But we had no idea what God had in store for us over the next 24 hours.
A month later, the craziest thing happened. On our last Sunday before we left for a work trip to Africa, a woman at a church we were visiting prayed over us (for our trip). Halfway through the prayer she stopped and asked, "Do you have children?" When we replied we were adopting, she closed her eyes and nodded knowingly. "Uh huh.... hmmm... yes.... I see an image of God cutting the red tape..." - I seriously almost came apart. How could she possibly know? It was our first time at this church, and once again she knew nothing about us or our story!
We thought for sure we would see God move in an extraordinary way at some point very soon. We cut a piece of red tape in the doorway to our daughter's room, and left the two pieces in the frame as a reminder of our faith. We prayed, and hoped, and waited in anticipation for God to make His move evident. But a year passed, and it never came.
We thought for sure the "August word" God gave me had something to do with the red tape... but nothing happened in August. And then we thought maybe our Article 16 coming earlier than expected was the beginning of God cutting the red tape... but soon after that we came up against even more obstacles. By the time we left for Thailand - we still didn't have the approvals we needed (we only left because we knew we could visit our daughter, even if we couldn't take custody). I actually got pretty furious about that "red-tape word" because my faith had run out for anything extraordinary to happen. In a moment of anger one day this Fall, I ripped the red tape remnants out of Kate's bedroom doorway and threw them away.
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In November, we booked our one-way tickets to Thailand. While on the phone with Adoption Airfare, our agent asked if she could pray with us about hopefully getting approval to make the December 1st Board Date. As she prayed - out of no where she said, "And God, we're just asking you to cut the red tape to make a way for this family..." - I was instantly in tears again. When I told her the significance of those words, she said she NEVER uses that phrase and "didn't know where it came from". I wondered then if maybe God was up to something? Could it be that something miraculous could happen, and we could make the December 1st Board Date (and be home with our daughter for Christmas?)
We tried to be brave and hopeful, but it was hard to be expectant after so many disappointments. We were courageous enough to come to Thailand though - even though our agency advised against it. Somewhere, deep inside, there was a tiny flicker of hope still burning in me. I knew that we needed to be ready, "just in case" God moved on our behalf. But then the US Embassy set a deadline for November 22nd, and our fingerprint refresh didn't come in by then. So our hopes were dashed. We weren't even sure if we would get custody before December 1st... and we definitely weren't going to make the December 1st Adoption Board Meeting. We tried to focus on the positives - at least we got to visit our daughter (and hoped to have custody soon). At least we'd be with her for Christmas - even if we were stuck in Thailand. We bought an advent calendar here and some toys for Christmas morning, extended our hotel stay, and bought groceries for the week.
We thought we'd be stuck in Thailand for weeks to come... but God had a different plan (and we're so glad He did!) It turns out... He was just sharpening His sword and would soon be slashing ALL the red tape!
Not only did the USCIS office in Bangkok grant us favor Monday by redoing our fingerprints.... they had our new fingerprints in the system less than 12 hours later. By Monday night, we had an email from our very kind USCIS officer in America, who'd been checking constantly (for days) for our refresh to come through. She instantly uploaded the information so that the NVC and US Embassy could see it, and sent out a notice to us and our adoption agency. The agency then forwarded the information on to the US Embassy on our behalf, and we let the Orphanage Director here (Khun Toy) know late Monday night that we were just waiting on the Embassy to respond with our Article 5!
The plan on Tuesday was to go pick up our daughter and her best friend for another visit to our hotel to go swimming at the pool (just like we'd done on Saturday afternoon). But this time, we'd have our longest visit thus far. We came downstairs packed for the pool (even wearing our swimsuits under our clothes) - but instead of Khun Toy waiting in the car, she was waiting in the lobby. "We need to talk," she said. "I have been calling the DSDW about the Board Meeting. I have talked to the supervisor, and they agreed that if your Article 5 comes TODAY by 3pm, they will give you the December 1st Board Meeting."
"WHAT?!?" - Rusty and I were in shock. Khun Toy had been working behind the scenes to advocate for us - what a gift! We quickly got my computer to write the Embassy and let them know the latest news. We felt a flicker of hope - even though we knew we'd passed the Embassy's deadline. Would they make an exception for us? Would God cut THIS red tape? Was there any way this might be possible?
It seemed utterly and completely impossible. We'd exhausted all our hope and faith - but God wasn't done with our story yet. The next few hours were a WHIRLWIND. What was supposed to just be a visit to swim at our hotel, turned into us being granted custody when an email arrived from the Embassy. They said YES! Yes to our Article 5, and YES to a December 1st Board Date!
