6-8 weeks.

In the meantime, we are also working on finishing our dossier, which is a fancy way of saying, "a huge stack of important paperwork." This includes things like our homestudy, financial info, references, marriage license, medical reports, etc. We almost have all our paperwork, so now we have to LEGALIZE it. This means that almost everything in our dossier (around 50 pages of documents) must be (1) notarized (2) notarized/legalized again by the County Clerk from whatever county that notary is located in (3) notarized/legalized again by the State Dept from whatever state the notary is from (we'll have to do this for documents in Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia). Then we'll send all our paperwork to our placing agency, and they will handle making sure our dossier is (4) notarized/legalized by the US Dept of State and (5) notarized/legalized a final time by the Thai Consulate. Whew!

We're not sure how long this will all take, but we're hoping that all of the above will be done by the end of May (>>fingers crossed<<). At that point our legalized, official dossier + our USCIS I800-A approval will be sent to Thailand and we will finally, officially be waiting to be matched with a child!

From there, the timeline is honestly unknown, but we have been given some estimates. Our agency said that the average time to receive a referral once our paperwork is in Thailand is 9 months (but of course, it could be a shorter or longer amount of time.) Once we have a referral and have officially been matched with our child, we should be able to travel to get her within 6 months!

That means we could be going to get Kate from Thailand sometime around August 2015, though there's really no way to know for sure right now.

Of course there will be other paperwork to file along the way, but I am really excited that our major paperwork (homestudy and dossier) are almost behind us! I can't wait to have all these forms and documents off my "to do" list, and to just be able to focus on fun things... like learning more Thai language, finishing some projects in our new home, and learning to use my new sewing machine before my baby girl gets home!

If you could pray for FOCUS as we diligently work to finish our dossier, that would be such a blessing. Please pray too for all these government workers to process our paperwork quickly, and that nothing gets lost in the mail!

** If you've been following our process, then you know that it took us a year to finish our homestudy. I don't want our timeline to scare anyone away from adopting, so I thought I should note that this is not the norm! Usually a homestudy takes anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months. We put ours on hold for 3 months because we were moving our home and non-profit, and renovating several rooms of our house (which is not a good time to have important papers lying around!) Unfortunately, it was then delayed an additional 6 months because the contract agency we chose for our homestudy had excessive homestudy requirements that were very time consuming (which was quite frustrating for us.) Everyone's timeline is different with every adoption, but I didn't want anyone expecting their homestudy to take as long as ours! You can learn from our mistake however. I would encourage you to really research the requirements and timeline for any agency you hire as your contract (homestudy) agency or your placing agency. We have learned that they can differ greatly, even for a Hague homestudy!