As soon as she heard the news, Khun Toy made calls to all the necessary departments and supervisors, and 3 more "yeses" were confirmed. Rusty and I stared wide-eyed at each other, while Kate begged to go to the pool (clueless about what was happening around her!) Within a matter of minutes we went from not knowing when we'd get custody of our daughter (and planning to be here in Thailand until January) - to having custody, taking our first "official" steps as a family, making plans to attend the December 1st Board Meeting, and realizing...
WE'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!
In the past 48 hours we cancelled our hotel stay in Pattaya, started taking care of our daughter 24/7, packed ALL our bags (with a precious child who wanted to be held every moment - Lord help me, it was my worst packing job ever!), called our families to tell them the news, sent all our gifts for the children and caregivers to the orphanage (we're still so sad we didn't get to say goodbye! We thought we'd be back there Friday!), moved all our things and ourselves to Bangkok (1.5 hours away), got settled into a new hotel, got our paperwork in order, and attended an extremely important Child Adoption Board Meeting at the DSDW.
Honestly, I think I was in a kind of blissful shock for the first few hours. Here we were, suddenly responsible for this precious little girl - and suddenly and the midst of a tornado of decisions, changing plans, and things to do. It didn't really set in for me until she was fast asleep in our bed next to her Pooh Bear. And then, I took a minute to stand across the room and quietly cry tears of relief, JOY, and thanksgiving.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I still don't know how everything happened so fast. We have heard some of the details of how it all came to pass and I will tell you that they are extraordinary! The Thai Adoption Board is so kind and compassionate. They really care about their children and adoptive families! When they realized they could make this happen for us and we could make it home for Christmas, they bent over backwards to make it possible. The director told us today it was her Christmas gift to us, and we thanked her profusely! I was so moved by their love and kindness, and we really enjoyed our meeting with them today. They asked us a lot about our work with The Sound of Hope, and were pleasantly surprised to hear us speak Thai! They even asked if we would consider adopting again (who knows what God has in store for us?!)
The past 2 days God has cut SO much red tape in this adoption process.... but we also believe that He cut away the "red tape" from our daughter's heart too. We never dreamed our first few days as a family would feel so natural and easy. Waking up with her beside us each morning is amazing. This morning she let me fix her hair in cute little pigtails for the very first time (she loves her bows Kristin!), and I put her in the little bunny dress I blogged about here. To see her walking down the hall in that dress, hand in hand with her "Papa" on the way to the Board Meeting was so surreal. We are truly enjoying our time together, and we're amazed at the work God is doing to bond our little family!
Thank you to all of you who have prayed for us so far. We went so long with what seemed like unanswered prayers in our adoption. I still don't understand why we had to wait almost 5 years for our little girl, and I still don't understand the purpose of much of our pain. But I do believe that (as I said in this blog) God was "taking His time to gather a crowd to watch a show that would bring Him glory". He is often an 11th hour God - and He absolutely came through for us in a MIRACULOUS way at the very last minute! We have seen miracle after miracle in the past 48 hours. This truly felt like the parting of the Red Sea... and we're still amazed that we walked through on dry land!
God really does write the best stories. Today was a historic day for our family, and a historic day for our daughter's country too. As Kate stepped into our lives completely (with this momentous approval from the Thai Adoption Board) and we descended the stairs at the DSDW as a family, the new Thai King ascended the throne. I watched video coverage during dinner, holding our little girl (in her princess pajamas) in my lap. This joyous day will be remembered in Thai history forever... and in our family's history forever too!
(I wish you could see the face of our "Joyous Thai"! She has a beautiful smile!)
Please continue to cover our family in your prayers. Tomorrow we have Kate's medical appointment at the hospital - which will be a difficult day (even with such an easy, awesome child!) So please pray for her little heart to be able to trust us. We really wanted a week to bond as a family before the Board Meeting and the Medical Appointment - but that just wasn't in the cards. Once the appointment is done though, we'll have a few days to rest. Then hopefully (if the medical results are back in time), we'll have our visa appointment early next week!
We're still unsure of when we'll be coming home. We would like to take our daughter to Chiang Mai for at least a week to enjoy time with her in the city where we lived back in 2011, and to introduce her to some dear friends. We know it will be a few years before we're able to travel here with her again... so we want to take this opportunity to make some special memories together in Thailand! But once we've booked our flights home, we'll definitely let you all know (and we'll let you know when the "Airport Welcome Home Party" is happening!) It may only be a few days before Christmas.... but this mama is on Cloud 9 knowing I'll see my little girl beneath my Christmas tree on Christmas morning! What a dream come true!!! ♥